Is the new Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser ‘hotel’ worth it? We paid £5,500 to find out
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To borrow a line from Willy Wonka, stepping on board the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is very much akin to entering a “world of pure imagination.”
Sure, Central Florida, Mickey Mouse and all the traditional elements of a Disney World holiday are lurking just beyond the windowless “ship” — but you’d never know it. When you board the launch pod and “blast off” on your 45-hour intergalactic journey, you leave all of the worlds of reality and entertainment you know behind.
On the “Star Wars”-themed ship, known as the Halcyon, I was no longer just Summer, the 41-year-old travel writer and mom of two from a Houston suburb. Instead, I took on the character I crafted for myself: a conflicted, space-travelling soul who worked in trade, lived on the planet Bespin and was balancing a desire to help the Resistance (good guys) while very much wanting to stay out of trouble with the First Order (bad guys).
After all, that would be very bad for the family business.
The Starcruiser may not actually leave the ground, but it takes everyone who wants to join — and has the cash to do so — on a journey you won’t find anywhere else on Earth.
The real £5500 ($6875) question, though: Is Disney’s version of a two-day ultimate immersion experience that feels part Renaissance Fair role-play, part dinner theatre and part “Star Wars”-themed escape room with futuristic Disney technology and storytelling expertise worth the out-of-this-world price tag?
Dressed in our “Star Wars”-inspired best, here’s how my family rated the experience.
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What the Star Wars: Starcruiser is — and isn’t
Sometimes referred to as the Star Wars Hotel, the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is actually not a hotel.
Yes, there are rooms with beds and you do sleep here. But it’s woefully inaccurate to think of it as just another of Disney’s many themed properties.
Instead, while it sounds like marketing jargon, the Starcruiser truly is the central backdrop for a two-night immersive experience. You’ll meet “Star Wars” characters you know and love as well as some you are likely encountering for the first time, and they’ll all take you on a journey through space.
Your space cabin-themed room is just an extension of that story.
And, frankly, as fun as it is to chat with the in-room droid and look out the window as you cross asteroid fields or make the jump to hyperspace, you don’t spend much time in your berth.
A relaxing space voyage this is not.
In fact, there’s very little downtime and only about nine hours between the conclusion of events one night and the resumption of activities the next day.
While there are scheduled tentpole happenings that everyone gets to experience (think: navigation training on the bridge and lightsaber drills, intense theatrical moments in the atrium and dinner shows) this isn’t just a rotating itinerary where everyone gets the same experience in a different order. What you get to do — and not do — on the Starcruiser is influenced both by your in-story choices, your level of participation, where your event falls in the story’s schedule and pure luck.
All that actually makes it harder to answer the question of value because your experience and mine are, by design, different.
We did our best to remain as immersed as we could despite our limited live-action role-playing skills, but we weren’t on a first-name basis with the main characters, didn’t get chosen for any really special missions or plot moments and weren’t central drivers of the story from a participant standpoint.
While I was fine being on the outskirts of the action, there were times I wished my kids had been picked to have a one-on-one encounter or special role. But, I think that should be considered a bonus when it happens, and not a requirement from a value perspective.
How much does the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser actually cost?
If we’re going to talk about whether Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is worth it, we need to clarify how much it actually costs.
The Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser experience starts at £3,847.34 ($4,809) for double occupancy, before tax, on off-peak dates. We had four people in our cabin and went on a weekend in April, so our total for a family of four was £5,500.81 ($6,875.76). All the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser bookings are designed to be two-day experiences, not unlike a short cruise.
That price isn’t exactly all-inclusive but it does cover your room, onboard activities, all meals on the ship (plus one on Batuu in Disney’s Hollywood Studios), your park tickets to Hollywood Studios, Lightning Lane access to both Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, a special pin that denotes you are a Halcyon passenger and your special-edition MagicBand and valet parking.
You can also access basically unlimited snacks (either freshly made from the bar or prepackaged options in the atrium). Should you be transferring to another Disney World location at the end of your stay, a £40 ($50) credit for your ride is available.
Alcohol and specialty nonalcoholic drinks are not included, but they are fun to enjoy in the ship’s bar, so you may want to budget a bit for those, too. Any costumes you decide to wear (and you should bring costumes) also cost extra.
If you want to break the cost down further, assuming you are on board from 1:30 p.m. on day one until 9:30 a.m. on the last morning as we were, your family’s cost breaks down to £125 ($156.25) per hour or £2.08 ($2.60) per minute.
