Thursday, November 17, 2016

My Favorite Resort Pools

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are the best Disney resorts for relaxation.

Growing up, my parents realized that I got grumpy when I was tired. This especially happened during our vacations at Walt Disney World.

And when I say grumpy, I mean to say that I was a major turd. Unfortunately for my family, not much has changed almost thirty years later.

In an effort to minimize the crab-factor, my parents often took a break from the parks to head back to the resort during the hottest part of the day to rest, relax, take a nap, or spend time by the pool. We also took days off between park days to hang out at the pool.

As a result, I have many fond memories of my favorite pools on property. This list is not the standard "Top Pools to Visit at Walt Disney World!" but rather the pools that have meaning for me by being tied to fond memories. While these pools may not be as significant to you because they are my memories giving them importance, if you are like me, you will take whatever chance you can to read about someone else's experiences at Walt Disney World because it fuels your desire for all things Disney and helps to satiate your WDWWd (Walt Disney World Withdrawal, which I explain in more detail here).

One of the earliest memories I have of Walt Disney World resort pools is the pool at Caribbean Beach. I stayed at this resort during one of my first trips as a two or three year old. I don't remember much about the trip, but I do have a strong recollection of swimming with my dad in the pool while the themed structures of an old Spanish fort towered over and around the pool. Sticking out from the turrets was a number of cannons. I don't remember if the cannons spilled water into the pool or not, but I do have some sort of memory of the cannons making exploding noises, although that could be a mixed up memory of the cannons at Caribbean Plaza near Pirates of the Caribbean in Magic Kingdom's Adventureland. Like I said, I don't remember much about the pool, other than the experience and emotion of swimming with my dad in the pool. A few years back, Disney refurbished the pool and its theming, rebuilding the Spanish fort buildings. The turrets look similar, albeit some subtle changes. The cannons poking out of the windows of the turrets now spill water in a stream into the pool, and the bridge that stretched over the pool has been removed, looking as though it crumbled into the pool below. Disney also added an additional building on the deep end of the pool, housing the structure of a waterslide. Because of my fond memories attached to this pool, the refurbishment was bittersweet: the refurbished structures and theming look great, but the images attached to wonderful memories are no more, preserved only in my mind's eye and online.

Another early memory I have of a Disney pool is the pool at Disney's Port Orleans Resort. Originally opened in 1991, we must have stayed at the resort in 1992 or 1993, making me somewhere between three and five years old. This was the original Port Orleans resort, now known as Disney's Port Orleans Resort: French Quarter (Riverside would not open until 1992 and was known as Dixie Landings until the two resorts merged into one in 2001, each part becoming known respectively as Disney's Port Orleans Resort: French Quarter and Port Orleans: Riverside). The pool of Port Orleans: French Quarter (which I will from hereon refer to as simply Port Orleans because that is what it was called during my visit) is known as Doubloon Lagoon and features statues of fiberglass alligators (similar to those in the "Dance of the Hours" sequence of Fantasia) around the pool area. A large seashell serves as a band shell along one side of the pool beneath which the gators pose as playing instruments, while streams of water spray out of the tips of the shell. However, the centerpiece of the pool, and what made it most memorable to me is a large sea serpent that arches over the pool as bridges until it becomes the waterslide, guests cascading down its tongue into the pool. Mounted atop the serpent's head sits Poseidon, king of the sea, looking mysteriously like King Triton from The Little Mermaid. The official backstory of the resort's pool, when it opened in 1991, explained that due to the danger posed by the numerous alligators and snakes that frequented the ponds of the Sassagoula Bayou, the fathers of the village built a large sea serpent out of chicken wire and bedsheets to scare the children out of the swimming hole. However, over time, as the official backstory has dissipated, the pool area has become an extension of the overall theme seen most heavily in the food court of the resort, the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory, which, according to backstory, serves as a manufacturing factory and storage facility for Mardi Gras floats. With this new backstory, the waterslide has become an extension of the Mardi Gras theme and has become known to be a float for the Mardi Gras parade, the music-playing gators the performers on the street corners and musicians of the festivities. As with the pool at Caribbean Beach, I don't remember much about this pool from the early 90s, but what I do remember is swimming under the arched coils of the serpent and sliding down the pink tongue slide of the creature into the waiting arms of my dad at the bottom of the slide. I also remember standing next to a pair of alligators on the path to the pool from the lobby building, one playing a banjo and the other, a drum, my parents taking my photo as I pretended to play an air-banjo. This pool became even more special to me during the summer of 2015, when my wife and I took our three kids to Walt Disney World for the first time. We stayed at Port Orleans: Riverside, as it was one of the only resorts that could accommodate the five of us for a low cost. The Port Orleans Resorts are a special breed of resorts on property: while operated as one resort with a shared management team, they can be booked as separate lodgings, similar to Disney's All-Star (Sports/Music/Movies) resorts. As a result, guests staying at one of the Port Orleans resorts can use either resort's pool(s) (pool hopping at other resorts on property is quite the no-no, as one of the perks of staying at the resort is having exclusive use of its themed pools). As a result, as guests of Riverside, we spent an evening midway through our trip over at the French Quarter, eating at the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory and enjoying an hour of swimming in the Doubloon Lagoon. We enjoyed swimming under the coil bridge of the serpent, screaming excitedly as we stood under the spraying water jets emitting from the sea shell band shell, and even catching our then four-year-old boys as they came down the waterslide (sitting up like goofballs). We ended our evening at the French Quarter's pool by snapping a picture of our three children surrounding the drum and banjo playing gators, all three of them playing air-banjo, coming full-circle from my original trip to the resort.
Photo Courtesy of Melissa Knight

