In less than 2 weeks, Corey and I (plus my brother in law Conner) about to head back down to check out all the NEW at Walt Disney World this summer. Before we leave, I wanted to share all the details of our May 2016 trip. This is going to come in three parts since it was experienced in three parts: Port Orleans Riverside, Polynesian, and Disney Dream Cruise. First up is our experience at Port Orleans Riverside.
We arrived on Sunday May 8, mid-afternoon. Since we had never stayed at Port Orleans before, we had our issues finding it with all the construction going on around that part of the World. Port Orleans is a Disney Springs Area resort, so there is a crazy amount of road construction going on near it and thus there’s a lack of signs in my opinion. We found the service entrance before finding the actual main entrance. (Shout out to Tony at the back gate for letting us turn around and directing us in the right way.) Once we were finally in, my sister, mom, and myself were all very charmed at the main building. There were many details that we weren’t expecting to find in a moderate. Port Orleans, both Riverside and French Quarter, are great melds of the good from both deluxe and value resorts. Out front was a young lady greeting guests arriving in an Antebellum era dress. The lobby and main building have an old timey train station feel to them. There were charming details everywhere. Being from the South, I can tell you the details were true to the area.
Since we didn’t know we were going down on Sunday until a few weeks before we left, we grabbed one night standard view and our other two nights were garden view all with our annual passholder discount. The most amazing cast member helped us check in. We were her last check in on her shift and I told her if there was any magic she could sprinkle on our three nights so that we didn’t have to change rooms, we would be so grateful. She went above and beyond for us and while we were in a standard view room for the entire time in Alligator Bayou, we were so happy not to have to move rooms after one night. The only thing we had to do was stop at the front desk the next day and “check out” and “check in” to our other reservation. It was so much easier. For our time (and the slight downgrade for 2 nights) she dusted us with passes to that night’s After Hours event at the Magic Kingdom. I couldn’t think of another time in all our visits where a cast member has given us so much time and attention while checking in.
After finding our room and oohing and ahhing all over the adorable details that we were just not expecting to see in a moderate, we drove over to Old Key West for dinner at Olivia’s. In my opinion, Olivia’s is one of the most under rated restaurants on property. My sister and I had eaten at Olivia’s with Corey on a whim when we stayed at Old Key West in May 2015. We were both anxious to see if the food was just as good the second time around or if we were just that hungry the first time. Well we were over the moon to find that the food really is that good! At first, I was concerened because the salmon salad I had at lunch the previous year didn’t show up on the menu. Our waiter (once again, another amazing cast member interaction on this trip) said that while it’s a lunch item, that he could talk to the chef about getting it for dinner.
I got it. This is the Key West Salmon salad. It’s phenomenal. One of these days I am going to have to buckle down and update my Disney World restaurant reviews. We’ve eaten at several places on property worth making a stop at that I haven’t written about besides Olivia’s. My mom had the southern fried chicken and my sister tried the soup of the day, which was a buffalo chicken soup– it was excellent. It tasted just like chicken wings. She also had the Caesar salad. Two thumbs up for our dinner which was followed by the sugar free chocolate cake, which I thoroughly enjoyed on my own. Let’s call it research. My sister and I showed mom a bit around Old Key West. I loved staying there, but my sister prefers Saratoga Springs over Old Key West. Around 7:30, we headed back to Riverside to get ready for After Hours.
It’s truly a shame that After Hours flopped. The concept was great and the Sunday night one was deserted! Should you have just purchased a ticket to After Hours, you could enter the park starting at 7 PM to see the fireworks and the first Electrical Parade. We were issued a hard ticket, but others had their tickets on their magic bands. There was a separate check in line where we were given credentials for the event showing that we could ride the rides and get deserts and drinks at the carts. Our creds had a list of the rides open for us.
We arrived around 9 PM and did a few of the things that were not going to be open during After Hours, like the Peoplemover. It didn’t take long for the clock to strike 11 PM and then we were on it! My sister didn’t ride much because of her pregnancy, but we rode everything on the list that she felt comfortable doing and then my mom and I rode Mine Train twice without waiting. The drinks and snacks were flowing. There were carts everywhere. I did grab a side of fries to offset all the sweet from Casey’s and then right before leaving, a latte from Starbucks. We took our time strolling out around 1:30 AM since we were exhausted from traveling. A bus was called over for us and we were taken straight to the North bus stop at Riverside since we were three of four people total on the bus headed back. I was able to experience After Hours twice during this trip. Once was complimentary and the other was at our Annual Pass discounted rate. Both times I was impressed. While I would not have paid the $149 price tag for it, I throughly enjoyed it and there are times where I would have 100% recommended it, even at $149. Honestly, I had not seen Magic Kingdom that empty since 2000s era late magic hours. Seeing the parks that empty again was such a cool feeling. It also made for some amazing night time shot opportunities.
