Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Slashes Voyages, But Not Prices…or Anything Else.
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.
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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!
I understand that price is a significant barrier for many many people, but I am not sure where a day trip price point would be that would attract guests. The build a light saber experience is $250 and lasts, what, maybe 30 minutes, less? How much for 5 hours on the starcruiser? $800 per person? Most deluxe hotels are at that price or even less for the whole family and you get to stay the night. I think that many people would balk at the price of a day trip and disney would be in a similar position. It makes me really sad because, in its current form, the starcruiser is an absolutely incredible experience and as expensive as it is, and it is really expensive, for what you can get out of it, the price is not unreasonable. As mentioned on previous articles from this site, there were predictions that it was going to be even more expensive.
I truly don’t understand how this couldn’t just be turned into a deluxe hotel.. I for one would pay to stay there over many other deluxe resorts if it was priced similar. Just build a Star Wars themed pool area with an outdoor restaurant. I’m sure many people feel the same way. Am I missing something???
It would have to be more expensive than other deluxe resorts as the fixed operating costs of the resort aren’t spread over 800+ rooms like the Grand Floridian or shared with DVC Villas. It would definitely be cheaper than what it’s currently priced for groups of 3-4, but more expensive than what one should expect, especially given the 180 square foot rooms. Maybe you could tear out the Star Wars and renovate some areas to add conference space, since business travelers could probably do a week in that Tower Room sized box. I just can’t imagine a family of 4 doing those rooms for a week if you can get twice the space with windows and a balcony on a monorail or Skyliner route for less money.
A more long-term concept would have been to make the Starcruiser an actual hotel, with a minimum stay of three – five days. This would allow time for each guest to participate, or not participate, in the storyline, to the extent they wish. The performers could form more personalised interactions with guests, and guests would not feel tied to a specific schedule. It would require an open-ended script funneling toward fixed events/story points while providing guests with the ability to form their own experience around those points. In game terms, it would be a ‘choose your own path’ journey. When / if guests choose to ‘leave the ship’, a ‘shuttle’ would take them to the alien world of Florida, then return to the ‘ship’ for dinner, entertainment, and sleep. There is no beginning or end to the story, but each arriving guest finds themselves in the middle of an on-going adventure. Something like how ‘Star Wars’ was originally created….
I think you’re overplaying the time-commitment issue. There are plenty of people in the US who like role-playing and unique experiences and can devote the time. The issue is 99.5% the price. I REALLY, REALLY want to do Starcruiser. It hurts how much I want it. But we just don’t have that much money lying around, even with our relatively affluent middle-class income. It would take real sacrifice to make this happen. I promise you there are literally tens of thousands of people in the same position. If the price was cut in half, I guarantee this thing would be full for decades to come.
I do think they can make a TON of money by offering shorter private events — cocktail parties and the like. That would mean I could easily splurge on stuff at Starcruiser. This would bring in a larger range of guests. But it isn’t the “time commitment” there either — it’s that shorter events would be more affordable. If they’re going to cut back voyages, short events like this ought to be a no-brainer. They should be doing more special events with Galaxy’s Edge in general frankly, with fireworks, more RP’ing cast members and more. I’d pay for that in an instant. But whatever they do, the focus needs to be on lowering the price of entry.
I’m very sad that for Disney that probably means quality costs, but it really *should* mean lower profit margins, special events subsidizing the longer cruises, or even just offering zero to very low-interest payment plans. They do that and they’ll have more bookings. They don’t do that, it’s because they don’t want to.
ITA. Sure, there are some people staying away because of the nature of the experience, but they are nothing compared to the audience that would LOVE to do this but for the price. If I had a way of getting the CM discount, we would be there next week. Plenty of others would, too. So even though the per-hour price might be higher for a day excursion, we would be interested because we want on that ship so badly. Yes, my youngest kids are obsessed with the bunk beds, but really, 4-8 hours that include some lightsaber training, a visit to the bridge, and a meal would satisfy us and more, even without staying overnight. They could have evening excursions where you can go to the lounge between more scheduled activities.
Like Gaya mentioned, they are crazy to not offer Bounceback bookings for maybe 20-30% off. So many people who go describe basically being dopamine “high” from it, being teary when they go, that I’m sure they would jump at the chance to go again.
Any way that they can lower the price of entry also makes it more viable for people to make the Halcyon visit part of a longer stay–because they still have money left to relax at a resort before going home, making the whole time an actual vacation.
I actually would be more likely to book a LONGER starcruiser voyage, at the same or similar per night cost of the 2-night, rather than a single-day option for less than the 2-night. I’m not saying double the entertainment, just spread it out and build in more downtime. We’ve been looking at booking a suite on concierge on Disney Cruise Line next summer to celebrate a milestone anniversary. It will be far more expensive than the starcruiser, and a true “splurge” for our budget, but would give us a true vacation. Flying down to orlando and back just to spend 2-days where we are forced to run from activity to activity, keep our kids up late at night when they’d rather sleep (or let them go to be early and miss out on a big chunk of the experience), and waste half a day in Galaxy’s edge which we’ve already been to a dozen times, only to turn around and fly back home and back to work does not sound fun. We’d be exhausted and probably still feel like we missed out on a lot. If they spread the experience out over 3 to 5 days, with scheduled portions of the day where you have to be “on” and interacting with the plot, and other times when you can chill and watch “historical footage” (star wars movies), visit a spa (perhaps they could add a small one), or perhaps add a courtyard with a small pool and hot tub, or a “youngling” activity like the kids club on the ship so mom and dad could get a drink at the bar and take a break from the grind of looking after little kids 24/7, it’d be so much more appealing. I like to relax on vacation. I can get that if we go on a cruise, or stay at a deluxe hotel in disney world and just do half days at the park. And I like to be gone on vacation long enough to unwind and feel refreshed. Instead of building a luxury cruise in space, what they’ve really built is a 2-ay long long theme park attraction.
All. Of. This.
Galaxies Edge needs more content, it should be anexed to Holywood Studios and given access with the regular ticket.
We did the Starcruiser in October, and a 4-night Disney Dream cruise in February. We got a Disney+ discount for the cruise and it cost half as much as Starcruiser, but I have no doubt that if I asked my kids which they would rather repeat, they would choose the Starcruiser in an instant. But I would need two things to consider booking again: 1. A return cruiser discount and 2. A new or updated storyline. The latter is probably too expensive, but the former is a no-brainer that they should have started offering since they are already giving out CM and DVC discounts. I think short day trips on off-days like Tom suggests here would be a good way to shore up the Starcruiser, they could be offered like any WDW tour. Events would be another, such as renting out the Starcruiser for a few hours during the day or evening for a wedding or corporate party. The hotel part wouldn’t be needed, and you might not need the actors, either. Could have a robot DJ like in Oga’s Cantina. What I would hate to see is the 2-night experience diminished. Everything from the cast to the food, to the in-room chats with the ship’s droid and holo Sabacc made this unlike any other entertainment/hospitality hybrid in the world, and that original vision is what makes it so special.