Hits and Misses on Disney's Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser

March 5, 2022, 1:19 PM · I have spent a number of various articles outlining my experiences aboard the Galactic Starcruiser. In doing so, I’ve tried to stick to the facts of the experience while offering balanced coverage for readers. As with any experience of this complexity, ambition, and expectation, it’s never going to be perfect, and for some guests, certain issues and misses may prevent this project from hitting its mark. Be aware that this critique will examine some specific aspects and reveal some secrets of the guest experience aboard the Galactic Starcruiser, so be warned... SPOILER ALERT.

I think the biggest problem with the Galactic Starcruiser that guests will face is the feeling of regret when a decision made during the experience sends you down a path you may not have wanted when you boarded the Halcyon. While the ability to live your own Star Wars story is a massive selling point of this experience, the decisions you make and actions you take do not always have a direct cause and effect relationship with the stories that unfold. The fear of missing out is MASSIVE here, especially as more and more videos of the experience are posted on the internet. Guests will inevitably see scenes and character interactions prior to their voyage and then expect them to play out in a similar way for them. While I anticipate many of the core scenes will remain relatively constant, smaller, more intimate scenes will continuously evolve over time and obviously only be witnessed by a small percentage of the passengers of each voyage. I expect that resourceful Disney fans will eventually figure out how to efficiently stay on specific storylines to experience certain scenes, but many guests will still enter this crucible of experimental improvisational theater with little advanced knowledge and potentially end up seeing scenes and stories that may not be what they expected.

Also, the sheer volume of stories, scenes, and individual outcomes on the Galactic Starcruiser makes it impossible to see everything on first viewing. For a standard theme park attraction where you can ride over and over again to pick up those hidden details and alternate POVs, the cost represents an entry barrier that for most guests will make this a one and done experience. Some guests may ultimately feel disappointed when they hear fellow passengers having different (or perceived better) experiences to the point where they feel the extravagant cost should have given them access to EVERYTHING. Unfortunately, that’s the way this experience was designed, and represents the brilliance of this project, but it will inevitably rub some guests the wrong way. This is not like a restaurant menu where you can take nibbles of every dish or even visit 2 or 3 times and eventually taste everything there is to offer. It’s also not like a movie or TV show where you can hit pause or rewind to pick up things you might have missed on first glance. This is a living, organic experience where every single input has consequences and impacts on what guests see, and there is simply no way to experience with even a handful of viewings. I think there is a pretty large chunk of perspective guests for this experience who would be pretty angry with this, especially given the premium price tag and the natural impression that the more you spend in a theme park typically is proportional with the more you see and experience.

An extension of this fear of missing out (FOMO), there were a number of activities that we participated in that I felt were time wasters that initially sounded more interesting when described in our itinerary. Many of the cruise ship style activities ended up falling into this category for me. On Day 1, we participated in an activity billed as “Ryloth Dance Lessons,” that ended up being a dorky line dance. While knowing the dance steps came in handy later during dinner when guests were asked to get up and dance along with the crew, the 20 or so minutes spent doing a goofy dance could have been better spent exploring the stories aboard the Halcyon. The same goes for fashion show where costumed guests had a chance to strut down the red carpet. It was fun to show off our costumes and see what other guests were wearing, but this was a time sink at during the first half of Day 1 where we should have been spending time progressing our stories.

On Day 2, we rushed back to the ship from Batuu to participate in similar cruise-style activities on the ship. Zach really wanted to participate in the Droid Races and Sabacc Tournament, but the hour we spent on these was time we could have spent playing stories out on Batuu. I think Zach enjoyed both of these activities, but I think some guests may expect more from these activities. Conversely, we did not make it back to the Halcyon in time for the mixology class in the Sublight Lounge. I took a peek in the bar about 10 minutes into the activity, and it seemed really interesting and allowed guests to sample and learn the backstories of all the non-alcoholic drinks on the menu.

