There’s been a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of Disney World fans suddenly cried out “Wait… what?” In a twist almost as shocking as the reveal at the end of The Empire Strikes Back (which I won’t give away in case you are avoiding spoilers for a 43 year-old movie), Disney World has announced the end of a bold venture in immersive storytelling. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will be embarking on its last voyage September 28-30, 2023.

Here’s how we got here and what could be next for Disney World’s Star Wars Hotel.

Video – Why Disney is shutting down its expensive Star Wars hotel

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The Announcement from Disney

Disney dropped the news earlier today. It was certainly unexpected, as WDW was booking voyages after the announced closing date previous to today’s announcement.

“The final voyage for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will take place Sept. 28-30, 2023.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is one of our most creative projects ever and has been praised by our Guests and recognized for setting a new bar for innovation and immersive entertainment. This premium experience gave us the opportunity to try new things on a smaller scale of 100 rooms, and we will take what we’ve learned to create future experiences that can reach more of our Guests and fans.

We will be contacting Guests booked for voyages departing on or after Sept. 30 to discuss their options and modify their plans. To prioritize these Guests, we are pausing new bookings until May 26.

We are so proud of all of the Cast Members and Imagineers who brought Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser to life and look forward to delivering an excellent experience for Guests during the remaining voyages over the coming months.”

What was Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Story Moment

If you are unfamiliar with Starcruiser, let’s journey back to a long time ago… actually, it was just over a year ago, when Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser first opened.

Part video game, part escape room, and part interactive theater, this two-night experience took guests on a journey to a galaxy far, far away, right from the heart of Disney World. Guests could play Sabaac, learn how to wield a lightsaber, go on missions to unlock new areas of the ship, and choose to aide the Resistance or join the First Order. The experience included elaborate sci-fi dishes (i.e. blue shrimp) and even aliens roaming the ship.

The reaction of the experience itself was highly lauded, especially as an innovation in themed entertainment. Imagineering had designed a truly interactive and immersive experience — two words that get thrown around so much that they’ve lost most meaning in the theme park space. But for many Star Wars fans, this was a dream come true.

The Price and the Controversy

Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Cabin

But there was one aspect that made almost everyone say, “I have a bad feeling about this.” Of course, I’m talking about the price. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser was insanely expensive, starting at $4800 for two guests. While that price included lodging and food, the experience is not even two full days. And one of the days included a lengthy excursion into Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios. A ticket and front of the line access for two people at Galaxy’s Edge comes to somewhere around $300, probably a bit under. Which, let me do some math here as I type, is a lot less than $4800. And that’s just the starting price.

The price was, and remains, outrageous. Imagineering created mass audience interactive entertainment at inaccessible luxury prices (without the amenities that many luxury hotels include).

On a personal note, I am a lifelong fan of Star Wars and Disney World. They are two of my most fervent fandoms. But I also majored in theater, and I love escape rooms, video games, and role playing. It was as if this experience was tailor-made just for me. Despite running a Disney World website and having a long history of justifying giving foolish amounts of money to Disney, even I couldn’t justify the hefty price tag. And I am the exact target audience for this experience. If Disney couldn’t sway someone like me to book a stay, the price was a huge problem.

Despite its groundbreaking experiences and rapturous reviews, the steep barrier to entry led to half-booked cruises and even some voyages cancelled.

Disney World had just started introducing deep discounts for Annual Passholders and DVC members, and it was expected that discounts for the general public would be coming. But instead, Disney announced that the hotel would permanently close just around 18 months after opening.

The Future of Disney World’s Star Wars Hotel

Force Training - Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser

Disney did include a tiny spark of hope in their announcement: “We will take what we’ve learned to create future experiences that can reach more of our Guests and fans.” What does this mean? I personally could forsee a few outcomes. Disney World put a significant investment into building the Halcyon, and I doubt that they would just not use the space. Here are a few possibilities based on total speculation:

  • A Retooled and More Affordable Experience: Perhaps they will retool the Star Wars Hotel experience to something a bit less cost-prohibitive (but probably a bit less ambitious and extravagant). Rather than announcing a pared-down Starcruiser experience with cutbacks on food and actors, Imagineering can debut something new with a clean slate. Disney could keep the interactive missions and some of the performers, but remove the strict two-night cruise structure. This could allow for more extended stays and a more relaxed experience, but sacrificing telling an overarching narrative.
  • Mini Day Cruises: Maybe Disney will convert the space as an excursion from Batuu. For an up-charge, you could book a day cruise on the Halcyon. There could even be a condensed version of the Starcruiser experience that is meant to last an hour or two: somewhat like an escape room. Add in a meal, and Disney could create an enticing package that more guests could enjoy.
  • Execute Order 66: Or the building could just sit unused for several years, which would be the biggest disappointment for Star Wars fans since Oscar Isaac uttered “Somehow Palpatine returned.”

As Yoda said, “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” Let me know in the comments: What do you think will happen to this space? And what do you think about the closing of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser?