The all-new ‘Star Wars’ hotel is the travel experience I waited 45 years to enjoy
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Editor’s note: TPG’s Benet Wilson was a guest of Walt Disney World on a two-night media preview of the Galactic Starcruiser experience. Disney provided her travel to the event and the two-night experience itself. The opinions expressed below are entirely hers and weren’t subject to review by Disney.
Also, beware there are some plotline spoilers below, so if you want the experience to be a total surprise on your own voyage through the galaxy, these may not be the droids you are looking for.
To say the brand-new Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel was off the chain would be the understatement of the century. From the Disney cast members who never broke character to the technology that makes it seem as if you are flying through space, the almost-obsessive attention to detail and immersive storytelling actually made me forget I was in a building in Orlando and instead had me feeling like I was traveling through hyperspace.
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I was 14 years old when my love of “Star Wars” started after the release of the first film in 1977. And now, 45 years later, I was among a lucky group of around 200 guests invited to a sneak peek of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, which is set to officially open on March 1.
No detail was missed in creating this interactive hotel adventure. The perfect combination of Disney magic, Lucasfilm history and Industrial Light & Magic storytelling through technology made this experience one I’ll never forget.
While words hardly do it justice, here is my best attempt at walking you through my favorite parts of my journey on the Halcyon starcruiser.
Life on board the Galactic Starcruiser
From the moment I arrived “on board” I immediately felt transported to another galaxy.
After entering the hotel, or starcruiser as the case may be, I was given a briefing for my voyage before visiting the launch pod deck to “fly” to my “ship.” When I disembarked into the two-level atrium on Deck 6, crew members were there to wish me a “good journey.” And it would be a good journey indeed.
As I traveled through “a galaxy far, far away,” I learned all about various crew members’ origins.
It was amazing to hear them talk about their home planets, including Bespin (home to Cloud City), Tatooine (where Luke Skywalker grew up), Jakku (where Rey lives) and Naboo (home of Senator Padmé Amidala and Emperor Palpatine), with such specificity.
Upon opening my assigned cabin door with the provided special-edition “Star Wars” MagicBand, I saw that I, along with my two friends who had come for the journey, would be bunking up in a room that looked out into space.
It wasn’t an overly large cabin by any stretch, but what it may lack in square feet, it makes up for in views.
Our room had a bathroom with separate spaces for the sink, the shower and the toilet. The sliding doors had latches for privacy; however, these can be a bit unwieldy to open and close if you have long fingernails or small fingers.
Like on an airplane, you could watch your ship’s journey on the map — but to way cooler destinations. If you happen to be in your cabin during a battle, look out the window and you may see First Order TIE fighters and feel the impact of the torpedos and experience the jump to lightspeed.
A full roster of onboard experiences
While you have to rest sometime, this is not the place to stay if you want to sleep, lounge lazily by the pool or miss out on the activities while you go to Tosche Station to pick up power converters. You’re not sleeping here at night to go to other Disney World theme parks during the day — you’re staying here for the whole experience.
During each day of my stay, I was busy and had been assigned various tasks to complete.
One moment, I was undergoing bridge training to learn how to operate navigation systems, shields, controls, loaders and weapons. The next, I was scrambling to follow the captain’s orders as we found ourselves in a “battle” against the First Order. It seemed so real, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.
I even had the opportunity to train with a lightsaber instructor. Yes, a lightsaber. This was such a mind-blowing moment and the 14-year-old version of me would not believe this was happening in real life.
The training from the instructor who taught me how to properly wield my weapon would come in handy later as I battled with TIE fighters while helping Rey safely board the Halcyon.
And just like you have to rest, even in space, you also have to eat (and maybe even enjoy cocktails and snacks in the Sublight Lounge). I kicked up my weary space boots and enjoyed a few beverages and snacks, including a Mandalorian Sling (the galactic equivalent of a classic Manhattan) with a cheese platter that came out in a dramatic, smoke-filled cloche.
At night, we got to head to our 8 p.m. seating in the Crown of Corellia dining room, with included delicious fare from around the galaxy.
We got to try everything, but my personal favorite was the bantha beef tenderloin with a tamarind glaze. I never could have guessed what the elephant-like creatures (with fur and elaborate tusks) first seen in the 1977 film tasted like, but with a side of crushed moon rock potatoes, they were a real hit.
The evening entertainment also didn’t disappoint. It kept me immersed in the universe that was once conjured in George Lucas’ mind but is now brought to life.
Adventures beyond the ship
My journey wasn’t limited to the ship, either.
On the second day of the two-night experience, I was “flown” to the planet of Batuu, otherwise known as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios via the Batuu Transport.
While there were no special activities planned for guests upon arrival, you did have access to the faster Lightning Lanes preloaded on your MagicBand to ensure a shorter wait for the attractions. In the few hours I was there, I had the chance to enjoy all there is to love about the park’s “Star Wars” section.
This included riding Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, and visiting Oga’s Cantina for an otherworldly space drink.
The attractions, theming and even the lip-numbing Fuzzy Tauntaun space drinks had already hit high notes.
But all of the high-tech components of the rides and intricate design details of the park weren’t even the best part of the experience. The highlight was when a small African American girl ran up to me, screamed “Princess Leia!” and gave me a big hug.
It was probably my side buns, aided by the immersive intergalactic setting, but it was a truly heartwarming moment that was more than smoke and lightsabers.
Meeting my favorite characters
As you’ve probably figured out by now, this isn’t just a physical hotel with a space theme or a dinner theater where you are a spectator watching the show. You are in the experience, living it with the characters.
And back on the ship, my interactions with the crew members, officers and stormtroopers were great, but it wasn’t until some of my favorite characters started appearing that I really felt at home in the “Star Wars” universe.
I spotted one of my all-time favorites, Chewbacca, wandering the halls, just as tall in person as he was in the movies.
A stowaway on the Halcyon, Chewbacca needed help. My help. We had to keep him hidden, so after taking a selfie with him (he is the most famous of the wookiees after all), I assisted the others in keeping him safe and out of view by sending him up the elevator.
He would emerge later on when I was tasked with helping Rey secretly board the ship. (There’s lots of sneaking around in “Star Wars.”) Following her safe transport, I watched in awe as Rey battled Kylo Ren in what must have been a highly choreographed scene. Rey eventually defeated him and the First Order.
Talk about an exhausting (but thrilling) way to wrap up my experience.
My “Star Wars” voyage was more than I could have imagined. Never in my wildest dreams as a kid could I dream up a vacation as immersive and life-changing as this one, yet somehow, Disney made it happen.
“Star Wars” fans are a unique breed who crave authenticity in all things related to the movies. They demand the utmost attention to detail in everything attached to the “Star Wars” name. Miraculously, Disney seems to have found a way to do the impossible and please those die-hard fans.
I couldn’t believe how real the world around me felt while staying at the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. And honestly, part of me still can’t believe it was real. Even if you’re not a “Star Wars” geek like me, you’ll find it hard not to be floored by the experience of staying here … assuming the price tag of several thousand dollars doesn’t floor you before you enter the building.
Now pinch me so I know for sure that this wasn’t just a wildly imaginative dream.
Featured photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.
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