Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is a new “resort” at Walt Disney World, offering 2-night voyages aboard a simulated space cruise. The controversial Star Wars hotel has polarized and puzzled fans, two reactions that are unlikely to change anytime soon. This resort review covers the good, bad, and ugly of our experience aboard the starship Halcyon.
Our intention with this Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser review is to help you determine whether it’s right for you without spoiling any of its big surprises or key moments. (Aside from the main conceit, but that’s also prominent in Walt Disney World’s marketing–and it’s something that happens at the outset of the voyage.) It’s already going to be a lengthy read, so we won’t delve into background basics or its ambiguous attributes. For that, see our Guide to Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, which explains what this “resort” is and isn’t.
We also won’t bury the lede. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is a surprising success, making the jump to hyperspace (or whatever metaphor you might fancy) from day one. With the starship Halcyon, Imagineering pushes themed entertainment into a new frontier via an intergalactic adventure that’s immersive and imaginative, bold yet bonkers. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, I assure you. It’s also very much not mainstream, and definitely not for everyone.
For starters, it’s not for everyone by virtue of its pricing. The elephant in the room with any review is the cost of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. With prices starting at nearly $5,000 in the off-season and increasing from there, this is one of the most expensive experiences at Walt Disney World. That’s really saying something, as Disney isn’t exactly a budget brand in the first place.
This is the first and “ugliest” point of this review, as we must acknowledge the painful reality that Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is going to be a total non-starter for most families by virtue of its cost. For those who can afford it, whether it’s worth the price is a long and complicated conversation. So much so that, in addition to this review, we’ll publish a separate (and equally lengthy) treatise on whether Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is worth the money. Look for that shortly.
We’ll get to more of the ugly about Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, and other ways it’s niche or taste-specific over the course of the review. For now, let’s start at the beginning–with the arrival. You’ll most likely be getting here via personal vehicle, taxi, or Uber, following new navigational signs around Walt Disney World that direct you to an area carved out behind Batuu and the Cast Member parking lot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
This is both bad and ugly. In particular, the views are of backstage areas that are not even remotely show-ready. We normally don’t fixate on sightlines and that sort of thing too much; this exists throughout Walt Disney World and suspension of disbelief is perfectly possible even with some small cracks in the illusion.
In the case of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, this is more like a burst dam than a slight fissure. You’re most likely going to encounter a line of cars upon arrival, meaning your attention is focused on those blemishes for an inordinate amount of time. While next to no time is spent outside of the hotel, this is Walt Disney World–it’s not unreasonable to expect a more polished and presentable exterior. At present, the building resembles a prison or modern-day school. Not exactly the best introduction to a highly immersive experience.
Once you get through that line of vehicles, it’s time to hurry up and wait some more. While there are plenty of friendly Cast Members to greet guests, there’s security to enter the building and the show elevators up to the atrium are limited capacity. That coupled with the practical reality that most guests get to the resort right at 1 pm (every waking hour is over $100!), means there’s a backlog of guests congregated outside.
For the inaugural voyage aboard Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, this was especially chaotic and unorganized. I would expect this to be remedied quickly. What cannot be remedied is capacity for processing guests unless check-in times are staggered, a la Disney Cruise Line. Similar problems plague departures for those without their own vehicle; it took us 50 minutes to leave. It’s disappointing that Imagineering didn’t consult Disney Cruise Line or luxury hoteliers from the outset of design, as a comfortable arrivals terminal feels like a conspicuous oversight.
Sticking to the disappoints, we’ll jump forward to the Batuu excursion on the second morning. This was one thing we were looking forward to the least, but that’s in large part because we’ve done everything in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge more times than we can count. We contemplated skipping it entirely, but realized at the end of the first night that it’s necessary for narrative development. With that in mind, we got up early and took one of the first transports to Batuu with the idea of running through the missions as quickly as possible.
The transport has been widely panned as images of vanilla box trucks were posted online prior to opening. While there’s room for improvement here, you never see the exterior of the vehicle, and the interior is neat and thoughtfully designed. Whatever disappointment I had about this was based on having seen more ambitious concept art–not the ride itself. Unencumbered by knowing what could’ve been, Sarah thought it was cool.
Our morning in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge actually started strong. The entry area is well-themed, and we arrived prior to park opening, meaning not regular day guests were not yet around. We quickly dispensed with our missions, and had a great flight aboard Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. (Given our Starcruiser story, we figured it’d be important to do this attraction–and it was.)
We tapped into the Lightning Lane for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, but opted against doing the attraction given its propensity for breakdowns. Perhaps crazy to DHS day guests waiting in the 120 minute standby line, but not a risk worth taking given the per hour cost of Galactic Starcruiser. (True to form, it went down like 10 minutes later.) Amusingly, the Datapad accounts for Rise of the Resistance’s reliability (or lack thereof) and provides an alternative if you’re “for some reason” unable to do the ride. We did that.
