Disney Takes Its Next Step Into a Galaxy Far Far Away

February 18, 2022, 4:32 PM · I’ve been a massive Star Wars fan since I was a little kid, and that fandom only grew as I started generating enough disposable income to support my level of fanaticism and recapture all those memories - and valuables sold for pennies at yard sales. I’m not a card-carrying member of my local 501st Legion, but I have my share of Star Wars collectables, trinkets, and various other homages to the Galaxy Far Far Away in our home. When Disney first announced the purchase of Lucasfilm and the creation of Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland and Walt Disney World, my curiosity was peaked to see what the undisputed king of theme parks could do with one of the most popular IPs and a franchise that had been a cornerstone of my childhood.

While we strayed away from visiting Batuu West and East on opening day, we still made it a point to visit both versions of the land in their first year of operation. We toured Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge in July 2019 (before Rise of the Resistance opened), and Walt Disney’s version in January 2020. While the design and details of the lands were impeccable and impressive, there were some issues that just didn’t sit right with this lifelong Star Wars fan. The setting of the land between The Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker films was not a big issue for me for there are plenty of Easter Eggs within the lands for Original Trilogy [OT] fans. It was the awkward and underwhelming interactivity within the lands that didn’t meet my expectations.

The biggest issue for me was that Disney was willing to sell clothes, accessories, and other items for guests to live out their Star Wars fantasies but discouraged them from actually using them in the land. Guests can still cosplay to a certain extent within Galaxy’s Edge (aka "Disney-bounding"), but it falls short of what is promised when Disney advertised the land as a place where guests can live out their own Star Wars story. Also, character and cast member interactions within the land to make the guest experience more immersive were all over the place and have been even further diminished given pandemic restrictions. Guests could spot Rey, Chewie, Vi Moradi, Kylo Ren, and Stormtroopers throughout the land, but the heroes sprinted down the walkways scarcely stopping for a chat or "face scan" while the villains spent their time interrogating guests with very little variability in their interactions.


Disney’s Datapad, an extension of the Play Disney Parks app, was supposed to be the tool used to allow characters and CMs to provide more personal interactions with guests, but we never felt our use of the application impacted our experience with CMs or characters. The Datapad seemed to be more of a way to pass the time while waiting in lines or trying to see if you could get random lights to turn on or a droid to turn its head your direction.


Given the benefit of time and reading tons of other guest experiences in Galaxy’s Edge, you can see the crux of the problem that Disney faces with a Star Wars-themed land. Guests visit Galaxy’s Edge from all walks of life and different levels of knowledge, fanaticism, and expectations from the land, yet Disney must cater to all of these guests at the same time. There are plenty of guests who simply LOVE Galaxy’s Edge, especially its crown jewel, Rise of the Resistance, but for the hard-core fans that wanted the land to be a year-round Star Wars cosplaying playground - like what Star Trek: The Experience had become for Trekkers - Galaxy’s Edge could never reach that bar without alienating the vast majority of park guests.

However, Walt Disney Imagineers have a trump card to play that could give those crazy Star Wars fans a way for Galaxy’s Edge to fulfill their dreams and expectations. The Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser was a concept hinted initially when Disney first announced Galaxy’s Edge, and after a pandemic-delayed debut, the Halcyon is now ready to raise the bar in interactive themed entertainment.

I had to do a double-take when Robert offered me the chance to represent Theme Park Insider for a media event at Disney’s newest resort, and no arm-turning was required for me to re-arrange my schedule and accept this once-in-a-lifetime assignment. I was casually exploring the possibility of booking this experience for a Central Florida trip we are tentatively planning for October, but to have the chance to experience this before the first official public voyage on March 1 was a no-brainer.

It seems the only thing that people can talk about when this project gets discussed is the price. Yes, a 2-night 3-day "voyage" at this resort costs a small fortune, but if Disney can deliver an unprecedented and unique experience, those cost could be completely justified. Considering the effort and capital Disney has invested in the Galactic Starcruiser, I highly doubt they would want guests spending thousands of dollars to go home even the slightest bit disappointed. I’m trying to approach our upcoming voyage with a level of optimism befitting a massive Star Wars and theme park fan while still maintaining a critical eye that will allow others to have confidence whether the massive cost is worth it.