Of course, if you decide your time asleep isn’t worth £125 per hour and discount eight overnight hours per night, you’re up to £196.46 ($245.56) per waking hour for the family’s experience. For context, that’s a little over half the starting hourly price of a Disney VIP tour.
What’s it really like on Disney’s Galactic Starcruiser?
Those numbers only tell a fraction of the story, though. You aren’t buying just the room or the meals, you are buying the whole experience, which isn’t available anywhere else.
Spoiler alert: I won’t get too far into any individual plotlines, but if you want to be surprised by all the onboard adventures, skip this section.
Once you transition via a so-called launch pod from outside the ship to the interior, you spend your time on two floors.
The 25 stairs that separate those decks will be very well worn by the time your voyage is complete, so wear comfortable shoes if you don’t plan on using the elevator.
Most of the action takes place either on Deck 6, where you’ll find the atrium, bridge and bar, or on Deck 4, where you’ll find the restaurant, engineering room, lightsaber training, transportation to Batuu and other “secret” rooms.
Inside, the ship looks like, well, a ship. While the windows mimic movement in space, the ship doesn’t physically move. Hopefully, you won’t have any space motion sickness to deal with, but having spent time on several Disney cruises, it definitely has a ship vibe, just with a space twist.
While it does span a couple of decks, it’s not an overly large place. Within the first 24 hours, you’ll likely have experienced the entirety of it. Even younger elementary school-age kids should be able to find their way around within a couple of hours.
There are 100 cabins on the Starcruiser, which is a very small hotel by Disney standards — yet another reason this really is way more than a hotel. We had a standard cabin, which included a queen bed and two built-in bunk beds.
The built-in bunk beds are bigger than they initially look and could sleep an adult, as long as the adult was comfortable with a sleeping bag and firm mattress. My kids loved them.
There are normal television channels, but if you are in your room watching normal TV, you’re probably overpaying for the experience as there’s no real downtime. While spartan in a way that echoes the spaceship aesthetic, we loved our room.
You could communicate with a droid through a video screen in the room to recap the day’s events, listen to bedtime stories and more.
If you’re like us, you’ll likely end up with stuff everywhere once you unpack as there isn’t a ton of storage or countertop space. Even in space though, housekeeping came to tidy up each day.
The bathroom, which is very utilitarian, is divided by sliding doors into two small sections: one for the toilet and one for the shower and single vanity. The theme is carried throughout the bathroom with the styling and amenities, but be aware there’s no tub for little ones. This space, while fine, was not the highlight of the experience.
A final note about the room: You can hear absolutely everything in the hall.
The soundproofing is almost nonexistent. The only reason this wasn’t more of an issue? Everyone seemed exhausted at night and passed out quickly, both in our cabin and others. But if you’re a light sleeper, bring earplugs.
Breakfast and lunch on board the Halcyon are served as a small-plate version of a buffet, which I really enjoyed in concept.
Some of the dishes are a twist on what you’d find on Earth, while others are a bit more, ah, out of this world. So, the odds are high that you’ll find things you enjoy. There will also probably be things you don’t love, but that’s how a buffet works.
I do have a picky eater in my family, and we were just barely able to find enough to keep her fed (the dipped “Tip Yip” chicken with noodle cheese was a hit) — but most of the food was a hard no for a picky eater. Fire-melted cheese was also picky-palate approved.
As for me, I had fun trying a little of everything. There was nothing that left me dreaming of more days after the voyage, but I enjoyed the aforementioned fire-melted cheese, the rib bites and several of the vegetable-based dishes such as the green leaf salad and roasted flora.
Dinners are more of a fixed, multi-course affair.
Some highlights for us were the dumplings and “Tip Yip” chicken from the first night.
Frankly, we didn’t love the second night’s meal, though it was visually very interesting with blue shrimp and other foods from distant planets.
At dinner, there’s a separate kids menu with pizza, chicken chunks, buttered noodles and waffle fries if that suits your younger crew’s needs. There’s no additional charge no matter how many different things you want to try.
The food on the ship isn’t bad, and at times it’s quite inventive. From a flavour perspective, however, I generally prefer the included food on Batuu at Hollywood Studios. In other words: Don’t be afraid to use your credits on lunch in Hollywood Studios.
Just as they did when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in the parks first opened, I’d expect them to continue to develop the onboard meals.
One of my favourite spots on the ship was the bar, Sublight Lounge, located just off the main atrium.
I was worried this space would be overly popular and too crowded, but that was rarely the case with as much as there is to do on the ship.
In the mornings, you’ll find grab-and-go breakfast, coffee and juice. Beyond that quick first cup of coffee, I can’t imagine very many reasons to choose this over the main dining area, but it’s there if you need it.
