Last week, my wife and I stayed at the Disney World Galactic Starcruiser (story to come), and the first question everyone has asked since we came back, understandably so, has been “was it worth the cost?” In fact, that was the biggest question I had in the days before I boarded the ship.
So, let’s take a look at the price of our trip, compare it to similar stays at other Disney hotels, and see just how much of the total stay was paying for the big, immersive, Star Wars-ness of the Galactic Starcruiser. Where is all that extra money going towards?
I’m going to tell you exactly how much my wife and I paid for our stay, and then break down each and every thing that came with it, and the closest relative cost you could get if you weren’t staying. Part of this will be compared to a standard hotel, part of this will be compared to a Disney Deluxe Resort, and part of this will be compared to a cruise ship, as it’s designed like a cruise. You’ll have to forgive some generalizations, because this is very Apples-to-Oranges. Also, while we took a few photos, most of these are from somewhere else on the web, and will be credited.
What Did We Pay?
For two adults to stay in a Standard Cabin, boarding on a Tuesday in March, departing on a Thursday, with no extra amenities added, we paid a total of $5,897.88. Now, it is worth it to note that March was the opening month of the hotel, in fact we were the 8th group to board the ship, not including the Press Previews or the in-house dress rehearsals that have certainly been going on for a few weeks before paying guests arrived.
Also, while not an amenity, we did pay for Travel Insurance. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my wife and I used to work in luxury hospitality (really fancy hotels) and if you are paying for a hotel and it costs more than you’re willing to lose, YOU NEED TRAVEL INSURANCE. I don’t get travel insurance if I’m staying at a Marriott for a wedding, but if you are doing a big serious trip that you are saving this money specifically for a travel experience, you should definitely get the insurance. It is not a scam, it won’t add on a huge percentage of the total price, and if your trip gets cancelled because you or someone in your travel party gets Covid, you want to be able to get that money back. No hotel cares what happens to you, so you need an insurance company that will pay you back.
What Did We Get?
Like I said before, any vacation is split between Where You Sleep, What You Eat, and What You Do. So I’m going to try to break it all down into those three categories, and try to find comparable options. Then I’ll talk about the stuff that is unique to the Starcruiser, and how much you are paying for that specific set of experiences.
Where You Sleep
$1500 Two Night Stay at a Deluxe Resort
It is hard to find an equitable resort stay because it’s all prepaid and inclusive, with all of these amenities. However, if you find a standard 2 Queen bed, 2 nights, weeknights, at a Deluxe Resort Hotel, I find the price to be anywhere between $1,000-$2,000, so I averaged them out.
The room comes with a single queen size bed, two extra long (6’3″) full sized bunk beds, a small table, and a bathroom size that is fine. I see so many people complaining about the bathroom size, and I wonder what hotels they are staying at that are any bigger. It’s a full sized shower, a single sink, toilet with privacy door, and a small vanity outside the bathroom. It would be tight with 4-5 people, yes, but so is any 2 bed hotel room’s bathroom.
If you do a 3-night Disney Cruise, 2/3 of that price is about $1,000, so if you are comparing it to that, this is still more expensive.
What You Eat
$625 Onsite Food
All food and non-alcoholic beverages are included. There is a breakfast buffet both mornings, a lunch buffet both afternoons, a full service dinner both evenings, and a dessert buffet the final evening, as well as grab-n-go options at the Guest Service counter. The only time we got receipts were when we ordered alcoholic beverages either with dinner or at the bar. The beverages were certainly at premium prices, anywhere between $12-$35 for a cocktail. In your room there was a large 1-Liter bottle of water for your use, but it wasn’t any better than the onsite tap water.
The buffet was certainly buffet quality, and the dinners were on par with your included meals that you’d get on a cruise. Overall, they were fine. Not great, not terrible, just fine. Some of my favorites include…
- Waffle was really cool and good
- Bacon was good
- Breakfast sausage was ok
- Fruit was ok
- The egg was cafeteria style, not good
- Ham and Cheese roll was great
- Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup was really good
- Pizza was good
- The fish was not good, I would skip it entirely
- Dumplings were ok
- Meat was decent, but again, I would skip any fish dish
$65 Park Meal Plan
Preloaded onto your Magic Band is a free Entree and Beverage (alcoholic or non) at the Docking Bay 7 restaurant. The options we chose came to $65, but I guess if you wanted to most bang for your buck, you could stretch it to $70.
What You Do
$220 Park Tickets
Two adult tickets to Hollywood Studios through a secret entrance at Galaxy’s Edge. The maximum amount of time you could spend there is from 8am-4pm, so a small early entrance (usually Hollywood Studios opens at 8:30) and no evening stays. Also, you can’t “Rope Drop” the early entrance because you get assigned a transport time, as the transport included only has 12 seats available. While they don’t tell you not to leave Galaxy’s Edge, I personally wouldn’t, because the immersive aspect is why I’m at this hotel anyway. However, the story involved adds enough to do that after the two rides and included food (details to come) there were definitely several hours worth of stuff to do.
$45 Lighting Lane
You get two Lightning Lane passes, one for the Smuggler’s Run ride, one for the Rise of the Resistance. So not skipping the line entirely, but I think we spent about 15 minutes in each line, half of which was walking time.
$200 Simulation Games
This is where it starts to get tough to price out the experience. There are two simulation trainings that are scheduled, one where you learn how to wield a lightsaber and block blaster bolts, and one where you learn to work the ship from the bridge. Both were definitely kid centric, but neither were completely boring. If you went to a park, and you did either additional activity, something like that would usually run $50 per person.
What You Get
This is not standard with a classic hotel, unless you include the mini bottles of shampoo. There were plenty of little gifts included that I loved, and made it feel much more inclusive.
