Deej's Picture of the Week


My favorite week of the year is nearly upon us. It's time for that "Tradition Unlike Any Other...The Masters." A few years ago, I scratched a visit to Augusta National off my bucket list, and snapped this great pic of an empty 16th green. Just a few days later, Tiger Woods would hit one of the most memorable shots in the history of the game right here....


Still gives me goosebumps...

~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~ 

Deej

Costa d'Este Resort - Vero Beach, Florida

There was a hint of salt in the air as I walked up the brick lined path leading to the white, art-deco building before me. The sound of crashing water has successfully drowned out the normal clutter in my brain, yet its source is not the Atlantic in the distance, but the waterfall being conjured from the building's roof. A bellman offers a warm welcome as I entered to the faint smell of Nag Champa incense and the pulse of rhythmic music. I had only been at Gloria Estefan's Costa d'Este Resort for five minutes, and I was already relaxed.
Costa d'Este Vero Beach
First impressions are everything...

The decompression of my soul started before I even arrived to the hotel. As I meandered down Ocean Drive through the town of Vero Beach, I couldn't help but wonder why I hadn't been here before. On one side sat the beach and the pedestrian friendly ocean walk, while on the other lay a row of shops, cafes, and galleries. It was charming; dare I say...quaint. Yet most importantly, it was classic Florida.
Costa d'Este The Wave
The Wave's Lounge

I was invited to the Costa d'Este for lunch, but it wasn't long before I wished to be staying longer. As I was led through the hotel's restaurant - The Wave - the smells coming from the open kitchen offered a preview of what was to come. After a few minutes, the server approached to take our order, but I hadn't even looked at the menu. I was a bit distracted by the pool and ocean beyond the floor to ceiling windows next to our table. Thankfully, my eyes immediately went to the Palomilla Sliders, making the decision quick and easy. It also proved to be a wise one...
Palomilla on a bun = Heaven

Since I was in no hurry to leave, after lunch I explored the rest of this beautiful resort. I wandered into the fitness center - yes, I was lost - and decided it was the most cruel room I've ever seen. How can a room be cruel you ask? Easy...by taunting you with a motivation sapping view of the ocean. For those with enough discipline to work out in spite of the view, this was one of the most impressive fitness centers I've seen in a hotel.
Costa d'Este Fitness Center
How is anyone supposed to work out with that view?

Fearing my fitness center allergy would flare up, I decided to see what was across the hall in the hotel's spa. It is here that one can be pampered into a state of nearly permanent bliss. Or so I'm told. Sadly, I didn't get to find out, because the serenity of the spa's lobby proved that one can actually fall asleep while standing up.
Costa d'Este Room Vero Beach
Sleek. Simple. Sophisticated.

After my cat nap, I moved on to one of the Costa's 94 guest rooms. I don't know much about design - actually, I know nothing about design - but I know what I like in hotel rooms, and this one had it all. Comfortable furnishings, a bathroom straight out of a Kohler commercial, and a balcony overlooking the ocean. What more anyone could need, I'm not really sure.
The definition of "Room with a View"

I made my way back downstairs to the pool deck which had teased me during lunch. The palm tree lined deck offered plenty of lounges for sun bathing, but as I'm also allergic to the sun, I instead opted for a stool at the poolside bar. There was easy access to the beach, and those looking for a bit of adventure can kayak and snorkel at a shipwreck just off shore.
Hold my calls...

What struck me most as I wandered the hotel were the countless small details found throughout the property. The Gloria Estefan album cover which wraps the elevators, candles embedded in the lobby wall, the porthole mirror in the guest rooms, a zen-like garden outside the restaurant. Every great hotel should have a story, and rather than relying on a celebrity name to be theirs, it is the details which write the book on the Costa d'Este.
Costa d'Este Vero Beach
The Lobby

Over the years, I have come to learn that there are two types of hotels. Those that get it, and those that don't. The Costa d'Este definitely gets it. From the moment you arrive each of your senses is stimulated with one objective in mind...to help you forget everything that lies outside the hotel walls. With a style all its own, just like the rhythm, the Costa d'Este is gonna get you...

