A year ago saw the opening of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, an attraction at Walt Disney World aiming to bring interactive experiences to a new level with its three-day vacation in “space.” A blend of LARPing, immersive theatre, and Disney Cruise, Galactic Starcruiser takes Star Wars fans and their families on their own adventure in a galaxy far, far away.
io9 was invited to participate in a cruise to explore the experiential entertainment paths aboard — during our visit, the stellar cast was no longer in rehearsal period, and the ARG tech was mostly working in sync to bring the unique luxury experience to life. We found that it goes beyond just weird space food and blue milk… way beyond. A year after Galactic Starcruiser’s opening, we’re looking back on our experience, particularly in regards to what worked and what can get better in time.
The outside of the attraction is a big grey stone slab building at Walt Disney World near Galaxy’s Edge, which is visible from Galactic Starcruiser. Nothing about it hides the fact that you’re about to go into a box with no windows. It’s off-putting and you immediately want to forget what it looks like so it doesn’t affect the amount of suspension of disbelief you’re about to commit to. When you enter, you’re led into a minimalist space port before you board your “shuttle” — and thankfully that’s where the action begins.
In-room droid service
D3-09 was something I thought was going to be just a fancy Alexa — but no, the in-room droid is very much a part of your Star Wars story. Sure, you can ask it anything in regards to the accommodations, and it will remind you when you have an activity coming up. What I didn’t expect was that the droid becomes your friend and brings you into the mythology on board. I can imagine that D3 does some amount of explaining for the casual Star Wars fan about why the First Order is suddenly hanging around. For me, I treated D3 in the same way I would have interacted with C-3PO, and in return she made my group feel like a secret band of heroes. At a certain point during my journey, D3 recited gorgeous commitment vows for my partner and I, which were truly unforgettable. So when the baddies took her away I was crushed and vowed revenge — which I got to play out as part of the experience.
It’s very, very cool to look at
Take a look at a day aboard the Halcyon ship.
The Starcruiser is not a Star Wars hotel
A hotel room would have a bathtub, for one. Think of the accommodations like Star Wars camp, with some glamping available at a higher price — even though visitors are already forking over big bucks. The rooms come with a port to look out into space and views that take you across the stars; you can even see (but not feel, thankfully) jumps to lightspeed. There’s a bed and bunks in the standard room with a small television if you simply must surf Earth channels. Overall the rooms felt very sparse and reminded us of the quarters of the Narkina 5 prison in Andor.
Breakfast and lunch offered up a bonkers buffet of delicious riches. Breakfast in particular was always on point and tasted good, even if whatever you were eating was also cosplaying as alien noms. The best part is that if you have any dietary restrictions or allergies, dedicated chefs are on hand to make you altered versions of what’s on the menu. I got to eat gluten-free waffles and cheesy bread sandwich pods. Not going to lie, a lot of this food worked better for me than the sit-down meals.
Star Wars Cantina cocktails
This is a win because they are not pre-poured mixes like the drinks served at Oga’s Cantina in Galaxy’s Edge. Here, the cocktails effectively channel drinks you can imagine having on Bespin with Lando — and they’re strong as hell, making the price on them worth it. (Food is included with Galactic Starcruiser admission; alcoholic drinks are not.)
The view from the Halcyon bridge
It’s just stunning and the centrepiece of the ship. When I walked on board, this is what took my breath away.
Another droid worth meeting: SK-620
Of course we gotta protect a little rebel droid minding his resistance business… and maybe needing a helping hand or two. SK is all sass and cuteness, bringing his droid personality into the story as a main character.
The ‘80s arcade game-style aspects of the bridge training module — where visitors get to pew pew things in space — is really hands-on and easy, which I appreciated. And it works because it’s the same level of tech as you’ve seen in the films. So of course, if all else fails when trying to blast TIE Fighters, just button mash.
Punch it to lightspeed
Again, it’s all very cool to look at. Check out more video views from the bridge, plus more from day two on Galactic Starcruiser.
First Order arrival
The baddies crash the cruise, suspecting that resistance operations are at work. It’s fun to see which guests participate in helping them out, which ones align with the scoundrel aboard who could go either way, and which end up assisting the “totally not with the Resistance” good guys. This is when you get deep into the story, and it’s a blast.