All told, the missions on Batuu took us about 90 minutes when pushing things as quickly as possible. It started strong, with a unique twist on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. By the end, we were both more than ready to be done, as crowds got heavy and suspension of disbelief cratered. It was also awkward for Sarah, as she was in a costume. Oddly enough, most guests aren’t donning capes when visiting theme parks in Florida. Perhaps that’ll become a new trend.
It won’t happen due to the operational expense, but the excursion to Batuu should happen after park closing. At the very least, it should start about an hour earlier so it can be finished prior to official park opening time. This could be an asset to the Galactic Starcruiser, but as it stands, I don’t think it was.
The excursion to Batuu seems like an appropriate time to discuss another ugly aspect of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. Some things announced for Galaxy’s Edge weren’t just cut–it’s obvious they were deliberately held back and put behind the paywall of the Halcyon. Without going into spoilers, there’s entertainment and more that could be on Batuu, and would enhance that land greatly. Remember our recent “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Needs to Break the Rules” post? A decent amount of that could be remedied by porting elements of Galactic Starcruiser to the land itself.
With that said, the vast majority of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser absolutely would not scale. Many of our experiences were in small groups of 10 or fewer people. The land likely greets more guests in a few hours than the hotel will in a year. It’s simultaneously disappointing that things were cut from Galaxy’s Edge for Galactic Starcruiser, and cool that Imagineering’s ambitions that never could’ve been realized in the land were allowed to flourish aboard the Halcyon.
Anyway, after leaving Batuu, we had a significant schedule gap before the substance of our stories resumed. One thing I’ve heard others mention is how tiring and jam-packed the 2 nights are, and that’s probably true for most. However, it is not when you plow through the Batuu excursion, operate on minimal sleep, and have energy levels that would make a battery powered bunny blush. At least we have the self-awareness to realize we’re not normal in this sense, I guess?
In any case, we spent a couple of hours exploring, playing Holo-sabacc, taking photos of ourselves (in hindsight, I wish we purchased the private PhotoPass CSL Portrait Experience), and enjoying the Halcyon with virtually no one else aboard it. We were literally the only ones in the Sublight Lounge for about an hour and had the bridge to ourselves for a while, too. There was also some time for the regularly-scheduled itinerary.
Speaking of which, another bad is the standard cruise ship style schedule. From our perspective, this is not really much of an actual problem. Almost everything presented in the ‘stock’ itinerary ends up being counter-programming of sorts for those who aren’t actively engaged in the interactive adventure, or who simply have some time to kill. That it largely underwhelms is no big deal, since most engaged guests won’t be doing it, anyway.
The problems that schedule presents are complicated, including guest expectations and bad-faith online criticism. In short, if people don’t understand that these itinerary items are “filler” and focus their attention on the stock schedule rather than regularly interacting with the Datapad and exploring the Halcyon, they are setting themselves up for disappointment. I guess it’s good these alternative activities exist for the reluctant guests who get dragged along but aren’t into the core experience, but it’s hard to imagine them being more into any of this. They’re still interactive activities, just not nearly as good.
So far, this Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser review has encompassed a lot of bad and ugly. So what was good? Literally everything else. With the exception of those quibbles about arrival/departure and the excursion to Batuu, I can’t think of much else that was anything short of spectacular.
Well, I thought the Lightsaber Training was underwhelming, but no one else with whom I spoke agreed. The problem with that activity is that it was highly anticipated but fails to wow and cannot compete with modern home video game technology. For me, the emotional payoff lacked punch as a result. Unfortunately, I’m not sure there’s a good “solution” for this given that it needs to work for guests of all ages and aptitudes.
In typical Star Wars fashion, this review bounces around in the timeline, and now returns to the beginning: a muster drill in the atrium shortly after guests eat lunch and get settled in on the first afternoon. This cleverly serves two purposes: reinforcing the cruise-centric nature of the voyage and immediately disrupting it.
The muster drill provides the catalyst for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser story, introducing guests to key characters, including the Captain Riyola Keevan, Cruise Director Lenka Mok, Sammie the newbie mechanic, roaming droid SK-62O, and the smooth-talking Raithe Kole. These introductions are interrupted when the Halcyon is boarded by First Order Lieutenant Harman Croy and Stormtroopers, searching for rumored Resistance activity on the ship.
Over the course of the first afternoon and evening, guests have random encounters with these characters–both in person and via Datapad. Early-on, there are tons of opportunities for spontaneous interactions, and you cannot possibly witness or partake in everything. While deliberate decisions inform how your story progress, so too does happenstance.