When guests book a stay at the Galactic Starcruiser, they are reserving a cruise-type of experience that includes their cabin/room, food and beverages (including a quick-service lunch at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the second day of their trip), and entertainment throughout their voyage. Just like a cruise, guests are given an itinerary of events that they can attend if they want. Many of the events and activities are critical to the main story that will be told throughout the trip, which integrates with the stories that play out for park guests in Galaxy’s Edge. Guests can access their itinerary through the Datapad in the Play Disney Parks app, which slowly populates as you get closer to your departure date.

The other important aspect to the Galactic Starcruiser is that it is an extremely limited experience. Most WDW resorts have thousands of rooms across acres of land, but the Halcyon has only 100 rooms with somewhere between 250-400 guests on board at any given time. Also, since the bookings are being managed like a real cruise, guests will be "shipmates" for the entirety of their voyage, so it’s very possible that experiences could be highly variable depending upon how enthusiastic and interactive other guests are during your trip. However, given the price point for the Halcyon, I would anticipate most people on board will be pretty big Star Wars fans and will be fully immersed in the cosplaying aspects of the experience. In fact, my family and I have put together outfits and characters to allow ourselves to explore how immersive this experience can be.

Disney, being the capitalist entity they are, also are facilitating cosplay by giving guests with reservations on the Galactic Starcruiser exclusive access to authentic clothes and accessories through shopDisney.com, or they can select from inventory available in a store on board the Halcyon. Given the tight timeframe for our trip, we instead assembled our costumes from pieces we had available in our wardrobes as well as some additional items we found at thrift stores over the past week. Early returns on the items available through shopDisney is that the items are slightly nicer in quality than those sold on Batuu, and the options allow guests to have a number of different looks for their trip.

I think that’s what Disney is counting on, and the primary reason why they’ve priced this resort so high. It’s a double-edged sword, because the higher the price, the higher the expectations, so by charging guests in excess of $1,200/person/night, they can ensure that only the most serious fans will participate and in turn make the experience more memorable for all the guests on the voyage.

I often think back to our experiences at the long-gone Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton, and while the transporter effect to the bridge of the Enterprise D was one of the coolest special effects I’ve EVER witnessed, it was the people cosplaying at Quark’s Bar that were the most interesting part of the attraction. Guests cannot board the Galactic Starcruiser without a reservation, so the experience will not have the locals that would frequent Quark’s, but the hope is that enough guests on each trip will be playing along to add that extra level of immersion not only to others who also want to cosplay, but to those who are a little more shy and just want to people-watch. While Disney designed Galaxy’s Edge with a broad brush to appeal to the largest possible audience, this experience is definitely geared to the really hard-core fans.

Our hope is that even though we’ll be on board with mostly other media, there will be other fans like us on board who will approach this experience with a similar level of enthusiasm and authenticity as we are. Needless to say, I’m beyond flabbergasted to have this incredible opportunity to give Theme Park Insider readers a peek inside one of the most ambitious projects Disney ever has attempted. Keep your eyes peeled for coverage all next week from this unique resort as well as insight from the Imagineers and dedicated professionals who helped to bring this experience to life.

Update from Robert: Disney today posted a new preview video about Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, this time with Imagineer Travis Finstein and Matt Martin from Lucasfilm.

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Replies (21)

February 18, 2022 at 7:29 PM

Good report and analysis, Russell!

February 19, 2022 at 12:01 AM

Well at least now folks can legit complain about it rather than the "this is a total disaster" videos I've been seeing for months.

February 19, 2022 at 6:37 AM

TPI could not have picked a better correspondent to give us the a thoughtful, objective assessment of the new resort. Enjoy your journey Jedi Meyer. May the Force be with you.

February 19, 2022 at 8:31 AM

This will turn out to be another NBA experience for Disney. Seemed like a good idea at the time scenario, but once the Star Wars fan base has spent all their savings on a 2 night stay, the only thing left will be to turn it into a SW themed hotel, and charge maybe slightly higher than average room rates for a week long stay.
For a start, who in their right mind will do it multiple times ?? And even now, it’s only the first couple of months that are booked, everything else is wide open. The dangly carrot Disney is offering is nowhere near enough for the price they are charging.
I will certainly be reading Russell’s impressions of the experience with great interest.

