In the end, it was perhaps a galaxy too far. Walt Disney World’s ambitious but ultra-pricey Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, the $1,200-per-person-per-night hyper-immersive sleepover experience, is being shuttered for good at the end of September, roughly 18 months after opening, the company announced Thursday.
Reservations for the Star Wars-themed resort in Orlando do not exist beyond the Starcruiser’s final voyage taking place September 28-30, according to the Disney World website. (But availability remains for many dates up until then.) The company is describing the demise of the Galactic Starcruiser simply as “a business decision.”
First teased in 2017 at the company’s D23 Expo for Disney superfans, the project always defied categorization. Is it a hotel, a landlocked cruise ship, or an elaborate choose-your-own-adventure theatrical experience? All of the above.
“For more than 100 years, Disney has taken risks to be on the forefront of entertainment experiences,” said a Walt Disney World spokesperson. “We are constantly pushing the boundaries of creativity and innovation, and evolve our experiences based on key learnings.”
Like every great Star Wars film, the Galactic Starcruiser experience follows a story arc. Guests embark on the two-night immersive journey together, like on a cruise ship. They enter a virtual transport pod, blast off into hyperspace and dock to the Halcyon starcruiser.
There, they don Star Wars garb, meet an intergalactic cast of characters (including celebs like Chewbacca and Kylo Ren), and receive lightsaber training and “bridge ops” training with the ship’s captain. In their cabins, they interact with D3-O9, an AI-driven droid that keeps them informed about happenings on the ship. They rub elbows with a motley crew of alien spies and bootleggers in the cantina. And they pick a side — aligning with either the Resistance (a.k.a., the good guys) or the dark First Order — and receive their missions.
Guests who can afford to shell out big bucks — just over $4,800 for a couple or $6,000 for a family of four — love the all-inclusive two-night experience, giving it some of the highest guest satisfaction ratings in the 50-year history of Walt Disney World.
The problem is that, apparently, not enough guests can afford it.
Disney put a reflective spin on the announcement. “This premium, boutique experience gave us the opportunity to try new things on a smaller scale of 100 rooms, and as we prepare for its final voyage, we will take what we’ve learned to create future experiences that can reach more of our guests and fans,” said the company in a statement.
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On the company’s most recent earnings call earlier this month, Disney CEO Bob Iger reiterated his current belt-tightening mindset. “The cost-cutting initiatives I announced last quarter are well underway, and we are on track to meet or exceed our target of $5.5 billion,” he said. The company’s latest round of 7,000 job cuts has impacted ESPN, Disney’s entertainment division, Disney Parks, and its Experiences and Product division.
The news of the Galactic Starcruiser’s closing came the same day as Disney announced it was killing a $1 billion complex that would have created more than 2,000 jobs for the state, a power punch in its public brawl with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
Disney is contacting guests who booked reservations on the Galactic Starcruiser after September 30 to break the news and offer alternatives. “As we prioritize these guests, at this time, new bookings are temporarily paused and will reopen on May 26,” Disney said.
Disney is officially closing its immersive Star Wars hotel, only a year after its highly-anticipated opening.
The Star Wars themed hotel, located in Walt Disney World just outside of Orlando, Florida, has been a focal point of Star Wars fanatics since 2019. Upon opening, visitors would be able to enjoy an entire day in an immersive story – and it sure did deliver. Galaxy’s Edge, the hotel’s shared experience with its neighbouring theme park, gave guests the opportunity to interact with characters, explore and craft, and of course, take in the unique atmosphere of the Star Wars universe.
Focusing on interactive experiences and guest engagement, the Star Wars hotel pool was set up to simulate a star fighter courier mission, wherein guests could act as both co-pilots and gunners. Between exciting arcade-style games, galaxy-themed buffets, and out-of-this-world visuals, Disney has spared no expense in bringing its vision to life.
Unfortunately, the Star Wars hotel has not been able to keep up with Disney’s goals. After an initial surge in bookings, the hotel had significantly reduced its occupancy rate during 2020. Furthermore, the pandemic’s restrictions caused a halt in all activities, leading to the property’s ultimate demise.
In typical Disney fashion, the announcement of their decision wasn’t met with tears of sorrow or distress. It was tinged with a sense of nostalgia and contentment, knowing that guests had experienced a level of adventure and entertainment that no other hotel around could offer.
At the end of the day, Disney’s decision to close the Star Wars hotel was the right one. Despite its commercial success, it proved to be unsustainable in the long run and had become more of an expense than a profitable venture. With that being said, the immersive experience will not be forgotten and its legacy will live on in Disney fans around the world.