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~ 

Deej

The Final Four and The ATL

Nevermind warmer temperatures and the flowers in bloom, the greatest thing about March is the NCAA men's basketball tournament, affectionately known as March Madness. The tournament brings with it weeks of excitement, and the terms "Cinderella," "Bracket Buster," and "Sweet Sixteen" take on new meanings. Studies have even shown American companies lose over $1 billion in productivity losses during March Madness. All this drama builds up to one of the most exciting weekends of the year...The Final Four.

Final Four Atlanta
We hoped to add another year to the banner...
Growing up a fan of the Florida Gators, the dream of seeing my team in the Final Four was just that...a dream. One Cinderella run in the early 90s aside, Florida had always been a football school, and basketball played the role of second fiddle.

Fast forward a decade, and all that started to change. In 2006, a team that started the season unranked not only made it to the Final Four, but went on to win the championship in convincing fashion. The following year the Gators rolled through the NCAA tournament once again, and we're headed back to the Final Four. Two days before the first game in Atlanta, my phone rang. It was the Gator ticket office calling to tell me that childhood dream was coming true.


The next day we packed the car and made the easiest six hour drive of my life. The only hotel in the Atlanta area that wasn't booked or practicing price gouging was a Hampton Inn about 15 miles south of Downtown. Not that it mattered...for once, I wasn't there for the hotel.

The Final Four isn't just a few basketball games...it's an event. Before Saturday's big games, we watched the band Live and Ludacris perform in Centennial Olympic Park, and attended a pep rally of sorts being hosted by the Gators. We even had time for a pre-game Pig Sandwich at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Atlanta Final Four 2007
A really tiny Ludacris
Finally, it was time for the main event. We hiked to our seats - which were basically on the roof - and I began to bite my nails to stubs. The format is simple...win, and play for the national championship on Monday. Lose, and go home tomorrow. A few hours later, after I regained consciousness, I called the hotel to extend our stay...

With a day between games to recuperate, I planned a great day for us in Atlanta. First, we would hit Six Flags over Georgia, and follow that up with another concert by my wife's rock star crush...Adam Levine and Maroon 5. Sadly, the weather had other plans, and rain made sure none of this happened. We later learned the concert went on anyway, and I'm still working off the negative points this cost me with my wife.
Final Four Atlanta 2007
You'll notice the confetti hanging from the scoreboard...
The next evening we climbed back to the rafters, and settled in for the national championship game. My blood pressure no doubt rivaled that of Lewis Black, and it would stay that way for two hours. The stress proved to be unnecessary...Florida was dominant the entire game, and in the end the title was ours.

Florida Gators Final Four 2007

As the players danced on stage and coach Billy Donovan hoisted the national championship trophy, an entry near the top of my bucket list vanished into thin air.

Who are you pulling for in this weekend's Final Four?

Enjoy Your Stay

Where to Stay at Disney - On-Site vs Off-Site

Where to stay at Disney. A question which has no doubt been asked millions of times since October 1st, 1971, but for which there is not a straight answer. I have stayed both on and off-site countless times, and there are numerous pros and cons to both. Here are a few of the most important things to consider when making this life changing decision. Yeah...it's that important.

On-Site Pros
  • Disney Transportation. From arrival to the airport to getting around the resort, it is possible to spend the entire vacation using solely Disney's transportation. Perfect if you're like me and hate driving on vacation.
  • Disney Dining Plan. Guests staying on property can take advantage of Disney's Dining Plan, which if you snag the right promotion may actually be free with your stay. 
Disney Wilderness Lodge
Disney's Wilderness Lodge
On-Site Cons
  • Price. Disney's resorts are considerably more expensive than equal quality hotels off property.
  • Value. The folks at Disney tend to stretch the definition of "deluxe." The amenities offered at Disney's highest tier resorts fall short of what the rest of the industry offers at high end properties.
Pros and Cons to staying onsite at Disney
Storm-a-long Bay at Disney's Beach Club Resort
Off-Site Pros
  • Flexibility. This may come as a shock to many of you, but there is a lot more to Orlando than Disney. Staying off-site gives one the opportunity to see what else the City Beautiful has to offer outside the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
  • More bang for the buck. There are many fantastic resorts in Orlando, most of which offer a better experience than Disney's "deluxe" hotels, at a fraction of the price. 
Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort
Technically off-site...The Walt Disney World Dolphin

