From the outside, a Star Wars themed hotel, set within the boundaries of the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, seemed like a guaranteed win. Attached to the Galaxy’s Edge theme park area located within Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser – which was branded as a ‘two-day experience’ – opened with a huge amount of fanfare in early 2022, but very soon, the reality was that this hotel was not for everybody.
The 100-room resort, themed like a luxury cruise ship set in space, included screens designed to simulate space, as well as ‘on-board experiences’ where guests would be assigned roles and take part in storylines across their two-day stay. It included elements of role-playing and character engagement, with droids rolling around the ship, and an “off-world excursion” to the planet of Batuu – the storyline name of Galaxy’s Edge – where guests would interact with characters from the franchise, including the likes of Rey, Kylo Ren, Din Djarin, Grogu, and swathes of Stormtroopers clad in white, and even train in lightsaber duelling.
If this all sounds fantastic to you as a Star Wars fan – and even if you’re not a fan – here comes the rub. The price of boarding the Starcruiser (named The Halcyon) came at a cost of $4,800 for a couple, or $6,000 for a family of four. Brass tax, that’s nearly five grand for two days. And that was simply unsustainable, as Disney found to their considerable cost.
Disney Are Cutting Costs Everywhere
The news of the closure came on the same day that Disney announced they were abandoning plans to build a $1 billion complex that would house their “Imagineers” as a direct result of their feud with Florida Governor and, tragically, Presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis. The loss of the complex cost the state of Florida over 2,000 jobs for the state. California governor Gavin Newsom tweeted his delight at Disney’s decision to remain in California, taunting DeSantis over his behaviour.
The Wrap reported that there were talks of turning Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser into an experience inspired by The Mandalorian, perhaps the most popular Star Wars property right now. It was also suggested to give day guests “tours” of the hotel that would include access to the bar, dinner, and gift shop. But the fact remained, Disney CEO (at the time) Bob Chapek bet big on diehard fans dropping the big bucks at a time when families just couldn’t afford it, particularly in the wake of the pandemic.
The whole story had vibes of Jurassic Park about it – a bespoke, costly experience that only the 1% could actually afford, with moneymen perhaps joking that maybe they could have a ‘coupon day’ to allow guests who had saved for years to visit Disney World the chance to come aboard. The Starcruiser had been hit with low occupancy from the outset, and Disney had attempted to recruit vloggers and YouTubers aboard to show off the product but as good as it looked, it was never worth the money. $4,800 for a room with no windows does not make anybody come across well.
Additionally, the forcing of guests to join storylines aboard the ship meant people never truly got to experience the entire layout of the Starcruiser properly. Critics labelled the instructions given to guests as part of their “narrative arcs” as “mandatory fun”. The final voyage, in September, has sold out, and the company will have it go down as a $300 million tax write-off.
What they do with their galactic white elephant from this point is a mystery. Could it be retrofitted as a hotel? Possibly, but the rooms are too small, there’s no swimming pool, and only 100 rooms – when you consider most Disney resorts come with rooms in the thousands, a boutique experience is never going to happen. It will be a lesson learned for Disney who, when they next build an attraction, remember what Walt Disney always intended – that his parks are for the many, not the few.