Inside Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser at Walt Disney World Resort
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser made its debut to guests at Walt Disney World Resort in March, welcoming them aboard for a two-night vacation experience described as “part live immersive theater, part themed environment, part culinary extravaganza, part real-life role-playing game.”
“We want you to believe that you’re on a starcruiser, cruising through the stars from a galaxy far, far away. It’s also Star Wars, but unlike the movie, where the characters walk off the screen—and you have no idea where they go—here, they walk out a door, and you can follow them,” says Cory Rouse, creative director, Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI). “That’s the fun of this particular design. This is why it’s so new.
It’s because everything is in play, including the other passengers. It’s not just about the big action you’re watching in a movie or play. It’s really treated like a real world, and the complexity is added by how you perceive it and what you’re going to do next.”
Following a check-in at the Galactic Starcruiser Terminal, guests enter a Launch Pod that jumps to hyperspace, leaving Orlando, Florida, behind and quickly traveling to the Halcyon starcruiser in space. Guests step off the pod and enter the ship’s main deck Atrium, where Captain Riyola Keevan and Cruise Director Lenka Mok greet passengers to begin their journey.
Exploring the Halcyon Starcruiser
The Halcyon is a 275-year-old ship that has been restored to its original glory by Chandrila Star Line to re-create its maiden voyage from the Core World of Chandrila to the far-flung Outer Rim destination of Batuu.
Moving from their cabins to the Sublight Lounge for a drink or to the Engineering Room for an off-the-books rendezvous, guests add to their personal storylines aboard the ship. When they sit down for dinner at the Crown of Corellia Dining Room, they’re treated to live entertainment and a menu of specially crafted food and beverage offerings that took more than three years to develop.
Bobby Rivera, chef de cuisine for concept development at Walt Disney World Resort, says the team’s goal was to make food that tastes familiar but looks different and out of this world, with unique colors and textures, taking inspiration from Star Wars planets and lore.
“We explore each planet uniquely, so that’s why you might have some fire element-driven courses or some ice courses,” he says. “For example, we have a dish for our second night from Mustafar, a fiery planet. We made this lava-inspired, burnt, ashes bread and cheese course, so that’s how we played with the story.”
Passengers can catch glimpses of passing spaceships, distant planets, and asteroids through viewports, and along the way, they can dress the part with their favorite Star Wars-themed apparel or clothing and accessories from The Chandrila Collection, an onboard boutique with collectibles, droids, and home goods.
“Our partners at Lucasfilm and WDI are amazing storytellers, and they’re the ones who really bring the story to life. We are here to complement and extend the storytelling for the guest,” says Cody Hampton, senior manager of brand merchandising for Lucasfilm, of the merchandise exclusive to Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. “We wanted to make sure guests were prepared for these voyages and to look for that elegant side of the films. … Even a black dress, although it’s a unique design created for this, it has inspirations taken from Qi’ra from ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story.’”
Guests can also discover details around the ship directly inspired by the Star Wars universe, with elements that call back to Dryden Vos’ First Light yacht and Leia Organa’s Tantive IV starship.
“The Halcyon is one of the very first opportunities now where we’re actually combining prequel aesthetics with the original trilogy aesthetics,” says Doug Chiang, vice president and executive creative director, Lucasfilm Creative. “By merging all of those, we’re creating a very cohesive time-line for all designs. And what I really like is that it’s bringing something new to Star Wars because Star Wars needs that component where you have to update and sort of expand the universe. George [Lucas] created such a vast playground for us that we’re barely touching on that. And the Halcyon, I think, is a wonderful opportunity for us to really expand on that further.”
Activities continue the story immersion. Lightsaber Training teaches participants how to wield a lightsaber and allows them to test their newfound skills against a remote training device. Bridge Training relies on the power of teamwork, as passengers work together as a crew to keep the Halcyon safe by learning and operating navigation, power, defense, and other critical systems.
Characters Around Just About Every Corner
The narrative of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser takes place between “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” While aboard the Halcyon, guests encounter well-known characters from the films like Chewbacca and Rey, as well as new ones, including an enthusiastic mechanic named Sammie, singer-songwriter Gaya, and First Order Lt. Harman Croy.
“We wanted to build characters that could stand up to some of those iconic Star Wars characters that you know and would also be characters that you could really feel like you could access,” says Wendy Anderson, executive creative director, Walt Disney Imagineering. “I think so much of this experience lives in these smaller, subtler moments where these characters are existing. They’re living their lives, and they’re inviting you to come and play with them if you want to. Everything that we’re doing on board the starcruiser is this invitation to go deeper in the story if you want to.”
With varying allegiances to the Resistance and the First Order, the characters bring to life the Halcyon’s interactive storytelling experience. As guests interact with characters, they make connections, explore hidden areas of the ship, find out useful information, and participate in secret missions that drive the story forward, with deviating goals and outcomes, depending on the side with which they decide to align themselves.
Excursion to Black Spire Outpost on Batuu
The experience also includes Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the themed land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that transports visitors to the planet Batuu. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser were developed concurrently through years of collaboration between Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm Ltd.
Passengers board a special transport shuttle to continue their story on land, enjoy Batuu’s attractions—“Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance” and “Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run”—and participate in missions that affect events on the ship when they return. Ahead of their trip to Batuu, guests can visit the Halcyon’s Climate Simulator, an open-air onboard location that mimics outdoor conditions of the planet.
Using the Star Wars: Datapad inside the Play Disney Parks mobile app, guests can keep tabs on their itineraries, accept invitations to meetings, send and receive messages related to missions, and access maps and tools while at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and on Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.
“All of this is an invitation to engage on whatever level you want to. I kind of like to say that this is an offering that we’ve designed for people who love Star Wars and people who love people who love Star Wars,” says Matt Martin, senior creative executive, Lucasfilm Story Group. “There’s a little bit for everybody because we know that not everybody wants to lean in in the same amount and not everyone wants to play in the same way. So we truly attempted to design an experience that can accommodate a whole bunch of different ranges of desire to play.”
- Juanita Chavarro Arias is the managing editor of Funworld. Contact her at [email protected]