Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser opens soon at Walt Disney World, adding a 2-night experience behind the Galaxy’s Edge land in Hollywood Studios. Here we’ll share a sneak peak inside the new resort (of sorts) and share photos, first impressions, and thoughts about the big addition.
Since its announcement almost five years ago, interest in Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser has exceeded all other resort additions at Walt Disney World. Unsurprisingly, fan expectations have been sky high, with Disney fueling much of this by hyping it as “a first-of-its-kind Star Wars adventure that’s your own…the most immersive Star Wars story ever created—one where you live a bespoke experience and journey further into a Star Wars adventure than you ever dreamed possible.”
From the outset, it was obvious the starship Halcyon would face some, ahem, turbulence. It’s a place with guest rooms, beds, and overnight stays…but best not viewed as a hotel. It’s based on one of the world’s most popular film franchises…but is boutique-sized. It’s really more like a cruise ship…but on land and (again) incredibly low-capacity. Its focus is LARPing and interactive enrichment through entertainment…but what the heck do those buzzwords even mean?! Suffice to say, there have been a lot of questions and confusion from day one.
All of that was before prices were revealed. That was the precise moment when many Walt Disney World and Star Wars fans went from questioning the concept to viewing it with derision and openly rooting for its failure. While we’ve cautioned that Disney wouldn’t learn the lessons those people wanted, we absolutely understand the frustration.
Walt Disney World could have built a mainstream hotel with over 1,000 rooms, normal themed design, standard amenities, and approachable price points for middle class Americans. That would’ve made sense, and would’ve been a smash hit given the enduring popularity of Star Wars.
Instead, Imagineering built something envelope-pushing with the lowest room count at Walt Disney World, a tech-heavy experience that likely entailed a large R&D outlay, and is labor-intensive. All of those choices plus “standard” Disney margins pushed its price point into the stratosphere. That coupled with dubious decisions in marketing the resort have further fueled criticism and contempt for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.
All of that is the backdrop against which Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser opens, as the most hyped and hated hotel at Walt Disney World before ever greeting its first paying guests. (For more background, see our Guide to Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.)
A couple of housekeeping items before we get started with the substantive portion of the preview. First, while it’s an open-ended “choose your own adventure” kind of deal, there is a storyline to Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. Elements of this can be spoiled.
If you’ve already booked Galactic Starcruiser and there’s no chance you’ll cancel, you might want to close out this window now. There’s not much for you to gain here. If you’re on the fence about splurging on Galactic Starcruiser, we’d actually recommend seeking out multiple viewpoints and reviews–not just ours–but while being careful about not spoiling it for yourself.
Not to get into too much detail, but the voyage aboard the Halcyon is more fun, memorable, and even moving if you don’t know the scripted plot beats. (All of our coverage will be spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
Second, in the interest of full disclosure, I was invited by Walt Disney World to attend a partial preview Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. Normally, this wouldn’t be much of an issue when it comes to covering new offerings. Our Disney Enchantment and Harmonious reviews, neither of which are particularly glowing, should demonstrate as much.
Nighttime spectaculars, attractions, and new lands are largely immutable, and thus can adequately be judged from a preview. I’m not sure the same can be said of a Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser sneak peek that only lasts a half-day and doesn’t replicate the full experience.
Additionally, perception of this “immersive adventure” is inextricably interwoven with its cost. That’s especially significant here since the pre-opening discourse around Galactic Starcruiser has largely revolved around its exorbitant price point.
Can the question “is Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser worth it?” be credibly answered by someone who did not pay for the experience? Reasonable minds may differ on that. From my perspective, that’s not just a reasonable inquiry given that the 2-day experience that costs several thousand dollars–it’s the most important topic a review should address.
Since this is a consumer-oriented planning site, we feel it’s crucial to put our money where our mouths are in this scenario. Personally, my heart still sinks a bit when seeing our booking confirmation for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser and just how much we spent on it.
I suspect this is or will be a common feeling among those considering whether to do it. (I’d imagine about half of the target audience is not at all price sensitive and is booking because of the high cost. For those folks, our coming review will be largely worthless.)
In any case, I’m going to hold off on most subjective coverage of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser until we have had the normal guest experience next week, for which we paid full price. I already have some strong opinions about this, but I want to see how (or if) those change.
I will offer some first impressions throughout and at the end, but they’ll be pretty vague. The lack of scalding hot takes, effusive praise, or bold proclamations might make this post dull as compared to some other pre-opening Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser reviews, but…I guess you could say you get what you pay for? 😉
With that out of the way, let’s turn to the substance of this “revolutionary new experience where you are the hero.” I’m mostly going to do this in quick hits fashion, rather than weaving everything together. There’s already more than enough “story” in this post.
The pre-opening comparisons to Disney Cruise Line were entirely apt. Anyone who has done DCL will be familiar with the itinerary template, right down to a sail away celebration and muster drills.
Speaking of Disney Cruise Line, standard guest cabins are small. They feel even smaller due to the layout, and way the bunk beds are recessed into the wall.
Walt Disney World considers this a room that can sleep up to 5 adult passengers via one queen bed, 2 berths (bunk beds) for one adult each, and a wall pull-down bed for one adult.
For the sake of Very Important Research (and not at all because this is expensive and we’re frugal), we’ll really be putting this to the test, seeing how things work out with 4 adults in our cabin when we do the actual 2-night experience.
We’ll either emerge closer friends than ever, or bitter enemies on opposite sides of an intergalactic war of stars. Stay tuned.