You’ll form relationships with some characters to the point where they know you on a first-name basis and trust you with important missions, while others you barely see at all. By the end of the first evening, allegiances form, bonds strengthen, and battle lines are drawn.
You also become invested in the crew and passengers, their backgrounds, and problems. This caught me by surprise. I’ve played a variety of single-player RPGs, from action RPGs to JRPGs. This was my first exposure to live action role-playing games (LARPing), and honestly, I was skeptical that they’d be for me.
I’d describe myself as an “outgoing introvert” and also someone who has trouble suspending disbelief. I want to peek behind the curtain and can’t help but think about the inner machinations of how things work. I’ve been incredibly curious about Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser because of its complexity and novelty, which I assumed would be detrimental to enjoying the experience as it unfolded.
It was not in the least. Almost immediately, I was hooked and bought into what was happening. The show writing is genuinely good, with multifaceted and complex characters each with their own agenda. A lot of this is layered, working on deeper levels–there’s one who is empowered but of an oppressed people seeking to recover a stolen ancestral artifact–while also connecting with Galaxy’s Edge and providing satisfying closure to some of what starts there. When involved with this firsthand, it’s shockingly powerful stuff.
There’s also a lot of unabashed silliness. We became (perhaps overly) invested in one such weird subplot, and some of the nonsense that entailed included having a song written about our miniature dachshund. We also channeled everything we learned during Hyperspace Hoopla to help pen lyrics for another that was so bad it would make the Star Wars Holiday Special look like a masterpiece. The varied cast of characters provided richness and depth, allowing room for the differences in tone without anything ever feeling jarring. I was skeptical at first, but a cruise is the perfect narrative framework.
There are times when the line between story and reality is blurred. Other passengers likewise become deeply invested, and have missions and agendas that are unknown to you. When I saw a proposal in the atrium or another passenger presenting themselves as a clandestine talent scout in a manner so convincing that it must be scripted…I was quite surprised to later learn they were not.
Of course, you only get back as much as you put into this. Both of us fully bought into this and made a point of leaning into the story. So much so that I had vivid, anxious dreams about failing this task or that. You don’t have to be an active “take charge” participant–aside from helping write a terrible song, being a quiet foil to Lt. Croy, and asking another “what can I do to help?” at every opportunity, I wasn’t saying a ton.
It’s easy to be engaged and interact without cosplaying, crafting a character for yourself, or quickly improvising pages of clever dialogue. Most of the time, being present in the moment is more than enough to make it meaningful. (To that end, we’d strongly recommend experiencing Galactic Starcruiser through your eyes rather than your phone’s camera.)
If that still sounds intimidating, overwhelming, or “not for you” for whatever reason…Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser probably is not something you should do. While I wouldn’t describe this as niche, it’s definitely not totally mainstream. If you’re not willing or able to let your guard down, don’t bother. Seriously. Not everything is for everyone, and that’s perfectly okay. It’s better to figure that out now than to drop several thousands of dollars only to be the party sitting in the atrium with disinterest and disdain.
There’s a lot of room for individualized interactions and spontaneous stuff, for lack of a better term. This is driven both via the Datapad and being present around characters. The Datapad route is good, but not nearly as enthralling as engaging with the people aboard the Halcyon.
So much emotion is conveyed via eye contact and body language, so many bonds are forged through whispers, physical contact, and intimate circles of trusted colleagues. After the last couple of years, we found this absolutely refreshing. If you aren’t quite at that point yet, you should probably hold off on Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser for now. There’s a reason Walt Disney World opened it after dropping all health safety protocol.
This isn’t just the performers that breathe life and personality into the Halcyon. It’s always true that Cast Members and performers are the heart of Walt Disney World. Nowhere is that more true than at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. Every Crew Member is fantastic, going above and beyond to offer superlative service while also bringing personality to their roles. They embody the fabled Disney Difference, something that has been fading from Walt Disney World since the 1990s and is now better associated with Disney Cruise Line or Tokyo Disneyland.
This is aided in no small part by guests, who actually want to be there. There was nary a “Most Expensive Day Ever” shirt in sight, despite the slogan being even more apt. This is not to cast aspersions on park guests or employees–I don’t think it’s really any secret to say that upper management has created a stressful situation for all, with a feedback loop that only worsens attitudes. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser replaces that with interactions undergirded by positive reinforcement.
Being present also offers more room for spontaneity. Some subsequent story moments are dictated by your proximity to characters at key moments (finally, the promise of MagicBand technology being realized!) and this can happen even if you’re not on a particular path. Late in the voyage, I had one such interaction due to crew member I was helping crossing paths with one I had barely encountered.