Another Walt Disney World pool that is near and dear to my heart is the pool over at a lesser-known Disney resort, Coronado Springs. It was at this resort, in the early 2000s, that my true love for Walt Disney World became an obsession. I was in high school and was finally starting to understand the implications of why I loved the resort so much. Shortly before this trip, I had received a burned copy (shhhh don't tell!) of the Walt Disney World Explorer CD-ROM (kids, this is a program that you use on you computer that is loaded onto a CD disc before we could download programs from the Internet) from my high school computer teacher, a fellow obsessor (looking at you, Dudka!) over all-things Disney. Being in high school, my parents gave me more leniency on this trip, and I spent the time at Coronado Springs wandering the resort alone, exploring things. I spent quite a bit of time in the lobby building, the gift shop (where I was ecstatic to find fiberglass statues and references to one of my favorite Disney films, The Three Caballeros), the Pepper Market Food Court, and the resort pool, which was centered around a Mayan pyramid. A stream of water bubbled out of the top of the pyramid and spilled down the steps of it, large sticks and logs blocking guests from climbing up to the top. In fact, I enjoyed exploring the resort so much during this trip, that shortly after coming home, I wrote a fan-fiction that took place at Walt Disney World about a teenage detective team trying to uncover a murder at a local resort, chasing down clues at the different parks and eventually catching the killer at Coronado Springs (I was really into the Hardy Boys, okay?). While the pool itself wasn't anything terribly special, one thing sticks out in my mind about this trip. I was a weird high school kid. Anyone who knew me would describe teenage-me as a dork, a nerd, a dweeb, one of those kids who would make jokes and laugh at himself. I distinctly remember large pillars, designed like an Aztec or Mayan religious statue of a chieftain or priest standing along the edge of the pool. The pillar acted as a shower for guests getting into or out of the pool. However, to add to the "fun" of the pool, designers had also created a steady stream of water that shot out of the pool side of the statue, emitting from the mouth of the statue. Because I was so weird, I thought it would be funny for me to stand at the end of the stream of water. I'm not sure if the water pressure coming out of the statue was especially high that day, but I remember the spray being so hard that it felt like it was ripping the skin off my back. Finding weird things funny, I stood in the same spot in the pool, the water drilling into my back, for a good fifteen minutes (it probably looked like I was peeing in the pool or something). By the time I left the spot, my back was a big red welt, but I didn't care, because the entire experience made me laugh. To this day, there are times when I am standing in the shower and have flashbacks to this moment of the water pounding into my back in the middle of the Coronado Springs pool.
Photo Courtesy of Melissa Knight

While there are numerous other pools that I have experienced over the years (Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Port Orleans: Riverside), and there are some pools that I would LOVE to swim in (Polynesian Village, Art of Animation, Boardwalk), the three I discussed above are the most special for me.

And it all goes back to those happy (and odd) memories that are linked to them. But isn't that why we love Disney?
For more family road trip ideas, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Here is the map of our Blogorail Orange | Best Disney Resorts for Relaxation

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