PORT CANAVERAL — Visiting a galaxy far, far away can be as simple as stepping on board a Disney cruise ship.
Disney Cruise Line’s Star Wars Day at Sea returns for a third round through April on the Disney Fantasy out of Port Canaveral. And the company recently announced more dates on select 7-night Caribbean cruises in 2019. Star Wars fanatics now have more chances to pay between $2,900 and $10,000 for VIP Star Wars experiences on a boat.
Disney previewed the expansion on a docked cruise ship in Port Canaveral last weekend, a floating comic convention with patrolling stormtroopers, Star Wars trivia and a Porg scavenger hunt.
It’s a move that combines two buzzy tourism drivers — Star Wars and themed cruises. Cruises now cater to almost every niche interest. There are cruises with Kid Rock and Melissa Etheridge, cruises for running enthusiasts and crafters, a Walking Dead-themed cruise with some of the show’s stars and even nude cruises.
"You can find a themed cruise on literally any passion you have in life," said Suzanne Kelleher, a family travel expert who has written for USA Today, CNN and Parents. "You get this sort of extra layer of very specialized activities that sometimes aren’t available anywhere else."
Disney and Star Wars, two behemoths of pop culture, keep growing. The most recent movie, The Last Jedi, hit the $1 billion mark at the box office after three weeks in theaters in December. Disney also announced this week that Game of Thrones writers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are set to write a new series of Star Wars films.
And on a recent Disney earnings call, the company reported spending billions to bring the juggernaut franchise to its theme parks. The Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land is set to open at Walt Disney World in Orlando in summer 2019.
"Guests are always telling us about how they grew up with Star Wars and how they now get to embrace it on board with their young ones," Cruise director Trent Hitchcock said during a press preview on the Fantasy. "It’s a day for the entire family."
The Star Wars cruise experience starts with an appearance by Darth Vader and his stormtroopers in the ship’s center atrium, claiming there has been "a disturbance in the force." Guests watch Star Wars movie and TV screenings, join in trivia challenges, kids lightsaber training, BB-8 droid races, animation classes, character interactions and a nighttime "Summon the Force" deck show with fireworks.
The Disney cruise line also offers Marvel Day at Sea on board 5-night cruises from Miami. Like Star Wars Day at Sea, the Marvel cruise gets guests up close with Thor, Black Panther and Groot.
"We are always looking for new ways to entertain and delight our guests," said Christiaan Abbott, director of entertainment with Disney Cruise Line. "We know the Star Wars saga transcends generations."
The ships, Kelleher said "aren’t floating theme parks."
"Even though the ship is full of people, there’s a sense of exclusivity, where you’re not going to be competing with everyone for the same thing," she said. "They aren’t the high energy spaces you might expect."
Contact Chelsea Tatham at [email protected] Follow @chelseatatham.