First-hand adventure in a galaxy far, far away2 May 2022
/ A hotel and an immersive experience: Disney’s new Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser /
For decades, theme parks have tried to deliver fully immersive entertainment to their guests. And for decades, since the first Star Wars movie hit the theaters, people have dreamed of what it would be like to live in that universe: what is it like to travel to a galaxy far, far away? To fly on a starship, make friends with an alien, wield a lightsaber, engage in a space battle? Now Disney has gone all out to answer, with the new Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser that opened on March 1st.
Mostly known as the “Star Wars hotel,” it is actually a fully immersive experience that blurs the lines between resort hotel, cruise, video game, role playing adventure, dinner show and escape room. This first-of-its-kind immersive adventure is a vacation experience going beyond anything Disney has created before.
You don’t book a room for one night or one week at the Galactic Starcruiser: you “board” a 275-year-old space liner called the Halcyon on a 2-night cruise (or mission) to the planet of Batuu, and back. And you don’t just take a cruise: you step right into the world of Star Wars, interacting with its characters and taking part in the action, becoming the hero of your own story. Throughout the voyage, guests’ choices determine their personal stories as they interact with characters, crew and other passengers, becoming part of the action and the broader Star Wars saga. They may be asked to keep a secret, deliver a covert message, take part in a high-stakes heist, defend the ship, hide an ally… the possibilities are seemingly endless.
Guests start their adventure when they arrive at the Galactic Starcruiser Terminal, near Disney’s Hollywood Studios, to check in. The grey concrete space is designed in keeping with other star-trip ports that appeared in the franchise, and visitors have to get there during the appointed time slot, or their ship will already have departed (which, given the hefty price tag, would be a pity). Here guests go through a security briefing, focusing for instance on the difference between in-game emergency signals and real-life ones, or on emergency exits in rooms that supposedly have no door or windows to the outside, on account of this being a space ship. Then they board a Launch Pod for their hyperspace jump, which means they can watch through viewports and see their world fall away as they draw closer to the Halcyon starcruiser. When the Launch Pod docks and the airlock opens, guests step into the ship’s main deck atrium to begin their journey through a galaxy far, far away.
Here is where the adventure begins. A first “Muster” happens as soon as the guests are all on board, and this becomes the starting point for all the different story threads that move the experience forward. Because Galactic Starcruiser is a kind of choose-your-own adventure, and while a general scaffolding holds things together, with an “all is lost” moment at the end of day one and an epic conclusion at the end of day 2, the guest’s choices and action change the way the stories evolve. And if the investment in designing the ship itself and in having all crew in character for 60 hours is commendable, the real feat here for Disney was developing an all-new kind of storytelling, one specifically designed so that passengers’ adventures will play out differently. “There are paths that you can begin, and from that, your choices actually really do matter,” said Cory Rouse, creative director with Walt Disney Imagineering. “So the idea is that no one can sit back and ingest the entire story. It’s a living, breathing world that you really can influence.”
The program includes a “day excursion on Planet Batuu” on day 2, which is really…
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Photos Courtesy: Walt Disney World Resort/photographers Matt Stroshane and Kent Phillips
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