Off-Site Cons
  • Location. Disney is huge. Being off property will add quite a bit of time to your daily theme park commute. The best solution here is to stay at the Hilton or Waldorf Astoria Bonnet Creek...right smack in the middle of Disney property.
  • The Disney Experience. Staying at one of Disney's resorts fully immerses guests into the Mouse's "world." This was the original intent of Walt Disney World in the first place...a total escape from reality and the outside world. If you stay off-site, this experience is lost...
Waldorf Astoria Orlando
The grounds of the beautiful Waldorf Astoria Orlando
The short answer to the question of where to stay at Disney is, well....it depends. As someone who stays both on and off-site, I enjoy the benefits of both. For me it depends on the trip, and my hope is this can serve as a guide for those losing sleep over the great debate of where to stay at Disney.

Enjoy Your Stay

The Travel Bucket List - Top 10 Abroad

Earlier I shared the first installment of my travel bucket list series, and listed the top 10 sites I'd like to see here at home. America is but one small corner of the globe, and my bucket list for the rest of the planet pales in comparison to that of the U.S.A. While I have been lucky to see a few traditional bucket list sites - Great Wall of China, Paris, New York City - there is still plenty I want to see in this big blue world.

Here are the top 10 sites abroad on my travel bucket list.

10.Vancouver

Does Canada really count as "abroad?" Either way, ever since the 2010 Olympics showcased Vancouver to the world, it has been firmly on my list. I'm a sucker for gorgeous waterfront skylines, and melting pots of food and culture.


9.  Sydney

To answer your question - No, I didn't pull up the list of Olympic host cities when starting this article. I'm not much on physical activity, but I would gladly make an exception for a hike on the famous Harbor Bridge.

8.  Christ the Redeemer - Rio de Janeiro

I can't really put my finger on why, but there isn't much about Brazil that stirs my travel pot. That is until I read Leah's Travels adventure to Christ the Redeemer, and decided this icon deserved a spot on my list.
The Theater of Dreams - Old Trafford
7.  Old Trafford - Manchester, England

As a supporter of Manchester United, I dream of one day taking in a match at the "Theater of Dreams." Seeing them dispose of Chelsea in person would certainly fulfill one of mine. Plus, thanks to the ultra-cool Richard Branson, we can book Manchester flights direct from Orlando making the trip an easy one.

6.  Rome

Seems that any bucket list would be incomplete without a visit to the Sistine Chapel. Not to mention that whole Roman Empire thing...

5.  Disney Parks in Asia

I'm a Disney geek...we established this long ago. Therefore it should come as no surprise that I dream of visiting the Disney parks in Asia. Of course, their location in Tokyo, Hong Kong, and the soon to be Shanghai, makes it easy to add these to the list.

"See that cliff? Let's build a city." ~Genius Santorini Founder
4.  Santorini

Have you seen Santorini? Then it should be pretty clear why this one makes the list. I'm pretty sure I could sit on a patio overlooking the Mediterranean for days on end.

3.  The Pyramids

Would any bucket list be complete without a visit to the Pyramids of Giza?

The famed 18th at the Old Course
2.  St. Andrews

Like Pebble Beach on my U.S.A. list, St. Andrews is just one of those places that every golfer should visit once. The Old Course at St. Andrews is revered as the birthplace of the game, and I hope to one day pause for a photo on it's legendary stone bridge.

