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The gentle purr of the engine hums as planets, spaceships and asteroids pass by in the surrounding windows.
The galactic superstar Gaya dazzles with her songs, capturing the attention of guests and First Order lieutenants alike while colorful alien-inspired cocktails are passed around.
There’s a slight commotion in the corner as a group tries to smuggle Chewbacca off the ship – but the typically watchful stormtroopers seem equally distracted by Gaya’s performance so they fortunately don’t notice the towering fuzzball and his young helpers.
These are some of the sights and sounds for a passenger traveling aboard the Halcyon, the ship at the center of the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser resort experience, opening Tuesday, March 1, at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
To call it a hotel would be uninspired and inaccurate – it’s a voyage. I participated this week in one of the Starcruiser’s first journeys (also known as a “media preview”).
The first of its kind, Galactic Starcruiser is an immersive two-night stay where guests can experience what it might be like to travel aboard a gleaming starship a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. And for Star Wars fans, it’s a chance to live out your own story, rather than simply following the trials and tribulations of beloved characters.
Your story, determined by your choices and actions from beginning to end, coincides with those of the newer “Star Wars” films. Members of the First Order and the Resistance make an appearance along the way.
Alongside familiar faces such as Rey and Kylo Ren are new characters developed for the Halcyon experience. Some of those include the blue-skinned Captain Riyola Keevan who leads the voyage, warm and engaging cruise director Lenka Mok and SK-62O, an astromech droid often spotted rolling around the ship.
Galactic Starcruiser was developed for the past six years alongside Galaxy’s Edge, the Star Wars theme park experience in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and it shows.
The events on the Starcruiser are inextricably linked to the very rides and market stalls of Black Spire Outpost and its planet, Batuu, where you disembark for an adventure on the second day of your stay before returning to the ship for a showstopper finale on the last night of the experience.
This isn’t just another themed Disney resort. The crew of the Halcyon is committed to your stay as a voyage – and in true Disney fashion, they never break character. Costumes and galactic-inspired attire are encouraged, and if you don’t bring any from your home planet, there are some available (for purchase, of course) onboard.
While I didn’t pack my Princess Leia hair buns and best senatorial gown, my space-themed dresses were a hit (and comfortable in the Florida heat). My fellow travelers, however, definitely enjoyed fully immersing themselves by sporting both familiar and entirely original costumes.
Guests seeking passage aboard the Halcyon should prepare for an action-packed, choose your own adventure-style excursion.
Embark on a space voyage
So let’s be clear – no, you’re not really going to space. But there’s a lot of attention to detail to simulate the closest thing many of us will have to a cruise among the stars.
This is probably not an experience for the casual fan. And at thousands of dollars for the two-day experience, it’s an investment. (More on rates below).
Guests with reservations arrive at an industrial-style terminal to begin their Galactic Starcruiser experience, and even the security teams ask if you’re smuggling in any undesirable creatures in your luggage. Passenger service crews fit you with a data band – typically called a MagicBand for Disney guests.
Here, they’re not just your ticket into the resort and parks, but tapping your data band against certain interactive elements in the Halcyon changes the trajectory of your story.
They also ask that you have a phone loaded with the Play Disney Parks App. During your stay, this essentially turns your phone into a data pad, which will help you keep up your unique itinerary, receive messages from characters, take on secret missions and unlock a new level of interactivity in Galaxy’s Edge.
If you choose to embark on this journey, make sure you have ways of keeping your phone charged throughout the day because you’ll be using it a lot.
Once inside the building, you’re guided to a Launch Pod. Through view ports near the top, pine trees give way to starlight and the void of space as you jump to hyperspace. Once the doors open, you enter a new world in the ship’s atrium where many key moments will transpire during your stay.
The ship comes with its own lore, which will be shared in comic books and novelizations in the coming months. Apparently, the Halcyon was the backdrop for Leia and Han Solo’s honeymoon.
Unlike many of the ships in the Star Wars universe, the Halcyon doesn’t have that rustic or lived-in feeling like that lovable hunk of junk, the Millennium Falcon. The interiors, and even the SK-620 droid rolling by, gleam with a crisp newness more reminiscent of Dryden Voss’ First Light yacht, as seen in 2018’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”
Inside the ship
From the atrium, glimpse the ship’s bridge and its massive, starlight-filled perspective, shop the Chandrila Collection for exclusive headtails, outfits and merchandise or stroll inside the Sublight Lounge, where guests can sip on a Cloud of Bespin cocktail and learn to play Sabacc – the game Han Solo played to win the Falcon from Lando Calrissian.
Decks located beneath the atrium include interactive spots for lightsaber training or helping characters in the engineering room, as well as the Crown of Corellia dining room for meals and entertainment.
For guests needing a reminder of their home planet, since none of the windows offer a view of anything but the darkness of space, the ship includes a Climate Simulator. This small courtyard includes walls of plants from around the galaxy, stone arrangements – and the sunlight and sky visible from above feels an awful lot like Florida.
There are four decks of small-scale cabins and the ship can hold between 100 and 500 passengers. Each cabin comes equipped with a window looking out into space and a video screen that will connect you to a new droid named D3-O9.
For cabins capable of hosting four, they’ve included older Star Wars era-inspired bunkbeds and a bed that pulls out from the wall – but it will still be a tight squeeze unless you upgrade to the larger Galaxy Class Suite or Grand Captain Suite. Starcruiser amenities include standard lavatories outfitted with rain shower heads, an interactive TV and a mini refrigerator.
Keep an eye out for an orange blinking light when D3-O9 is ready for a chat. This new logistics droid has a sweet disposition and is capable of real-time conversation by listening in to what you say as long as the link remains active. If you ask nicely, she’ll sing you a lullaby or tell you a bedtime story about her hero R2-D2’s experiences in “A New Hope.”