I Spent Two Nights Aboard Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser—Here's What It Was Like

Embrace your inner Wookiee aboard the Halcyon

The atrium of the Halcyon on Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser,

Arthur Levine

Don’t call it, as many people do, the “Star Wars Hotel.”

Sure, you can book a room at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, which debuted March 1 at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort—but it’s not exactly a hotel. It’s not really a cruise either, although there are hints of a luxury liner as it travels at the speed of light towards interplanetary ports of call. Nor is it quite DisneyBounding, immersive theater, or a live-action game.

“It’s the intersection of all of those things,” says Ann Morrow Johnson, executive creative director with Walt Disney Imagineering and producer of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. “It’s a living story ecosystem where guests can play their part in an epic Star Wars story.” And, oh Baby Yoda, is it epic.

It’s also expensive. Much has been made of the cost to a journey aboard the Starcruiser, which starts at about $6,000, or $750 per person per night for a room with four guests. Many people would find it difficult to pay so much for a two-night experience. But here’s the thing: The Galactic Starcruiser is not for everybody. Nor, it would seem, does Disney intend it to be for everybody.

With 100 rooms (or “cabins” in Starcruiser-speak) that welcome about 350 guests for each cruise, this is an exclusive, boutique experience. Consider that across the more than 25 Disney World hotels, there are over 36,000 rooms. Prior to 2020, the Magic Kingdom, the most popular theme park in the world and one of four parks at the Florida resort, welcomed about 21 million visitors per year, which equates to an average of around 57,000 per day. That is for everybody.

Character aboard the Halcyon for Star Wars- Galactic Starcruiser

Matt Stroshane / Disney

Should You Take a Cruise Aboard the Halcyon?

So, if the Galactic Starcruiser isn't for everybody, who is it for?

“This is an experience for people who love Star Wars—and the people who love them,” Johnson says. That sounds right.

I consider myself a casual fan; I’ve seen all the major movies and have enjoyed them. As for my two cabinmates who joined me on the cruise, my son has seen the films multiple times and played with the branded toys as a child, while my brother-in-law is a diehard enthusiast who is fluent in the franchise's mythology. In our own ways, we all loved the experience. But my brother-in-law related to it on an entirely different level. After one especially memorable encounter with a character in the “Climate Simulator” room, he had a faraway look and a beatific smile. He summoned me to show me his actual goosebumps.

In addition to having the means and an affinity for Star Wars, potential cruisers should probably also be at least a bit extroverted. While shyer, more inhibited guests would likely appreciate the journey, those who interact with the characters and other passengers, pursue the leads and clandestine missions they are offered, and get into the spirit of the story will find the experience so much richer.

“I hope guests give themselves permission to play, to let go a bit, to suspend their disbelief, and live in a galaxy far, far away,” says Johnson.

The nearly 48-hour experience includes a two-night stay in a cabin, five onboard meals (alcoholic and specialty beverages are extra), an excursion to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (with lunch included), and all entertainment and activities. But the whole experience is greater than the sum of its parts.

Everything contributes to the overarching story that plays out in real-time. Guests are ostensibly taking a galactic pleasure cruise aboard the Halcyon, which is celebrating its 275th anniversary. After arriving at the spartan Galactic Starcruiser Terminal, they board a small launch pod that takes them to the ship. Both the pod and the shuttle that transports passengers on their excursion to Batuu (otherwise known as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge) are not as convincing as, say, the in-flight experience aboard Star Tours. There is little sense of motion and not many visuals to support the illusion. Likewise, passengers do not feel much in the way of movement aboard the Halcyon itself.

Once aboard the ship, crew members greet guests and give them a brief tour of the central, two-story atrium. The sleek starcruiser (which, according to the backstory, has recently been refurbished) sports clean lines and a somewhat retrofuturistic aesthetic. Off the atrium is the Sublight Lounge, which offers themed cocktails and a prominent holo-sabacc gaming table, and the bridge, with its large, panoramic view of space.

Cabins aboard Star Wars- Galactic Starcruiser

Matt Stroshane / Disney

What Are the Rooms Like?

Our standard cabin, which sleeps five, was a bit small, but delightfully designed and appointed. It included a comfortable queen bed, two built-in berths, and a Murphy bed. A viewport provided a window to our planet-hopping adventure. It was synchronized so that if the ship made the jump to lightspeed, we saw it in our cabin. Thankfully, it included a blind that we could activate with a button and keep the visuals at bay while we slept.

By default, a “vidscreen” displayed where we were on our journey; however, we could also watch TV from our "home planet" via a themed remote. If we pressed a button on a smaller “vidscreen” and tapped our MagicBand (which all passengers receive), we could summon D3-09, a chatty droid. Using clever technology, she asked us questions and incorporated our responses to carry on conversations and help advance the storyline.

