Disney’s Galactic Starcruiser—the immersive Star Wars hotel that Paste has been writing about for almost three years—will be welcoming its first official guests in less than three weeks, starting on March 1. The Starcruiser has been one of the most anticipated theme park projects in recent memory, as well as one of the most divisive (which happens with anything Star Wars related these days). So far that discourse has been based largely on rumors, with Disney playing it close to the vest with concrete details about the hotel. That changes soon, though: the Starcruiser is already hosting Disney employees and contest winners, with the media getting an in-person preview a few days before the official opening. After years of questions, conjecture, and criticisms, the world will know what the full two-day Starcruiser experience is like by the end of the month. It’s an exciting time for fans of Star Wars and theme park design.
Here’s everything we do know about the Galactic Starcruiser so far. This is everything specific Disney has announced about the new hotel, with none of the unverified rumors from dodgy YouTube accounts that peddle sensationalism for clicks, or so-called “insiders” who spend more time writing partisan tirades against Lucasfilm than actually talking about theme parks. Before the flood of first-person accounts and photographs hit the internet in two weeks, let’s look over the facts of the Starcruiser on the cusp of its maiden voyage.
Disney has been selling the dream of visiting Star Wars since Star Tours first opened in the ‘80s. That took a significant leap forward in 2019 with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Disney World, where guests can visit the Tatooine-esque planet Batuu, including a marketplace, a restaurant, multiple themed stores, and a cantina, and find themselves piloting the Millennium Falcon or in the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance in the land’s two rides. Instead of recreating a place well-known from the movies, or retelling stories we’ve already seen, Disney’s designers focused on creating an immersive playground themed to Star Wars where guests could experience their own stories. That remains a controversial decision for many Star Wars fans, but Galaxy’s Edge looks, sounds, and feels like it came right out of George Lucas’s movies, which makes it a creative success in our book.
Galactic Starcruiser, which was heavily rumored during Galaxy’s Edge’s development before being confirmed at D23 in August 2019, aims to take the immersive qualities of Galaxy’s Edge to a new level. The hotel, which will be exclusive to Walt Disney World in Florida, is a two-night experience patterned after a cruise and set inside a building themed to look like a spaceship. “Windows” will offer views of space, “pods” will make it feel like guests travel from a planetary terminal to the spaceship known as the Halcyon at the start of their journey, and rooms and hallways will have the sleek, futuristic design of a sci-fi movie. A schedule of various activities aboard the Halcyon will keep guests occupied in their own Star Wars adventure, with a “planetary excursion” to Batuu (i.e., a trip to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios) giving them a tour of the theme park. The goal is to have it all feel real, or at least as real as possible; the ship’s “crew” will be in costume and character to preserve the fiction of the space cruise, with some of them decked out as aliens, and Disney will let all guests dress in Star Wars attire, as well. (Adults usually aren’t allowed to wear costumes in Disney theme parks, so it’ll be interesting to see if Starcruiser guests can wear their Jedi robes during the “excursion” to Galaxy’s Edge.)
In a sample itinerary found on the Starcruiser website, guests can see some of the activities they’ll be able to partake in on the Halcyon. Much of the schedule reflects what you’d find on a real cruise ship, such as the orientation at the start of the trip and a reception overseen by the captain. But then you’ll also see a lot of Star Wars-specific events, like a tournament for Han Solo and Lando Calrissian’s favorite card game sabacc, and hands-on training with a lightsaber. You might get to take control of a droid and race it against other passengers’ droids, or build a model of the Halcyon or other spaceships. You’ll also get trained on how to manage the bridge of the Halcyon, which we hope will mean pushing all kinds of buttons on various boards and panels while lights flash and space sounds whirr. If you’ve already ridden Rise of the Resistance, you know how strong the temptation can be to push all those blinking buttons on the Star Destroyer walls; hopefully bridge training will make that a reality.
That same sample itinerary also lists three different “unexpected story moments,” one aboard the Halcyon during the first day, one on Batuu during the excursion, and a third near the end of your stay during your second night on the Halcyon. Getting past the weirdness of listing an “unexpected” moment on an itinerary, these bits of interactive storytelling will let guests lean further into the live-action role-playing aspect of the trip. Expect “unexpected” opportunities to act like a roguish smuggler or to help out the Resistance, with the descriptions in the sample itinerary hinting that the choices you make might impact later story moments. This LARP-ing aspect has been a primary selling point for the Starcruiser all along, and these story moments might give guests the opportunity to have more of a unique experience that isn’t shared by everybody else onboard.
