I love visiting Orlando in September, the weather is perfect and it’s not quite as busy. Not to mention Food and Wine and the Halloween stuff (just don’t mention Halloween Horror Nights, I’m still not forgiven for booking too early for those..). BUT it is hurricane season so you do always run the risk of there being one. I’ve been lucky on previous trips to either miss them or just have to deal with a bit of rain most days. But this time, we were slap bang in the middle of it and saw first hand how it affects people in Orlando and what Disney do for their guests while all this is happening.
There won’t be a lot of pictures in this blog there’s not a lot to photo when you’re just in your room…I’ll try and keep it short but informative for those of you who are worried about what being there for something like this is like.
We were staying at Port Orleans French Quarter which is the smallest of the Moderate resorts and they did a fantastic job in the run up to Irma keeping us updated daily with memos left on our beds by housekeeping explaining what was happening. Obviously this changed constantly as weather is really unpredictable. The last update was we had a curfew in place from 7pm last night until 6pm the day after Irma. The hurricane was due to hit in the early hours so during the day apart from it being windy and colder than normal that was all we had to deal with.
The hotel was amazing and it’s a testament to how safe Disney is as a location that a lot of people who were evacuated were in our hotel along with some locals who had decided to decamp to Disney as they knew it was ‘the safest place to be’. The Floridian Mayor had insisted that all hotels open up to people with pets as so many in real danger from Irma wouldn’t leave them and just stay at home putting more of the emergency services at risk. We had dogs in our hotel, I know it’s a bit of a controversial subject, but personally I loved having them around. They didn’t cause any problems, I heard no barking, all dogs were on leads and there was no mess. It just made me miss mine more. I found it quite homely having a load of dogs I could pet 🙂
All the cast members were great and again after speaking to a few it turns out Disney had asked weeks ago for volunteers to work for this, whether it be in the hotels or as part of the clean up crew. Apparently Disney were overrun by people offering to help out. Shows again the extra measures Cast Members go to for their jobs.
The pools were drained and closed so we didn’t have that to do however there was more than enough to keep the kids amused. Arts and Crafts in the lobby area, music and dancing and the arcade on free play as well. By far the best thing was having characters in the lobby, they took part in the arts and crafts and dancing with the kids. We had Chip and Dale, Pluto and my favourite Donald Duck. I had a great time just watching him dancing to Michael Jackson, who knew he had some moves!! Something you’ll see in an upcoming vlog.. I would even say that was one of the highlights of my trip!
Staying at Port Orleans does give you access to both of the resorts there, ours and the much larger Riverside. Being as both were open for food we took a little wander over along the riverside to just have a little change of scenery. There is more choice foodwise over that side and it’s where you can see Yee Haw Bob (sadly not while we were there though), we tried the Jambalaya which was so nice and had a look around their much bigger gift shop.
Food in our resort during this time was limited. There was pre packaged meals of sandwiches etc and just Pizza or Meatballs and Pasta. Both of which we had – there’s not a lot to do really apart from eat when you’ve seen the crafts and the characters.
Disney did kindly put Disney Movies on a loop on the channels in our rooms so we did spend the day going back to watch a movie and then off to get more food. Being as we knew we would have to be in our rooms for around 12 hours (much better than the ‘up to 48’ it was originally) we tried to stay out as long as possible. I remember watching Little Mermaid, Big Hero 6 and Brave a good few times.
Not once during this whole time did any of us feel worried, scared or anxious. Watching the news and weather channels on TV the way things were worded made it sound a lot worse for us than it seemed to be. We were lucky where we were obviously it hit worse on the coast and it was devastating for many but Disney is quite rightly a safe place to be.
There was never any loss of electric or water – largely due to Disney having their own supplies of this – and I think the reason so many decamp there.
During the curfew we literally just ate and watched TV, not a lot else you can do. We bought playing cards and colouring stuff but we slept through most of the hurricane. We did get woken up a few times during the night and peered out to see incredibly high winds and a lot of rain, trees were blowing over but apart from that we didn’t see much, it was dark though…
Next morning once the curfew was lifted we did venture out to see what damage had been done and it was mostly just trees and a few signs had been blown off. As I said we were lucky. The rooms were secure and having the TV on did cover over most of the noise of the wind and rain. Had we lost power then it might have been a different situation.
Obviously the pool was still closed and not too many people were about but we went to get food and by the time we’d come back to the room and watched a movie the second trip to get out we were met with a very different resort. It was like nothing had happened, all the debris was cleared away and apart from seeing workmen about fixing signs etc you wouldn’t have known anything had happened.
Curfew was lifted for the area early evening so we headed out to get some food. It was clear once we’d got off Disney property how much damage had been done locally. Literally as soon as we were off site we saw traffic lights out and a lot of flooding, some of the big store signs along the 192 were ruined, blown down or ripped and we could see a lot of places without power.
Not many places were open, social media was so helpful for this, we ended up at Golden Corral near Kissimmee which had queues around the whole building we waited nearly 90 minutes to get in and eat, when we came out the queue was twice as long so we were lucky.
Parks reopen tomorrow so we’re looking forward to Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween party which thankfully is still happening.
All in all we were lucky that we were onsite for Irma, I think if we’d been in a villa we wouldn’t have had it so easy. It’s not put me off coming in Hurricane season again, we were well looked after. Floridians in general are really friendly so if you do normally do Villa holidays neighbours will be more than happy to help you out if the situation arose. All hotels would have some kind of policy in place but it would only be resorts on Disney where you’re not likely to lose power.
If you’re worried about booking and the impact that it may have on your holiday I really wouldn’t, missing 2 days in the parks did mean we missed some stuff but most of that could have been done earlier on in the holiday if I’d planned it right. We were upset to miss some of it and having to spend so much time together stuck in a relatively small room might drive some families mad and fray some tempers but luckily we don’t annoy each other too much! I think we panicked when we originally thought we would be stuck for 48 hours and spent far too much on supplies we didn’t need to have so in hindsight maybe we should have waited a little longer to get stuff.
Generally during Hurricane Season you will get rain pretty much every day. However unlike here the weather channels will tell you what time that will be and they’re for the most part incredibly accurate, its usually just a shower and over as quick as it starts. I love it when it rains, people empty the parks and it ends up so quiet, always a bonus. Don’t let it put you off booking!!
I’m glad this all happened towards the end of our trip and it wasn’t something that stopped us actually getting here and it does mean that if it happens to affect us again we’ll know what to expect and family at home might not be as worried as they were this time.
Not too long for us left now which is sad and I imagine we will still have some bad weather to deal with but tomorrow we eat in one of the places I’ve been most looking forward to – Skipper Canteen…