Walt Disney World has announced that their immersive Star Wars themed hotel, Galactic Starcruiser, will close on September 30th. This comes just a year and a half after opening on March 1st, 2022. The hotel pushed the limits of an immersive stay and, by most accounts, was unlike anything else Disney (or any other theme park entity) had created. In this post, we’ll cover the official announcement and add our own commentary on why this happened along with what comes next.
First, an update on bookings directly from Disney:
“The final voyage for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will take place September 28-30, 2023. 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. Thank you to our Guests and fans for making this experience so special.
For Guests who previously booked a voyage on or after September 30, 2023, we will be contacting you soon to discuss your options and modify your plans. As we prioritize these Guests, at this time, new bookings are temporarily paused and will reopen on May 26, 2023.”
I would expect that there will be new bookings readily available when that process is un-paused (restarted?) on the 26th. There will be a surge to be one of the last voyages on the Starcruiser but I think dates in the later summer months could be had for those interested.
And the official statement from Disney on the closure:
“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, 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.”
I’m coming at this from a perspective of someone who has never been, and now never will go, on the Galactic Starcruiser. I’m certainly not opposed to it but was priced out (more on that in a minute) and would rather use my vacation dollars in a way that they will stretch farther than the two days. To me, Starcruiser was a must-do if I won the lottery but otherwise wouldn’t have entered my mind as a viable option on places to stay at Walt Disney World. Part of that is financial strain, part of that is my own travel priorities.
All that said, I’m extremely disappointed in today’s news. The people that I have read, talked to and trust all raved about the experience (Disney Tourist Blog, Guy Selga and Len Testa all come to mind.) As we’ve entered into the 2020’s, many of the Disney theme park projects have been and will be (disregard Tokyo DisneySea’s upcoming Fantasy Springs) copies of other rides or experiences. Galactic Starcruiser was a unique storytelling venture that took immersion to the next level. Unfortunately, it was also a risk that happened to fail.
Why did it fail? Most of it seemed to come down to the cost. Staying two nights at the hotel (the only option) cost $2,000. Yes, that did include day long adventures and an all-inclusive experience but that’s an astronomical expense, before even factoring in staying elsewhere at Walt Disney World or buying park tickets. The cost on the other side must have been very high too, as there was entertainment to pay constantly along with the normal expense of running a hotel.
If it was viable for Disney to cut the price in half and still be profitable, I’m sure that would have been the route they take. While I don’t always fall on the side of the company, shutting a place down after a year and a half is not what anyone wanted. I’m sure all avenues were explored in keeping this open, although the marketing could have been done significantly better. It was just a catch-22. The price was too steep for Galactic Starcruiser to ever gain a steady audience but the expense was also too steep to drop the price.
I’m giving some benefit of the doubt there, but the lack of foresight is notable. Thinking that a hotel could routinely sell out 100 rooms at effectively $1,000/night is, at best, over confident. I know that Disney theme parks have a very loyal fanbase and we’ve all kept paying more and more for park tickets over the years. But to make this work, the company had to step outside of the fanbase because only a miniscule percentage will want to pay for something as novel as this idea was.
Again, it’s a shame because by most accounts Disney hit a home run from an execution standpoint. I’m curious, and will likely never have an answer, if a hotel like this would have worked better in a big city. Las Vegas comes to mind, specifically. There’s an audience for immersive IP-specific experiences, whether that’s Star Wars, Marvel, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones or whatever else you fancy. Theme parks have shown us that. I just don’t know what the breaking point is when it comes to the cost for guests. That’s something Disney is trying to figure out, as well.
Once the final voyage ends on September 30th, what will become of the Starcruiser and the space it inhabits? Stripping the experience of entertainment and just making it a Star Wars Hotel seems obvious but it’s not. There’s only 100 rooms so the chance at profitability is still low. Along with that, there aren’t normal hotel amenities like pools or… windows? It’d be a hard changeover from the experience offered that doesn’t make sense once you get past the Star Wars of it all.
Finding a way to incorporate it into an add-on to Hollywood Studios would be ideal. Doing day trips there from Galaxy’s Edge would be a unique plussing to a vacation and one not as restrictive as what was offered. Alas, I think that if they were going to do this then they probably would have tried it while the hotel was still open. I hope I’m wrong but doubt it.
If I had to guess, the building is going to sit there for a while. We don’t cover politics on this blog so I’ll keep this vague and short. I don’t think Disney is going to heavily invest in something outside of the parks or a standard hotel right now in Florida. That may change in a few years. Even taking off the political climate glasses and putting on our history hats, there’s no shortage of buildings and spaces that sit empty and WDW. Again, I hope this doesn’t happen but it seems the most likely option at this point.
Whatever Galactic Starcruiser’s final fate is, it won’t be as the immersive and groundbreaking experience that it was conceived as. Credit to Imagineering and the wonderful performers who brought it to life. It’s a shame more of us couldn’t experience it and I hope it doesn’t deter Disney from taking risks at their theme parks in the future.
What do you think about Galactic Starcruiser closing? Let us know, along with any questions you might have, in the comments below. Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Check out our planning guide for help! If you enjoy what you’re reading here on Wandering in Disney, please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages. You can do both of those things on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!