In Which Jenn & Pat Are Done With Port Orleans Riverside

The trip report proper is over, but we’re not done yet – I’ve still got lots of thoughts, including food reviews and photos! You can see all the posts in this report here. Onward!

Pat and I have now stayed at Port Orleans Riverside twice. We are unlikely to do so again.

Oh, I’m being histrionic – but the gist is accurate. Having considered our experience at POR and compared it to alternatives, we have come to the conclusion that it is not the resort for us. Indeed, almost all moderates are not good fits. (Click here to find out how we decided to stay at POR in the first place.)

The primary reason is the bus situation. There is, of course, the issue of multiple bus stops, which we don’t love, but that’s not the main issue. The biggest problem is the crowding. As far as we can tell, 50% of everyone at WDW is staying at POR at any given time, and 30% of them are waiting for a bus.

Histrionics again. But seriously, this resort holds a lot of people. At one point a bus driver used the intercom to make this precise point to us, urging us to linger in the Magic Kingdom after closing time to avoid massive bus lines. And we did find massive bus lines, at pretty much all times of day.

So there’s that. On a related note, there’s the food court. This is also crowded – duh. They generally are. But as I noted in my food review, POR seems to handle the crowds poorly. Unlike, say, Pop, where corrals and clearly marked and separated bays keep lines in place, POR’s food court is a badly organized free-for-all.

One nice perk often noted about POR is the on-site table service restaurant, Boatwright’s. But having dined there twice now, we find it to be mediocre at best. We would just as soon hightail it over to Disney Springs and go restaurant hopping if we want to eat outside the parks.

Just okay – although points for the cornbread.

These are all nitpicks, mostly, not vacation ruining problems. We had a lovely time at POR, but considering that it cost us almost twice as much to stay there over a room at a value resort, we find the upgrades don’t warrant the cost increase. I understand that Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs are similarly sized and crowded (I’ll – sigh – find out soon enough). The only possible exception is Port Orleans French Quarter, which, with its small size and single bus stop, would eliminate a lot of the above annoyances.

But I find it far more likely than on our next trip we will swing one of two ways: be cheap and stay at Pop, or go all out and splurge on the Polynesian, which Pat unexpectedly fell in love with on our visit to Trader Sam’s (sorry, Contemporary, you’ve been demoted to #2 on his favorites list).

This ends my April 2017 trip coverage. Boo. (Nothing like finishing on a negative note.) Thanks to all for reading – I always enjoy dissecting my WDW trips! Guess it’s time to start pestering Pat to go again…

Have you stayed at POR? What do you think of moderate resorts? Are they worth it to you?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

The Fairest Trip Report Of All: Dining At Port Orleans Riverside

The trip report proper is over, but we’re not done yet – I’ve still got lots of thoughts, including food reviews and photos! You can see all the posts in this report here. Onward!

One of the perks of upgrading to a moderate resort is expanded food options – for the most part, the resorts one tier up have additional bar(s) plus sit-down restaurants. To that end, let’s talk about what kind of food experience you can expect at Port Orleans Riverside.

It is… okay.

Let’s start with the food court. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that value resorts are actually better when it comes to counter service. Pop has clearly delineated food bays and queues, with stanchions and everything. POR has smushed together bays and unclear lines. I get the idea that POR was not designed to handle the magnitude of crowds it now enjoys, whereas Pop was made with that in mind.

The end result in the confusion and the assembly-line food preparation is that the food is generally served in the lukewarm to cold area, with little quality control. My Mickey waffle, while adorable, somehow managed to be both a touch overdone and room temperature at best. The bacon was decent but the sausage was kinda gross. The bananas foster sauce was a nice touch, though.

Do not even MENTION Pat’s biscuits and gravy. Just… why? Even Pat, who voluntarily ordered it for some reason, agrees this was a mistake.

The only other thing we got was my pre-race pasta kids’ meal. This was also basically cold. I think POR’s food court could use a redesign.

Another food option is the River Roost Lounge bar. Important note: you cannot order food from Boatwright’s here. They have their own specific bar menu, consisting of sliders and nachos and suchlike. We got both of these options (although Pat ate most of them since it was pre-race and I didn’t want to risk any spice-induced indigestion) and they were both fine. Nothing to write home about.

Major River Roost bonus, though: they offer Abita Purple Haze on tap. On tap! It’s SO GOOD on tap! And yet kinda underwhelming in bottles. Why?

