Disney shuts down its expensive 'Star Wars' hotel, the Galactic Starcruiser. Here's what it was like onboard.
Immersive experience, which never lived up to the hype, cost $5,000 for a two-night stay.
The Galactic Starcruiser's voyage is ending.
Just 15 months after opening the doors to its Star Wars-themed hotel at Walt Disney World, the company has announced that its last day of operation will be Sept. 30. The property stood out even among Disney's extensive portfolio, both because it was immersive, inserting guests into a sort of living video game, and expensive. Guests paid an average of $5,000 for the two-night experience, which featured meals in the Crown of Corellia Dining Room, training on how to use lightsabers and pilot spacecraft from the franchise.
"Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is one of our most creative projects ever and has been praised by our guests and recognized for setting a new bar for innovation and immersive entertainment," a Walt Disney World rep said in a widely distributed statement. "This premium, boutique experience gave us the opportunity to try new things on a smaller scale of 100 rooms, and as we prepare for its final voyage, we will take what we've learned to create future experiences that can reach more of our guests and fans."
Guests who booked a stay at the hotel after the scheduled last day of operation will be contacted by Disney to "discuss their options and modify their plans."
The high-profile venue opened with much fanfare in February 2022. Here's what Yahoo's Terri Peters had to say about the experience of staying there:
The Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, a two-night immersive cruise-style voyage through space, has become many things on social media in advance of its March 1 opening at Walt Disney World — from a trip Star Wars fans are saving and planning for to an experience others are more than a little skeptical of.
There it is! The box truck #GalacticStarcruiser https://t.co/9wTh5Nhnjk
— Drunk3po 🇺🇸😘🍓🥤 (@Drunk3po_Joay) February 22, 2022
Star Wars enthusiasts who have a bit of sticker shock over the experience's average price of $5,000 for two nights have been quick to point out what the voyage lacks. Photos of the now-infamous white box truck, modified to transport guests from the Halcyon ship to the trip's excursion to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, have been turned into memes. Leaked footage from a dinner service in the ship's Crown of Corellia Dining Room has been captured in internet infamy. And an early hype video was quickly scrubbed from Disney sites after being mercilessly mocked upon its release (it can still be found on unofficial channels).
And while they've waited for more images from the Halcyon, the internet has gone wild with jokes about Kylo Ren himself being conceived on the ship after Disney and Lucasfilm retconned Star Wars history by revealing in a new book that the heroes honeymooned on the Halcyon. (A Walt Disney World representative was unable to confirm the theory.)
Kylo must have heard he was conceived on the ship... #GalacticStarcruiser pic.twitter.com/m0IAED3TeI
— Hastin (➡️ Halcyon 3/1) (@hastin) February 16, 2022
Despite the bad press and fan skepticism, Disney has moved forward with the launch of the Galactic Starcruiser.
Walt Disney World recently invited members of the press to sail to a galaxy far, far away aboard for a voyage that clocked in a just under 48 hours. While aboard the Halcyon, my family and I helped fly the ship, attended lightsaber training, made alliances with characters and, yes, ate blue shrimp. We found ourselves so extremely immersed in the evolving storyline that I didn't have time to play Wordle or even wash my hair. (Dry shampoo was the real MVP of my voyage.)
The bottom line: If you're not willing to suspend disbelief, jump in full-tilt and spend the voyage immersed in the acting, activities and storyline, you, too, will probably take to Twitter to complain about the cost. If you love cosplay, Star Wars and food you'll never eat anywhere else, you might think you got your money's worth.
In any case, $5,000 is an undeniably a hefty bill. To help prospective space travelers assess whether it's worth it, here are the best and worst parts of my voyage.