In general, the food and drinks aboard the Galactic Starcruiser were excellent. However, it seems lame that Disney is charging guests extra for beer, wine, and fancy mixed drinks (including non-alcoholic ones). I can see the rationale for not allowing guests an unlimited supply of alcohol (though I think there’s some justification for selling a drink package upgrade like on seafaring cruises), but Disney has extended the Star Wars storytelling into the beverages served on the Halcyon and charging an average of $15 extra per drink is a bit of a stab in the back for guests expecting a premium experience. To also charge for non-alcoholic mixed drinks seems even like an even more greedy move from Disney that is bound to frustrate guests more than generating additional revenue.

While the theming and overall attention to detail on the Galactic Starcruiser were excellent, there were some areas of the ship and experience that didn’t quite measure up to the standards established by the price tag. Unfortunately, this starts right at the beginning and again becomes your final impression of your experience on the Halcyon. The Launch Pod is a glorified elevator like what is used on Space 220. However, the “windows” of this pod are small and awkwardly placed in the upper edges of the room.

Also, there are no major motions or effects to really simulate a flight into space to dock with the Starcruiser. I don’t think Disney needed to turn this into a ride experience per se (would probably necessitate restraints and costly maintenance), but something similar to the Resistance Transport on Rise of the Resistance with subtle motions, special effects, vibrations, and an animatronic would take this quick trip a bit more memorable.

The same goes for the Transport Shuttle to Batuu that really should have been more of a ride experience. I commend Imagineers for making this trip as seamless as possible, but they really missed an opportunity to make this trip special. Guests hear their droid pilot over the speakers, but never see him. Disney uses animatronics and screens on both rides in Galaxy’s Edge and on Star Tours, but for this critical link between the Galactic Starcruiser and Batuu, guests are left with just an audio track.

In fact, animatronics are almost completely absent from the Galactic Starcruiser. While I think having an animatronic perform during dinner a la Chuck E. Cheese would have been corny, I think there were plenty of other places where animatronics could have been used around the ship. I guess you could categorize SK-620 as an animatronic, and D3-O9 acts somewhat like an animatronic actor on the screen in your cabin, but there aren’t really any other applications of Disney’s patented storytelling tool. There are a couple of fish-like creatures swimming in jars at the bar of the Sublight Lounge, but those are more atmospheric than anything else. This is definitely a character-driven experience, but I feel that audio-animatronics could have been put to use here.

Another problem is that one of the most recognizable characters is inaccessible. Kylo Ren is the big villain, and constant threat for guests on board the Halcyon, but he only appears in the experience’s finale. He does not interact with guests at any point during the experience that we saw aside from the interactions general park guests get from him in Galaxy’s Edge.

Lt. Croy is the personification of the First Order on the Halcyon, and Storm Troopers are constantly marching around the decks, but Kylo Ren is nowhere to be found until the end of Day 2. This is a clear editorial choice to manage the stories happening on the Galactic Starcruiser, but I don’t understand why guests following the First Order storylines could not “smuggle” and interact with the Supreme Leader like guests could do with Rey. I suppose it’s not fitting with Kylo’s character to sneak around a cruise ship, but there could certainly be scene where he could appear to guests loyal to the First Order or to deliberately walk through hallways in front of guests to make the First Order threat more menacing. Designers obviously want guests to connect and interact with the main characters, who are all new to the Star Wars canon, but it’s the familiar characters that help sell the realism of the experience within the greater Star Wars Universe.

While the technology and design of the Galactic Starcruiser is amazing, I think Imagineers could have done more to immerse guests in the concept of flying through space on a luxurious starship. Aside from the space windows and occasional ambient noise, there aren’t many effects used to make guests feel like their moving. Obviously, Disney wouldn’t want to make guests seasick or have bouts with vertigo, but I was expecting some more vibrations in the floor, particularly when the ship went into Hyperspace. Additionally, I think Disney missed an opportunity to really deliver a top-notch ride-type experience with the Bridge Training and subsequent scenarios by not having that portion of the ship be a gimble box. While the Halcyon does not maneuver like the Millennium Falcon, they could have done something to create the illusion of flying through space beyond the impressive visual displays. There are scenes where the ship is in battle, but unless you want to manually throw yourself back and forth about like a character on the Starship Enterprise, there are no physical effects to simulate movement or impacts on the Bridge.