I hear tell Yeehah Bob performs here, but I’ve never seen it. SLANDER AND HEARSAY.

Then there’s Boatwright’s itself, the resident full service establishment. Cool decor here in the boat skeletons, pleasant waitstaff, mediocre food. My jambalaya was decent – they didn’t skimp on the shrimp, which was nice – but Pat’s steak didn’t sit well with him. Add to this a chocolate cake with NO FROSTING(?!) and this is not a restaurant to which I am clamoring to return. Admittedly it is nice to have the on-site sit-down option, but I’m not sure it’s worth the increased price.

Points for the cornbread and butter, though!

We never went to the pool bar because based on the online menu we thought they only served drinks and we wanted food at the time. But there are banners on some lampposts advertising it that show sandwiches? MYSTERIOUS.

So our POR dining experience was meh at best. Yet another reason we’re not jazzed (’cause it’s New Orleans!) to return, but we’ll talk about that more in another post.

Have you eaten at POR dining establishments? What did you think?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Calls The WDW Resort Reservation System Out On Its Lies

And now for another story of the thought that goes into trip planning – and how the WDW online reservation system is FULL OF LIES.

After two lovely solo trips, I am ready to tour WDW with a buddy again. Lucky for me, my pixie-dusted Disney aura has settled on Pat at least a little, as he has decided he’s coming with me for the Star Wars – Dark Side Half Marathon. Hooray!

The first step in successful trip planning is of course your resort reservation. Were it just me, I’d be looking at three days in Pop, as per my current usual. For all his rugged, camping-and-my-Jeep interests, however, Pat is more particular than I am about hotels (maybe it’s an architect thing?). We decided on a five day stay, and I brought up some options.

All deluxe resorts were sadly out, as we are not kazillionaires. The Contemporary will have to wait for another time. I did peep at the prices at AKL and Wilderness, and while the costs were more reasonable they were still appreciably higher than the next tier down. I simply had to filter out deluxes. Moderates and values only, please.

Pat expressed a fondness for Port Orleans Riverside, where we stayed last time. Unfortunately, it was listed as unavailable – even without applying the discount code Disney had sent me.

On to the next thing, then. We could stay at Pop, but Pat didn’t seem too enthused about the comparatively juvenile “theme.” I love Pop and find a lot of the decor very cute but I can totally see where he’s coming from in relation to Riverside’s exquisitely rendered ambiance.

Caribbean Beach only had pirate rooms available at a completely unnecessary upcharge. Pass.

Coronado Springs was a viable alternative, but it’s known to be sprawling. We looked at a map together and counted five widespread bus stops. Pat vetoed on this basis alone, but I think a lot of it had to do with the pictures not looking as pretty as Riverside.

Port Orleans French Quarter was listed as available, but only without applying the discount (stupid POFQ always pulling that nonsense!). The single bus stop was attractive and Pat liked the fact that it was Port Orleans pretty. The boat the Disney Springs is a nice perk, too. The one detriment: the aforementioned lack of discount made it almost twice the cost of Pop.

After debating a little, Pat came down on the side of POFQ, and despite its added costs I was inclined to agree. Rather than make the reservation immediately, though, I decided to call the WDW reservation phone line in case there were annual passholder discounts available. (Note: calling WDW is the only time ever ever ever I will ever choose the phone option over the web option. Please don’t call me. Send me a text like a civilized person, sheesh.)

Ooh, and, pro tip: if you can, call the WDW reservation line after 10pm EST. It’s open until 11pm and your wait will be much shorter.

Anyway, I wound up talking to a very nice CM who was totally shilling for the Disney Dining Plan. She was like, “Did you have a plan for dining?” And I was like, “Yeah, we’ll probably wing it, we don’t need a dining plan.” And then she was like, “I have added the Deluxe Dining Plan to your package.” NICE TRY, LADY.

This is when things start getting weird again. The CM gave me the aforementioned quote at POFQ with the DDP attached, plus I believe the AP discount although we never got far enough to confirm. I said no thanks to the DDP, can you run it again as room only? At which point availability for the room vanished. Odd.

I suppose I could’ve pushed back on that, but first I figured what the hell, might as well ask. Do you see any availability at Riverside? She checked and THERE WAS. With the AP discount, it was $200 cheaper than POFQ.

