My Time on the Galactic Starcruiser

We stayed at the Galactic Starcruiser last week, and along with a cost-benefit analysis, I also just want to talk about everything that happened, party because there is just so much to process! I’m going to start with Spoiler-free breakdown of what happened, followed by my advice on what to do, and finally the coolest, Super-Spoiler moment of my entire trip for those that are curious. In short, I want to say that the entire trip reminded me of a certain scene from Westworld.

Westworld is the closest that many can really compare the Starcruiser to, because we don’t have much in the way of immersive storytelling yet. Because this is the first, there were certainly the big explosive moments, that studios think the guests want; everything Sizemore, the younger presenter in the video above, believes that Star Wars fans will come for. While there were a few moments I experienced that were those little secrets, those exclusive moments, like Ford, Anthony Hopkins’ character, was alluding to. Every time I tried to scratch that itch, it always ended a little too soon, but for the first major immersive storytelling venture, this did really well, and I can’t wait to see how this new form of entertainment continues to grow.

(By the way, if you want more immersive storytelling, and you like British Faerie type fantasy, go research Evermore in Utah.)

Prologue

First, we have the Prologue, everything that happens before the story starts.

My wife, Chanel, and I wanted to go fully in character, in full costumes, and really do the Live Action Roleplay (LARP) aspect of this trip to the fullest. So we created two Infochants (Information Merchants, or intelligence smugglers) who had just paid off a debt to the Crimson Dawn (complete with wrist branding) and came to celebrate and visit a friend on Batuu. We had home planets, opinions about droids, the Force, the Resistance vs. First Order, everything. It was really cool, but a lot of it was really just for us, as only the surface was scratched.

Branded wrists, the same that Qi’ra has in Solo when she is working for the Crimson Dawn.

When we arrived, the immersion started with the Security guard checking our names before we got to the building, who asked us our home planet, and if we were excited. They weren’t fully immersive, but they were like a little appetizer, making sure we were ready to be in character once we got out of our car.

Fun story, apparently a lot of the cast and crew from that helped open the hotel all got matching tattoos of the Chandrilla Star Line logo (the circles and lines) to commemorate it. If you pay attention, you can see a few of them rocking the tattoos, which is a fun little IRL Easter Egg.

We get out of the car, and a Guest Service Agent is there with a tablet to check us in, give us our Datapads (iPhones), valet our car, take our luggage, take our picture in front of the hotel placard, and get us in the security line. We watched a short video that basically describes the difference between a fictional emergency, and a real life emergency, then we board. The Datapads were where we would log onto the Disney Play app, which we used about 10 hours a day. It was central to everything we did.

The shuttle up from the Space Port to the Starcruiser was…fine. It was less cool than the concept art, and could only hold about 6-10 people at a time, along with a short cinematic, which led to us waiting an hour in line from getting out of the car to walking aboard the ship. As we got off the shuttle, we found ourselves in the Atrium of the Starcruiser, where another Guest Service Agent was there with a tablet to escort us to our room, and answer some basic questions about our stay.

We get to our room, our luggage already inside, are introduced to the Onboard Logistics Droid D3-09, and we were then free to roam about the cabin.

Act I

D3-09 was the coolest droid I have ever met. Through a videocam in our room you could talk to D3, who was the most natural AI virtual assistant I have seen. I would pay so much money to upgrade Siri or Alexa to D3, because she had a real personality, asked favors of us, and told the best bedtime stories.

We headed down to get some lunch at the buffet, which I mentioned before, was about on par with a cruise buffet, but with some fun theming. We headed back up to the Atrium to take a tour of the ship, and learn some of it’s history.

The only moment I found a Castmember break character was right before the tour, I went to the Guest Service counter because the pen we brought to take notes had died, and I asked if they had any complimentary pens like most hotels. The Castmember said “I’m not sure, we might have a Disney pen for you,” which was perfectly fine, and the only time I heard anyone that worked there say Disney. I found it humorous that I caught them off guard enough to forget they aren’t allowed to say Disney.

