Walt Disney World has released Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser resort stays for the remainder of 2023, and also officially confirmed a reduction of “voyages” per week. This post shares dates & details, plus extensive commentary about why this is frustrating and not an actual solution to the issues.
The main substantive detail is that Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser voyages are now on sale for October through December 2023 travel dates. The voyage calendar has been updated online with the new availability posted for the remainder of the year, which confirms something we suspected back in January–Disney is reducing the number of weekly Starcruiser voyages.
Here’s Walt Disney World’s official statement on this: “When the voyage calendar is live, you may notice the schedule has been modified to provide two voyages per week, except for holiday weeks where we may have three voyages. We’ve been learning a lot during our first year of operation and have adjusted voyage dates to meet the needs of our guests.”
To be clear, “meet the needs of our guests” is a PR-friendly way of saying that the number of voyage dates has been reduced due to low demand for the struggling Starcruiser. You don’t reduce the availability of something that’s a rousing success. The only “need” being addressed here is Disney’s attempt to stem the bleeding and reduce loses.
This follows a couple of different discounts for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, neither of which really did anything to incentivize voyages. First came the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser “discount” released for DVC members. This was a deal in name only, as it was a low-value DVC point offer. Members would’ve been better off renting out their points and paying cash for Starcruiser.
Following that, there was last month’s special offer to Save Up to $700 on 2-Night Disney World Resort Stays when paired with Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser (see above savings chart). In our view, this was a good discount for people who already had Starcruiser booked. In other words, it incentivized Deluxe Resort stays before or after, and not Starcruiser bookings. The focus was on the wrong thing.
Finally, we didn’t cover it in a standalone post, but Walt Disney World just released Cast Member discounts of 50% off select Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser voyages. Now this actually is a good deal and one that might help fill some of the many empty rooms. The only issue is that it’s very narrowly targeted, and only a small subset of all Cast Members who are eligible could actually afford to do this pricey experience.
With that out of the way, let’s turn to commentary. Frankly, this is frustrating. Before it even opened, we predicted that Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser might struggle to find an audience once the initial wave of hardcore fans and affluent enthusiasts got their fix. We also predicted that Walt Disney World would be slow to pivot, and would quietly offer targeted discounts to Cast Members and other groups to avoid publicly “admitting” that the Starcruiser was not a big success.
This perspective was hardly unique, and one many Walt Disney World commentators and fans who had ‘been around the block’ shared. So I say this not to boast that I nailed the prediction, but out of frustration that Disney did not foresee this internally, and has no apparent plans to pivot or do anything differently.
Let’s be clear: Starcruiser is struggling. If the status quo is maintained, this will only get worse over time. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser debuted during a period of pent-up demand and free-spending consumers. Its first year largely exhausted the supply of hardcore Star Wars and Disney fans who have the money and interest in an experience like this.
Reducing the number of weekly voyages cuts costs and consolidates what demand does exist, but it doesn’t fix any underlying issues. Namely, it does not expand the audience or appeal of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. It’s a band aid approach that will simply result in Starcruiser losing less money and failing slower. If this is Walt Disney World’s only fix, then failure is still inevitable.
To that point, another prediction we made even before Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser opened was that if it failed, it would close. There are possible pivots (we’ll discuss those in a bit), but converting this building to a standard hotel is not one of them. Many Walt Disney World fans seem to assume this is a plausible or inevitable outcome. It is not.
Starcruiser does not have a laundry list of amenities that a normal guest would expect of a hotel–everything from a pool to outdoor common areas to working windows. Part of the reason Starcruiser has been such a challenge to market is because it is fundamentally not a hotel. It’s an immersive experience that offers a place to sleep.
Starcruiser is also very small. The entire thing is only 100 rooms. The scale does not work as a hotel, especially given the level of investment that would be required to convert this into a standard hotel. It would be like throwing good money after bad.
Honestly, even if Starcruiser could somehow be operated as a hotel without any material changes, I suspect it’s not viable. The operating costs of staffing and maintaining it–even without entertainment performers–might be too high given the low number of rooms. (As I’ve said before, even at present, I don’t think the margins on Starcruiser are nearly as healthy as many fans assume. Yes, the price is high, but so too are the operating costs.)
I write all of this not as one of the doom & gloom bloggers or vloggers who has an axe to grind with Disney or Star Wars. There are plenty of people who have been openly hoping for the failure of Starcruiser. I am not one of them. I’m simply trying to be cognizant of operational and economic realities, as well as demand for this experience as it exists.
To those points, I also know that guest satisfaction for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is excellent. We’re talking higher scores than just about anything else at Walt Disney World. I have heard this from multiple people with knowledge of the Halcyon, and I have no reason to doubt them. (This also comports with our Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Review, which is incredibly positive about everything except for the price.)
I have no issue calling out the many mistakes that Disney has made with this, but the actual experience is not one of them. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser having some of the highest guest satisfaction scores of anything at Walt Disney World should be entirely unsurprising for anyone who has actually done a voyage.