1.  Singapore

If you find it odd that Singapore beats out places like the Pyramids and Rome, don't worry...I do too. I've been fascinated by Singapore since I was a kid and my great-grandmother shared stories from her adventure there. Today I dream of riding the spotless subway to one of the famous hawker stands, followed by a beverage atop the Marina Bay Sands. It may be a simple dream, but it's mine...
The Marina Bay Sands
Credit: Wiki
So there you have it....My travel bucket list from the rest of the world. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to start applying for every airline credit card in existence to make this happen. 

What destination is on your list that I left off? 

Enjoy Your Stay

Check Out Time - The Week in Travel

After a two week hiatus caused by site redesign and St. Patrick's Day recovery, it's time to bring back Check Out Time.

Here's what you may have missed on The World of Deej and beyond...
  • We paid a visit to the only thing new at Disney's re-imagined Pleasure Island - Paradiso 37
Our view in Vero Beach for the last few days...
 And did you see?...
  • Over Traveled shared the greatest "only in Vegas" story ever told.  

And that's the week that was. To those of you in the northern hemisphere, enjoy the first full week of spring!

~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~

Deej

Deej's Picture of the Week

Sunrise over Disney Vero Beach Resort

A live shot from the beautiful start to our day in Vero Beach. I believe the great Forrest Gump said it best...

"...When the sun comes up, I couldn't tell where heaven stopped and the Earth began."

Hard Rock Tampa - One Cool Hotel

There are two things I love when traveling. Hotels and Hard Rock Cafes. As much as I try to play the role of jaded traveler, I still insist on a visit to any nearby Hard Rock for a Pig Sandwich and a souvenir pin. So naturally, putting the words "Hard Rock" and "Hotel" together is going to suck me in like the Death Star's tractor beam.

Paradiso 37 - Downtown Disney

Several years ago, the bean counters at Team Disney decided to close all of the nightclubs at the resort's Pleasure Island entertainment complex. The area was to be fully "reimagined," which is Disney-speak for "we would like to build some more gift shops here." Sadly, to this day much of the Pleasure Island area sits vacant, an empty reminder to all that visited of the great times once had here on a nightly basis. We recently visited one of the few new offerings at the "reimagined" Pleasure Island, the Central/South American themed eatery Paradiso 37.
Paradiso 37 Downtown Disney

The Restaurant 

Located alongside Downtown Disney's lakefront, Paradiso 37 is actually operated by E-Brands, the company behind another popular Orlando restaurant, The Samba Room. The restaurant features a pair of outdoor decks, one of which overlooks the lake, as well as lively bar area. The Latin theme is apparent throughout, with mosaic tile table tops, and lighting one would normally find in the art deco hotels of South Beach.
Paradiso 37 Downtown Disney

As expected on a Friday evening, we arrived to a fully packed restaurant, and the seven of us were sat at a table more comfortably designed for a party of four. In addition to the small table, the layout is simply not designed for the number of guests crammed into the space, and we spent most of the evening being bumped by servers and other patrons anytime they passed. I'm sure highly complex algorithms were used to determine the exact number of tables and their placement, but squeezing in an extra party or two seems to come at the cost of the guest's comfort.
Paradiso 37 Downtown Disney

Even more puzzling than the restaurant's layout was their choice of music. A DJ was in the corner of the dining room playing a wide range of techno/dance/remixed Top 40, and I was left confused as to whether this was a restaurant or a nightclub. Ordering surf and turf while a techno version of The Beatles "I Am The Walrus" played in the background had to be one of the more surreal moments of my life. 

The Food 

Despite my misgivings about Paradiso's atmosphere, the food was definitely a bright spot.

Paradiso 37 Downtown Disney
I started with the shrimp ceviche, which was fresh, and carried just the right amount of spice.

Paradiso 37 Downtown Disney
The wife and friends shared an order of the Central American Crazy Corn. Apparently there was not anything bad to say about roasted corn soaked in a thick layer of cheese.

Paradiso 37 Downtown Disney
The steak portion of my surf and turf was not the greatest of quality, but I wasn't really expecting the Morton's filet. The shrimp, on the other hand, were huge and more than offset the steak's shortcomings.