Being out until 2 AM didn’t urge any of us to get up early on Monday morning, so we slept in and headed down to the front desk to do our “check in/check out” stuff as close to 11 AM as possible. We also ate breakfast at the quick service. There were your typical quick service breakfast choices and several condiment options. One of our favorite things about the Riverside Mill Food Court was the dedicated ice and water machines in the middle of the dining room. They were awesome and the water didn’t taste like Florida water, if you know what I mean. We got pool ready and wandered around the resort some and checked out the main pool and quiet pools at Riverside, but decided there were too many mosquitoes and did the walk to French Quarter.
We fell head over heels in LOVE with French Quarter. It’s a moderate, but the size of a deluxe. It’s laid out on a grid pattern just like an old city. That makes it really easy to find your building. The colors of the buildings are fun and unique. It looks very similar to New Orleans. There are green lawns and neat fountains around all the buildings. We ended up eating in the food court and checking out the gift shop looking for a Riverside pin. The food court is on the small size, but well run and doesn’t back up except at check out. They were very attentive to my special diet needs too. I placed my order at a separate station, it was prepared in the back, and brought back out to that separate window. It’s going to be refurbished later this year, so I’m interested to see how they update it.
I took a ton of photos at Riverside. It’s so pretty! We also loved the pool. It’s a pod design with several areas. We could always find a pod without any children or even people at all and there were tons of loungers available when we arrived. The design of the slide created sections of the serpent that gave parts of the pool shade, so those stayed cooler. Enjoying the sun for a few hours, we were ready to head back to Riverside and decided to take the boat back. It’s about a 10 minute boat ride back to Riverside from French Quarter and it took us about the same amount of time to walk from our building in Alligator Bayou all the way to the pool at French Quarter. I still recommend the boat though, at least one way because it’s a fun way to see the resorts. We loved this pool so much that we walked down there again on Tuesday.
Before we get to Tuesday, though, we spent our evening headed to the Yacht Club Resort for our dinner reservations at Captain’s Grille. Everyone has amazing things to Yachtsman’s and I don’t doubt them. That place smelled amazing. If you can’t get past the Yachtsman’s price tag though, check out Captain’s Grille. We had another A+ cast member experience here with the manager that was working while we were there for early dinner. She spent time chatting with us and wanted to know how we liked our meal. Every last thing we ordered was out of this world. We were so stuffed we didn’t even get to dessert, which bummed me out completely because if they were anywhere near as amazing as our salads and entrees, we missed out!
This was my meal. I had the wedge romaine salad and the rosemary brined pork tenderloin. The highlight of the wedge salad was obviously the lardons– aka chunks of bacon– but the dressing was a light yet creamy blue cheese that I really enjoyed as well. The pork was the best I’ve ever had, with, surprisingly, the brussels sprouts being my favorite part of this meal entree. This was easily the best meal I’ve ever had on property. Easily. I need to go into depth more on this. My mom and sister had seafood, specifically mussels and crab legs. They both cleaned their plates. This meal was SO good. After eating, we rode the boat to Hollywood Studios and watched Symphony in the Stars and wandered around what’s left of Hollywood Studios. We did ride the Great Movie Ride (one of our favorites) and headed to the bus after the fireworks since, once again, we were tired as all get out.
We goofed off Sunday and Monday, so my mom and I had work to do Tuesday AM, so my sister and I headed to get bagels and coffee for breakfast and we worked for a few hours, headed to the pool around 11 AM and we were back for a late lunch at the Riverside Mill Food Court around 2. I tried the southern fire fried chicken sandwich. It wasn’t anything amazing, but it was nice to have a different chicken option with a different flavor than just the Disney chicken nuggets. The whole point of this trip was for my mom to see Flower and Garden, so we got ourselves together for an evening at EPCOT. These guys were part of a national parks display that was new this year for the 100th anniversary of the national parks.
It was a whirlwind tour because EPCOT was busy Tuesday night! Mom got her list of topiaries and we walked the world showcase showing her all of them. We rode the Three Caballeros ride in the pavilion and San Angel Inn smelled so good. Turns out, late lunch left us wanting more, so we ate dinner at San Angel Inn in the Mexico Pavilion around 6. My mom, sister, and I actually walked up and we were seated as close to the water as we possibly could being walk ups and we all really enjoyed our meals. Dinner was a bit pricey, but very filling. I had the carne asada, which I would eat again in a heart beat. The seating arrangement is kind of tight there, but it’s all about the ambiance there. The ambiance can’t be beat either. Dinner was so enjoyable and afterward we met up with Nicole and Cameron, who had arrived that morning, as well as some cast members in the sustainable farm booth area. Mom loved looking around in the area and we also spent plenty of time in England, especially in the tea garden, which is probably my favorite of the festival.
While we were trying to get out before Illuminations, we got caught up and watched part of it and decided to wait. This night the Riverside buses were backed up, so we hopped onto the French Quarter bus that was practically empty. The walk was short from the main building to our building and maybe added 5 minutes to our walk back. The boat was also running when we got back around 10 PM that night. The next day, we were departing Riverside for a bucket list stay at the Polynesian, so we all packed up a bit and hit the sack excited for the next few days at the Polynesian!