After the tour, we noticed some people were running around, logging into computer terminals along the wall, and we were confused. “How are they already logging into stuff? We just got here.” We headed to the bar to grab a beverage, and someone, another guest, who was sitting next to us asked “Have you checked out the engineering room yet? Are you a wraith?” A what? Again, we just got on board, how are people already checking out secret rooms and asking code names? We even heard about someone collected a bounty before dinner, and throughout our entire stay we never learned where they got a bounty from, or how they cashed in on it.

We decided to amp it up a bit, and go find this engineering room and figure out what a wraith was (by the way, Raithe is just a guy’s name, not a secret phrase). We found it, and someone else opened the door and went in, so we snuck through before the door closed, and felt really cool. Inside were TONS of people, all pulling levers and logging into another terminal, and we…had no idea what was going on. It was very awkward, so we left. We tried to see if we could have opened the door ourselves, to no avail. We walked away, starting to worry.

Well, at least we knew it was time to go to our Muster Stations, the place we go in case of an emergency (#TeamDorn), and the first bit of story for everyone happens. It seems that everywhere the Halcyon goes for an excursion, there is always noticeable Resistance activity there shortly thereafter. The First Order has noticed this pattern, and has sent Lieutenant Croy and two Stormtroopers there to investigate.

Then, our Datapads started to light up. Objectives were coming in. Okay, we now have a goal. So we went to the computer terminal, only to find a line 5 people deep. We couldn’t go somewhere else, because there are only 8 terminals across the whole ship, 1 of which is hidden, and 2 of which are occasionally unavailable because they also access the bridge. Well, guess we’ll wait. It got to our turn, and my wife logged in, and the screen had a bunch of stuff, but none of it said what we were expecting based on what our Datapad told us. She logged off and I logged in. It was the same, so we started to press random buttons to see if that would help. It did! Perfect, I did the thing, so now I have to log out so she can log back in and do it too. We looked back and saw a line of semi-impatient people behind us. The Datapad Objectives were coming in from some of the characters on board, as they would text us, and we would be able to respond with a Dialogue Tree in a classic Yes/No/Maybe structure.

It was feeling less like a Star Wars movie, and more like a Star Wars MMORPG, a feeling that would stick around for most of the trip.

We could tell that the Characters we were texting and the Actors running around the ship as those Characters were not exactly the same. So I would usually open my conversation with “As you mentioned in your text…” so the actor didn’t have to try to remember if this was an in-person conversation or just following up on the story. At one point I went up to the main antagonist “Lieutenant Croy” and told him I’d be willing to help his mission, for pay. While the Actor said “I’m sure that’s something that can be arranged, let me speak to my superior,” his text-based simulacrum was not as pleased with that motivation, and the Actor never got back to me. Between the Text-Characters having such limited options for conversation, and the Actor-Characters having such limited options to modify the story, we came to a real dead end with him.

We went to Lightsaber Training with the Saja, nomadic students and teachers of the Force, who are training us in the 3rd form of Lightsaber combat, which focuses on defense from blasters. Definitely youngling focused, where you put the lightsaber in the beam of light, it vibrates, and you repeat that for a minute, then you rotate. You take about 4 turns total, and it’s a little cheesy, but not too bad. What I think would have been a lot more fun is to put on a helmet akin to Luke’s on the Millennium Falcon, and done a BeatSaber style training in VR, or AR if they include a small camera. It really could have been improved upon, the Suspension of Disbelief was high, but easy enough for all ages, from younglings to experienced masters.