Paradiso 37 Downtown Disney
The wife's enchiladas were a hit, but as I've said before, success is pretty much guaranteed when you put her and Latin food together.

Paradiso 37 Downtown Disney
We both went with the Paradiso Stack for dessert, which was just OK. The cake was great, but the ice cream not so much. This from a guy that would eat ice cream on pizza if given the option. 

The Service 

Things seemed to move a little slow at Paradiso. Granted, the place was packed, but that excuse can only go so far. Our server was attentive and friendly, but there were huge gaps between each stage of the meal. Most notably, it took forever to get our check, which I will admit is a pet peeve of mine. You've done your job, it's time to get paid...get the money. Why this concept seems to allude so many restaurants is one of the universe's great mysteries. 

Overall 

Would I return to Paradiso? Absolutely, but with a few tweaks to the approach. First, I would dine outside where there seemed to be more space for guests, and one can escape the club electronica mood music. If the DJ is there to stay, then I feel the entire menu should be tossed into the lake in favor of a tapas approach, which would be a better fit in a pseudo-nightclub. That aside, I enjoyed the food, and found Paradiso 37 to be a welcome addition to the otherwise empty Pleasure Island.

~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~ 

Deej

Paradiso 37, Taste of the Americas on Urbanspoon

The Travel Bucket List - Top 10 in the U.S.A.

"It's on my list."

Every day I'm inundated with blog posts, press releases, Tweets, Status Updates, Pins, Instagrams, and Stumbles from all over this beautiful planet, and a fair percentage of them get added to my list...the bucket list. The problem is there is just one of me, and I have this little thing called a job, making it impossible to keep up with my list's exponential growth. So I've decided to do a series of posts sharing the places, hotels, and restaurants I'd like to visit in this country, and beyond. I'm thinking of it as a virtual lamination, designed to keep the entire world from eventually making its way onto my bucket list.

Without further adieu, here are the top ten sites I want to see here in the good old U.S. of A.  

10. Seattle

It should come as no surprise that the home of Starbucks is on my list. Beyond my coffee addiction, however, there are plenty of reasons I want to see the Emerald City. The Boeing factory tour appeals to the aviation buff in me, and I'm sure I'd enjoy tossing a fish at my wife in Pike Place Market.
Coffee and Airplanes...Great combination
Credit: Visit Seattle

9. Niagara Falls

Totally cheesy, but also one of those things that everyone should see once. Maybe I could find some sort of deal on a same day return flight, because really how long can you stare at falling water? 

8. New Orleans

This is where I'm supposed to say something about a secret love affair with jazz music, or risk being told to surrender my cool card. Sure, I like jazz, but for me a visit to New Orleans would have little to do with music or Bourbon Street, and instead would center on one thing....food. Keep the beignets and crawfish coming please...
Yes Please....
Credit: Destination360

7. The Rockies

As a native Floridian - the birth certificate says Georgia, but it's a misprint - I have always loved winter travel. While the rest of the country heads south like Canadian geese, I prefer to go north to the cold and snow. Sometime I would like to visit a posh destination like Aspen or Jackson Hole, and break my leg on the slopes in style.  

6. Yankee Stadium

Sadly, the biggest cluster-bomb of my travel career kept me from seeing a game in the original Yankee Stadium.  Undeterred, I would still like to see the guys in pin stripes in their new digs, even if the building lacks the history of the old. I've already filled out an application for a second mortgage to cover the cost of tickets.
The House that Jeter Built

5. California Wine Country 

Riding a bike from one vineyard to another...what's not to like? Plus, I'd be able to start a sentence with "This one time, in Napa..." which is pretty cool too. Just don't ask me to try the Merlot... 

4. Yosemite National Park 

I'm not really an outdoorsy kind of guy, but the amazing photos by my buddy Erik at On My Feet or In My Mind have inspired me to add Yosemite National Park to the list. Now...where is Yosemite? 

