Disney’s Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser review: Let loose and play

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Guests dine in the Crown of Corellia Dining Room during a performance by galactic superstar Gaya.

Disney

Immersion takes on new meaning aboard Disney’s newest theme park attraction, the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser.

From the moment passengers board the shuttles to the Chandrila Star Lines’ starcruiser known as the Halcyon, the adventure begins. And it doesn’t slow its pace until they disembark after the “voyage” two days later.

On Monday, CNBC ventured aboard the Halcyon for a preview of Disney’s new experience. Branded as an “immersive adventure,” the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser blends elements of the company’s resorts, cruise lines and theme parks into a 48-hour romp in space.

First teased during Disney’s D23 Expo in 2019, the Galactic Starcruiser, located near the company’s Orlando, Florida-based Disney World Resort, has drawn curiosity and criticism from potential “passengers.” The experience comes with a steep price tag — around $1,200 per person per day — and has been cloaked in secrecy until now.

So, let’s address the bantha in the room right away: Is Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser worth the price of admission? 

Yes, but with one condition — you have to be willing to play.

Passengers get back what they put into their time aboard the Halcyon. If you suspend your disbelief, embrace the story and participate without self-consciousness, this will be a trip you and your family will never forget.

Breaking down the cost

The designers took inspiration from different aspects of the Star Wars universe. The bunk beds, for example, are reminiscent of shapes found on the Millennium Falcon.

Doug Chiang, vice president and executive creative director of Disney subsidiary Lucasfilm, told CNBC that the team sought to keep the ship fresh and familiar but to allow between 30% and 40% of the design to have a “component of new.” Guests will notice that cabin doors, which are unlocked by a Magic Band, open by sliding, not swinging on a hinge. It is a subtle change, but it adds to the overall immersion of the experience.

Layered on top of all that is the experience itself, which is something that has never been attempted before.

“One of the things that is most interesting about it is that we talk a lot about, ‘What is it?'” said Ann Morrow Johnson, executive producer and executive creative director at Walt Disney Imagineering. “It’s not really a cruise, it’s not really a theme park, it’s not really a hotel, it’s not really a 48-hour piece of immersive theater, it’s not really a live action game, it’s sort of an intersection between all those things.”

“There are so many different storylines that unfold over the course of the two days that it is truly how you choose to spend your time and respond to the things that you’ve seen that dictates what you are called upon to do and how your story unfolds and ultimately resolves itself,” she said.

Disney has been working on the Galactic Starcruiser since 2016, developing it alongside the Galaxy’s Edge theme park land in order to create one cohesive story.

Guests spend the first evening on the Halcyon meeting new characters and deciding where their allegiances lie. Are they Resistance fighters? Loyal to the First Order? Or are they toeing the line between good and evil as a scoundrel?

The main gist of the overarching story goes as follows: You are a passenger on a starcruiser for a two-day voyage. During that trip, Lieutenant Harman Croy, a First Order officer, boards the ship looking to root out Resistance spies. The captain, Riyola Keevan, and the cruise director, Lenka Mok, are not thrilled by his presence, but they ultimately acquiesce.

The call of adventure

Now, I wasn’t just hopping on the Millennium Falcon in Galaxy’s Edge for a joyride, I was working with the smuggling crew to gather coaxium, a rare and explosive fuel, to bring back to the Halcyon. That coaxium did make it on board our starcruiser and became an integral piece of the action during the final event.

Similarly, venturing to Oga’s Cantina now included talking to a particular bartender to get a special message that would help us contact a hacker who could aid in disabling First Order sabotages on the ship.

Alongside these missions are optional mini-events on the Halcyon, such as trivia games, a sabacc tournament and droid racing. Those who want to be fully immersed in the story will find that there are few moments of downtime during the journey. However, if guests do decide to retire to their cabins for a while, they will still be alerted to key story moments.

While resting in the early afternoon on the second day, I noticed the animation out of my viewport changed from gently rolling stars to whizzing light. We were going through hyperspace. A moment later, we were surrounded by TIE fighters. That was my cue to put my shoes on and head back to the atrium. When I arrived a few minutes later I found that the First Order had set up a blockade and Croy was seeking to take command of the Halcyon.

“There is no way that any one person could ever see it all in one cruise,” Johnson said. “Some of my favorite moments are those moments of community, seeing passengers say, ‘Oh, I was over here and I saw this,’ ‘Oh, actually, I met with a Wookie in the engineering room and we think there’s this secret plan.’ That kind of swapping stories — gossip of all the different things that are unfolding aboard the Halcyon as the adventure befalls us — is kind of the core of making sure it’s a living story that you are a part of and navigating through.”

Taste of the galaxy

The bottom line

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