Rather than messing up my story or this feeling “unearned,” it presented me with a dilemma. (It also locked me out of an experience that it triggered for everyone else in that area–but that would’ve “broken” my narrative had it done so.) Apologies for the deliberate vagueness here, but detail would spoil key moments in the late-stage story.
We will provide more detail in a future tips post, as there is one seemingly intimate moment (I suspect it actually involves about half of guests, but quickly cycled through in groups of ~10) that is a must-see. I’m actually somewhat surprised that this wow-moment is confined to a particular path, even though it wouldn’t make sense for guests of certain allegiances to see.
Speaking of which, the logistics underpinning the entire experience are endlessly fascinating and complex. The way the technology worked in tandem with the entertainment and immersive story orchestrated by the performers and ship’s crew was mind-blowing. It was like a symphony, and I’m truly shocked that it hit all of the high notes from day one.
We do a lot of opening day Disney things, and there are always hiccups. There were with Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, too, but they were simple logistical and operational issues–like arrival and departure. The big, bold, and ambitious elements of the core experience fired on all cylinders. I’ve long assumed this would be watered down six months or a year after opening–I’m no longer so sure of that.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser has a way of pulling people in; so long as its experiential nature is adequately conveyed at booking, I think there’s a good possibility this stays strong–maybe even gets better as the performers, game masters, and tech teams even further refine things.
We’re already over 3,000 words and I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface–I haven’t even mentioned the other scripted training sessions or the grand finale, all of which are fantastic. It’s impossible to fully articulate just how great of a job the performers and crew do in selling the story. I’d recommend watching some YouTube videos, but you’d invariably encounter spoilers, so I’m not sure that’s the best route, either.
Another thing we haven’t discussed is the guest cabins. These are basically Disney Cruise Line, but in outer space (but really, on land). There’s good and bad to them, but our experience was almost entirely positive. I suspect this will be a point of particular interest, so I’ll save further photos and thoughts for a full post.
Food was generally good, with some iffy items. Pretty much par for the course with what we’ve seen recently in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Pandora – World of Avatar. I’m not sure how much additional commentary is necessary here–aside from alcohol, it’s all-inclusive and all-you-can-eat, so there’s no reason not to try everything. (If enough of you are curious, I’m happy to do a post about dining on the Halcyon. Let us know, and feel free to ask any other questions, the answers to which we can roll into future posts.)
Ultimately, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is colossal triumph, one of the company’s biggest achievements in decades. It also feels like a return to 1990s form for Walt Disney World, which is both praise for this specific project and an indictment of the state of the parks and resorts in 2022. From an Imagineering perspective, the Halcyon can be likened to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance–another ambitious and envelope-pushing undertaking that redefines an aspect of themed entertainment entirely. Just as that attraction has its problems, so too is the Halcyon imperfect.
However, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser succeeds in virtually every way that matters, and anything with this many moving parts is bound to have some flaws. As much as I’m willing to play armchair Imagineer and critique something I could never create, even I have to admit that this all comes together as a cohesive and fluid whole far better than I anticipated. It also feels like overdue vindication for things Disney began playtesting years ago under the MyMagic+ initiative, seemingly abandoned until now.
This is not to say Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is above reproach. Far from it. The price point has irreversibly soured a lot of fans, and only adds further fuel to the fire about Disney abandoning the middle class. There is absolutely a conversation to be had about the cost and value proposition of Galactic Starcruiser, and one we’ll tackle very soon. However, just as our Rise of the Resistance review didn’t entail discussion of single-day ticket costs–which exclude a large segment of the population from ever experiencing that attraction–neither does this review.
The finished product and overall guest experience should quiet most other criticism about Galactic Starcruiser. (Of course it won’t; there are no shortage of bad faith “critiques” that are mostly pretenses for otherwise valid complaints about pricing or Disney’s handling of Star Wars.) The not-really-a-resort certainly defied my expectations and put most of my fears to rest, and I’ve yet to talk to anyone who has actually the Halcyon who was disappointed by it.
Viewed in the vacuum of themed design and immersive entertainment, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will go down as an incredible achievement, proof that Imagineering can deliver revolutionary experiences. The Halcyon is everything I wanted it to be and much more, elevating Galaxy’s Edge and finally deliver on the promise of being a place for you to ‘live your own Star Wars story.’ The only questions at this point are the degree to which it’ll influence future endeavors or become a “success” for the company. I’m still a bit more skeptical there, thinking it’s more likely Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is a delightful anomaly rather than the future of Walt Disney World.
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Thoughts on anything covered in this review? After reading or seeing firsthand accounts of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort, has your perception of it it changed? 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!