We continued to begin moving around and exploring until dinner, where we were really worrying that we weren’t “doing it right.” Dinner was multiple courses, and while there was a menu, everything on the menu came out, so there was plenty of food family-style, and it was on par with cruise dinner food. There was also a show with Galactic Superstar Gaya which was fun, as she meandered around the dining room while she sang. We were told that we would probably have to share a table, as there were only two of us, but neither night was that the case. I actually wish we had, because we hadn’t really talked to anyone else onboard yet, and I like making vacation friends. Alas, we enjoyed dinner, bought a Sabaac deck from the gift shop, and relaxed in the bar, teaching ourselves how to play Space Poker until about 1am. Multiple adventure threads all texted us around 11pm saying something along the lines of “Let me know when you get to Batuu, I need you to do something for me.”

A note, the action slows down around dinner. Because there are two seatings, half of the passengers are having dinner from 5:30-7, and the other half are having dinner from 8-9:30, so because of that, there isn’t much to do in that time when you aren’t having dinner but the other half are. Just sit tight, wait until that 9-9:30 window, and the evening activities pick back up.

Also, we wondered at one point about splurging a little bit more and doing the Captain’s Table with dinner one night, but after watching it from afar, I’m glad we didn’t.

Pros: Big table in the center of the room, exclusive meal courses and beverages, focused time with the Captain.

Cons: Still eating basically the same food as everyone else, and the Captain is probably only there for 20 minutes, where she does her little monologue and leaves, because she has to do both dinners, and is also involved with other aspects of the story outside the dining room. Feels much more like you’re paying to say you were at the Captain’s Table, as opposed to any actual benefit or special treatment.

If people want me to go into details about the food, I’ll be happy to, but I know there are tons of food reviews already, and even an entire website called DisneyFoodBlog which has dedicated multiple articles to just the food.

Act II

We woke up the next morning at 7am, a little tired, but excited for our excursion to Batuu (Galaxy’s Edge). We grabbed some breakfast and prepared for our 8:40a departure. We boarded a U-Haul truck with 12 seats, for a very uncomfortable, not very themed shuttle ride down.

As we landed at a secret landing bay, we walked out right next to the TIE Echelon, and knew we had seven hours to enjoy before the final shuttle would depart. In that seven hours, we had two major missions (Lightning Lane passes for Rise of the Resistance and Smuggler’s Run), a variety of minor missions on our datapads, a free entree/beverage at Docking Bay 7 restaurant, and a couple other fun activities that anyone can do on the Disney Play app. It probably took us about five hours to do all the missions and have lunch, at which point we decided to head back to the ship, because the rest of the Disney Play activities were a little boring.

While the major missions was part of what we paid for by going, it was the minor missions that we probably had more fun with. Without going into spoilers, things that were normally set dressing became interactable for us. At Ronto Roasters, the meat is cooked by a droid who operates a podracing engine that was in the center of the room. We had to hack into the droid, shut it down, and the engine LITERALLY SHUT DOWN in the middle of the lunch rush. The droid audibly complained, and we got out because we thought someone would notice the havok we caused.

At another point we had to go to a Toy Shop and hack into the computers to download a file, and accidentally shut down the lights in the Toy Shop itself, and we were actually yelled at by an alien behind the door, that had to essentially flip the breakers in her own shop. Little things that other people just look at, we were suddenly fully interacting with in a way we never would have thought possible.

Also, because we went in costume, we were stopped about a dozen times by people thinking we were castmembers, asking us where the bathroom was, or how to get to the Millennium Falcon. After we told them we didn’t work there, to their astonishment, we were still able to give them directions because we had been running around already, and knew the layout of the land. A few more attentive guests noticed us and asked if we were doing that “immersive hotel thing,” which we were excited to tell them we were, and answered several questions, primarily “is it worth it?”

The Starcruiser is only worth it if a) you are a HUGE Star Wars fan, and b) the idea of playing a real life video game sounds exciting.

While we were on Batuu, we did a number of things that earned us credits, including the money you make from Hondo at the end of Smugglers Run, but throughout our stay we never found a way to actually use those credits. I think we had well over 7,000 by the end, and nowhere to put them.

