ORLANDO — Walt Disney World is pulling the plug on Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, its two-night immersive experience that lets visitors pretend to be on an outer-space voyage amid sci-fi characters, food and storylines.
The last days of Starcruiser will be Sept. 28-30, the company announced Thursday afternoon. The project debuted to the public just 14 months ago, in March 2022.
Some analysts say it was a victim of its own ambition.
“With just 100 rooms available for booking, the Starcruiser represented less than half a percent of the Walt Disney World Resort’s on-site room inventory,” said Robert Niles, creator of Theme Park Insider. “Yes, bookings cost thousands of dollars per person, but Disney likely spent far more money per visitor running the Galactic Starcruiser than for any other property in its portfolio. Even if fully booked, the Starcruiser was just too small for a huge company like Disney to run as anything more than a vanity project.
“And under Bob Iger’s leadership, Disney strives for blockbusters — not boutique.”
Disney will contact people who had booked a voyage for Sept. 30 and later to discuss options and alternative plans. New bookings are temporarily paused to deal with those changes, and bookings are scheduled to reopen May 26, Disney said.
“We are so proud of all of the cast members and Imagineers who brought Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser to life and look forward to delivering an excellent experience for guests during the remaining voyages over the coming months,” a message on Disney World’s official website reads.
Galactic Starcruiser, located near Disney’s Hollywood Studios, was announced in 2017. Details trickled out from Disney over the years, a major one being the initial prices revealed in 2021. The “sample standard cabin rates” listed for a cabin with two guests, was a total of $4,809 for the two-night experience. That broke down to $1,209 per person per night.
Disney considers Starcruiser a premium experience with its 100 cabins. It comes with a “Star Wars” backstory with actors in place as well as optional audience participation in tasks and choosing sides between good and evil. Paying customers also receive light saber training.
Each cabin has a digitized view of the cosmos, and participants are served themed meals with intergalactic entertainment. The experience also includes an afternoon excursion to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a land within Hollywood Studios, where the story line continues.
Analysts at the Motley Fool investment site said the price points were too high for a business model that couldn’t afford to be much cheaper.
“Pulling the plug on Galactic Starcruiser is strictly about survival,” said consumer stock specialist Rick Munarriz. “The headlines will say that Disney failed, and the trickle of schadenfreude will erupt into a downpour. ... This doesn’t mean that Disney isn’t better for the costly learning process. ... It offered a round-the-clock adventure that makes its equally costly cruise ships seem uninspiring by comparison. ... What clicked with the roughly 60,000 guests that have taken the journey will make the rest of Disney better.“
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The decision to pull the plug on the Starcruiser “does not come as a shock,” said theme park expert Dennis Speigel, president of Cincinnati-based International Theme Park Services. “It was expensive to operate, and the personnel weren’t your typical staffers, more like entertainers. And that costs more money.”
Disney couldn’t cut the price and still make a profit, so the hotel was likely bleeding money, Speigel said, at a time when Disney is cutting costs across the company.
“You can’t just play 14 holes of golf,” Speigel said. “People were sold on an experience, and you can’t cut back on that.”
Disney said there are no immediate plans for the building that houses the Starcruiser. Speigel said it is likely that the hotel will remain but will be retooled into a themed stay that will be more affordable and easier to operate.
Information from Tribune News Services was used in this story.