Speaking of droids, we expected to see more of them aboard the Halcyon. There is one, SK-620, that roams the decks, but he spent much of the time held in captivity.

Food at Star Wars- Galactic Starcruiser

Kent Phillips

What About the Food?

All meals take place in the Crown of Corellia Dining Room. By and large, the food was elevated and outstanding. As at Galaxy’s Edge, the dishes feature Earth-based ingredients that have been prepared and presented in ways that seem otherworldly. Some of the items, like the Tip Yip Chicken, can be found in the theme park land, but many of the items are exclusive to the Halcyon.

Dinner was served family-style with multiple courses and dishes, allowing guests to sample a wide variety of items. One of the entrées, Bantha Beef Tenderloin, was exceptionally tender and flavorful. A particularly striking appetizer, the Iced Felucian Blue Shrimp, was presented to us at the “Taste Around the Galaxy” dinner on the second evening. And by blue, we mean the shrimp was the color of Play-Doh.

“Any cruise you go on has shrimp cocktail for dinner. This is our shrimp appetizer,” says Brian Piasecki, culinary director at Walt Disney World. “It just looks a little different.”

Over a period of six months, Piasecki and his team figured out a way to soak shrimp in a brine made from butterfly pea tea to give the shellfish its distinctive color. To represent Felucia’s colorful, fog-enshrouded planet, the dish, which came with pickled mushrooms and seaweed salad, was presented with dramatic smoke emanating from it.

Passengers also get to enjoy another cruise ship staple, the buffet, for breakfast and lunch. Meals are presented in bento box-like containers that fit snugly into compartments embedded in trays, another neat and vaguely futuristic design touch. Kale Porridge—polenta made with kale, egg “worms,” and mushrooms served over plant-based sausage gravy—was a wildly distinctive breakfast entrée.

“We want to tell our guests a story through food,” adds Piasecki.

Lightsaber training on Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser

Matt Stroshane / Disney

Who Do You Meet and What Do You Do?

The first evening is a dinner show that features galactic superstar Gaya. Performing a mix of pop, blues, and new-agey music, the “Twi’lek” singer had a wonderful voice and stage presence. Her songs and patter, however, included a subtext with hints of the struggles her people and planet were facing.

As with Gaya, encounters with other characters, including the singer’s manager, Raithe Kole, and Captain Riyola Keevan, slowly reveal that all is not as it first seems aboard the Halcyon. This is Star Wars after all, and intrigue and revolution are in the air. The actors were uniformly wonderful, fully committed to their roles, and expert at engaging with passengers.

Guests can choose to support smarmy First Order Lieutenant Harman Croy or help members of the Resistance who have infiltrated the ship. Or, they can play it down the middle as an independent scoundrel looking out for themselves. Their stories unfold differently depending on the alliances they forge and the choices they make.

Passengers receive tailored “comms” from the characters throughout the course of the experience. These interactive messages come via the "datapads"—iPhones that include the Play Disney Parks mobile app—that they are issued at the beginning. The datapads also have other features and functions such as a map of the ship, tools that hack into systems and provide other uses, and an updated list of events to help keep passengers on task.

Would-be Jedis get to brandish a lightsaber in a training activity aboard the ship. The blue-hued weapons provide haptic feedback when users properly intercept beams of light. Passengers also get to participate in bridge training and learn how to operate the ship’s navigation, defense, and other systems. Skills learned there may come in handy later if guests are invited to participate in a secretive mission.

Likewise, the excursion to Batuu, which takes place on the second day, can take on additional urgency when characters send you on fact-finding missions and other escapades on the planet. Galactic Starcruisers receive special Lightning Lane passes that allow them to bypass the lines at both Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. The wonderful Galaxy’s Edge attractions are even more enthralling when they are part of the larger Halcyon experience.

No matter what story arc the passengers choose to follow, everything resolves with a wholly satisfying grand finale at the end of the second evening. In addition to the Halcyon’s characters, Kylo Ren and Rey join the fray. The action includes lightsaber battles, impressive displays of the Force, a swelling John Williams score, and everything you’d expect from a climactic Star Wars scene.

Would you think less of us if we admitted we got a bit choked up? After spending two intense days among the characters, we experienced an undeniable connection to them and to their plights. We were emotionally engaged and spent after the ordeal. For at least a little while, we lived in a galaxy far, far away.

Article Sources
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  1. The Orange County Register. "What An Attendance Cap Could Mean For Crowded Disney Parks In the Coronavirus Era." May 22, 2020.

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