After only 1.5 years, Disney has announced that the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel will make its final voyage from September 28th to 30th, officially closing for good as of October 1st, 2023.
For some, this comes as a huge shock, but others aren’t as surprised to hear that the niche “boutique” hotel didn’t last long.
So, what’s the real story here? Why is Disney abandoning the (star)ship so fast?
Well, Disney Parks Chairman, Josh D’Amaro gave us the simple answer during a Q&A session at the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference. He said, “It didn’t perform exactly how we wanted it to perform, so we decided to sunset it this September.”
But, what exactly led to the disappointing performance? Let’s break down what’s been happening and what Disney had to say.
When the one-of-a-kind Star Wars hotel was first announced at the D23 Expo in 2019, it was met with A LOT of excitement from fans. And, anticipation only grew as the grand opening date drew near.
Lightsaber training? Bridge training? All in a unique Star Wars storyline that is completely immersive and unique to you? A REAL lightsaber? It was among the most innovative things that Disney has ever done.
But, there was one major barrier to entry — the cost.
Disney revealed that it was going to cost a lot more than a movie ticket to live your best Star Wars life…approximately $6,000 for a family of four to be exact.
However, even with the mixed reactions from longtime Disney and Star Wars fans, there was no bursting the excitement bubble surrounding this project. Something like this had NEVER been done before. So, when reservations became available, there was a lot of demand.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser officially opened on March 1st, 2022, taking up to 100 guests on 2-night, all-inclusive, highly-immersive “voyages” through space with an excursion to Batuu (in Disney’s Hollywood Studios).
Reviews of the experience have been high ever since the start. In fact, according to Disney, the Star Wars hotel “has been praised by our guests” and has continued to receive the highest guest satisfaction ratings in the history of Disney World.
However, the cost seemed to make it a one-time splurge for many and a barrier to entry for most.
Aside from the cost, it appeared that Disney began to struggle with selling the hotel as more than just a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The overarching storyline of the voyage was the same, and, while every voyage was unique based on your interactions, there was no way around the fact that the food, the characters, and the activities were the same.
Additionally, the theming of the hotel was incredibly niche.
There’s no doubt that there are a lot of Star Wars fans out there — it’s one of the most successful franchises in history, after all. But, the “premium, boutique experience” as Disney describes it, wasn’t necessarily for the casual fan…it was built by and for the super fan.
Disney did their best to reiterate that the immersive experience was built for introverted people who know nothing about Star Wars just as much as it was built for people who could talk to strangers for hours about every detail in the movies. However, when combined with the high cost of the experience, it became a bit of a harder sell for the casual fan.
In fact, Disney seemingly acknowledged the fact that they narrowed their market down a bit too much. When they announced that the Galactic Starcruisers will permanently close, they shared that they plan to take what they’ve learned to “create future experiences that can reach more of our guests and fans.”
So, with all of these factors combined, we started to see some weird things happen with bookings just a few months after the hotel opened.
Initially, Disney removed voyage dates from the schedule. Then they canceled scheduled voyages with some sighting low occupancy. Then Disney started offering discounts to select groups including Disney Vacation Club members, Disney World Annual Passholders, and Disney VISA card members. But, it seems that wasn’t enough to save Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser from its disheartening fate.
On May 18th, 2023, Disney announced that Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser would permanently close in October. According to Disney, it is strictly a business decision.
There’s no doubt that the Galactic Starcruiser will go down in Disney history, but not necessarily for all the ways that it failed. Disney managed to bring an entire franchise to life for guests with the help of some amazing Cast Members. Working in an environment where you need to be “on” and in character for nearly 36 hours can’t be easy and the team at the Galactic Starcruiser made it look and feel effortless.
This hotel experience is one that likely won’t be replicated anywhere else ever again, but it sure did set a new bar for immersive entertainment — even if it ultimately failed.
So, as we get ready to say goodbye to the Halcyon, any guests that have a voyage booked after September 30th will be contacted by Disney to discuss next steps. New bookings are temporarily paused to accommodate this process and will resume on May 26th for the remaining voyages.
Disney hasn’t shared any details of what might happen to the massive hotel that they built a year and a half ago, but we’ll be on the lookout for updates. And, in the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to The VacationEAR for more of the latest Disney hotel news!