But then the lounge transforms into an intergalactic bar with a mix of cosy booths and socializing spots where you can get to know your fellow travellers — or just have a nice drink.
I’m fine with sweet drinks, so a few of my favourites were the Hoth Icebreaker (£14.40) ($18) made with vodka, lemon, cane sugar and vanilla-lemon foam; the rum-based Cloud of Bespin (£12) ($15) with lemon, orgeat, passion fruit and falernum-lemon foam; and the Mark of the Huntress (£18.40) ($23) that features whiskey, peach-infused blackcurrant, orgeat, lemon and sparkling bubbles.
The Dagobah Vimlet and Pod Chaser (basically, an Old-Fashioned) were popular with less sweet-driven guests. This all adds up though, so you could quickly spend close to £80 ($100) per person on drinks and tips if you’re having a few each day.
For my kids, the £5.60 ($7) nonalcoholic Yerdua Poison Spitter Drop with green goo was a winner during their time in the bar.
The time on Batuu (at Hollywood Studios)
On your second day (the only full day of the experience) you can take transport from the ship to a special back entrance of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s really just a five-minute ride in the back of a highly themed truck driving through a parking lot, but it looks like a cool space transport.
Logistically, it’s the simplest entrance to a Disney park you’ll ever have since you clear security when you board the Starcruiser and don’t have to do it again for the park.
Additionally, you enter right in the heart of the “Star Wars”-themed land, have special cut-the-line access to the rides and can snag complimentary bottles of themed water as you begin and end your time in the park. In short, it’s a mini-VIP adventure.
Don’t skip Batuu even if you’ve been before, as your time truly feels very different from all the other visits you may have had to Galaxy’s Edge. You’re completing special missions, interacting with the cast and — thanks to your special status as a Halcyon guest — you’re unlikely to wait very long for anything (as long as you mobile-order your lunch).
I’ll admit we did eventually burn out on the in-app on-planet missions, which were very puzzle-heavy and started to take a long time in the heat to complete for each person in the group. However, we did enough to unlock invites to special events that evening.
Also, as is pretty common, the technologically complex Rise of the Resistance ride broke just before we were going to board.
Since we had to get back to the ship, we used the multiple-experience Lightning Lane pass Disney loaded to our account in its place to hop over to neighbouring Toy Story Land for a quick ride on Slinky Dog Dash (the only 15 minutes we spent out of total immersion during our trip).
Your Starcruiser itinerary lives in the Play Disney Parks app, which you should set up for each passenger before you arrive. Kids can borrow data pads (read: old iPhones) with the app from guest services on the ship, but you must have one for each person to get the full experience.
Your prescheduled activities — bridge training, lightsaber lessons, meals and shipwide gatherings, including a captain’s toast and “muster drill” — are all in this app. You’ll also see a scheduled time to take the transport to Batuu, but really you can go any time it’s operating.
Bridge training turned out to be the highlight of the on-ship scheduled activities. It’s interactive and in-story while being simple enough for even the youngest kids to enjoy. (The same is not true of certain puzzles involved with later tasks.)
Lightsaber training was what we initially were most excited about, and while it’s cool, you only have five or so minutes with a lightsaber in your hands. It’s very much a rotating, shared experience with approximately 20 other passengers. The kid version for those 7 and younger was quite different from the adult version, but it was enjoyed by my littlest Jedi.
There are also optional scheduled activities, such as a Sabacc tournament that entertained my husband for hours.
You can play Sabacc in the lounge area on a walk-up basis, but the tournament involved scheduled rounds similar to a poker tournament.
Activities that unfold with your story
While the prescheduled activities set the stage, the real magic is found in the moments between the scheduled activities as you get asked to participate with the Play Disney Parks app.
Many times, my kids bolted from our cabin and ran down the hall because they needed to check something on the ship’s computer, meet a character or help hide precious droid cargo. It was very exciting to get messages and missions that kept us busy, especially on that second day.
In fact, navigating the invite-only story moments together was probably the best part. Helping with some of those pivotal plot points for the ship is what made the second-night finale feel emotional.
You can’t fully control being included in those moments, but the more you engage with the characters and missions presented in the app, the more likely it is you’ll have those exciting activity invites on the final evening.
Is the value influenced by your participation?
Your level of participation in the story is likely to affect your perceived value.
But this doesn’t mean you have to be an expert role-player to be heavily involved, though you are likely to quickly notice who those guests are. You can do the majority of the work and communication through the app, and then get enough invites to be included in enough of the story to have a great time.
