ORLANDO, Fla. — “Star Wars” characters and stories will be brought to life in a new and unique way at Disney’s Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.
What You Need To Know
- Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser opens at Disney World on March 1
- The two-night interactive Star Wars experience lets guests live out their own Star Wars adventure
- We took a look inside this new experience to see what it's all about
- RELATED: Could Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser be a game-changer?
But one of the first things people should know about Galactic Starcruiser is that it’s not a hotel — or, at least, it’s not just a hotel.
The two-day, two-night “adventure” (as Disney calls it) is an interactive experience that lets fans — young and old — live out their own Star Wars stories during their stay. Passengers can interact with characters — new and familiar — and make decisions and alliances that determine how the story unfolds around them in real-time.
The setup is very cruise-like, with passengers getting itineraries with daily activities such as bridge training, lightsaber training and a “shore” excursion to Batuu (Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge).
“But unlike a normal cruise, not everything is going to go according to plan, because of course it is Star Wars and so onboard there are a whole host of characters — all of whom need your help,” said Ann Morrow Johnson, executive producer and creative director with Walt Disney Imagineering.
It’s a mixture of live-action role-playing and live theater.
Galactic Starcruiser is a project that’s six years in the making. In fact, the team behind the new experience developed the idea alongside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which opened years earlier at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
“When we were developing Galaxy’s Edge at the same time, we knew we were developing the Starcruiser,” said Wendy Anderson, executive creative director with Walt Disney Imagineering. “We wanted these stories to intersect, and we wanted to build characters that could stand up to some of those iconic Star Wars characters that you know and would also be characters you could really feel like you had access.”
The timeline for when passengers’ adventures take place is between the events of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” with characters and storylines from those films popping up throughout the experience. As for the setting, the action takes place on the Halcyon, a starcruiser with a long and storied history. It’s operated by Chandrila Star Line, which prides itself on its top-tier service. The logo for Chandrila is featured throughout the ship.
The Halcyon’s first official passengers will embark on their adventures starting March 1.
Ahead of the debut, Disney invited members of the media, including Spectrum News, out this week for a preview of the Galactic Starcruiser. The preview included a tour of the ship, a sampling of the food, a visit to the themed lounge, character interactions and a chance to participate in some of the activities, such as lightsaber training.
Here’s what we learned about Starcruiser and what passengers can expect to see and do once onboard.
Let the adventure begin
The adventure starts at the Galactic Starcruiser Terminal, a gray, stone building near Hollywood Studios. This is where passengers will check in before they take a launch pod up to the Halcyon.
The launch pod simulates jumping into hyperspace and features windows called “viewports” that let passengers watch the quick trip from Earth to space.
The first area passengers will encounter once onboard the ship is the atrium, which is basically the hub of activity. Characters mingle here, and story moments play out in the space. This area also includes seating, floor-to-ceiling holographic columns and interactive consoles where passengers can access itineraries and maps of the ship.
Around the atrium are hallways that lead to the guest rooms (known as cabins), the Crown of Corellia Dining Room, lightsaber training and other areas of the ship. Nearby, a boutique sells “Star Wars” clothing and accessories, and a lounge includes a sabacc table.
The Halcyon looks shiny and new — devoid of some of the rustic, wear-and-tear visitors might find in Galaxy’s Edge. This is explained in part of the in-universe story, which says the luxury liner has been “recently restored to its former glory.”
It’s all about the storytelling
The biggest part of the Galactic Starcruiser experience is the storytelling, which is all about participation both from cast members (employees) and the passengers.
Walt Disney Imagineers designed it so that passengers’ adventures will play out differently.
“There are paths that you can begin, and from that, your choices actually really do matter,” said Cory Rouse, creative director with Walt Disney Imagineering. “So the idea is that no one can sit back and ingest the entire story. There’s a level of depth there because we really wanted to create a believable world.”
The cast members on the Halcyon will play characters, engaging with passengers in a variety of ways. The interactions may be something as simple as asking them where they are from or giving information about the ship. Or characters may seek passengers out and ask them to participate in a mission.
Passengers may be asked to help secure stormtroopers in a cargo hold or hack into one of the ship’s systems.
Characters will also be taking note of passengers’ names and what they’ve done in previous missions or activities.
Many of the characters passengers interact with will be brand-new Star Wars characters — such as the ship’s captain, Riyola Keevan; the ship’s cruise director, Lenka Mok; the newly arrived mechanic Sammie; and First Order Lt. Harman Croy.
There will also be story moments that play out in front of passengers. One such moment comes when Lt. Croy and stormtroopers board the ship to begin an investigation into “suspicious” activity aboard the Halcyon. Once he and the stormtroopers arrive, it sets the stage for passengers to choose their side: The First Order or the Resistance.
At the end of the journey, there's a surprising finale that wraps up the stories that have played out over the two days.
“It’s a living, breathing world that you really can influence,” Rouse said.
Passengers can also add layers to their story by using their mobile phone, known as a data pad, while exploring the ship. They can receive mission details, view a layout of the ship and more with the Play Disney Parks app. The app also includes the passengers’ itinerary, which will update after they complete missions or have different interactions.
The storytelling elements on play aboard the Halcyon also extend to Batuu. During their excursion to the planet on the second day of their adventure, passengers can participate in new missions based on their activity aboard the ship. They’ll receive Lightning Lane access to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run and discover new context to the stories in those attractions.
And the things they do on Batuu could have consequences once they return to the ship.