For some guests, these issues could be deal killers when you’re spending the kind of money a trip on the Galactic Starcruiser costs. For me, many of these issues were slight annoyances when I first noticed them, but ultimately faded in the background as I got swept up into the stories of the Halcyon. As with any project, there is going to be a give and take between features and budget, but many guests will assume that the price for the Galactic Starcruiser buys you an experience with a virtually unlimited budget. Unfortunately, that’s not reality and those unrealistic expectations need to be tempered with the fact that even an ambitious project like this is going to have constraints. Perhaps Disney can eventually correct some of these issues as they gain feedback from guests to make it even better, but in my eyes our overall experience on the Galactic Starcruiser had far more hits than misses.

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Replies (18)

March 5, 2022 at 10:13 PM

The question now is what is the next superfluous thing Disney is going to come up with for people with more money than brains.

March 6, 2022 at 5:19 AM

@ the_man: I would suggest everything at the Disney theme parks is superfluous.

March 6, 2022 at 7:06 AM

Nice honest review - The $15 per drink is just ridiculous for the price - but high development, overhead and operating costs probably require even higher prices !

March 6, 2022 at 7:46 AM

"...unless you want to manually throw yourself back and forth about like a character on the Starship Enterprise, there are no physical effects to simulate movement or impacts on the Bridge." Thank you for that fantastic visual; I think $30 of gin and tonic would have me doing just that.

Actually, how long before we have Trekker's cosplaying, Ren faire style, as a landing party on a dieing planet where the upper middle class seals themselves off in a windowless hotel and pretend to blast off into space (while the 0.1% does it for real)?

Great articles, Russell.

March 6, 2022 at 10:12 AM

@Joseph - Actually my wife, who's been following a lot of the social media posts from the Galactic Starcruiser closer than I have, stumbled across a photo of 2 passengers taking their portrait at the entrance wearing full-on Starfleet uniforms. Supposedly the crew members and characters took it in stride treating the guests as if they were from some "unknown" planet. One of the 2 guests was wearing red, so I cannot confirm whether or not they made it back to Earth.

March 6, 2022 at 11:53 AM

Imho, a big miss is the transportation vehicle between the Starcruiser and Batuu. Guests are literally transported in a windowless box truck! Images of it have popped up online! Seriously Disney?!?! Is that the best you could do?!?!

March 6, 2022 at 1:45 PM

Yeowser, literally what would be the point of theming the outside of the transport vehicle? You can't see it from the hotel nor within the park, so that'd just be spending money for no reason.

March 6, 2022 at 4:00 PM

Re: James Trexan

I was referring to the interior of it. Like why could they not put screens inside to simulate a space voyage similar to the Hogwarts Express experience at Universal studios Orlando

March 6, 2022 at 5:58 PM

The Hogwarts Express is a ride on an elevated track. This is ground transport. To sync any action on a screen with actual movement would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Maybe Disney could have turned this into a ride, but then would face logistical nightmares if it breaks down and affects the planned itinerary.

March 6, 2022 at 6:10 PM

Now I know where all the Star Wars entertainment went that was advertised for Galaxy’s Edge.

March 7, 2022 at 8:10 AM

@Aaron McMahon - My thoughts exactly. Just about everything that Imagineering promised would be in Galaxy's Edge but is missing from the final product is on the Galactic Starcruiser. Sometimes ambitious ideas come at a cost, and unfortunately, what many guests thought could seen on Batuu with a ticket to DHS is now behind an expensive paywall.

@James - I strongly think Disney had originally planned the transport between the Halcyon and Batuu to be some type of train system (either aerial system like the Hogwart's Express or a subterranean version like many automated airport trams and city subway systems). This clearly was a situation where ambition conflicted with financial reality. If you look at the really early concept drawings of the experience, a this is definitely depicted as a train-style vehicle, and not a box on wheels.

