Thursday, May 17, 2012

113. O.T.D. - 5/17/91 - Port Orleans Resort Opens

Today we say happy 21st birthday to Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter Resort. Well.......sort of. On May 17th, 1991, the first phase of the resort opened. When it opened, this resort was simply called Port Orleans. About nine months later, the Dixie Landings Resort welcomed its first guests. In April of 2001, these two resorts officially merged and became Disney's Port Orleans Resort. The original Port Orleans section was now labeled "French Quarter" and Dixie Landings became "Riverside."
There is some interesting speculation as to why the two resorts combined to become Port Orleans. The truth is that the two always shared the same management team and they are located on one, giant 325 acre piece of land. After the merger, this resort became the largest at Disney World with 3,056 guest rooms. So again, why would Disney make this change, especially with the name? Although the Disney Company never offered an explanation, there is a common theory among Disney fans. The backstory for Dixie Landings was that it was a cotton plantation. The racial and slavery undertones probably didn't sit well with some people. Although I believe that Disney never meant for the "historical" story of the resort to be offensive, it was a good idea for them to remove all of the old Dixie Landings terminology from the property. I'm sure Disney didn't want to create a controversy at the most popular tourist destination in the world.

My wife and I stayed at Dixie Landings on our honeymoon in early 2000. We absolutely loved both this area as well as the Port Orleans section. This moderate class resort has a lot to offer. There are several restaurants and lounges, many recreation options, and well themed pools. I remember renting a canoe with my brand new wife and having a great time. The resort is located on the Sassagoula River, which allowed us honeymooners the opportunity to take a boat ride to Downtown Disney. Although the names changed, the resort still offers the same ambiance and southern charm that I remember from 12 years ago. However, they have also added "Royal Rooms" which add a whole new level of theming to the Port Orleans experience.

Less than four months after the two resorts merged in 2001, the tragic events of September 11th occurred. Due to the dramatic drop in tourism, Disney was forced to reduce some of its resort capacity. Port Orleans French Quarter was completely shut down from late November of 2001 until May 31st of 2002. Port Orleans Riverside reduced its capacity down to only 350 rooms during that same time period. That means that this gigantic property basically became a ghost town with only about 10% of its rooms being utilized. Also due to the unfortunate events of that year, construction on the second phase of Disney's Pop Century Resort was stopped. The partially finished buildings sat eerily dormant for more than a decade. That story has a happy ending as construction resumed about a year ago. Now called Disney's Art of Animation Resort, it will open in phases starting in just a few weeks.

If you are considering a moderate resort at Walt Disney World, I definitely suggest checking out Port Orleans. Whichever section you choose, you will have the ability to enjoy the amenities of two (combined) resorts. Also, be sure to check out Yeehaw Bob at the River Roost Lounge at Port Orleans Riverside. He is one of Disney's hidden treasures. Once again, happy birthday Port Orleans!

Have a Disneyriffic Day and remember to keep moving forward. See ya real soon!

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