3. Chicago 

How I have made it this long without visiting Chicago sort of boggles my mind. Hopefully one day I can visit the Second City, and fulfill a lifelong dream of reenacting Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Cue random parade...

2. Alaska 

From what I understand, in Alaska there are all you can eat smoked salmon and king crab joints on every corner. The corner of what, I'm not exactly sure, because apparently there are also no roads, as evidenced by a state capital that's only accessible by boat or plane.

1. Drum roll please..... Highway 1 - California Coast 

It has long been a dream of mine to hit the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible, with the theme song from The O.C. blasting on repeat. I'd start in San Fransisco, and make my way down to Monterey and Pebble Beach. Then if I was really lucky, I'd get the honor of shooting 100 on the most picturesque golf course in the world. 
Packing List: A Dozen Titleists and a Camera

So there you have it...my bucket list from the homeland. In the coming weeks I'll also share my list from sites abroad, as well as hotels and restaurants I hope to one day visit. With any luck, these lists should help keep my travel goals a little more organized than the 600 line Excel sheet I currently have going. 

What do you think of my list? What sites in the USA make yours? 

~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~ 

Deej

Deej's Picture of the Week



If anyone needs me, I'll be here.... Happy St. Patrick's Day...

St. Patrick's Day in London

Sometimes things just go your way.

While I can't recall ever thinking this on the golf course, in travel I've received more than my fair share of lucky bounces. There was the $100 room I scored at the Four Seasons, or better yet, the first class flight to Amsterdam for $78. Of all the lucky breaks I've caught while traveling, one of the best would have to be the random trip to London...on St. Patrick's Day.
Black Lion Pub Bayswater London
The Black Lion Pub

After scoring the previously mentioned first class seats and enjoying a few days in Amsterdam, my buddy and I were presented with a problem. Our tickets were standby, and the flights back home were booked for several days. We decided to take the short flight to London, where we were all but guaranteed to get home as scheduled. We arrived in London mid-morning, and as I exited the cab in front of our hotel, I couldn't help but notice a giant banner on the Black Lion Pub next door...

"Happy St. Patrick's Day"

What had started as a problem, it seemed, had actually been yet another lucky break...

Up to that point I had never really celebrated St. Patrick's Day. Sure, I'd make an effort to have a Guinness for good measure, but that was about the extent of my green holiday festivities. Now, here I was in London, certainly as close to Dublin as I'd ever been, and there was an Irish pub next door to my hotel. Whoever was writing this script needed a raise.

We headed down to the pub shortly after nightfall and the place was already packed to the gills. A couple not much older than us invited us to share their table, and the ultimate small world moment happened. It turned out they lived on the street adjacent to our college apartment in Orlando, and we could see their house from our balcony. In fact, I think we even hit their house with a firecracker on July 4th, but that's another story. 
St. Patrick's Day London
Awkward face, awesome pint.
The atmosphere was unlike anything I'd experienced in a pub before or ever since. Songs were sang - most of which I didn't understand - and just about everyone you spoke to was suddenly your best friend. I enjoyed a few pints of Guinness but was careful not to over do it since our flight was in about 6 hours. There really was no need to drink, however...the place was intoxicating all by itself.

As night turned into early morning, and the pub closed for the evening, I decided it was probably best to catch an hour or two of sleep. My buddy continued the party with our neighbors from Orlando, but he caught another break and slept it off in first class, while I was stuck in coach.

No doubt about it, between the $78 first class flight, and celebrating St. Patrick's Day in London, the travel Gods were on my side during this adventure. The best way I know to sum it up is to quote the infamous Barney Stinson... "It was Legen - wait for it - Dary." 

Where will you celebrate this St. Patrick's Day?

~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~ 

Deej

The Perfect Night in New York City

As the sun began to set on our perfect day in New York City, our fun was only just beginning. During the day we had accomplished every cliche tourist activity in the Big Apple, but it was our plans for that night which I looked forward to the most. CNBC, historic bars, great hotels, and a popular celebrity chef's restaurant....This was going to be quite a night.
Times Square at Night
The Lights of Times Square

Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort

Wow, I'm pretty impressed...