So I booked it immediately. Sure, POR has four bus stops, but we didn’t run into trouble before so I think it’ll be okay. Hell, depending on our room location we could always walk to the POFQ bus stop. I hear good things about Ubering around WDW, too. The Disney Springs boat is available here, and we already know Pat likes the resort’s design. We’ll have Boatwrights readily available if we want it. And hey, we’re each saving $100 over POFQ. Being as how we are not wildly rich, that’s helpful.

How weird that POR was listed as unavailable on the website, then. It wasn’t unavailable just ’cause of the discount code, and I know this for certain because POFQ specifically called out that it was only bookable with regular rates. And yet over the phone it was mine for the asking.

In conclusion: as I have said before, unless the WDW online reservation system is giving you exactly what you want, don’t trust it. Call. Unexpected things happen when you call. Worst case scenario, they say no dice and you book your second choice anyway.

Save us some whiskey, Talon!

Have you experienced any weird discrepancies when booking a Disney trip? Are you going soon? Where are you staying?!

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

The Fairest Trip Report Of All: Boatwright’s Review

The trip report is over, but I still have a couple of posts left in me! In particular, food reviews. If you want to catch up on my Dopey experience, you can read all the posts in this particular trip report here. Ready? Let’s go!

Pat and I spent the evening of January 8 at the Animal Kingdom, which as is so often the case in the off season closed at 5PM. This gave us ample time for dinner, so we after dumping our stuff back in our Port Orleans Riverside room, we figured we might as well see if Boatwright’s would take us.

We approached the podium with no ADR at the dinner-ripe time of about 6PM at the only sit-down restaurant in the resort, but we were still seated within a few minutes. It seemed like just about everyone around us was also there for the race weekend, as evidenced by the many overheard snippets of conversation about training and running (to say nothing of the race shirts worn). Disclaimer, while at no point when passing by Boatwright’s during our trip did it seem inundated with people, you may need that ADR in busier times.

Our server was very nice and pretty casual about the whole thing, offering a few favorites but no pressure. Pat and I ordered beers to start (I know, I know; never drink before a race – but they had Abita Purple Haze and I LOVE that stuff and it was only one and I got a glass of water with it so it was cool!). With the beer came a basket of CORNBREAD! Not regular bread – cornbread, It came with unfortunately not-terribly-melty butter, but the cornbread was warm so the end result was good.

Here I confess to bad blogging – I did not actually take a picture of our entrees. That it is because, as much as I hate to say it, they were acceptable-to-subpar. Pat got a steak that was perfectly good but not amazing. I got a pasta dish, the “runner’s special,” which came with vegetables and chicken. Seems like that should be perfect, but the sauce was just… weird. It was watery but also kind of creamy at the same time. I ate about half and took the rest back to the room, but I never ate it.

The end result being that I had room for dessert, naturally. After careful consideration the “Brew du Krew,” or however they spelled it, a mocha cake with ganache and whipped cream. This was pretty good, especially where the whipped cream was concerned, but the cake was a little dry. It definitely could’ve used more ganache. Kudos on the presentation, though.

Boatwright’s, as you might imagine, is themed to a shipbuilder’s company, and the decor is impressive yet subtle. In addition to the various ship’s parts and pictures scattered about, Pat was impressed with the themeing of the table, but I can’t remember why. Something about how it was designed to look like… a thing you do to fix cracks in wood to keep them from getting bigger? Does anyone know what he’s talking about? You can see one in the bottom left corner of the beer picture above.

In short, we found Boatwright’s to be fine. Indeed, if we’d been there for a longer stay and/or had more time, we might have tried them again. They’re not open for lunch, so that’s another hindrance. But I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to dine there. Unless you REALLY like cornbread.

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon! 

The Fairest Trip Report Of All: 1/07/15

Is it trip report time again already? Yay! I’ll be looking back at my Dopey trip at the beginning of January, with special separate posts for each race and some food experiences depending on how much I have to say about them. Ready? Let’s go!

In the interest of not getting up so early, my boyfriend (hereinafter referred to as Pat on account of because that’s his name) and I drove to his parents’ house the night before, so we didn’t have to get up until just before 6AM, with Pat’s dad dropping us off at the airport around 6:45AM for our 8AM flight. Perfect!

Somehow we were once again ushered through the TSA Pre-Check line, although neither one of us has any idea how exactly you get pre-checked. No matter; we just kept our shoes on and our laptops bagged and went on through. Once past security, we stopped at Potbelly for okay coffee and tasty egg sandwiches, hitting our gate just as boarding was beginning.

