Next week, Walt Disney World is launching an unusual hotel called Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. It will be an immersive — and quite expensive — two-night experience that makes visitors feel like they are aboard a spaceship in the Star Wars universe.
On Thursday, we took a four-hour tour for media and many a gushing social media “influencer” who could only bring cell phones and small video cameras to document their trip in the spaceship that Disney calls the Halcyon.
It opens March 1, and the whole month is already sold out — as are all but two days in April.
With a two-night minimum stay, prices start at $4,809 for two adults and rise to more than $6,000 for a family of four, depending on the cabin. That includes all of your food, entertainment, a “port excursion” to visit the Star Wars land in Hollywood Studios, light saber training, droid racing and other activities. In comparison, a family of four can take a Disney cruise for under $3,000 or over $7,000, depending on the ship.
The hotel feels like a cruise ship on land, with a cast of characters played by skillful improv actors who interact with the guests aboard what they say is a recently remodeled 275-year-old ship that travels the galaxy. Han Solo and Princess Leia went on the Halcyon for their honeymoon, according to the Disney Imagineers.
With only 100 rooms, it is small by Disney standards in terms of capacity, but the main atrium and the ship’s flight deck are expansive. While most of the first two months are sold out, most of May is wide open, leading some to wonder if fans are holding back to see the reviews or if the prices will come down. Some Star Wars fans have been blasting the hotel on social media as overpriced and underwhelming.
The starcruiser has a direct connection with Galaxy’s Edge, the $1 billion land that opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2019. The theme park land, which was stylized with the help of George Lucas’ team, is called Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu. It has a shabby-futuristic aesthetic that looks like it came right out of the films.
But the starcruiser looks a lot slicker than the theme park. It maintains its theme by stylizing its cabins on four “decks,” not hotel floors, and windows are all portholes looking into outer space. The only time you can see the Orlando sky is in a section called the “climate simulator,” said to be replicating the climate of the planet the Halcyon is visiting. So if it’s sunny in Orlando (and in Galaxy’s Edge), it’s sunny there.
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Guests can choose to work with the First Order or the Resistance, and that will affect their trip’s itinerary, which could include secret meetings with the captain or a menacing First Order officer who is plotting to take over the ship. There will be blocks of time set aside for light saber training and bridge training, where guests work as a team on consoles to operate weapons and the ship’s shields before a jump into hyperspace, with blue streaks whizzing across a giant screen.
It felt a lot like playing the old arcade game Pong, with a joystick to move your target across the enormous screen as you blast asteroids or TIE fighters. I got so competitive I actually broke my joystick. The spoils of war.
In the light saber training session, the weapon hums and rumbles in your hands when you make contact with the laser beam shooting out at various angles. The group was set up in three rows that shifted to take turns at various parts of the training. The second line of guests got a glowing shield to back up the light saber wielder; it also rumbled in your hands if it caught any laser beams missed by the person with the light saber.
Both the light sabers and shields will be for sale in the hotel gift shop, as will cloaks and Star Wars-themed fashions, tableware, toy starships and jewelry. The public will not be allowed to shop there. It is only for guests, said Cody Hampton, senior manager of brand merchandise for Lucasfilm, which partnered with Disney in the hotel’s creation.
Characters like Chewbacca, Rey and Kylo Ren show up, along with a number of creatures and characters not seen in the original films.
A soulful singer named Gaya is the star of the stage show. She is a Twi’lek, the characters with a pair of tail-like organs growing from their heads that were first seen in 1983′s Return of the Jedi. The cast in the lively show moves throughout Crown of Corellia Dining Room, bringing the audience into the act.
“We had to find a balance between being creative but also have normal flavors people like,” said culinary director Brian Piasecki. A breakfast tray, for example, has a waffle in the shape of the space ship, an omelet that is rolled and sliced, and a potato hash brown cake that is topped with an egg, hollandaise sauce and a spiral of maple bacon that looks alien.
The food and drinks are also stylized. Interplanetary dipping sauces are shaped like orbs, the shrimp is bright blue, and spiral dumplings are called Tip Yip Chicken. There’s a blue cocktail called Hoth Frost, named for the icy planet. It is topped with a spun sugar slab of ice and lemon foam.
Halcyon’s captain is portrayed as a worldly Pantoran, the blue-skinned sentient species who accompanied Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker during Clone Wars. There’s also a First Order officer who brings his cold presence to multiple moments of the experience, with Stormtroopers in tow.
The ship and the theme park setting take place after the events in 2017′s The Last Jedi but before The Rise of Skywalker, when Kylo Ren fights alongside Rey in a climactic battle with Emperor Palpatine.
Last fall at the fan convention Destination D23, Disney fans were given a sneak peek of the Halcyon, but reactions to the video have not all been positive. Many have complained on social media.
On the Disney Parks official YouTube site, there were more dislikes than likes on a video detailing the storyline of the hotel. Some complain that it’s too clean and sterile, and that Star Wars sets are usually beat up, with scorch marks on the wall and dents in the metal. Others said it looked too cheap for its high asking price, with simple unadorned cabins. Fans also complained that it focuses on the recent films and leaves out the original movies and characters.
Theme park expert Dennis Speigel, a consultant and CEO of International Theme Park Services, said he’s not surprised, since Star Wars fans are among the most prickly and opinionated of all. But he has no doubt Disney will adjust elements over time to please the fans.
Why such a high price?
“Because they can,” Speigel quipped.
“You have to think: You’ve got 43 years of legacy and die-hard fans who have been waiting for this,” he said. “It has limited capacity and will be sold out.”