Instead of talking about the experience. I actually wanna mention the different between using Packages and Ports. The main different between using Packages and Ports are binary and source. Packages are binary files, it almost dose every thing automatically. When Ports is install from source, which gives you more control on what and where to install. For FreeBSD, most applications, services are open source, which you can obtain the source easily on the internet. But some packages, like from Sun Micro System, are closed source or "partially" closed source, then you may not able to find a source package. Instead you need to install the binary.
Personally, I would suggest system administrator use sourse code to install. Because it's more customised for your server. And we usually use FreeBSD as a server instead of a desktop operating system, because of its stability. (and of course, it's not a great desktop OS tho) And installing from the source gives you the best performance on your server.