As per my usual, we were flying Southwest, which as you probably know has no assigned seating. I wasn’t until B8, but by some miracle there were two seats available in the second row when I boarded. I snagged them quickly and held the window seat for Pat, who is into such things. (Taking the middle seat is one of the ways I prove my love.)

The flight itself was pretty uneventful, and upon landing our desirable location got us out of the plane with all speed. After a quick bathroom break we caught the tram thing back to the main terminal. Pat didn’t feel comfortable trusting his bags to the Magical Express team, so we took a pit stop at the luggage carousels to grab our bags, then hightailed it back to the ME station on the B side of the concourse.

We were saddened upon boarding our bus to discover that Port Orleans Riverside was to be the last stop, but no matter – we were headed to Walt Disney World! Whee! Pat spent most of the bus trip trying to locate gators in the ponds, but to no avail. Alas, he never did see one – better luck next time, Tiger.

Upon arrival, we headed to the online check-in desk and were pulled out of line by a cast member with an iPad. She led us over to a lobby couch and ran us through the check-in process. There was a small hiccup when it was discovered that my card had been charged for the full hotel cost, but this was easily remedied; the CM brought us to a computer, refunded half the cost, and then put it on Pat’s card.

From there it was off to our room, which we got slightly lost finding, but eventually – success! We had a Royal room in the Oak Manor section of POR, which was really nice in many ways, especially the furnishings and headboard fireworks. The use of princess portraits, however, was a bit much for me – which I realize is a bizarre thing to complain about at Disney, but what can ya do. It was fine, just not as subtle as the rest of the decor.

The temperature back in Maryland had been hovering around 20 degrees when we left, so Orlando’s 70 degrees warranted an outfit change. Spring clothing so donned, we left the room and headed over to the marathon weekend transportation bus stop. The cast member there informed us that we had just missed a bus, so we killed some time in the adjacent gift shop before stepping back into line and heading over to the expo.

Guys, I am not claustrophobic. Believe me when I say that the expo was huge and packed – much worse than Wine and Dine. We went through the line to pick up my packet for Dopey and get my photo taken for identification purposes.

Pat split off to get himself a soft pretzel, and I found a cast member and asked him where to do shirt pickup. He said to try the other building, so I did – and was told I had to go back to the building I started in. Sigh. By that point, though, I was already in the main expo area, so I figured I might as well do my shopping now. I zoomed into official race merchandise area (at least that wasn’t as hard to get into as during the Princess expo), grabbed the EXACT two things I had seen and liked on the internet (a gray and pink marathon tank and a Dopey magnet, since you asked), and got right out.

From there I located Pat and we went back to the packet pickup building to get my Dopey shirts. That was quite enough expo for me and we had FastPasses to use, so we picked up the bus to the Contemporary/Fort Wilderness/Wilderness Lodge with the idea of walking from the Contemporary to the Magic Kingdom. Well, once again, we were waiting for the bus’s last stop – and since we still needed to pick up our park tickets from will call, it became increasingly apparent that we were not going to make our first FP+ window.

Ideal? No, but not day-ruining; we just had to regroup. Once again, the My Disney Experience app was not working on my phone (THE MY DISNEY EXPERIENCE APP NEVER WORKS ON MY PHONE GAAAAAH), but Pat had the bright idea that I just access the MDE website via my phone’s internet browser. DUH. I am such an idiot. I did that for the rest of the trip and it worked beautifully.

Anyway, we looked at our FP+ options and decided to skip Epcot for the time being, spending the entirety of our day in the Magic Kingdom. We accepted an early evening FP+ for Space Mountain and the universe was whole again.

A quick walk from the Contemporary later and we were at the Magic Kingdom. We hit guest services/will call for our tickets, and while there I also picked up a Disney Visa redemption card so that we could use my points to buy food and such.

And so we entered the Magic Kingdom –  Pat’s first time at WDW in almost two decades! Yay!

Our very first act was to hit Main Street’s Emporium. Pat had forgotten his sunglasses at home, and we spent some time in the apparel section selecting a cheap new pair for the trip. He wound up going with a pretty sweet pair of mirrored wayfarer-style shades on account of because they were one of like two pairs that actually fit his head. But still: STYLISH.

FastPass+ number one was for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the fondest wish of three-year-old Pat’s heart. To get there, we swung through Adventureland, stopping for snacks along the way. Pat watched the Festival of Fantasy parade (verdict: cool dragon) while I stood in line to try an old standby for the first time, the citrus swirl (verdict: tart and delicious). Meanwhile, Pat stopped at an ice cream cart for a frozen lemonade, which was not quite the slushy concoction he had imagined it to be in his head, but he was fine with it.