For those who haven’t, it’s an incredibly well-done, memorable, and personalized experience. Everything about it is amazing. You become emotionally invested in the outcome of the storyline and the whole thing is just immensely satisfying. Walt Disney World has had its hits and misses in recent years, but this delivers in just about every regard. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is classic Walt Disney World–a true triumph of Imagineering.
The main problem, of course, is the price. (For more thoughts on this expensive pricing, see Is Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Worth the High Cost?) Guest satisfaction is incredibly high, but there’s just a tiny bit of selection bias there: it’s surveying those who could afford to do Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. Not polled are the ~95% of the potential audience for this that either could not afford it or don’t want to invest the time in a multi-day live action role playing experience.
Basically, Walt Disney World has something that’s awesome and envelope-pushing, but has high operating costs and even higher price points for guests. The end result is something highly exclusionary that reduces a potentially large consumer pool into a very small one.
So what’s the solution? Well, I can tell you what it is not, and that’s what Disney is doing. Again, this is a band aid approach that temporarily stems the bleeding and reduces costs. But it still puts Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser on a path to eventual closure if no other interventions are taken.
The real solution is expanding the consumer-base. This is accomplished by offering something that’s more approachable, both from a pricing perspective and also a time commitment one. It’s not either/or, it’s both. Due to the scale and operating expenses, there’s likely only so much cost-cutting that can be done to reduce pricing on the 2-night experience while still maintaining profitability. That’s fine, because price is not the only impediment to people doing Starcruiser–it’s also investing 2 nights of limited vacation time into an experience that might not be for everyone.
As we’ve suggested before, the solution is debuting ‘day trips’ aboard the Halcyon. Walt Disney World could offer 8-hour experiences that condense key moments of the storyline into a single day visit. The branching script could be rewritten in a way that hits the major high notes, basically turning the Halcyon into a boutique theme park or interactive narrative experience. (Somewhat like Meow Wolf, but exponentially more expensive.)
This shorter experience would be very attractive to some fans and also significantly cheaper. It would introduce a whole new audience to Starcruiser, and whet their appetite for even more. It could result in even more bookings of the 2-night voyage as people learn how good Starcruiser really is.
I know this is feasible and also would incentivize full voyages because I attended a partial-day preview of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser before it officially opened. It was pretty much what I’m describing above, and it left me satisfied but also wanting more. Granted, we had already booked and paid for the full voyage by that point, but I’m fairly positive that day trip would’ve convinced me to do the full experience regardless.
To be sure, that will not be the outcome for many Star Wars and Walt Disney World fans. They will book the day trips because that’s all their budget allows, and no amount of saving or skimping will change the equation on that. The 2-night experience is simply too expensive for the vast majority of the park-going public–or not how they want to spend their limited vacation time.
That’s perfectly fine. Capturing a new audience is capturing a new audience, and the day trips would be a great pivot that offers a less expensive entry point into Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser while also maintaining its future financial viability. This alone would be huge, and keep the Halcyon operational for at least a few more years.
Ultimately, I really want to see Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser succeed. That’s why it’s so frustrating to see Walt Disney World make changes that don’t fix the underlying issues, but instead allow it to circle the drain a little slower.
Frankly, I get why so many fans are frustrated by the Starcruiser and are openly cheering for it to fail. It was dumb of Disney to make this so exclusionary, both in pricing and appeal. There are dozens of ways Disney could’ve approached this so it didn’t alienate so much of the audience. Yet they opted against all of that and remain steadfast in their refusal to fix the underlying issues. In a sense, Disney will get what they deserve if Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser fails.
However, that’s not what the creative team behind the Starship Halcyon deserve, nor do the passionate performers who poured their hearts and souls into making these characters and the whole experience come alive. It’s also not what Star Wars or Walt Disney World fans deserve–and that includes those who have bashed it. There are so many fans who have done so out of justifiable frustration, but who would actually love the Starcruiser if given a chance to experience it.
At the end of the day, I don’t know if offering ‘day excursions’ to the Starcruiser in between full voyages would actually work or save the Starcruiser. But it’s certainly better than the alternative, which is trying absolutely nothing and hoping that it just magically becomes more popular even as pent-up demand is fizzling out and consumer spending is slowing.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is actually awesome, innovative, and a leap forward for the world of interactive storytelling. Imagineering created something outside the box that offered full immersion, interactivity, entertainment, and personalization in a highly-themed environment. It will be an absolute shame if more fans do not get to experience this, and if Disney scraps the millions of dollars in physical infrastructure and R&D. Walt Disney World needs to be as creative in fixing the current problems as Imagineering was in designing the experience–because there’s something special here, more people just need the chance to experience it.
Thoughts on Walt Disney World reducing weekly voyages for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser? Any ideas for solutions to the Starcruiser’s struggles? Think day trips would be a good compromise solution? Would you prefer a more conventional hotel stay at a Star Wars-themed or decorated hotel? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!