A Visit to a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Written By: Julie Hostetter

I was a child of the ’80s, and, as such, Han Solo was my first love, and Princess Leia was a much-needed female role model of strength and courage. I cuddled with my “Wicket” plush Ewok doll, considered by some as the Jar Jar Binks of his time, and quoted Yoda movie lines like they were poetry. Star Wars was an indelible part of my childhood that I treasure to this day. Years later, I married a man who is even more of a “Star Wars” nerd than me, if you can scarcely imagine, and we relished passing on these beloved characters to our children.

When I heard that Walt Disney World in Orlando would open an immersive Star Wars hotel that lets its guests be transported to a galaxy far, far away, I was over Tatooine’s three moons. Happily, I made my reservations the moment it opened in March. Albeit, I choked on my blue milk when I finally saw the hefty price tag. Each Star Wars adventure

offers a two-night stay in a cabin or suite, ongoing immersive entertainment, food and beverage on the Starcruiser and quick service meals at Hollywood Studios, and VIP fast pass access to Galaxy’s Edge top Star Wars rides. The passes also include one-day ticket to Hollywood Studios for everyone in your party, valet parking, and an exclusive Star Wars magic band. And it’s a whopping price tag of $4,800 to $6,000, depending on the size of your party. Ouch. I never said being a Star Wars fan was easy.

So, the question that everyone wants to know is, was it worth it? If you can’t quote a line from Star Wars or know the difference between a Bantha and a Rancor, then another Disney adventure is more suiting. For my family of Star Wars fanatics, this two-day vacay to another world was 100 percent worth it! The experience was exhilarating and Disney’s Halcyon Starcruiser is a galaxy not that far away after all.

Inside Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (Disney Parks)

READY FOR TAKEOFF

Don’t judge on first impressions. That holds true upon arriving at the Halcyon Starcruiser’s exterior, which resembles a concrete warehouse rather than a spaceship. But every Jedi knows what matters most is what’s on the inside. Just like entering a cruise ship, there is an unceremonious line your family waits in to enter the Galactic Cruiser. But once you do come aboard, you are transcended to the Star Wars universe, and the adventure truly begins.

The technology is stunning as you are transported into another world, thanks to some high-tech visuals that Disney is renowned for creating. As you survey the grand reception lobby scene, you feel you are surrounded by the blackness of space punctuated by twinkling stars, far-off planets and space crafts via the surrounding “windows.” I should point out here that you nearly have to say goodbye to daylight for your stay, which is all indoors and simulated (excluding the “sun-filled” land at Batuu, of course). But, if you are feeling claustrophobic, retreat to the Climate Simulator, a Jedi-inspired outdoor garden providing a breath of fresh air and the feel of the sun on your skin.

The lobby is where you first mingle with the other guests, and don’t be surprised that most are dressed to impressed in Star Warsthemed outfits and swag. (The alien watching is always a joy!) You’ll also meet the ship’s captain, cruise director and other colorful hosts along with a few very unexpected guests. Didn’t bring any appropriate galactic attire? No worries, just head to Halcyon’s gift shop for your authentic Star Wars apparel and headpieces available only to those who stay aboard. (Which also makes an excellent conversation piece at your next Halloween party.)

Now, cue the suspenseful music. Soon upon your arrival, villainous lackeys from the First Order arrive with their marching orders: rumors are circulating rebels are on board helping the resistance — will you help fight against the evil empire or turn to the Dark Side? The choice is yours. (And you do have to choose, as it will set up a more authentic experience from the get-go!) How much or how little you want to join in on the role-playing is also up to you. Some people scramble from room to room following clues and hints via the new PlayDisney app, while some sit back relax and enjoy the spectacle. There is no wrong way to participate.

Our kids, especially my 11-year-old daughter, spent most of the first-day hand-in-hand with the one and only Chewbacca and the precocious new Halcyon droid SK-620, helping him uncover information and evade capture from the First Order. While Chewy roamed the starcruiser with the kids, my husband and I headed to the Sublight Lounge for a friendly game of Sabacc (the infamous card game that won Han Solo his precious Millennium Falcon from Lando). While there, we sampled the unique drink menu that was out of this world.

TASTE OF SPACE

Speaking of culinary delights, I cannot say enough good things about the food! It truly was a gourmet spectacle like nothing I have ever seen. It looked amazing and was delicious too. You can’t skip the buffet breakfast and lunch as well as the tantalizing seated dinner in the Crown of Corellia Dining Room. On the first night, the Crown of Corellia is a table service supper club with special musical appearances while the second night features a Taste Around the Galaxy multi-course showcase. Like a cruise ship, you’ll select a first or second seating and then enjoy dishes that are literally works of art you’ll be hesitant to eat because you won’t want to ruin it. The Bantha Beef Tenderloin with crushed moonrock potatoes was delicious! And yes, Blue Milk for the little ones is on the menu.

Beyond the food, be sure to take full advantage of the special classes and events offered on board to immerse yourself completely in the space theme. Our favorites were lightsaber training, where we felt like a young Luke, and Bridge training, where you learn how to operate the ship’s systems and controls. You can also take part in other activities like droid racing, building model starships and Sabacc lessons, as well as face painting to make your inner alien come to life.

And last, but certainly not least, is your cabin, which is like stepping into a mini movie set. A large “window” into space complete with passing stars, planets and spaceship will make you feel like you really are traveling in another galaxy. An onscreen interactive droid attendant serves as your personal concierge for your voyage and was a big hit with the kids, as well as the bunk beds, perfect for our little rebels. Unlike a real cruise, there are only 100 cabin or suites on the Halcyon, to ensure you have a pleasant and intimate setting for your galactic journey. And for some piece of mind, in case of emergency, such as a First Order attack, each room has an escape hatch (a hidden access door to the outside of the building) in the very rare case that would be necessary.

Captain Keevan leads each voyage aboard the Halcyon starcruiser in Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser (Disney Parks; David Roark, photographer)

EXCURSION TO BATUU

On the second day of your voyage, guests head to the planet excursion to Batuu and the

Black Spire Outpost. (Also known as Galaxy Edge at Hollywood Studios.) From Halcyon, you take a short trip in an enclosed transport to a private entrance directly into Batuu (Galaxy Edge) so your Star Wars experience is continuous into the park. Here you will have VIP fast passes to the area’s two top new experiences, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. This is truly worth its weight in gold, as these are two of the longest lines at Hollywood Studios. You also will have a food credit to two Star Wars restaurants and other select food options in the park.

Guests can continue special Halcyon missions via the PlayDisney app, or just enjoy the experience. You can also just stay in the Galaxy Edge section for your entire visit, or “break character” and hit some of the other Hollywood Studios favorite rides. Our family took advantage of the time to hit a couple of our favorite’s, the Slinky Dog Dash and the brand new Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which is a fantastic addition to the park and coincidentally, the only ride that features Mickey and Minnie.

THE BIG FINALE

At the conclusion of the last night, without giving too much away, there is a spectacular lightsaber fight that was truly mesmerizing to watch. I don’t want to give away any additional surprise guests but suffice to say, it’s fun for the whole family and exhilarating end to an amazing weekend. As we finally made our way back to our cabin, it was time for our droid assistant to read the kids a bedtime story, before we fell asleep with dancing lightsabers in our heads.

And just as Yoda would say, “Long remember this day, you shall.”

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