Once we headed back to the ship, there were a few schedule-fillers that weren’t crucial as people were still coming back from Batuu, so we decided to check out the Sabaac tournament. Up to 4 people could play at a table, but we only did 4 hands, each person dealt once, before they eliminated all but the highest winner, so we did not make it. Also, while there was a castmember walking around, I definitely would have preferred if there was a dedicated dealer at each table. Who knows, maybe there was for the finals.

Act III

Post-Batuu is where everything really started to come together. The major missions (the rides) really became directly influential to the major events in Act 3. I really can’t get into it without going into spoilers, so instead I will say that there are three types of events that you can be included in throughout the stay. For these, it’s important to note that with the 100-room ship, I think there were around 400-450 total passengers, but I could be wrong.

The first, are major events that everyone is involved in. These are primarily in the Atrium, and involved the characters using their microphones so everyone can hear everything. It’s when the Captain is talking to the First Order Lieutenant, but Superstar Gaya gets roped in. These are very passive, where you really just sit back and watch it unfold like a play. You might get a shoutout, or the audience will mob-like cheer or boo, but you are just part of the 400-strong collective, looking up at the balcony.

The second are faux-exclusive. The most obvious non-spoiler is the Bridge Training, where you learn how to defend the ship from training droids, but then, Uh Oh!, there are real ships you have to shoot down, and defend the ship with! These moments can be with anywhere from 15-40 passengers, and however it ends is probably different for each group, as well as who is leading the training. Is it the Engineer and you’re getting a delivery smuggled, or is it the Captain and you’re trying to make your way through a dangerous course? Whatever it is, the rest of the ship is now in a different state than it was before, because of your hard work. Whether or not the rest of the passengers know that is unlikely, but you know.

The third, and coolest, are the actually exclusive events. We were really only involved with one of these, and I’m sure huge portions of guests never got to experience these, but these are moments where you can tell that you and a small group, of actually 15ish people were involved, and others had no idea. These are highly-spoiler moments, and I heard of a few others, but I’ll go into my cool story down below.

Anyway, Act III ended in a big finale moment that was really cool, and was very influenced by the canonical timeline, where your trip is between The Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker. It was a ton of fun, and, as I mentioned in the previous article, if you had asked my wife and I the morning of our departure for $1,000 to stay another 24 hours, we absolutely would have paid immediately. It was so much fun, and definitely worth it for the two of us.

An interesting note about a scene during dinner the second night, was between Lt. Croy and Captain Keevan. Even though these two were at odds the entire trip, and were actively against each other, the Lieutenant took a moment publicly to praise Captain Keevan on her leadership abilities, and stated that she would have a successful career within the First Order. The Captain was skeptical, and mentioned her skintone, being a Blue-skinned Pantoran, because, hopefully you’ve noticed, the Empire/First Order almost exclusively has humans, and light skinned humans at that, within their ranks, whereas the Rebellion/Resistance has always had a diversity of species and skin tones. Lt. Croy even tried to toast, and say that she has been honorable, “despite being Pantoran” to which nobody applauded. I loved this moment because Star Wars, whether or not you noticed, has ALWAYS been political, and the cast and team behind this experience recognized that, and made it a point to reinforce it. I could write another thousand words on the history of supremacist/patriarchal ideology within the Empire/First Order, and how the “good guys” in Star Wars have ALWAYS been a mix of gender/race/species. Again, you might think you don’t want Disney to “put” politics in Star Wars, but it has always been a part of the story, whether or not you noticed.

I also want to give a big shoutout to my favorite Guest Service Agent, Brett. He could tell we weren’t just Star Wars fans, but we were big Easter Egg hunters, so whenever he would see us, he would pull us aside and show us a cool scratch on the wall, or tell us a piece of history, that we could put the meta-context clues together and know how it all fits into the grander Star Wars story. If you see Brett on your stay, make him your go-to guy, you won’t regret it.