Star Wars has featured unusual musical performances since the very first movie, when Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes were shown swinging away on some space clarinets in the cantina. A big part of any real cruise is the on-board entertainment, especially music, so of course the Halcyon will have its own performers on hand. The opening night dinner will feature live music, presumably from the Twi’lek performer Gaya who was introduced in a (highly divisive) video that premiered during a Disney TV special last Christmas. Although it is a little weird to hear a Star Wars pop song sung in English, it’s also a limited view of what Star Wars has always been to act like the brief clip in that special feels out of place for the series. Again, in-world pop music has been a part of Star Wars for as long as there has been a Star Wars, and judging the Halcyon’s dinner show based on a 30-second clip is more than a little hasty.
The sample itinerary also promises what it calls a “spectacular finale” to cap off the voyage’s second night. There’s been a lot of speculation and rumor-mongering over what this finale will entail—many believe it’ll be an elaborate story-based set-piece with the First Order commandeering the ship, and the passengers helping to drive them off in some capacity—but we won’t know for sure until there are first-hand reports from the cruise.
It was revealed last November that at least six new Star Wars characters will make their debut aboard the Halcyon. The ship’s captain, Riyola Keevan, is a blue-skinned Pantoran, a race first introduced in The Clone Wars, and somebody whose sympathies definitely lie more with the Resistance than the First Order. The ship’s cruise director, Lenka Mok, oversees the various activities guests will participate in, along with her astromech assistant SK-620. Another droid, D3-09, runs logistics for the ship. One of the “unexpected story moments” mentions a stowaway that guests might stumble upon; his name is Sammie, and like his fellow Corellian Han Solo he knows how to speak the language of Wookiees. And since you can’t have a Star War without some bad guys, there’s a First Order officer, Lt. Harman Croy, sniffing out resistance on board alongside a retinue of Stormtroopers.
Guests can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the ship’s Crown of Corellia dining room, with meals and non-alcoholic drinks included in the cost. Like the food at Galaxy’s Edge, expect unusual presentations and combinations of traditional dishes, giving them an other-worldly, alien feel. During the excursion to Batuu, guests can eat at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, and hopefully will be able to get into Oga’s Cantina, although the sample itinerary doesn’t mention that. Back on board the Halycon, guests can enjoy cocktails and mocktails at the Sublight Lounge, where they’ll also be able to play a game of sabacc. And if you want to really go big on a trip that will already set you back a significant amount of credits, you can choose while booking your trip to pay extra to eat at the captain’s table in the Crown of Corellia.
One of the biggest questions about Galactic Starcruiser has always been how much it’ll actually cost. Given Disney’s premium-priced resort hotels, and the limited number of slots for each two-night “cruise,” it was clear the Starcruiser wouldn’t be cheap. Still, when sample rates were released last August, there was a great disturbance in the force, as if millions of eyes suddenly bugged out in sticker shock at the price. The actual cost depends on the time of year and days of the week you hope to schedule, like any hotel, but the sample rates revealed for what is traditionally a fairly slow time of year (weeknights in late August and early September) start at $4809 for a cabin for two. So we’re talking several thousands of dollars for this two-night adventure. That might not be a huge hurdle for the wealthy, but considering the median household income in America was $67,521 in 2020, a lot of people who love Star Wars and Disney will clearly be priced out of this experience. That’s not to say the Galactic Starcruiser isn’t necessarily worth that amount of money; it could be such an amazing, immersive, and transformative piece of interactive art and entertainment that the steep price is entirely worth it. We’ll have a better handle on if the Starcruiser justifies its high cost once it’s actually open. Also like a cruise, bookings require a good bit of advanced planning, along with backup dates in case your preferred dates aren’t available; you can find more information on booking a Galactic Starcruiser trip at Disney’s website.
Will the Galactic Starcruiser live up to its potential? Are the vocal Star Wars anti-fans who have already decided it’s a disaster on to something? We’ll have a clearer picture in just a few weeks..
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.