Together… As One: Reflecting on the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser After Its Permanent Closure

Katie Francis

Together… As One: Reflecting on the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser After Its Permanent Closure

Katie Francis

Together… As One: Reflecting on the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser After Its Permanent Closure

Today — Saturday, September 30, 2023 — marks the end of one of the most significant developments in themed entertainment history. The Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser has seen its final guests, and the Halcyon ship has been retired from service. 

I’m not going to sit here and wax poetic about why the Galactic Starcruiser “failed,” the exorbitant prices, or what they could/should do from here. I’m not going to spend hours pouring over every detail in the theming, the technology, the storylines. 

It’s all been discussed before and certainly will be again. But not today. 

Reflecting on the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser

The Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser was ambitious. It embodied one of the core elements of The Walt Disney Company and Imagineering: storytelling. How often does Josh D’Amaro stand on stage, or Bob Iger get on the phone with shareholders so they can preach that what makes Disney special is storytelling? 

SWGS Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Acoustically Gaya edited

I am, admittedly, nearly the target market for whom Imagineering created the Starcruiser. A lifelong, passionate “Star Wars” fan with my head perpetually in the clouds. I’m not the tax bracket they prefer, and while I’ve played tabletop games, I’ve never gotten much into the roleplay aspect nor attended a LARP. As an introvert, this was way out of my comfort zone. But I knew, given the impending closure and the amount of money I had to invest, that I wanted to “live my Star Wars adventure.” 

For that reason, I pushed aside the themed entertainment nerd inside of me and steadfastly ignored my curiosity for the “hows” and the “whys.” I didn’t think about the gamemasters, the algorithms, or the technical tricks. But at the finale that second night, I couldn’t help but notice the grand social experiment, the true key to the heart of the Halcyon. A team building exercise combined with a Choose Your Own Adventure novel underscored by the powerful Cast and Crew.

What the Imagineers and Cast accomplished by bringing complete strangers together in service of not only the story, but for one another, was incredible. 

Choosing Your Own Star Wars Adventure

SWGS Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Finale Saja

Amid the flashing red lights and eerie siren stand the Saja. Strong and tall amid the buzzing crowd as bastions of hope, they gather passengers into their muster stations. With set jaws and squared shoulders, you get the feeling they would jump in front of a blaster for you. And they might need to — the First Order has taken the bridge. 

A palpable tension presses on us. A hush falls over the crowd as Captain Keevan and Cruise Director Lenka Mok explain our situation and the danger we are in. It’s not real — we were trained on the difference between a real and fake emergency alert. But it feels real.  Someone yells, “Ignite the spark!” in the face of the Order, and despite the circumstances, the threat of the Supreme Leader, the Stormtroopers who put very little space between you and their blasters, we answer.  

Light the fire. 

For the Resistance. 

SWGS Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Halcyon model in atrium

We’d been together for less than 48 hours. On the first afternoon, things were as you’d expect. Everyone stuck to their own groups as they explored the ship. When it was time for muster, everything still felt, well, a little silly. Here we all were, about 60% of us dressed up, watching who we knew were actors playing characters we didn’t know.

It’s one of the more common complaints about the Starcruiser, but also Galaxy’s Edge. Why should we care about these people we don’t know anything about on this ship/planet we’ve never heard of? 

But isn’t that how all stories start? 

Here’s where the real magic of the Starcruiser lies. Not in replicating scenes from the movies, but in writing your own story. You don’t know the people, place, or plot, because you haven’t written it yet. The core “Star Wars” elements are there to jumpstart your journey, and to make it your own.

This should be somewhat familiar to long-time “Star Wars” fans, as this is how the Extended Universe (now known as “Legends”) was born. Fans and writers broke the galaxy down to its building blocks and constructed their own stories. Sometimes they crossed over into the canon storyline, sometimes they didn’t. Almost like a communal worldbuilding exercise.

Deeper than that, the design of the Starcruiser ensured that no one person became the main character. No matter the path you chose or how involved you were, you became part of the larger story.

Together… As One: Creating Community Through Immersive Storytelling

Raithe Kole and Ouanni are in the atrium before muster, mingling. People who knew what they wanted from this adventure before they boarded are already shaking hands and making deals. I marvel at Ouanni and get a selfie with her but generally feel unmoored in the crowd, milling about, waiting. 

SWGS Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Muster Captain Keevan Lenka Mok 1

Muster felt like the first day of school. Everyone is in their new outfits, surrounded by strangers, participating in awkward rituals like shouting our muster station names in a made-up language, and the authority figures are overly friendly. 

The first jump to hyperspace breaks the tension, a moment of held breaths making way for whoops and cheers. The crew mingles and gives everyone a chance to make connections.

With spoilers being an unavoidable part of my job, I had a pretty good idea what path I wanted and what needed to be done. But since I knew this was my only voyage, I was determined not to lose anything to FOMO. There’s simply no way to do and see everything, and I was going to be happy with whatever journey I ended up on.

That didn’t stop me from beelining straight to Captain Keevan. She was greeting and taking photos with passengers, cordial if not a little cold. Cautious. But every so often, she’d pull someone to the side and whisper. I would be one of the lucky ones.

After I introduce myself, we begin immediately talking about the beautiful Halcyon, but I know I’m in when telling her “I” am a historian, there to document the 275th anniversary voyage. 