My Tips

  • Costumes: Boots, layers, accessories, no zippers, no laces, no flat cotton, and vests/goggles are super overdone. Make sure your shoes are comfortable on Day 2.
  • Backstory: Have a home planet, and a reason you came on the Starcruiser. We didn’t have anyone ask us any details beyond that.
  • Missions: If you are adventuring with somebody, either just fill the missions on one of your Datapads, or answer the prompts differently. Two people doing everything identically but individually on your Datapads takes a lot of time and gets a little awkward quickly.
  • Motivation: There are four factions within this story, two primary, and two secondary. The primary factions is the Resistance (represented by the ships crew) and the First Order. YOU NEED TO HAVE AN OPINION ON THIS MATTER. This Central Conflict is the center of everything in the story, and if you are passive in that conflict, you will miss a lot of content. The secondary factions are Scoundrels (represented by Raithe) and Force-Users (represented by the Saja). These will lead to extra content that is fun, not mutually exclusive, and does not contradict the Resistance/First Order Conflict. You can be a Resistance/Scoundrel, a Resistance/Jedi, a First Order/Scoundrel, or a First Order/Jedi (a Sith). But DON’T be just Jedi, or just Scoundrel, and whatever you choose, be excited to do the adventures with it, because there are too many people on board for the characters to try to convince you to play along.
  • Age Range: I won’t put a hard limit on this, because every youngling is different. But, I will say that your average youngling under 8, who just likes Star Wars, probably won’t get enough out of it. You want a youngling who is willing to run around on adventures for 10 hours without getting grumpy around nap time. There are youngling-centric activities, and a great younglings dinner menu, but especially if you have a youngling Pre-K, there is nothing that is designed for their enjoyment. Also, if grandma wants to come because she enjoys watching the kiddos run around, she should probably stay home, because there isn’t a central place to relax and watch all the action. The closest is the Atrium, and it is not designed to just sit and relax in. It’s really for intermittent pauses, and the big story beats. Again, it is only worth your time and money if you are interested in running around in a Star Wars MMO.
  • Best Spots: The two coolest places to spend time on board are in the Sublight Lounge, which feels just as cool as any Star Wars tavern, and the Climate Simulator, which is just a outdoor courtyard, so you can get some fresh air.

The biggest complaint I had were how many people weren’t dressed up, in character. Every time I saw someone in a graphic tee, baseball cap, cargo shorts, it pulled me out of the immersion immediately. I will say on the 2nd day, the only full length day, just over half of the people were in some kind of themed outfit, but we had outfits that were put together from the thrift shop or costume store, and we were easily in the top 10% of detailed outfits. I understand that if you spend $6,000 you want to be comfortable, but I don’t understand why you would spend $6,000 to not do the immersion thing. Just go to a nice Disney resort and save 3 grand.

If I go back, I know that it would have to be with someone who hasn’t gone yet. There is so much magic, smoke in mirrors, sleight of hand going on, that it would be hard not to Metagame and not just play the game, but game the system. However, and this might be another article, but I can see ways in which they could make this hotel last longer than many critics worry, due to it’s high cost.

What questions do you have about the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser? Let me know in the comments below!

My Spoiler Adventure

So, my exclusive event, full of spoilers, if you are so interested.

My wife and I went full Scoundrel during our trip, which we later realized was led by the manager of Galactic Superstar Gaya, Raithe. When we tried to get into the engine room and failed, he messaged us and said that if we were interested, we could get into some trouble for him. We knew immediately we were down.

During dinner the first night, we saw him walking around, so I waved him down, because I had a question. He sat down in our booth, talked to us for a few moments, and slid his card over, the back of which had a small QR code for us to scan with our Datapads. He realized he was late, got up from the table, and walked right over to the microphone in the front of the room to introduce Gaya as tonight’s entertainment. It felt so cool and natural.

The QR code sent us on a special mission when we were down on Batuu, aside from the one you get from his Text-Character. It was for him we accidentally shut down the Toy Shop, as we were getting a secret stone fabricated. You see, Gaya is a Twi’lek, from Ryloth, a planet that lost an ancestral cultural stone generations ago, and they just found it on the ship, in a display as part of an antique compass. Aside from the Resistance/First Order, the people of Ryloth deserved to have this stone back, not in some glass case as part of an unused apparatus.