As far as windows, I absolutely think Disney could have done more here even if they had to made it a box truck. Yes, the illusion is not broken, and the drive from the Starcruiser to DHS (and back) does not look or feel like riding in the back of a truck from the guest's perspective, but it really seems like Disney cut corners here. Perhaps this was the compromise to maintain other features of the experience, and the intricate details of a <5 minute experience were insignificant compare the the rest of project. In either event, I just don't think it would be that difficult to install "windows" into the passenger cabin and to have it synch with the trip.

March 7, 2022 at 10:36 AM

If you can add VR to roller coasters, then adding screens to a box van should be a breeze.

March 7, 2022 at 11:19 AM

A good take, I like how we're seeing more reasoned views of this rather than judging off photos, etc. I do agree it'd be better to have some illusion on elevators, etc. I still miss the old "Hydrolaters" at Living Seas mimicking you were going down hundreds of feet, it's the little touches that help.

Again, this is all way out of my price range to try but nice to see a good analysis of it.

March 8, 2022 at 11:10 AM

@James Trexen
It's not difficult nor impossible. This video is from 2016 and tech used is global positioning, a gyroscope for movement and real time rendered CGI.

March 9, 2022 at 11:11 AM

@ Russell and Joseph: I am willing to bet that Disney anticipated Trekkers trying to be funny and that cast members have been prepared for it. I recalling seeing video of Trekkers in cosplay way back when Galaxy's Edge first opened and cast members taking it in stride.

@ Russell and Aaron: I concur. It was am ambitious thought to do in-story interactions with the tens of thousands daily that would come through Galaxy's Edge per day. I have wondered if, once imagineers realized how difficult this would be to achieve (or if the business types cancelled it over cost), that the concept of the Galactic Starcruiser was born.

@ all the transport critics: Maybe a more realistic shuttle from the Starcruiser to Batuu will be added in the 2.0 build. Eventually there will need to be some things added or changed to keep the (high paying) customers coming back!

March 9, 2022 at 12:32 PM

@TwoBits - The impression I got from the Imagineers I spoke with was that the Galactic Starcruiser was developed alongside Galaxy's Edge, not as a result of budget cuts or changes to the original concept for the theme park land. Most of us have probably read about the concepts and other features that were abandoned as Galaxy's Edge went from idea to reality (table service dinner show, Bantha attraction, X-wing drone show, Jedi battles, CM interactions, role-playing, etc...), but I think there was always this acceptance that the Starcruiser was going to be a premium experience that took aspects of Galaxy's Edge to another level. I also think there are plenty of interactive elements on Batuu, but the problem is that they simply don't deliver or strike the proper chord in a theme park land filled shoulder to shoulder with thousands of guests. I think Disney recognized this from the very beginning by also developing the Galactic Starcruiser, but perhaps overmarketed Galaxy's Edge in the process understanding that the Halcyon would fill a huge void that could not be done on Batuu.

March 10, 2022 at 12:49 AM

Maybe GE could've been a little more interactive, but, to me, Starcruiser is TOO interactive. I mean, you're supposed to be engaged and involved nearly every minute, except when you get a break for eating and sleep. Wow, sounds like going to work...

From what I've seen of this overwrought experience, I prefer Galaxy's Edge. And it won't set you back 6K.

March 10, 2022 at 9:29 AM

@Still a fan - The Galactic Starcruiser is not for everyone, despite Disney's marketing attempts to make it sound like it is. I've said it before that the price is partially designed to attract guests who are committed to the experience to ensure guest satisfaction. There are plenty of other examples of people paying tons of money for an exclusive experience that requires a lot of work from participants (sports, music, and drama fantasy camps come to mind). Like fantasy camps, role-playing on the Galactic Starcruiser may sound like "work", but the most dedicated guests will find joy in experiences where they can be immersed in their character and stories unfolding around them.

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