Bright suns, Rebelscum
! We're back with more content from The Galactic Starcruiser at Walt Disney World. If you haven't seen our review videos yet, here's a YouTube playlist where you can take a look
. We're still working on more video content from Bobby and Joshua, but since the Starcruiser is officially open to the public now, we thought it would be great to share the perspective of someone who has ponied up the credits to try out the experience for themselves.
We've received a full reconnaissance report from an avid vintage collector who is also a member of the 501st.
Here's Eric E's recap from his trip aboard the Halcyon:
My husband Zylo and I just returned from Disney’s new Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser. We were on the 3rd journey. We were both skeptical and cautiously hopeful, as many have been, having seen some of those not-so impressive videos and promos. But after returning from our 2-day voyage on the Halcyon I have to say our hopes and expectations were exceeded in ways we had not even imagined.
It has been promoted as “an experience like no other, where each person can live their own Star Wars story”. It has been described as "being the future of themed travel experiences". With nothing to compare it to, all I can say is that it's anything but a “themed hotel”. It’s unfortunate that the word “hotel” has been used, as it isn’t a word Disney is using in the marketing. It features so much more than activities only kids would enjoy along with some typical performances that you might expect at a Disney park. What we instead got was an innovative blend of immersive and interactive environments, non-stop live theater, and personalized tech woven together with the masterful storytelling Disney is known for. Plus, there were some incredible culinary moments. Disney really went above and beyond with the food.
With the ability to literally create your own story as you go, it was like being on a movie set or in a video game with escape room-like missions and challenges. It was all highly personalized using a combination of a data pad (iPhone they supplied) and wrist band. The combination of those 2 enabled ship technology and characters to track your actions and interact with you personally.
Every action taken triggered personal messages, asking for intel and engaging you with missions. Once solved (and many not easy), you would literally unlock areas of the ship to explore, be invited to secret meetings with either good or bad guys, and engage in underworld or Jedi story lines. Those decisions followed you over the course of the 2 days in ways that were different from anyone else's, but everyone’s stories were intertwined and connected. Your story could move forward at any moment in your cabin through an Alexa-like video droid assistant, messages on your data pad or even characters and crew approaching you to give you information or inquiring about things you have. Moments could happen at any time: while walking a hallway, eating or participating in a planned activity. As characters were introduced, you would start receiving messages from them to determine your motives and how willing you are to help them. You often didn’t know which side they were on, that was fun to figure out.
Your choices continued to inform your story on day 2 when we “landed” and left the ship for an excursion into Galaxy’s Edge. There, a special lapel pin and your data pad signaled more interactions as well as VIP treatment and access. What’s not captured in the marketing is that the Starcruiser is not a stand-alone experience – it is connected to Galaxy’s Edge, expanding and enhancing your visit. We have been to Batuu on both coasts and this time it felt different having been a part of the story prior to walking in and giving it new context. We even found out later that about 10 people had been recruited to go into Batuu and find physical data tapes for the First Order and bring them back. Because we had aligned with the First Order early on, we were invited to a secret meeting in the Engineering room where we learned of the mission when other guests handed over the data tapes they had found. Pretty cool!
As incredible as all of that was, what was most magical was how all of this facilitated interaction not just with cast and crew, but with others on the cruise. We made “allies” and new friends, had laughs and shared stories with so many fellow travelers… and it was mind boggling how different everyone’s adventure was. Many passengers were able to participate in things we didn’t even know about – but it was all interconnected with our own story.
We had activities like lightsaber training and ship bridge training that were fun on their own, but they also moved the larger story forward. People who had bridge training on Day 1 got different context than those that had it on Day 2. We had a second mission on the bridge that was due to some decisions we had made while in support of the First Order.
I also signed up for a holo-Sabaac tournament and made it to the final 4. The story culminated in an epic finale and it was awesome to see an atrium filled with passengers who were fully “on board” and participating in the drama. When Lt. Croy was addressing the crowd, he called Zylo and I out by name, along with a few others, thanking us for our help. It was a really nice touch that made it all the more personal. I think many of the things they had hoped to do in Galaxy’s Edge, but weren’t able to, were incorporated into the Starcruiser experience.
It was all executed in an elegant, elevated and truly thoughtful way. We never waited in lines or dealt with crowds—something you assume will be the case with any Disney activity. We were amazed how intimate and personalized it all was. It was both a luxury experience and an adventure unlike anything either of us have ever done. If you’re exhausted after reading this, that’s what it felt like: non-stop and so much fun. But I need a nap now.
The rooms are much more spacious than photos that have appeared online. I was curious about the bunks, so just to test them out I got into one and could fully stretch out… I am 6’2”. There was a fold-down bed that served as a great pace to put open luggage, leaving plenty of room to still walk around. A pull-out table added more place to put stuff. The shower was huge with a rainfall shower head. The in-room droid assistant is like a next-level Alexa who was aware of what actions we had taken while outside of the room. It was a lot of fun to check in with her and see what she had to say about it. Being spies for the First Order generated some funny responses to our “behavior” on board. The view port into space was cool, but the lights around it could not be turned off without closing the window shade. We had hoped to sleep with the view into space, but had to close it as the lights around it are so bright. There is lots of storage. One thing we wished is that you could watch Star Wars in the room. We thought it would be fun to watch a movie one night after returning to cabin, but they didn’t even offer Disney+. That’s a miss.