Each cabin has a pullout table and a TV with standard entertainment (didn’t get a chance to check out the Resort TV situation) and a “window” with a view out into space.
There’s also the D3-O9 Logistics Droid, which interacts with you via an panel on the wall. D3-O9 seems a bit like the coming “Hey, Alexa” service on steroids, with the ability to brief guests on mission elements, details, and more.
Other aspects have parallels to Space 220 Restaurant at Epcot, including the departure, screen-heavy nature of the simulation, and general story conceit that you’re a space tourist, of sorts.
Unfortunately, I did not spot any canine astronauts out the portals. Advantage: Space 220.
Also in the name of Very Important Research, I checked out the various restrooms about the Halcyon to see whether we have any new contenders for the Top 10 Toilets at Walt Disney World.
Not to pee in the punchbowl (as the kids say), but none of them make the cut. Might as well cancel your voyage now.
Intergalactic punch and other beverages are available in the Crown of Corellia Dining Room, which is known throughout the galaxy for its first-class cuisine and unique live musical entertainment.
It offered up both during my preview of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. While I only sampled a limited menu, food is one aspect of this experience about which I’ve never been worried. Walt Disney World’s recent restaurant additions have been solid, with a good mix of ambitious and approachable cuisine. Even on the counter service front, newcomers like Satuli Canteen and Docking Bay 7 are among the best in the parks, exceeding expectations for fast food.
Turning to the itinerary highlights, we have lightsaber training. This gives you the opportunity to wield a lightsaber and face off against a remote training device in an interactive activity that puts your skills to the test.
This is one of the most hyped itinerary entries, but I’d caution against getting too excited. If you’re a gamer, the predictability and (lack of) dynamism might make this a letdown. Others might be more into it–Toy Story Mania is still way more beloved than I’d ever expect for a Wii game on wheels.
Another itinerary highlight is bridge training. During this, the crew teaches you how the navigation, power, defense, and other critical systems keep the Halcyon starcruiser safe from unforeseen galactic entanglements. Per Disney, these skills may come in handy should critical situations arise later in your voyage.
Of course, it wouldn’t be particularly exciting if this were simply a leisurely voyage aboard the Halcyon with no “hiccups.” Some elements of the gamified bridge experience have a bit of a learning curve and aren’t initially intuitive, but the overarching experience works well. That’s in no small part due to the crew members on the bridge.
In fact, a large amount of the Starcruiser’s interactivity comes via story moments and the way the crew engages with guests. Some of these are spontaneous or loosely improvised, others are scripted. Even the built-in tech training doesn’t really stand on its own; it’s carried by the crew and their ability to work with passengers.
My experience consisted entirely of bloggers and vloggers–an atypical audience for the actual sailings. Also, a difficult demo for something like this, as virtually everyone was shooting photos or videos instead of being present in the moment and actively participating.
Even with that awkward audience and it still being relatively early-on, the crew was firing on all cylinders. They work together really well, and draw passengers into the experience.
If for some reason Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser ends up not working, it won’t be due to the Cast Members. Every single one of them I encountered was superlative.
Critically, the crew is exceptional at reading people and not making anyone uncomfortable. I’m more on the introverted side, and have been slightly uneasy about the degree of LARPing this would entail.
I was quickly drawn in, made to feel comfortable, and let my guard down. The crew’s ability to assess and put people at ease is crucial given the range of personality types something that’s drawing from a mix of Star Wars and Disney fandoms will attract.
Even elements like the live entertainment at dinner are not entirely passive. A lot of this is more ‘active engagement’ than typical interactivity. It captures your full and undivided attention–you stop checking your phone (mercifully, no Genie+ screen time here…yet!) and time flies.
It’s difficult to articulate, but I’d liken the style of entertainment aboard the Halcyon to the difference between Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and the Little Mermaid dark ride. The latter is entirely passive as you move past scenes, whereas the former puts you in the middle of them.
Reduced to its simplest terms, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is essentially a cruise on land meets the entertainment form of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Even that is a highly imperfect comparison, but it’s about the best I can come up with.
Not being able to neatly categorize Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is perhaps the perfect encapsulation of the experience. It’s a bunch of disparate things that you’ve seen or done elsewhere, melded together in something cohesive…but while also being highly variable based on the choices you make.
Ultimately, my first impression of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is positive. Based on the footage Disney shared over the holidays, I’ve expressed trepidation in recent posts and was worried that we were about to waste a ton of money. It turns out that was just really poor marketing.
Even with only the partial preview under my belt, I’m confident in saying literally anyone who does Galactic Starcruiser will find it to be superior to that what that video showcased. Admittedly, that’s a bar so low you could trip over it. (Giving the company the benefit of the doubt, I’m guessing maybe they wanted to avoid spoilers? No clue how to explain it otherwise.)
What’s still unanswered for me is whether Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is worth the money. Given the extraordinary cost, that’s going to take a lot more than simply being better than the bad marketing.
It’s going to take true greatness for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser to live up to the hype, vanquish the hate, and justify the high price tag. I’m now really looking forward to the full thing and (frankly) relieved that my worst fears didn’t come to fruition. So far, the Halcyon is off to a good start–I’m excited to see whether it can live up to my sky high expectations.
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What are your first impressions of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort based on this (or other) previews? Excited to step aboard the starship Halcyon, or is this ‘immersive experience’ not for you? Would you prefer a more conventional hotel stay at a Star Wars-themed or decorated hotel? Do you agree or disagree with my assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!