$80 Custom Magic Band
In the past few years at Disney World, your stay comes with a Magic Band, which normally gets you into your room, can be your payment method at stores and restaurants, and keeps track of your Lightning Lanes. However, now it also keeps track of your access to secret rooms and even your ability to interact with a roaming astromech droid. I think the custom name engraving on the back is standard, but it’s still cool to have your name on the inside.
$30 Exclusive Pin
Disney pin trading is a huge part of the Disney fandom, but this doubles as your pass when you are on Batuu (Galaxy’s Edge) so the Cast Members know that you are part of the hotel, and can get special pieces of narrative dialogue that relate back to the story on the ship.
$30 Face Mask Set
In each room, in addition to the classic soap and lotion, there is also a tin of facemask and makeup remover. Luckily I know how much it costs because they also sold it in the onboard gift shop.
How Much is Left?
So now, we know approximately how much the experience aspect of the stay costs. You might be wondering what that $3,300 is paying for, and it’s really hard to explain, but I’ll try to break down different aspects of the immersive experience.
Without going into **spoilers**, the basic idea of the story is that this ship, which is for luxury civilians and recently renovated, makes stops at planets much like a real-life cruise. This particular cruise is the 275th anniversary of their maiden voyage. However, recently wherever the ship has embarked, there has been noticeable Resistance activity, so the First Order has dispatched an Officer and a couple of Stormtroopers to see if the crew is somehow involved with the Resistance.
There are a variety of characters you can meet, from different groups. You can tell a character from a standard castmember because they all wear microphones for the scenes when they are talking to everyone, but even the castmembers that are regular Guest Service Agents are always in character, with home planets and completely unaware of anything from Earth.
Ship Crew: The people that run the ship.
- Captain Keevan – Captain of the ship. Excellent leader of her crew.
- Cruise Director Lenka Mok – In charge of on-board entertainment and guest enjoyment, very nice lady.
- Engineer Sammie – New guy on board, very awkward, finds himself in more trouble than he intends.
- SK-620 – Astromech droid who helps Director Mok with her duties.
- D3-09 – On board Logistic droid that you could access from your room. (Amazing AI that should be talked about more).
First Order: The antagonists
- Lt. Croy – Very proud and arrogant Lieutenant who is skeptical of everyone on board.
- Stormtroopers (2-4 patrolling the ship at any given time) – Generic stormtroopers, just like the ones that wander around Galaxy’s Edge.
Entertainment: The musicians onboard
- Gaya – Galactic Superstar, extremely confident, extremely charismatic.
- Raithe – Gaya’s manager, a little sketchy, my favorite character on the entire ship.
- Ouannii – Gaya’s backup musician, very sweet and bubbly, though doesn’t speak Basic (English).
- Sandro – Fellow traveler who wants to become a professional musician like Gaya.
Saja: Nomadic Students and Teachers of the Force.
- While there are 3-4 Saja on board, I’m not sure that they have a narrative difference, though they are all really nice and cool.
- At least 2 other characters that we had brief interactions with that many of you would immediately recognize!
When you board, you get an iPhone 12 mini, that only has 3 apps, including the settings, because it is designed to do nothing but be your phone to use the Disney Play app, where basically the backbone of the story occurs. This datapad is critical to use throughout the ship as it has communications from various characters, maps, itineraries; and if you start getting wrapped up in some trouble… there’s even more. The story plays out kind of like a video game in this aspect, where it is through the Datapad communications that you get 80% of your missions/goals. The first 10% are the base that you can do without engaging with the story at all, and the last 10% you get from interacting with the character actors in person.
When you talk to the Characters through the Datapad, it is clear that you are talking to a bot, and you can choose between a few options in a classic dialogue tree. You usually get 1-3 response choices, that follow the Yes/No/Maybe pattern. I wish there was some more variety in the dialogue tree options, and I hope that they will add to it in the future. I’ll go more into the choices you make in the next article.
Lastly, there is the live aspect of the characters, which breaks down into two styles.
The first, is a music performance. Gaya, Galactic Superstar, does a set of songs during the first night’s dinner, with lights, audience interaction, the works. She is a classic pop singer, with a call-and-response song, a ballad, a song about her fame and fortune, and a few others. The second evening, she does an “Unplugged” set, that’s more your acoustic, coffee-style covers of the songs. And with the Dessert on the second night, Ouannii and Sandro do a duet set. The songs are fun, but nothing groundbreaking.
The other type of shows, are scenes, usually in the Atrium for everyone to see, where the First Order Lieutenant is accusing the ship Captain of something, or Gaya’s manager is promoting Gaya, but the Cruise Director is questioning his legitimacy, or a few dozen other scenes. They are all fun, and mostly scripted, but they are the stimulus to the next set of missions you’ll get, and you really start to get favorite characters from these little scenes.
My wife likened the scenes to being a Groundling at the Globe Theatre, because the actors are standing next to you, or up on the balcony, or running up and down the stairs between the two, and it feels natural for it all to be happening all around you. You don’t just sit and watch, you turn around, you notice the windows to space outside is changing with it, you look for someone sneaking through the audience, trying not to be noticed. It’s all happening around you and it’s a lot of fun.
Is It Worth It?
If you asked us the morning of departure for $1,000 for another 24 hours on the ship, both my wife and I would have said yes and been so excited to see what was next. But it is really only worth it not only if you are a big Star Wars fan, but if the idea of running around the ship like it’s an MMO sounds like fun. You need to be okay getting someone’s attention, asking for help from different characters or other guests, and being resourceful. If you want to go to watch a loved one have fun, you’ll probably feel like it’s a waste of your money. There simply isn’t enough passive entertainment to spend the $3,300 to let the story happen to you.