There were 6 meals in total. And wow it was all delicious. We really feel Disney went all out here. The presentation was amazing, really felt other worldly. But everything had familiar tastes. I think most of it would be lost on small kids. They did have some basic stuff for kids though like mac & cheese, PBJ ball and chicken. We have stayed at multiple Disney resorts and eaten in some of those restaurants, and we estimated that if we would have paid for all of these meals – 2 lunches, 2 breakfasts and 2 incredible dinners, it would have easily cost $500-600 for the 2 of us – and to top it off, it was all you can eat. Even at dinner we asked for more of a beef dish and they brought us more. You don’t get that anywhere else. Dinners are assigned seating, you get the same spot both nights as well as the same waiter. We sat in one of the nice booths on the outer area of the dining room. It felt like a high-end restaurant experience. Gaya has gotten some flack, but it was better than what has been seen in videos. Great voice and the music was very original and catchy. I wish they had done a more elaborate stage area, that was a miss in my opinion.
The environments reminded me of settings like the Tantive IV in A New Hope, Bespin, Coruscant, First Order ships and Kamino. There were areas that had the more “used” look like engineering and cargo areas. The whole “it doesn’t look like Star Wars" sentiment didn’t ring true for us. With the lighting, music, sound effects and immersive action happening around you, it really creates a 360 experience. One thing we felt could've have had a little more magic, especially since it’s the first thing you experience is the shuttle that takes you to the ship when you board. It could have had some simulated movement like the shuttle at the start of Rise of The Resistance, but it didn’t take away from the overall experience.
The aliens and droid were cool, but I wish there had been more roaming alien characters and droids. Maybe there will be more added over time. There was Captain Keevan, Mok, Gaya, her manager and her Rodian backup performer, who had an incredible mask with fully expressive eyes, antennae and mouth. And of course, Chewbacca, Rey and Ren. The guy who played Lt. Croy of the First Order was an amazing actor, both funny and intimidating. First Order troopers could also be found roaming the ship. We opened our cabin door to see a couple of troopers walking by. It was fun as they questioned us as we left our room. Lots of fun one-on-one moments like that happened to us. Lastly, there was a lot of chatter about the transport to Batuu being a panel van. It felt like a transport inside, and the motion just added to the realism. It didn’t feel cheap and you’d never know. Lots of Disney stuff is nondescript on the outside.
I would say 90% of the 300 guests were adults, many who were willing to step out of reality and into another. We fully embraced our trip with costumes for daytime and evening dinners, as well as a back story. We are huge fans ourselves. We both grew up with the original trilogy but enjoy aspects of all the movies. We are both members of the 501st Legion and I am a serious collector of vintage toys. So we know our Star Wars, but are always open to new and different kinds of Star Wars experiences. That is the key to what kind of journey you have. If everyone in your party isn’t a big Star Wars fan, you might reconsider going. You have to buy into it to get the full value in my opinion.
SOME OTHER DETAILS
We stayed at Wilderness Lodge for 2 days prior to boarding in order to do Epcot and Magic Kingdom. They said that they would transfer our luggage to the Starcruiser and put it in our room, but we got some mixed messages at our hotel, and ended up just taking our luggage in the cab. I’m guessing that’s a wrinkle that will get ironed out. They do pay for the cabs – even to the airport when you leave the Starcruiser, which was a nice surprise. It’s really a white-glove experience. Even when leaving Batuu there was someone handing us cold, wet cloths and water.
IS IT WORTH IT?
That’s a hard question to answer, but It’s not for everyone, and it’s certainly not a “vacation” in any traditional sense. There’s no pool, spa or room service. We were hardly in the room. As far as ages go, the youngest we saw were maybe 8 or 9. We don’t have kids, but you definitely need to be old enough to keep up with the pace and be able to use the tech aspects. I have also heard and read comments like “for that amount of money we could do a 5-day Disney trip to the parks and stay in a nice hotel”. If that is what you are wanting, then do that. This is in no way a replacement for that. I get it. We are doing a 6-day Alaskan cruise with our family later this year, and our cabin on that ship is the same cost as this 2-day voyage.
There’s been lots of bad PR as we all know. The rushed promo videos and poor marketing do not capture the true experience. Upon departure, a cast member confirmed the suspicion I had that the PR efforts were done very last minute and it has hurt them. As I mentioned before, it’s not any “one” thing. It’s the combination of many things that make up your experience - the physical environment, the technology, the live-action theater and of course the other passengers…. Together they create magic. As someone who has been in the advertising field for 30 years, I don’t envy the Disney marketing team and their challenge of having to find a way to market and promote this experience without giving away the surprises and unique experiences that await each voyager. Everyone will ask “but was it worth it… the $$” - our answer, along with everyone else we talked to, is yes. We had wondered how they will get people to want to come back, and it is most definitely the ability to create a new and different experience for yourself. Lastly - As someone who has been a creative in advertising for over 30 years, this cruise, experience and immersive adventure has inspired me with what’s possible. Design, technology and storytelling - tools I work with every day will be informed for years to come.
If you can afford to do this, you should do it. Not as a replacement or alternative for another vacation, but for an experience unlike anything else. People spend vast amounts of money on expensive wine or tickets to a sporting event because of the experience, not because of how long it lasts. That being said, the memories we bring home with us are unlike any we have had and will last a lifetime.
Eric E & Zylo C
It's sounds like Eric and Zylo had an amazing time aboard the Halcyon! We really appreciate Eric taking the time to share his thoughts on the Starcruiser. Does their experience change your mind one way or the other, or do you find yourself on the fence about going? Have you already booked a trip? Let us know in the forums!
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