After just 19 months of operation, Walt Disney World’s Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel will make its last voyage at the end of September.
“It didn’t perform exactly like we wanted it to perform, so we decided that we’re going to sunset this in September,” Josh D’Amaro, Disney Parks chairman, said on Monday at the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference.
The bombshell announcement this week left theme park fans running the gamut of emotions. There was shock, for sure, but also sadness, anger and, of course, plenty of jokes poking fun at one of the company’s most expensive and exclusive experiences.
In a statement, Disney praised the cast members and Imagineers who helped bring Starcruiser to life. The company also said new bookings are paused through May 26.
In its statement, Disney said:
“Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is one of our most creative projects ever and has been praised by our guests and recognized for setting a new bar for innovation and immersive entertainment. This premium, boutique experience gave us the opportunity to try new things on a smaller scale of 100 rooms, and as we prepare for its final voyage, we will take what we’ve learned to create future experiences that can reach more of our guests and fans.”
“We are so proud of all of the Cast Members and Imagineers who brought Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser to life and look forward to delivering an excellent experience for Guests during the remaining voyages over the coming months.”
The Galactic Starcruiser debuted last spring to much fanfare and controversy.
The cost for a two-night stay “aboard” the famous Halcyon space cruise ship is roughly $4,800-$6,000, depending on the number of people in your group and the size of your cabin. The price includes room and board, all food and drinks (minus alcohol) and an excursion to Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
That shakes out to around $1,200 per person per day. It’s a steep figure, especially when compared to several days at the parks or week-long Disney vacation packages that cost roughly the same.
The purpose of the hotel was to give fans the experience of living a “real” Star Wars story — as close as they could get, anyway. Cruisers turned into cosplayers, getting creative in putting together Star Wars-y outfits for the full luxury LARPing (live action role playing) voyage.
Guests are treated as passengers aboard the Halcyon as it cruises through space. The story is set during the era of the sequel films, so you’ll cross paths with First Order officers, stormtroopers, Resistance spies, reluctant heroes, musicians and everything in between. There are also live shows and interactions with beloved characters like Rey Skywalker, Kylo Ren and Chewbacca.
There are also chances for lightsaber building and training, droid racing, bridge training on the Halcyon’s deck and “unexpected story moments” like helping the Resistance or the First Order.
Since it opened, the Starcruiser has hosted roughly 60,000 guests and boasts high guest satisfaction ratings. The hotel even won a THEA Award back in November for outstanding achievement in brand excellence and themed entertainment.
But the discourse hit a fever pitch the week of Starcruiser’s opening last March, shortly after VIPs and media — journalists, bloggers, influencers and the like — were invited to preview the Starcruiser.
Most of the backlash came because of the price tag — and the subjectivity of people praising an expensive experience they got to do for free. Free media previews aren’t a new concept in brand marketing, but the anger surrounding the Starcruiser one seemed unprecedented.
Now that the Starcruiser is closing, the same discourse has resurfaced, proving several things can be true simultaneously:
- Galactic Starcruiser is unaffordable for the average fan.
- Galactic Starcruiser cost a lot to create and to maintain.
- Cast members and Imagineers poured heartfelt creativity into one of Disney’s most immersive experiences.
- For most people who get to stay onboard Starcruiser, their experience is unique and unforgettable.
So, what happens next? Fans have already begun speculating and sharing ideas.
For many diehard Star Wars fans — me included — there’s a level of disappointment about not getting the chance to experience Starcruiser. Photos and videos made Starcruiser look like a dream adventure, and many of us were holding out hope that Disney would someday offer deeper discounts.
The exclusivity and paywalling of the experience make the impending closure sting even more. Many can’t fathom why closing Starcruiser is a better financial decision for Disney than retooling it to something more affordable and accessible.
Disney isn’t known for being transparent, so I doubt we’ll ever see a detailed cost-benefit analysis of changing versus closing the Starcruiser.
According to Theme Park Insider founder and editor Robert Niles, “Disney does not do ‘boutique’” experiences, especially with CEO Bob Iger at the helm.
Though bookings cost over $1,000 per person, with only 100 rooms, Niles said Disney likely spent more money accommodating visitors than it does at any of its other resorts. It’s also likely that the cost of running such an immersive, “boutique” space cruiser is too high to offer the types of discounts fans have been asking for since the Starcruiser opened.
But according to The Motley Fool, a Virginia-based financial and investment analysis company, the Starcruiser was “doomed” back in January when Disney started offering such discounts.
The markdowns meant guests could save as much as $700 if they combined a Starcruiser voyage with another Disney World resort package. Then, the discounts grew to 30% on select stays for annual passholders, Disney credit card holders and Disney Vacation Club members.
Still, while many will say the Starcruiser failed, others, like The Motley Fool, see it as a “costly learning process” and an experiment in story-based immersive experiences.
“The media giant was able to create an interactive journey that would let guests weave themselves into Star Wars lore storylines,” the company wrote. “It offered a round-the-clock adventure that makes its equally costly cruiser ships seem uninspiring by comparison.”
Looking ahead, fans have touted a variety of ideas for Starcruiser — from “docking it” at Galaxy’s Edge and turning it into a walk-through experience with cantinas, shops and characters, to retooling the building into a standard Disney resort with Star Wars theming.
I, and I’m sure other fans as well, would love to saddle up to the bar and play Sabacc at the Sublight Lounge, hear Gaya sing her best hits, and see an epic lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo Ren — a story point set between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker.
In the end, many Star Wars and Disney fans don’t want to lose a unique experience like the Starcruiser. We just don’t want to feel shut out from a place that was clearly created with us mind.
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