So, after we got back from Batuu, he showed us the stone we commissioned, and it was time for a heist. We had to meet him in the <redacted> at <redacted> o’clock, where us and about 10 other guests were part of his secret crew. Dozens of people were upstairs with a cocktail napkin tucked into their Databand (Magic Band) as a way to show they were there to help, but we were on the team, planning what to do. He laid out the floor plan of the Atrium, and gave us all assignments. My wife and I were the “drama” team. You see, this compass was less than five feet away from the Guest Services Desk, the place you go if your Datapad is acting up, or you want to change your dinner time, or any other of a thousand things. It’s also where they had a small stand of grab-n-go food for anyone to walk up to. So we had to not only draw attention away from the desk, but also get all of the staff to get away from the desk, and there were like, 5 employees at that desk. A tall order, but we had a plan. Of course, we were one of 5 different teams in this heist, and all of them had to work out perfectly. Raithe was the ringleader, so all we had to do was our job, and trust everyone else would do theirs.

Step 1: Go to Brett, my favorite Guest Service Agent, who we had become friends with, and ask him to tell the whole staff there to help me with “a favor.” I would owe him a blank check favor in return if he didn’t ask any questions. He impressed upon them my need for help.

Step 2: Go to the Desk, and tell the staff there that I am about to propose to my girlfriend (played by my wife), and I would like to make it a big event, and get lots of pictures and video, so I needed all their help. They were smitten with the romanticism.

Step 3: Raithe came by, and told us everything else was in place, it was time to get the staff and crowd away from the desk, and over by the elevators. My wife handed me her actual wedding ring and went to the elevators, then I went to the staff, gave them my personal Datapad, and told them it was time.

Step 4: I walk to the elevators, a small army of staff behind me, and prepare to announce to the whole of the Atrium, which probably had about 100-150 people in it at that time, because a major event was about to happen in the next 5 minutes, which we were using as cover.

Step 5: I shout…

“Can I have everyone’s attention please?”

*The crowd looks over, confused, as I am clearly not a Castmember*

“I just wanted to take a moment and say how much fun I have been having on this vacation, and how I am so glad to be here with my lovely girlfriend. Chanel, we have traveled from the mountains of Naboo to the Skyscrapers of Coruscant, and all I want is to continue traveling the galaxy with you, as long as I live. Chanel, will you be my Mrs. Tasker?”

*Both of us being Theatre majors start crying*

*She says yes*

*The crowd cheers*

*I put a ring on her finger, we hug, kiss, and smile. I turn back to the crowd*

“SHE SAID YES!”

*Another round of applause, as we walk through the Atrium, toward the opposite side from the desk. The staff give me my phone back, full of pictures of a fake engagement. People congratulate us and give us handshakes and high-fives. A completely random stranger, another guest, actually took a video himself and AirDropped it to me, because he was worried that I might have forgotten to. I look back to Raithe, who is walking out from behind the desk where he needed to access, with a thumbs up. We made it*

SHE SAID YES!

Shortly after, at a predetermined time, we all go back to the <redacted> to debrief. Raithe tells everyone that we succeeded, we got the stone, and that people are going to go home after this cruise, thinking that a new couple is engaged. We got a few more congratulations from the heist team, before he reminds them that we are in fact married, it was all a scene, designed to get everyone’s attention. We get another round of applause, because even they were convinced it was all real. We did our jobs, and we got the stone.

The next time we saw Gaya in a public space, she had a new piece of jewelry on her hand, the stone, designed to look like a bracelet.

That was an experience that we knew not only no one else on the ship had, but most of the guests were apart of, and had no idea. That was the part, from that Westworld clip above, where we believed we had an experience that no one else had ever had on this ship. That moment was ours.

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