The way my wife and friends stared at me after this statement, I began to wonder if a velociraptor had appeared over my shoulder. You see, I'm not easily impressed when it comes to hotels, especially the resorts found at Disney. I've often complained - more like ranted - about the Mouse's watered down definition of "deluxe," so I can understand the disbelief of my travel partners when I shared these thoughts on The Port Orleans Riverside Resort.
Disney Port Orleans Riverside
The Lobby Building

Perhaps what gave Port Orleans a fighting chance more than anything was my outlook from the start. I was genuinely excited to experience Riverside, the last remaining Disney resort I had yet to visit. There aren't too many out there that can say they have stayed at every Disney resort, but for years the hotel snob in me didn't care much about the distinction, since achieving it meant I had to stay at Riverside. It wasn't long after we checked in that I realized just how misguided that line of thought really was...
Disney Port Orleans Riverside
The Mansions of Magnolia Bend

The Resort 

Port Orleans is a giant complex which consists of two separate and unique resorts - Riverside and the French Quarter. In addition, Riverside is also divided into two sections, with the Alligator Bayou taking one on a trip to the Mississippi delta, while the Magnolia Bend is a visit to the historic mansions of old Savannah. For our visit, we were placed in the Bayou section, and the late night walk to our room made me wonder if I was living out a scene from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Disney Port Orleans Riverside
Alligator Bayou

The Room 

With nearly 100% occupancy year-round, Disney's resort rooms take quite a beating. What impressed me about our room, however, was the lack of noticeable wear and tear. The customary banged up walls and furniture were non-existent, and I found the overall layout of our room to be very comfortable. The bath was especially impressive, with dual sinks and what appeared to be relatively new tile floors.  Overall, for a moderate level resort, I would say the room rivaled that of several "deluxe" properties around Disney.
Disney Port Orleans Riverside Room
The Room

The Food 

As with all of Disney's value and moderate tier resorts, the primary option for food is the Riverside Mill Food Court, while Boatwright's is a table service option for dinner. I would normally prefer to suffer through a Matthew McConoughey movie than visit a resort food court, but I found the one at Riverside to be downright pleasant. I enjoyed breakfast one morning, free from the traditional zoo-like atmosphere, and found it to be mostly empty on my 14 other visits for coffee.
Disney Port Orleans Riverside
Riverside Mill Food Court
The Pros 

Location - Port Orleans is centrally located for fairly easy access to all of Disney's theme parks. There is also a shuttle boat which runs between the resort and Downtown Disney. 

Piano Bob - An icon of Disney World entertainment, Piano Bob's show in the River Roost Lounge has a bit of a cult-like following. This was my first time experiencing his sing-a-long show, and I've definitely been missing out all these years. 

Price - For the quality of the room and overall resort, it really is hard to beat the price. If given the choice between Port Orleans or one of Disney's overpriced "deluxe" resorts, I'd choose Port Orleans every time. This from a hotel snob...
Disney Port Orleans Riverside
The Legendary Piano Bob

The Cons 

Layout - Riverside is ginormous. Our room was a ten minute walk back to the main building, which made my coffee runs that much more annoying. Next time I know to request a building close to the lobby. 

Transportation - If you plan on using Disney transportation to the parks, you are pretty much stuck with the bus. Be prepared to make 3 stops within the Riverside complex, and another at the French Quarter, before you actually start heading to your destination. 

Exterior Room Entries - Just a pet peeve of mine. That's all...

Disney Port Orleans Riverside Pool
The Main Pool at Riverside


As I packed the car to head home from our weekend away, I felt almost ashamed for having shunned Port Orleans Riverside for so long. For years the hotel snob in me refused to give it a chance, yet looking back I can't come up with a single good reason why. I'm sure there is some applicable cliche involving books and covers and such. Whatever the reason, Riverside managed to impress this hotel junkie, and perhaps even more impressive, it did so without breaking the bank.

~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~ 

Deej