Next week, Walt Disney World is launching an unusual hotel called Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. It will be an immersive – and quite pricey – two-night experience that will have visitors feeling like they’re aboard a spaceship in the Star Wars universe.
On Thursday, we did a four-hour tour for the media and plenty of social media gushing “influencers” who could only bring cell phones and small video cameras to document their journey in the spaceship Disney calls the Halcyon.
It opens on March 1 and the whole month is already full, as are all but two days in April.
With a two-night minimum stay, prices start at $4,809 for two adults and go up to over $6,000 for a family of four, depending on the cabin. This includes all your food, entertainment, a “port excursion” to see Star Wars land in Hollywood studios, lightsaber training, droid racing, and other activities. By comparison, a family of four can take a Disney cruise for under $3,000 or over $7,000 depending on the ship.
It feels like a cruise ship on land, with a cast of characters who are skilled improv actors who interact with guests aboard what they say is a newly refurbished 275-year-old ship that travels the galaxy. Han Solo and Princess Leia went on the Halcyon for their honeymoon, according to Disney Imagineers.
With just 100 rooms, it’s small by Disney standards in terms of capacity, but the ship’s main atrium and flight deck are expansive. While most of the first two months are sold out, most of May is wide open, leading some to wonder if fans are holding back to see reviews or if prices will drop. Some Star Wars fans have called the hotel on social media overpriced and disappointing.
The starcruiser has a direct connection to Galaxy’s Edge, the billion-dollar land that opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2019. The theme park land, which was styled with help from the team by George Lucas, is called Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu. It has a shabby-futuristic aesthetic that seems straight out of the movies.
But the starcruiser looks much more elegant than the theme park. It maintains its theme by styling its staterooms on four “decks,” not hotel floors, and the windows are all portholes looking out into space. The only time you can see Orlando’s sky is in a section called the “climate simulator,” which is supposed to replicate the climate of the planet Halcyon is visiting. So if it’s sunny in Orlando (and in Galaxy’s Edge), it’s sunny there.
Guests can choose to work with the First Order or the Resistance, and this will affect the itinerary of their journey, which could include secret meetings with the captain or a menacing First Order officer plotting to take over the ship. There will be blocks of time set aside for lightsaber training and deck training, where guests work in teams at consoles to operate the ship’s weapons and shields before a hyperspace jump, complete with blue streaks hissing on a giant screen.
It was a lot like playing the old arcade game Pong, with a joystick to move your target around the huge screen while blasting asteroids or TIE fighters. I got so competitive that I broke my joystick. The spoils of war.
During lightsaber training, the weapon hums and rumbles in your hands as you come in contact with the laser beam shooting out from different angles. The group was set up in three rows which moved to take turns at different parts of the formation. The second line of guests were given a light shield to support the lightsaber wielder; it would also rumble into your hands if it picked up laser beams missed by the person with the lightsaber.
The lightsaber and shield will be on sale in the gift shop, along with capes and Star Wars-themed clothing, tableware, toy ships, and jewelry. The public will not be allowed to shop there. It’s for guests only, said Cody Hampton, senior director of branded merchandise for Lucasfilm, which partnered with Disney to create the hotel.
Characters like Chewbacca, Rey, and Kylo Ren appear, along with a number of creatures and characters not seen in the original films.
A moving singer named Gaya is the star of the show on stage. She’s a Twi’lek, the characters with a big tail sticking out of her head that were first seen in 1983’s Return of the Jedi. The actors of the animated show move through the Crown of Corellia Dining Room, bringing the audience into the act.
“We had to strike a balance between being creative but also having normal flavors that people love,” said culinary director Brian Piasecki. A breakfast platter, for example, includes a spaceship-shaped waffle, a rolled and sliced omelette, and hash brown cake topped with an egg, Hollandaise sauce, and a spiral of maple bacon that looks alien.
Food and drink are also stylized. The interplanetary dips are shaped like orbs, the shrimp are bright blue, and the spiral dumplings are called Tip Yip Chicken. There is a blue cocktail called Hoth Frost, named after the frozen planet. It is topped with a slab of icing spun sugar and lemon mousse.
Halcyon’s captain is portrayed as a mundane Pantoran, the sentient, blue-skinned species that accompanied Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars. There’s also a First Order officer who lends his cold presence at several points in the experience, with Stormtroopers in tow.
The ship and theme park is set after the events of 2017’s The Last Jedi but before The Rise of Skywalker, when Kylo Ren fights alongside Rey in a climactic battle with Emperor Palpatine.
Last fall at the Destination D23 fan convention, Disney fans got a glimpse of the Halcyon, but not all of the reactions to the video were positive. Many have complained on social media.
On the official Disney Parks YouTube site, there were more dislikes than likes on a video detailing the hotel’s history. Some complain that it’s too clean and sterile, and the Star Wars sets are generally beat up, with scorch marks on the wall and dents in the metal. Others said it looked too cheap for its high price, with simple, no-frills cabins. Fans have also complained that it focuses on current movies and leaves out original movies and characters.
Theme park expert Dennis Speigel, consultant and CEO of International Theme Park Services, said he’s not surprised because Star Wars fans are some of the pickiest and savviest of them all. But he has no doubt that Disney will adjust the elements over time to please fans.
Why such a high price?
“Because they can,” Speigel joked.
“You have to think: you have 43 years of legacy and die-hard fans who have been waiting for this,” he said. “It has a limited capacity and will run out.”
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