Disney Takes Visitors to a Galaxy Far, Far Away

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Galactic Starcruiser will have its grand opening on Tuesday. March, April and most of June are sold out.

Disney started working on the starcruiser project about six years ago, Mr. Trowbridge said, as part of its design for Galaxy’s Edge, a $1 billion “Star Wars” addition to Disney World’s Hollywood Studios theme park. Galaxy’s Edge was about mass entertainment, while the starcruiser was conceived for intimacy.

“We didn’t want it to be so big that people lost that sense of ‘they see me,’” Mr. Trowbridge said.

At the time, the hospitality and retail industries were repositioning themselves for millennial consumers. Staying in a hotel? Shopping in a store? How quaint. Increasingly, creating “immersive experiences” was the ticket to relevancy, and the more the experience intertwined the real and virtual worlds, the better. Interactive theater was also becoming trendy, with “Sleep No More” in New York a prime example. (Audience members devise their own story by entering different rooms and choosing, over the course of several hours, which characters to follow and when.)

But this was unfamiliar ground for Disney, which does not like leaving anything to chance. In fact, the company has spent decades perfecting the opposite.

Disney parks have always been about immersing visitors in a story, of course, whether transporting them to Cinderella’s castle or a pirate-filled Caribbean Sea. But most of Disney’s rides are passive experiences. You sit and something happens. Young visitors now expect more: They want to be part of the action and even influence the outcome.

Galactic Starcruiser takes immersion to the extreme. If guests arrive the minute they are allowed and stay until checkout, they get 45 hours inside a game. Disney has always called its employees cast members, but the people hired to staff the hotel go a step further — all of them, even the bellhops, are “Star Wars” universe residents who stay in character when you ask a question.

“Should you desire a beverage from your home world, please ask,” the drink menus inside the ship’s Sublight Lounge read. In-room hair dryers are labeled “thermal blowers.” Place settings at dinner include giant pairs of tweezers called “galactic grabbers.” Press a button in your cabin and a logistics droid, D3-O9, appears on a video screen to have a conversation, with the dialogue changing depending on your responses.


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