Even if you’re more introverted, I do highly recommend at least lurking in the atrium and the other main parts of the ship when you can.
Look for groups of people and join in the fun as they try to hide or scout for characters and objects, or create distractions so certain characters can escape. You can be a more passive participant in these pseudo-impromptu opportunities and still be involved. On the other hand, if you’re just passing a large portion of your time in your cabin, you’ll miss those unscheduled (but still very immersive) moments and not get as much out of it as other guests.
So, yes, the value you get from the Starcruiser experience is influenced by what you do and don’t do, but both all-in extroverts and follow-the-crowd participants can be very involved.
How does the price compare to a traditional Disney vacation?
With all of those activities, unscheduled moments themed meals and excursions, you might wonder how the price compares to a more traditional Disney vacation.
This is, after all, very expensive. And while you can’t purchase most of the experiential elements of the Galactic Starcruiser individually, here’s how the pricing compares to the most similar dining, lodging, park experiences and entertainment Disney World has available.
- Two nights in a standard deluxe Disney resort room at a top resort like Grand Floridian or the Contemporary: £1600 ($2,000).
- Four one-day park tickets: £400 ($500).
- Four sets of Rise of the Resistance Lightning Lane passes and Genie+ for a Smugglers Run Lightning Lane pass: £112 ($140).
- Two dinners for four at top table-service restaurants such as Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table: £400 ($500).
- Four Disney quick-service or buffet lunches and breakfasts for four people:£240 ($300).
- Unlimited packaged and order-on-demand snacks for four people: £64 ($80).
- Two nights of valet parking: £52.80 ($66).
- Four themed MagicBands: £112 ($140).
- Four special-edition pins: £64 ($80).
- Two guaranteed 30-minute Disney activities for four people (lightsaber training and bridge training): £256 ($320) (based roughly on the price of horseback rides at Fort Wilderness).
- Tickets for four to the “Drawn to Life” Cirque du Soleil show in Disney Springs: £320 ($400) (as close as I could approximate the theatrical element).
In total, the cost would be £3620.94($4,526) if our family had opted for that vacation instead.
You could argue the lodging and service on the Starcruiser is more akin to Disney Club Level rooms than standard rooms, in which case the per-night example used above would be higher, but it’s probably close enough.
While spending £5500.21($6,875) for a two-night experience for four people might feel absolutely insane, it’s also not entirely out of step with the price of a similarly constructed two-night Disney vacation, even when being pretty conservative with the comparisons.
Is the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser worth it?
I really want to say no, the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is not worth the cost.
But I can’t quite do that.
On the one hand, pulling off a traditional budget Disney vacation comprising value resorts, off-peak tickets and packed lunches can still be a lot of fun — but it’s also still a tough financial stretch for many, many people. So, saying it’s worth it to spend £5500 ($6,875) on a two-night vacation, not including airfare and ground transportation, feels grossly out of touch.
I want to point to all the other things you can do with that money, and highlight all the culturally inspiring real-world places you can go with your kids.
The experience is also, at least in part, only worth what you put into it. That may mean you’re spending some of your £196-per-waking-hour cost recharging your overused personal battery in the room. My husband, I should note, was more of a one-and-done visitor. He was tired out by the level of interaction the experience demands and did need a second-day afternoon hiatus in the room.
But it’s also true that at the finale, we felt emotional and saw real tears after completing a collective experience with everyone on board that was both entirely manufactured and yet also very real.
That last morning, we lingered on board as long as they would let us. There was a final walk-around, a final coffee while looking out into space and a hope that this wasn’t the last I’d see of the Halcyon.
And as soon it was over and we exited the ship to the John Williams ending credits soundtrack playing overhead, all my kids and I could do was start scheming ways we’d be able to afford a return trip: online sales, plasma donations, dog-sitting and more were very quickly on the table as ways to make incremental progress toward one day doing this again.
We didn’t want it to end. We didn’t want to come back to Earth. But, most importantly, we didn’t want to think we’d never experience this kind of shared magical reality again.
So, it seems my actions speak louder than my desired words. For me and my kids, the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser was absolutely worth it.
Unfortunately, with a starting price of £4239.36 ($5,299) for a three-person return voyage to space, it’s going to take a whole lot of birthday card cash, flexible point credit card sign-up bonuses and side-hustle savings before we can return again to a galaxy that feels very, very far away.
So, is the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser worth it?
As they frequently say in “Star Wars,” you must choose your own path. But if you choose one that takes you on board the Halcyon Starcruiser, you’re in for a special experience unlike any other.
Featured photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy.
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