She drops her voice and steps back a bit from the crowd. She asks me how I feel about certain… groups trying to take control of the narrative. I assure her my loyalties lie with the truth and the people. She invites me to meet her and others to discuss the current occupation of the Halcyon, as she and the crew are trying to find a way to keep everyone safe. 

I didn’t play a starring role or do anything special. Some passengers were chosen to put the ship into hyperspace or bring secret crates back from Batuu. But, like that moment with Captain Keevan, every interaction felt like you were really part of the story. 

galactic starcruiser lightsaber training

Excited but still feeling a little silly, we head to the Lightsaber Training Pod to meet the Saja. Not everyone does Lightsaber Training on the first day, but it was here that the sense of community would blossom. But it started as awkwardly as I had worried.

I am acutely aware of being a grown adult in a room of grown adults holding fake lightsabers while practicing weird poses and chants. 

It’s here that we learn the call and response motto of the Saja. “Together,” they prompt, and we dutifully respond with “as one.” 

When we’re ready to move beyond the basics, we’re divided into small groups to rotate positions, with two on shield duty, one with a saber, and the rest practicing. A steady rhythm falls into place as we pass our proverbial batons back and cheer on our fellow trainees. By the end, we’re exhilarated, breathlessly and instinctively answering the call as one. 

The feeling of unity is infectious. The cast effortlessly makes everyone feel important, individually, but also to each other. 

SWGS Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Bridge

All the activities put us in teams that interconnect — for bridge training, we split into groups of four that are further split as pairs at each station. Partners are scored against the other pair, but the whole team’s performance is set against the others. But those are just training groups. Suddenly, something happens that turns the practice round into reality, and those teams are tossed aside immediately in favor of the safety of the Halcyon. Each station is important, and every element is essential to achieve the goal. 

Getting invited to secret meetings with your fellow conspirators, no matter the path, furthered that sense of self-importance, but there was an undeniable (if only budding) bond. In an age of entitlement at the parks, with people throwing punches over fireworks viewing spots and more, I witnessed kindness and compassion on the ship. 

On the second day, after returning from Batuu, the stakes have risen. SK-620 is trapped by a restraining bolt, Croy is contacting higher-ups in the Order, and Captain Keevan and Lenka Mok are in high gear, trying to get one step ahead. Fellow Resistance sympathizers and I respond to a call for aid from Mok in the engineering room. A lot is underway to regain control of the Halcyon, but despite the urgency and commotion, there was a genuine effort from the passengers to make sure no one was left out. 

SWGS Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Engineering Room

We are assigned stations and have to man a number of tasks, some more interesting than others. But there was no mad scramble to claim a task for oneself. Instead, there was a pointed effort to take turns and ensure everyone got a chance to participate. I see this kind of compassion daily from my toddlers at home but rarely from adults in the parks, who seem to feel the amount they spent grants them privilege beyond that of others (who likely spent the same small fortune). 

Despite spending the last day and a half working toward conflicting, sometimes opposing goals, there came a moment of unity when all hope was lost. Kylo Ren decided the Halcyon and her passengers were to be destroyed. There would be no rescue for the First Order affiliates; they were simply collateral for the greater good. 

But the crew of the Halcyon made one last stand. And as Sammie and Chewie cornered Croy, the Captain urged the Saja to handle the Stormtroopers, and led the crowd to unite against the First Order. “Together,” she yelled, and we, throats hoarse from the booing and hollering during the final battle, answered — as one. 

A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

It’s a bittersweet moment. We know it’s the end. There are a few more boxes to check, and then it’s off to bed, back to the real world. But they let us down gently.

Every path had a conclusion. Every choice led to the same final moment. First Order supporters had their loyalty to Croy upheld when he tried to save them from Kylo Ren’s wrath. Those who followed the Saja had their hard work pay off when Rey was able to take the Holocron they protected back to Leia. Gaya’s fans got her, the Coaxium, and the Hayananeya off the ship safely. Sandro Alimander and Ouanni set off for their own superstar spotlight. And those with the Resistance (or just loyal to the Captain) saw the ship and her passengers safe and her mission complete. 

No matter your choices, you could turn the page and close your Star Wars story, satisfied. Your adventure joins the hallowed halls of tales from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Now, the Halcyon has returned to port for the last time. And we here at WDWNT just want to express our immense gratitude and appreciation to the incredible Cast and Crew. What you brought to life has been so special. 

May the stars light your way. 

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2 thoughts on “Together… As One: Reflecting on the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser After Its Permanent Closure”

  1. This was the best thing I’ve ever done at Disney. I’m so glad I got to experience it, and heartbroken that it’s ending.

    I put it off for a long time due to the price, and I wish I hadn’t. My one cruise ended up being the best money I’ve ever spent at Disney. When people say, “But I could take a week long trip to X for that much!” Now I have an actual response: No, you don’t understand, this is BETTER. It’s such a packed two days that you really get your money’s worth. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but for Star Wars fans, RP’ers, or especially both it was incredible. I wish so desperately that I’d tried it near the start — I would have gone several times bunking with strangers if I had, and happily sacrificed my other travel plans for the next few years to do it.

  2. Thanks for sharing. It was a great project with loving cast members. Sadly “Star Wars Hotel” is what Disney had to market against, and first thing people want to know is cost… which was significant.

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