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Disney's new Star Wars themed cruise offers fans an immersive experience. Photos courtesy of Walt Disney inc.
By John Gaudiosi

Disney World’s Latest Resort Is Out of This World

The Walt Disney Company continues to expand its Star Wars universe beyond the traditional movies, TV shows, video games, comics, merch, toys, and novels. The latest experience is exclusive to Walt Disney World, just outside Hollywood Studios’ 14-acre Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge land. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser offers the most immersive Star Wars experience you’ll find on this planet, although the two-night, two-and-a-half-day cruise will cost you $5,000 to $6,000.

A True Homage

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser may be listed as another resort amidst Disney’s four theme parks and two water parks, but it’s definitely nothing like the other traditional hotels spread throughout the sprawling property.

From the moment you drive up to the Galactic Starcruiser Terminal and take the launch pod up to the Halcyon starcruiser, you and your family become part of a live-action role-playing experience that combines video game design, live theater, costumed characters and aliens, and of course, lightsabers. For Star Wars fans, this is a dream come true, especially if you have kids who are into the lore.

Scott Trowbridge, Portfolio Creative Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, said this is an offering designed for people who love Star Wars and people who love people who love Star Wars.

“We’ve made it safe and fun to dress up and play Star Wars, but you don’t need to dress up,” said Trowbridge.

The Halcyon starcruiser is the jewel of the Chandrila Star Line, and your voyage celebrates 275 years of lavish cruises. Han Solo and Princess Leia honeymooned aboard this 100-cabin Corellian MPO-1400 model starcruiser. And the massive ship was built in the same shipyards as the Millenium Falcon. Speaking of the Falcon, that beloved ship makes an appearance in your adventure, along with its hairy co-pilot, Chewbacca.

Doug Chiang, Vice President / Creative Director, Lucasfilm Creative, said that in Star Wars films and TV shows, the experience is guided by the filmmakers.

“With Halcyon and Galaxy’s Edge, we’re allowing guests to create their own story,” Chiang said.

An Immersive Star Wars Experience

Chiang said the Halcyon bridge’s design is modeled on aesthetics from all of the films. George Lucas designed all of the guidelines, allowing the Galactic Starcruiser to combine prequel aesthetics with those in the original trilogy.

“A lot of details aboard the Halcyon are the same fidelity as we create for feature films,” Chiang explained. “It’s the same materials and fabrics we’d use in our movie sets. To design something where there are no tricks – the view you see out your window into space is in real-time. You’re allowed to go everywhere on the ship, which is like one giant movie set. And over the two-and-a-half days experience, the suspension of disbelief is never broken.”

Trowbridge and his team of Walt Disney Imagineers have been developing the interactive storyline and the technology that enables this level of immersion for the past six-and-a-half years. The experience was developed in tandem with Galaxy’s Edge, which opened in two phases in June and December 2019. Those who have visited that land in Florida or its identical twin at Disneyland in Anaheim, are familiar with the timeline that’s set between the events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. That allows characters like Chewie, Rey and Kylo Ren to play a role in both the Halcyon experience and Galaxy’s Edge.

“As we were developing Galaxy’s Edge at the same time as Starcruiser, we thought about what characters could exist across the two experiences,” said Wendy Anderson, Executive Creative Director of Walt Disney Imagineering. “It’s unlike anything anyone has done before because it’s so rooted in Star Wars canon and what the passengers bring as they choose if they want to play in the underworld or aid the First Order or join the Resistance.”

Trowbridge explained that the stories that start aboard the Halcyon experience will follow passengers down to the land as part of the shore excursion to Black Spire Outpost on Batuu.

“What happens there, the way we integrate the attractions, the different lens that we give our Halcyon passengers to see those attraction experiences and other new experiences that we invite them to have on the land, and then have the results of those experiences, the results of those choices, follow you back up to the ship,” Trowbridge said.

Guests can choose their own unique Star Wars adventure rooted in Star Wars canon.