The climate simulator feels like Florida
Because it is. OK, so while it’s great that there’s a sliver of the actual outdoors, it being the only diversity in environments is underwhelming. This is Star Wars! It’s a real lost opportunity to have other environment simulators or destinations exclusive to the cruise that aren’t just the adjacent Galaxy’s Edge. With other immersive activations killing the game at maximizing the use of spaces to transport you to other worlds through tunnels and portals that feel more alien and weird, it’s strange the Starcruiser doesn’t actually take you to, say, the Ice Box spa, a location where visitors pick up a character named Gaya through its shuttle system.
Beyond that, there’s a lot of untapped potential to have guests stop in a number of places — how about an Endor-inspired outdoor obstacle course, a Life Day celebration (which was rumoured), or a party on Niamos as seen in Andor (and incorporate those drinks while you’re at it)? Disney is surely capable of environment simulators with better use of set dressing and textures. The most we get is, “Here, go touch some rocks and plants you can look up,” and that’s only if it’s not too humid or rainy to be out there.
Teamwork makes the Star Wars dream work
Interacting with others on board is key to get the full experience. For example: after dinner on the first night, you find pieces of a message that you put together with tables around you and discover what the Resistance is up to, right under the First Order’s noses.
Datapad usage — which, by the way, is your phone utilising a ton of your battery life — is relied upon way too much. It takes away from experiencing the ship when your eyes are glued to your phone, trying to unlock things and do puzzles for coordinates. Sure, it could be a younger-generation thing, but my enjoyment of the experience was impacted every time I got frustrated by not being good at it. I definitely preferred more organic connections, like striking up a conversation with Sandro the musician, talking about his crush on Gaya’s bandmate Quannii, and writing a song to woo her with.
Texting character interactions
This was the best use of the datapad, in my opinion. Your interactions with members of the factions on board help guide your path and determine your allies. I was a reluctant and cynical space witch with a past, so naturally the scoundrel character was drawn to me. It was really fun to meet up with the actor who played Raithe after our message exchanges and instantly be on the same page about working together. I even found myself on another mission going back to doing what I’ve always been good at — running cargo on ships — but for the right reasons this time, instead of the right price. (And the ship in question? The Millennium Falcon, of course.)
Rise of the Resistance
Visiting Batuu (by way of Galaxy’s Edge) is essential to the Starcruiser experience; it’s part of your story to get coaxium fuel, escape the First Order, and smuggle Chewbacca on board. The downside? Being in a packed crowd of regular Disney World guests erases any suspension of disbelief. It also takes up a lot of time even with the unlimited access to cut the lines that your Halcyon pin grants you. You’d expect to interact with more story aspects and characters, but it amounts to limited experiences off the ship, sweating in the humidity while trying to unlock more schematics on your phone while it heats up and starts to die. I found myself looking forward to getting back on the ship and resuming the character stories around me.
Gaya is a star
Characters like Gaya, Sammie the mechanic, Captain Keevan, cruiser director Lenka Mok, and the Force-sensitive Saja trainers really make the experience. They have their own arcs around you that really draw you in — love stories, stories of taking power back for your people, stories of finding your place in the galaxy.
Easter eggs, of course
And yes there’s fan service; in some of the industrial spaces you can explore, you can find winks at the extended Star Wars universe.
A Jedi among us
When Rey and Chewbacca arrive on board, the story intensifies; you get to witness interactions between cinematic heroes and the new ones you’ve met on the ship, even the shifty ones like Raithe. (Hey, he turns out to be a good guy after all.)
It all comes down to a fight between the light and the dark side with the arrival of Kylo Ren. Seeing the lightsaber moment in person is wild and makes you believe it’s real, with a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it switch to the dueling one. Everyone’s storylines intersect in the voyage’s final act and you witness a Star Wars fight while also being a part of it.
The best part
For me, lightsaber training with the Saja was the best experience. It’s a huge part of the story, especially for those who come on board as a character with an inclination toward the Force. It involves some light leg work and can work out the arms — but it’s ok, because these arms were made for taking down the First Order. There are so many story elements you can get drawn into, with special artifacts and appearances by Jedi masters to leave you with the wisdom that was once just something you watched on a screen. At Galactic Starcruiser, you finally get to live it.
While you’re here, why not check out Gizmodo Australia’s guide to what’s streaming this month on Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Stan, Binge and more. We’ve also got one for all the good movies coming out in 2023 if that’s more your thing.
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