Despite the heavy focus on storytelling and interaction, passengers are allowed to engage at whatever level they want.
Lightsaber training, sabacc and other activities
While onboard the Halcyon, passengers can participate in different activities that also play into the story and include “unexpected” moments.
In lightsaber training, passengers will enter a special room where they’ll learn how to wield a lightsaber. They’ll have to deflect digital beams using a lightsaber with a haptic hilt. Others in the room will use shields to help block any beams that aren’t deflected. It’s a group activity that will see participants rotate positions several times. But be prepared, it’s quite the workout.
And a character with a strong connection to the Force might pop up during training.
The captain’s bridge offers a wide view of space. It’s also where passengers can learn about the ship’s defense and navigation systems. As the story continues to unfold around them, passengers may find themselves using buttons and joysticks to protect the ship from incoming threats.
Elsewhere, passengers can learn to play sabacc or participate in a droid racing competition.
And for those who want some fresh air, there’s the Climate Simulator, an outdoor, open-air space that replicates the weather conditions on Batuu, or in this case, Florida.
Time to dine
When passengers get hungry, they can head to the Crown of Corellia Dining Room, which serves breakfast and lunch buffet-style throughout the day. Then for dinner, the dining room switches to table service with a preset menu.
The food, which may look strange and futuristic, is comprised of familiar flavors and takes inspiration from places around the Star Wars galaxy.
“This took well over three years to develop the food,” said Bobby Rivera, chef de cuisine, concept development. “The cool thing about it is that everything in front of us ties to the story we’re telling in some way.”
For breakfast, there’s blue bantha milk, blue bantha yogurt, a Starcruiser platter with waffles, rolled egg and roasted sausage.
Other dishes that will be served in the dining room include a bubble waffle grilled cheese with tomato soup, an iced Felucian-inspired shrimp cocktail with blue shrimp, Mustafarian breads and spreads, braised bantha beef short rib and seared Kashyyyk whitefish.
For younger passengers, there’s grilled tip yip chicken swords, cheesy beef spiral dumplings, fried tip yip chicken chunks and various sides like steamed carrot spirals.
The chefs can customize meals for those with allergies or dietary restrictions.
The first night of dinner service will feature live entertainment from Gaya, a musical superstar, while the second night will feature a “Taste Around the Galaxy” experience.
For light snacks, wines, ales and signature cocktails, passengers can stop by the Sublight Lounge. There cocktails and zero-proof drinks are inspired by the galaxy. The Hoth Frost is a blue-colored drink inspired by the icy conditions of the planet Hoth that comes topped with lemon-vanilla foam to mimic snow and an ice shard. The Muja Twist, a zero-proof drink, is fruit-flavored with green notes and a hint of mint. Passengers can also get an Old Fashioned.
The cabins on the Halcyon are similar to a cruise ship in that the space is compact. The standard cabins feature a queen bed, two capsule-like bunk beds called berths, a TV, a bathroom, and a viewport with views of space.
If passengers don’t want the view of space visible at all times, there’s a button to push to close the blinds so to speak.
There’s also the Galaxy Class of suites, which have more room, two viewports as well as a seating area and a bar.
The cabins also incorporate details from the “Star Wars” universe. The sheets used on the beds in the cabins were crafted from similar fabrics used in the “Star Wars” films.
The rooms also come equipped with D3-09, an interactive droid assistant that appears via a video screen. Passengers can ask D3-09 questions about the ship. It’s like Alexa in space. The interactions will be personalized from recorded sounds from inside the cabin. D3-09 is currently in a limited testing.
Dressing the part
For those who enjoy cosplaying, Galactic Starcruiser will offer a perfect platform for that. Passengers are encouraged, but not required, to wear costumes — although there are some restrictions.
Passengers can wear their own costumes from Earth or buy exclusive outfits on shopDisney before their voyage. They can browse the line of apparel available at The Chandrila Collection, the ship’s boutique. The selection will include items for adults and children, including tunics, gowns and headpieces.
The boutique also features merchandise such as jewelry, glassware, foaming bubble masks, and a Sabacc set. The shop also sells an exclusive lightsaber, a remote-control astromech droid SK-620 and a light-up model of the star cruiser.
The Galactic Starcruiser experience has been made accessible for people who have physical disabilities — from the activities in various spaces in the ship.
“We have accessible room-types, cabins, all of that has been thought of,” said Stephen Lim, guest experience manager for Starcruiser. “Our transports from the Halcyon to Batuu are accessible for wheelchairs and ECVs. We even have ECV charging stations in the corridors by the cabins.
A sensory guide is also available for passengers who have autism. It might contain spoilers to some of the show elements because some of them have unexpected encounters.
There’s also an option for those who need sign language during the experience. That feature would need to be reserved two weeks in advance or when the voyage is booked.
What’s this going to cost?
So the biggest question for many will likely be how much will the Galactic Starcruiser experience cost?
Spoiler-alert: It’s pretty pricey.
A two-night voyage that includes a two-person cabin starts at $4,800, which translates to $1,200 per person per night. A four-person cabin can go up to $6,000. That’s sample pricing. Actual pricing can vary depending on the dates for the voyage.
In addition to a cabin or suite, the entire Galactic Starcruiser vacation package includes all the onboard activities, food and beverages (except alcoholic drinks and specialty beverages), admission to Hollywood Studios for the Batuu excursion, a quick-service meal at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, valet parking and an exclusive MagicBand that will be used during the voyage.