After stopping a moment to mourn the refurbishment on Splash Mountain, Pat’s favorite – and currently unavailable – ride of his youth, we scanned our bands and FastPassed our way onto Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Pat very much enjoyed the ride but agreed that it is much more cute than it is at all thrilling.

We had some time to kill before our next FP+, so we ducked into Memento Mori. Pat happens to have “memento mori” tattooed on his arm and I was kind of hoping the cast members would notice and make a big to-do about it, but it was so crowded in there I’m not sure anyone would have seen even if it was tattooed on his forehead. Ah well.

Our Haunted Mansion FP+ opened in due time, and we were quickly ushered into the stretch room. There was a little kid on his dad’s shoulders in there with us, and they were exchanging deep, spooky mua-ha-ha laughs – until after the Ghost Host’s opening speech, at which point the kid started crying a little. I think his dad got him mua-ha-ha-ing again, though. I hope you got through it okay, kid!

Other than two mid-ride stops engendered by playful spirits, our journey through the mansion was uneventful. From there we backtracked to Adventureland for a ride on Pirates of the Caribbean, then backtracked again and grabbed a late lunch/early dinner from one of my favorite counter service spots, Columbia Harbour House.

I got my beloved Lighthouse Sandwich – helloooo, hummus! – and Pat got the fish and chicken nuggets, hold the fish. We took our food upstairs and found a seat overlooking the docked Liberty Belle riverboat. We passed a quiet half-hour or so eating, pondering our next steps, and just chilling out. Seriously, if you want a serene park oasis, find yourself an upstairs window seat in Columbia Harbour House. There’s nothing like it.

Then we backtracked AGAIN for a some time in a tropical hideaway with the Tiki Room, which was, as always, hilariously kinda backwards-thinking. You know what I mean, right? … Mein goodness, you’re all schtaring at me!

It was almost time for the castle lighting show, which was some reason Disney was running for the rest of the week. But first a stop in Starbucks for coffees, furnished by a girl who was losing her voice for yelling all the coffee-buyer’s names. Won’t someone buy her a bullhorn?

Starbucks was predictably busy; by the time we got our coffees, the show had already started. As Pat knew and cared nothing about Frozen, however, I wasn’t concerned about missing any of the buildup. All I cared about was the actual lighting-up-the-castle bit, and as that we saw, I was happy.

We ventured into Tomorrowland next and attempted to ride the Peoplemover, but Pat was still finishing up his coffee so we weren’t allowed on. Has the Peoplemover always had a moratorium on foodstuffs? Shame; that’d be a lovely way to pass a lunchtime.

By that time our Space Mountain FP+ had opened up anyway; Pat finally finished his coffee and off we went! We were on the right side track in the front car, and we could argue the relative merits of each track and position all day, but at any rate Pat loved the ride, declaring that it held up well over time.

It was closing in on 7PM by that point, and I had to get up early the next morning for the 5K, so we reluctantly headed back toward the resort buses. On our way we were stopped by a Spanish lady who desperately tried to communicate that she wanted to know where to find the cars. Pat’s Spanish is better than mine, so he tried to translate my information that in order to get to cars she would need to either take the ferry or the monorail back to the Ticket and Transportation Center. I don’t know if she didn’t understand or didn’t believe us, but the message wasn’t getting through. A bilingual Spanish family passed by and I tried to tell them the same so that they could pass the message on. Hopefully that worked, but it did leave Pat and I with a general wondering: if she didn’t know where the cars were, how did she get here?

The POR bus arrived shortly, and upon disembarking we stopped in the gift shop. We picked up some Goofy’s Candy Co. sour gummy worms (highly recommended!), and Pat got some Maker’s Mark from a cast member who was also Pat.

We then headed back to our room, passing an inflatable screen showing Frozen on the lawn in front of the fountain. Once we were back, I immediately set about prepping for the race. I laid out my running stuff and set alarms on my phone AND Pat’s phone AND I organized a wake-up call just in case. If I failed at Dopey, IT WOULD NOT BE BECAUSE I SLEPT THROUGH IT.

Pat had a big project due at work at the end of the week, so he settled in to work on it while I tried to get some sleep. I was weirdly cold, though, and it wasn’t until Pat gave me his hoodie that I was able to drift off. This was a portent of what awaited me in the morning…

Next up: the 5K!

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!