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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