From the moment you step off the shuttle pod and into the ornate lobby of the Halcyon, guests mingle with aliens, crew, and droids Including SK-620 and D3-09. The story takes a dark turn when First Order Lieutenant Harman Croy boards the ship with stormtroopers to seek out any Resistance fighters. That opens up the ability to choose sides and either help the Resistance members embedded on the ship’s crew or turn them over to the First Order. Depending on whether you choose to follow the Light side or the Dark side, you’ll be given secret missions to perform down on Batuu using the Data Pad (which is unlocked on the Play Disney Parks app). Passengers will also receive Lightning Lane passes to ride Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run and Rise of the Resistance, which tie back to the events on the Halcyon and culminate in an epic Hollywood-style battle that takes place in 360 degrees as you stand in the lobby.

Without giving away the plot points, which will be fun to experience first-hand, there are opportunities to rescue Chewbacca and come face-to-face with the hulking, hairy Wookie aboard the starcruiser. That alone is something that die-hard fans (many of whom cosplay for the cruise experience) will find worth the price of admission.

Also, the entire experience has been designed for children and adults to play together. From the video game bridge experiences that offer four styles of interactivity and giant immersive screens to see the action unfold to the physical button and lever puzzles in the ship’s engine room to playing a four-player holographic Sabaac card game in the SubLight Lounge to learning the ways of the force with lightsaber training (with added light shields for more interactions), interactivity unfolds on multiple levels given the live actors that constantly play a role in your cruise.

“Depending on who you meet, you can trust them or double-cross them as you want your story to unfold,” Anderson said. “As a result, each passenger’s cruise experience will be different, just as each cruise will be unique.”

The term “cruise” is used often to describe the Halcyon, and for good reason. This hotel doesn’t have the fancy pools and amenities that guests are used to in resorts like the Polynesian Village, the Grand Floridian, and the Beach and Yacht Clubs. What you’re paying for here is immersive theater set in the Star Wars universe. And since the story takes place throughout the ship, your cabin is mostly used for sleeping (not unlike the experience on a Disney Cruise Line ship). The more you are out and about interacting and role-playing, the more fun you’ll have over the course of the cruise.

Your AI Guide to the Star Wars Universe

Of course, this being Star Wars, when you are in your cabin, you can keep up with the events across the ship via D3-09, a unique virtual robot that is housed in each of the 100 rooms.

“D3-09 is one of our first AI experiences,” said Trowbridge. “She fills you in with rumors and scuttlebutt about the cruise. She’s been on the ship for 275 years and she really wants to hear from you. She learns and changes based on the conversations you have with her. We’re trying to make you feel like you’re having real, meaningful interactions.”

D3-09 will also play a role in progressing your personalized story forward during the cruise. The way that the story intersects with traditional cruise staples like elaborate dinners with live entertainment from Twi’lek Gaya and her band in the Crown of Corellia dining room really keeps you immersed.

Authentic Tatooine Cuisine

Stop in at the Cantina for authentic Bantha Beef Sirloin or a Mandalore Sling.

Also, the elaborate cuisine that ties into Star Wars planets and lore is both colorful and tasty like the Bantha Beef Sirloin and the Tip Yip Chicken. There are also plenty of new alcoholic beverages like the Pod Chaser, Hoth Frost, Mooja Twist and Mandalore Sling. And just like a cruise ship, breakfasts and lunches are buffet style and casual, while dinners are assigned seating with more formal wear (in this case, Star Wars attire, including the exclusive Chandrilla Collection available in the ship’s gift shop).

The price tag alone shows that this Star Wars experience isn’t for everyone. And if you’re not into Star Wars, you’re not going to reserve one of the 100 cabins aboard the Halcyon. But for fans, the smaller number of passengers will allow the fully immersive experience to unfold in a very personal way. Crew members will know your name, and as their stories progress, it’s like being part of an entertaining Star Wars movie experience, or as close as you can get to one in the real world.

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Disney World’s Latest Resort Is Out of This World

September 23, 2022
By John Gaudiosi

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