February 19, 2022 at 9:42 AM

I'm looking forward to the report as well. I think it will ultimately be a success for Disney. It's only 100 rooms to fill, and there's nothing stopping them from adjusting the price up or down as needed. There are a lot of 40-50 something Stars Wars fans with families and disposable income out there.
I hope it's a big success. Maybe it would prompt Universal to do a Hogwarts "hotel" with the four different houses, complete with the different common rooms and the Great Hall for dining.

February 19, 2022 at 10:55 AM

Makorider: "Seemed like a good idea at the time scenario, but once the Star Wars fan base has spent all their savings on a 2 night stay, the only thing left will be to turn it into a SW themed hotel ..."

Me: Yeah. See you in 2046.

February 19, 2022 at 12:30 PM

I think that if Universal could get approval from JKR to do a Hogwarts themed hotel/overnight experience, we would have one already.

February 19, 2022 at 1:15 PM

@TH ….. and I’ll see you in 2026 :)

February 19, 2022 at 5:04 PM

Yawn - time to get to bed kids

February 19, 2022 at 5:08 PM

I can guarantee the powers that run the Wizarding World are going to watch the early reactions and demand with great interest.

February 19, 2022 at 5:53 PM

@ryansdavis: I can guarantee the powers that run Wizarding World have MUCH BIGGER issues that they have to deal with.

February 19, 2022 at 10:33 PM

What? TH Creative has a positive, non-snide comment to make on these threads? Will wonders never cease?

Seriously, I am looking forward to reading Russell's analysis. I enjoyed the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton, but only visited several times to see something Star Trek-related and not to live out the experience with cos- and role-play.

I spend a lot of time at Universal Studios Hollywood, and it's really a mecca for Harry Potter fans who dress up in all kinds of wizarding outfits, drink their butterbeer, and do magic spells with their interactive wands.

February 20, 2022 at 7:46 AM

Disney has decided capitalise on a Star Wars devoid of the main core original characters (Luke, Leia, Han and Vader). Most Star Wars fans wont show up for this just like they didn't show up for Galaxy's edge or the Disney Trilogy.

February 20, 2022 at 6:51 PM

I don't know where you're getting that hyperbole from Daniel, but that sequel trilogy grossed $4.5 billion WW and Galaxy's Edge is routinely packed at Hollywood Studios. Seems to me most fans have shown up for what Disney offered.

February 21, 2022 at 5:16 PM

Looking forward to your report Russel. I hope you get the chance to compare it to Space 220.

February 21, 2022 at 9:56 PM

Great initial write up Russell, I fully agree with your take on GE and share your enthusiasm and healthy skepticism. I'm also envious as heck, haha.

Very much looking forward to your report, have fun!

February 22, 2022 at 1:55 AM

Let me just ask the big question since I know how all this actually works. Is TPI on Disney's approved media list or no?

February 22, 2022 at 8:24 AM

I think you've made a great point about the experience depending on the other Guests. I'd expect amazing situations where strangers jump into an experience together, but I can also see frustration from an experience with a less enthused attendee. I do think this will be an amazing experience for the folks who want to be there. In time it will probably improve as only the most enthusiastic would be willing to try.

I'm excited to hear Russell's take.

February 23, 2022 at 4:46 PM

Looking forward to the review but I disagree with two of your points.

You say “ by charging guests in excess of $1,200/person/night, they can ensure that only the most serious fans will participate ”
This is absolutely not true. Firstly there are many hardcore fans who simply cannot afford this attraction. This is going to be an elitist attraction where rich parents are hounded by their kids to go

You also say the experience is going to be tailored for the hardcore fans due to the price and commitment to cosplay and participate….yet all the marketing content is children and young teens. Sorry but this age group are not hardcore fans.

February 24, 2022 at 1:02 PM

My concern is getting an objective review from someone who wasn't given a free stay or people who aren't on the approved media list.

Sorry to say, nothing paid influencers or Disney approved media people post can be trusted. That is why I asked if TPI was on the list.

February 24, 2022 at 2:53 PM

NB: "Sorry to say, nothing paid influencers or Disney approved media people post can be trusted."

Me: That's gracious of you to apologize. It takes a big person to admit they are wrong.

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