The Halcyon is a small but elegant ship, with the main areas being the atrium and the Crown of Corellia Dining Room. There are secret spots, like the cargo hold and the engineering room, which open to certain guests depending on the characters they align themselves with, but these spaces are small and typically used for meet-ups that fit into a particular storyline. If you've been scheduled for activities like bridge or lightsaber training, you'll find yourself in other areas. There's also a "climate simulator" — an outdoor garden where guests can spend their time getting acclimated to the temps on Batuu (the planet where Galaxy's Edge is situated).
Our favorite space was the Sublight Lounge, where we drank blue wine and played a holographic version of the card game sabacc. The servers inside Sublight were as immersed in their storyline as the main characters. (Shout out to Keeli, who kept the blue wine flowing and taught us to play sabacc, despite her story of being a recovering sabacc addict who couldn't set foot on Batuu due to her gambling debt.)
Despite its cruise-like vibe, you won't find a swimming pool, workout room or sundries shop aboard the Halcyon. You will find a water fountain in the atrium that allows you to choose between sparkling or flat water, as well as a guest services desk that handles requests like additional towels in addition to serving up treats throughout the day.
I found the ship a bit claustrophobic, but my husband loved the Halcyon and described it as "more intimate than a cruise ship." Regardless of how you feel about the ship, if you're truly immersed in the Galactic Starcruiser storyline, you'll have little time to sit still and think about it.
Staterooms aboard the Halcyon are minimalist. My family of four stayed in a room with a bathroom, queen bed and set of bunk beds. A panel on the wall allowed us to speak with D3-09, a logistics droid who later became a large part of our storyline.
The window looking out into space was the highlight of the room: We could see the ship jump into hyperspace during bridge training sessions and had a view of Batuu the morning of our excursion. And, drinking my morning coffee while staring out into space was a unique experience.
Our room had pros and cons: There was a surprising lack of plugs for charging our devices and limited space to store clothing, but the beds were comfortable and the theming seemed on point, right down to the Chandrila Star Line logos emblazoned on bedding and hand towels.
There wasn't a coffee maker in the room, but coffee was served each morning in the lounge and dining room. Amenities like an iron were missing, but a water carafe was provided for filling with the water of our choice in the atrium, and I had no issue bringing the sparkling water and wine I packed in my carry-on on board. (Although we were so busy participating in the experience that we didn't have time to drink them.)
In the Crown of Corellia Dining Room, where all meals are served, breakfast and lunch are buffet-style. Guests grab a tray and fill each compartment with small plates of their choice, with options like a blue focaccia and sausage sandwich and battered "tip yip" chicken over noodles with cheese sauce on the lunch menu and official Chandrila Star Line waffles (that taste just like Mickey Mouse waffles) and egg "worms" over a green biscuit and sausage gravy for breakfast.
Everyone in my family had a different combination of bento-style small plates on their tray, which Brian Piasecki, culinary director at Walt Disney World, says is what the crew of the Halcyon is hoping for.
"All the individual little plates were done with purpose because we wanted each little plate to tell its own story," Piasecki explains. "If we did it all on big giant platters, it wouldn't tell the story."
Dinner is served family-style at seatings beginning at 5:30 or 8. Both of the 90-minute experiences featured an appetizer, main and dessert course and varied from bantha (beef) loin to Felucian blue shrimp. Less adventurous eaters can choose from a "youngling menu" with items like chicken and waffle fries or cheese pizza.
Still, Piasecki hopes guests will use their time on board to be adventurous.
"Unless you have another spaceship cruise planned somewhere else, you should be adventurous and try it," he says. "In order to feel like you are really there, you need to experience the food."
Piasecki says the onboard menu took years to develop, and it shows: You absolutely feel like you're eating delicacies from across the galaxy.
"We got a great list of planets [from Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm] and we started really diving in," Piasecki says. "Who lives on this planet? What lives on this planet? What type of stuff grows on this planet?"
"Felician blue shrimp is blue because it eats the blue algae on the planet of Felucia," he adds. "We went into that detail to carry through the storytelling into the food."
