The big news of the day for Star Wars/Disney/Theme Park fans is that the interactive Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser in Walt Disney World, barely a year old, will cease operation on September 30th of this year.
In retrospect, the signs of its demise were evident back in November of 2022 when Disney started offering 30% discounts for the experience to Disney Vacation Club Members. This was followed by more discounts and offers to try to get guest in, and an announcement back in March that the frequency of “voyages” would reduce from every other day to twice a week in October. This was later changed to a total closure.
This highly-hyped attraction closing so soon after its launch has people talking about the reason why it failed. There are many reasons given why people didn’t show up, including the typical “It’s because Disney is too woke” from the exceptionally unctuous and vocal part of the Star Wars fandom. However, the true reasons are more mundane and obvious. Here are what I think are the reasons why the attraction failed. And despite what some vocal YouTube grievance grifters might tell you, none of them involve Rey Skywalker.
As a Star Wars Fan with a daughter who loves Walt Disney World, I was interested when the Galactic Starcruiser was announced. I immediately started researching it and found…very little.
The main page on the Disney World website at the time was incredibly vague about the attraction. Just a number of artist renderings like the one above with a minimal amount of copy to go along with it. You could learn how to use a lightsaber! You can drink blue milk! You might run into Chewbacca!
Disney was being purposefully obtuse about the main selling point for the Galactic Starcrusier: that it was an immersive hybrid of a murder mystery/choose-your-own-adventure/cosplay on steroids. even the TV ads released closer to the hotel’s opening downplayed this aspect while playing up the “magic” aspect:
Also, children are a big part of the attraction’s marketing. That is not unusual for a Disney product. 97% of their advertising output is aimed at the kiddos. But I don’t know many kids who have jobs, let alone ones that give them $6,000 in digressionary spending. And in a post pandemic world, relentless begging only goes so far.
I know that Disney has made billons selling magic to its fans. But I needed a whole lot more information ahead of time if I was going to buy tickets/reservations. Especially at the price Disney was charging for the rooms.
Speaking of which…
A Walt Disney World vacation is one of the most expensive vacations you can go on and it has gotten even more expensive after the pandemic. Disney lost billions of dollars during the pandemic and seems hellbent to gain it all back at the expense of its park goers. Stuff that was free you now have to pay for, and stuff that you had to pay for, you now have to pay more for. In 2021, they did away with the free “Disney’s Magical Express,” a free shuttle service for Disney resort guests that would shuttle them and their luggage to their resort for free. The closest replacement is a paid service, Mears Connect. And it also replaced its FastPass+ service, a free plan that would allow you to skip the line on three attractions per day, with Genie+, a plan that provides a similar service for $15 or more per guest per day and Individual Lightning Lanes, which costs $15 or more for one ride per day on their most popular rides in each park. And that price might go higher on weekends or on high traffic days. So, it was a fool’s fantasy to expect their Galactic Starcruiser attraction to be reasonably priced.
But there is reasonably priced, exorbitantly priced, ridiculously overpriced and then there is whatever this is. That price up there is only for a two-day stay in the Galactic Starcruiser. That is all you are allowed to book. $6,000 for a family of four for a two day stay. And that price might go higher on weekends or on high traffic days too.
To put it in context, if you wanted to stay at a five-star hotel in New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the world, a hotel like the Ritz-Carlton, you can book anywhere from a four to six-night stay for that price, depending on who you booked from. And your room would probably be roomier than the one you get on the cruiser.
$6,000 for two days is too much for a lot of families. But when you add the additional costs involved it gets really expensive. Like, say travel. Whether you fly or drive there, that is going to cost you more money.
And if you are going to Disney World, you are probably going to visit the parks while you are there. Your stay at the Galactic Starcruiser entitles you to entrance into Hollywood Studios and complementary Lightning Lane passes to Ride of the Resistance and Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run over those two days. If you choose to stay at Disney World longer, you’d have to buy tickets after your Galactic Starcruiser stay for whatever parks you want to visit. You’d have to book another hotel as well because you won’t be able to stay at the Galactic Starcruiser longer than two days. Add to that your meals (all of which are included on the Starcruiser) and Genie+ and Lightning Lane passes you might want to buy, you could add thousands of dollars to your bill. Unless you are Elon Musk or some other billionaire, that’s a lot of money to spend on a vacation.
If I had to pick one main reason for the attraction’s failure, I’d pick the cost. That’s what scared me off. It probably scared a lot of other people off too. Disney has had people handing over money hand over fist for decades. Maybe they expected that there was no cost to high for hard core fans to pay. They erred in that aspect. In the post-pandemic economy, people aren’t prepared to pay money to things they don’t think are worth it.
The Value For The Money
On the surface, the Galactic Starcruiser seemed like a great experience for Star Wars fans. Disney constructed an attraction where fans could become part of the Star Wars mythos. And you could control the story. Do you want to support the Resistance? Seek out Rey and do what she tells you. You want to embrace your Dark Side? Turn Chewbacca into the First Order. You could be as involved as you want to be. You didn’t have to be involved at all if you didn’t want to.
This seems like an ideal system at first glance. But on a closer look, you can see how there are aspects that might keep people away.
The attraction seems to be most valuable depending on what you put into it. Are you a karaoke star, community theater diva extravert? You’ll probably have a ball. If you are a person who wants to be as far away from the center of attention as possible, the attraction becomes one of the most expensive stage plays on earth.
And while you are a part of the story, you do not control the story. From what I could see, you are given options to choose from or tasks to accomplish, but it all leads to where the story wants you to go. It’s not pure improv, where you can do whatever comes to mind. The attraction has storyline and going too far off script is not encouraged. That might turn off some people who want freedom to do whatever they want.
In addition to all that, you are not getting a full story. You are only getting a view of the story from whatever side you choose. The other side gets a different story. I’m sure Disney expected fans to come back so they could experience all the storylines, but the $6,000 price point made this a once in a lifetime experience. That’s probably another reason why the event is going away–no repeat business.
In hindsight, Star Wars: The Galactic Starcruiser was doomed from the start. A mixture of hubris, a poor financial environment, and cost not meeting expectations did it in. It wasn’t a focus on Rey or the most recent trilogy that doomed it. They could have had a clone of Harrison Ford created after Return of the Jedi be one of the tour guides and people still wouldn’t want to pay $6,000 for it.