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Galactic Starcruiser Was You Made the Experience

A year after the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser took its last flight, here’s a look back at the best of Disney Parks’ bold venture into the immersive entertainment space—and why in the end, it couldn’t quite work.

At io9, Star Wars and fantastical realms of sci-fi coming to life are a major component of what we write about through films, shows, and theme park experiences. And that’s because bringing to life some of the idealized futuristic worlds we hold dear presents a lot of challenges—particularly when they’re brought into a very real world that may only really share themes of banding together with civil unrest against a fascist tyranny. In Star Wars the people find ways to come together and play a role to defeat the bad guys; in real life things are far more complicated.

To many Star Wars fans who were able to check out Galactic Starcruiser during its short-lived existence, the attraction presented a chance to act on the frustration many share in their day to day lives of watching atrocities happen and feeling like there’s little we can do about them. There was an irony in this, since Galactic Starcruiser was part of Disney, a major corporation that prioritizes its financial bottom line.

And indeed, Galactic Starcruiser’s exorbitant cost turned off a lot of folks who thought it was a hotel—which it never was, instead more resembling a fancy theater camp where you could wallflower it or actively participate in your own corner of Star Wars. Hotels are generally built around recreational, relaxing areas like a pool or a spa; the only amenities that reflected a familiar Disney vacation aspect aboard Galactic Starcruiser were the dinners and the Galaxy’s Edge excursions at adjacent Walt Disney World. On a surface level, that’s what probably misled regular folk—vacationers who don’t actively follow the immersive experiences niche—into thinking Galactic Starcruiser was a Disney Cruise on land. Coming on board to realize it was not, and that you had to get involved in ways that could be compared to pretending to be a coach for your fantasy football league, in a realm where you’re in the game, threw the unprepared off. That’s a big part of what ultimately led to Disney shutting down the attraction, which at its core was a community-building endeavor born out of Imagineering and Lucasfilm’s story trust to inspire at least a portion of people to feel like if they could be a part of a story like Star Wars, then perhaps they could take their experiences from it to the real world, in small and big ways.

While there’s a lot of outrage out there to deconstruct the pared-down end result that came from an ambitious idea, many folks who got to visit Galactic Starcruiser enjoyed the experiment, whether they saw it as an imaginative interactive playground to bring their loved ones to or experience on their own. It was a sandbox: if you wanted to be there to cosplay while trying funky-looking food and drinks, that was a path you could take; if you wanted to embrace the childlike wonder of lightsaber training and blasting baddies into space, there was that too. And some people just wanted their kids to play and meet their heroes.

The milage varied on how open and social you were willing to be to find the path of best enjoyment. On my own visit, I went in as a disenchanted space witch on her honeymoon, and with the intention of leaving behind how limited I felt in being able to change the real world. I quickly made an alliance with some reluctant scoundrels to help the good guys out, playing up some Cassian Andor vibes (I pretended to be a relative). I had some issues with having to be on my “data-pad” (what that really means: one’s own phone) to do the more gamer app stuff around Galaxy’s Edge; that was not for me as a non-gamer. But I found that character interaction and roleplay on board the ship to be a highly rewarding experience. I befriended other guests, young and young at heart; moved smuggled goods about (how did they know I’d be down to hustle the Empire?); and when my beloved and I needed a romantic space moment to share our vow renewals, the in-room droid—D3-O9, who encouraged me to help the Resistance—performed a whole ceremony that makes me cry to this day, because right after, she sacrificed herself and got attacked by the First Order.

That event, like in any hero’s journey, quickly radicalized me and I was able to find the Rebel princess for the people inside me I’ve dreamed of being since I was a little girl. Then it was on and along with the Padawans in training we led stormtroopers to their own imprisonment by pretending to lock up Chewbacca, used a fake proposal to move precious cargo, and stood tall with a galactic pop-star along with our fellow Resistance members to back up Rey when Kylo Ren showed up for the epic finale. And finally—when the good guys won—I was able to step into my power and begin the Jedi (witch princess) training I’d felt I long abandoned hope for. As soon as I ignited my lightsaber on that last night, I was ready to fight again.

Oh—and here are the vows D3-O9 recited for us:

D3-O9: You have come today to declare your promise of devotion to your chosen partner.

Please repeat after me:

…We vow to share our triumphs and troubles…

…No matter what difficulties may come…

…We share in each other’s successes…

…Not with jealousy, but with joy and admiration…

…We promise each other a life cycle…

…Filled with curiosity, humor, and adventure…

…We pledge unquestionable devotion…

…for we are worthy of each other’s love.

You are destined. The galaxy has connected you amongst the millions of other inhabitants. Though you may have once traveled singular paths, you now travel united, and stronger for it. Cherish your bond, and seek to share it, for your bond shall inspire others to seek their own. From love to love, the galaxy grows stronger. And you are now a part of that great and unending chain.

Like those who did find the best of our experiences to outweigh the kinks that had so much potential to be ironed out, it is nice to feel a part of that “great and unending chain” with those whose lives were enriched by the experience of the Galactic Starcruiser.

Read more about io9’s invited visit to Galactic Starcruiser here.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

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