Pro tip: Alcoholic beverages and mocktails are not included in the cost of the cruise, so plan to spend extra money on board if you'd like something other than water and soda.
Despite the online jokes about being transported to Batuu by box truck, it's not difficult to get carried away in the storyline and believe you're on space transport bound for Galaxy's Edge.
Halcyon passengers are given pins to identify themselves as cruise travelers while inside Batuu at Disney's Hollywood Studios, and a one-time ride on both Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run are loaded onto guests' data bands, the Galactic Starcruiser term for Disney's Magic Bands. Meal allotments for a quick-service lunch on Battu are also included in the excursion, but drinks at Oga's Cantina are not.
Batuu-via-Halcyon was my favorite part of the voyage. As someone who's visited Galaxy's Edge more times than I could count, it was fascinating to see how the planet came alive in a new way for Starcruiser passengers. My family and I completed secret missions for characters, got a special shout-out from Hondo Ohnaka aboard Smuggler's Run, and understood way more about the story of Batuu after seeing it through the eyes of Resistance and First Order operatives.
Marc Rothschild, live entertainment producer for Disney Parks, says that while Galaxy's Edge opened years before in 2019, Batuu was created with the Halcyon in mind.
"That was always part of the story," he says. "How do we take all these immersive stories that were created for Batuu and really expand them out? We had this really lush storytelling in Batuu so we wanted to play off of that."
The connections between the Halcyon and Batuu are many. Inside Oga's Cantina, R-3X, the DJ droid spins "Oola Shooka," a hit from the galactic pop star Gaya. Inside the bar hangs an advertisement written in Aurebesh, seeking a mechanic on Chandrila Star Lines. And, on Smuggler's Run, you learn who riders have been smuggling coaxium for.
The port on Batuu is not dissimilar from a cruise ship port on Earth: Guests can return for bottled water throughout the day (a perk that adds up with Batuu-themed Dasani water running nearly $5 per bottle) and upon entering the terminal for transport, they're given a cold towel to cool off with.
However, parts of our time on Batuu fell short. Lunch at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo was as crowded as ever, and after waiting for a table to open up, we were wedged between a mom talking loudly to her kids and a woman screaming into her cell phone, a reminder that, excursion or not, it's still a Disney park.
A bit disgruntled by our crowded dining experience, my husband commented, "For $6,000, they should give people a private room to eat lunch in."
The storyline aboard the Galactic Starcruiser is the shining star of the entire voyage. From the moment the opening captain's reception begins, gameplay is taking place. Will you work with the Resistance? Are you loyal to the First Order? Each guest gets the opportunity to decide.
My daughter, 11, took to First Order Lt. Croy and his missions, while my husband and son, 13, were true to the Resistance. I took time switching between both sides, fancying myself a galactic double-agent, and found that following the storylines on each side was easy and exciting.
Throughout the trip, we interacted with characters and other passengers, attempting to understand the greater story. Onboard characters like Lenka Mok, the cruise director, and Raithe Kohl, pop star Gaya's seemingly shifty manager, messaged us on our data pads (phones with the Disney Parks Play app installed), asking us to meet in secret rooms or collect data on Batuu.
We learned to wield lightsabers and became one with the Force. We helped complete a mission that arose during our bridge training session. And we, along with most of the other passengers, dressed in Star Wars cosplay along the way. High price tag or not, the Galactic Starcruiser was an experience unlike any I'd been on before.
While each passenger aboard the Halcyon can choose their level of involvement in the unfolding story, to get the most out of the large financial investment that is the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, it's best to go all-in. Especially at the apex of the cruise, which plays out on the second evening, when some very well-known characters make an appearance. Trust me: you'll want to have chosen sides.
To get the most out of this luxury space cruise experience, you may barely have time to shower, but you'll leave the ship knowing you gave it your all ... for the Order ... or not.
— Raechal Shewfelt contributed to this story, which was originally published Feb. 25, 2022.