Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is an immersive 2-night adventure that opened at Walt Disney World in March 2022. Disney calls Galactic Starcruiser the most immersive Star Wars story ever created, and it’s an accurate statement. This overnight experience combines elements of a cruise, a theme park, and an interactive stage show. Guests who board the Halcyon will truly feel as if they’ve stepped into a Star Wars story and will be fully immersed nonstop from beginning to end (it might sound like hyperbole but is quite an accurate statement, as you’ll find out in this episode).
In this two-part podcast episode, I chat with Stephanie & Danny Shuster, owners of WDW Magazine, to learn about their experience aboard the Halcyon. Part 1 includes a discussion of their Disney media preview day, the booking process, arrival and departure, and dining. In part 2 we’ll discuss the state rooms, merchandise, itinerary, story, and recommendations for guests considering Galactic Starcruiser. We also discuss who would find this experience most enjoyable and why if you’re a frequent visitor to Walt Disney World it might even be worth replacing one of your Walt Disney World vacations with this revolutionary journey.
What questions or thoughts do you have about Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser?
[Intro music plays Matt in and continues to play under him]
Matt: Hello and welcome to the Imagineer podcast, your unofficial guide to all things Disney. I’m your host Matthew Krul and you’re listening to Episode 132 of the Imagineer podcast. In this podcast episode we’re going to kick off a two part discussion all about Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser. This is the brand new two night immersive adventure, the first of its kind that opened at Walt Disney World in March of 2022. And long before it even opened its doors, there has been so much chatter among Disney fan communities about this experience a lot of hot debate about whether or not this experience is worth the price, who it’s for who it’s not for, what’s included, what’s not included. There are so many questions and so many ideas that are discussed, that I thought it was worth coming to the table to chat with two people who actually experienced it. So my guests on this two part episode are Steph and Danny Schuster from WDW Magazine I’ve shared before that they are a partner and sponsor of Imagineer Podcast, and I’m an author for WDW Magazine, be sure to check them out. But I not only brought them on because of our relationship and partnership but also because Steph and Danny are lifelong Star Wars fans who not only participated in the media preview, but also invested their own dollars their own time to do the full two night adventure as regular guests aboard Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser. In this two part discussion, we talk about everything and while I should say not exactly everything, but we talk in great detail about their experience aboard the Halcyon to really help you to make an informed decision in a very rational way as to whether or not this experience is worth it for you. We talk in part one about the booking process. We talk a little bit about the media preview, we talk about the arrival and pre arrival experience. We talk about day one, and we talk about the dining options aboard Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser we’ll come back later next week in part two and chat more about the storytelling elements into the characters, the merchandise, the off planet adventure to Batuu in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge and wrap things up by discussing really who should consider taking this adventure aboard the Halcyon and who is best fit for this two night adventure and maybe who it’s not for you know who should consider instead maybe just taking a regular vacation to Walt Disney World. We have a very candid discussion about all these elements and I think you’ll find it incredibly informative and very helpful in learning more about this experience. I will just warn you now there are spoilers we do talk about some things in detail. So if you want to go into this adventure, without any idea as to what to what to expect, this might not be the right podcast episode for you. But that being said, we do not discuss everything in detail or else this would have probably been a six hour discussion so we just talked about the highlights and the main things to consider. So if you’re just wanting to get a bit of a taste for some of the specifics aboard Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser this is definitely the episode for you the end of the episode I’ll come back and tell you a little bit more about how you can connect with the Imagineer Podcast on all your favorite social media channels and how you can help to inspire and create the future of this show. So grab some headphones, pull up your favorite armchair and enjoy this episode of The Imagineer Podcast.
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Matt: Earlier this year we had the opening of Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser which those of you who’ve been paying attention notice is an entirely different type of experience at Walt Disney World, you have a two night adventure fully immersive. We’re going to talk about the idea of immersion, of course in this episode, and it truly transports you into the world of Star Wars. Personally, because of the timing of my life, with Maggie being born, I did not or have not, at this point, gone to even Walt Disney World since Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser opened. But because of the timing of this, I did want to make sure to bring on a couple of guests who did get the opportunity to experience Star Wars Galactic Stacruiser in person to give you an idea of what it’s like. And if you do plan, to at some point, consider participating in this adventure, to help you to best prepare for and plan out and figure out if it is right for you and your family. So without further ado, let me go ahead and introduce our special guests. For today, who are Stephanie and Danny Schuster from WDW Magazine. I’ve spoken about WDW Magazine a lot because I’m an author for them. They’re a sponsor of the show we’re such great partners together. So Stephanie, and Danny for the first time, welcome to Imagineer Podcast.
Stephanie: Thank you so much for having us, Matthew. We’re really excited to be here.
Danny: Yeah, we love talking about Starcruiser. And we’re so excited to share it with your audience.
Matt: I can’t wait. I have so many questions. I know I’ve seen a lot of footage online of YouTube vloggers who’ve gone and participated in it, either just the media preview or have done the full adventure themselves. You had the unique opportunity of participating in a sort of condensed version of the media preview and also yourselves doing the full experience sort of on your own dime, just as as guests going and participating in this adventure. So we’re going to talk a little bit about each of them. But to start out, I always love for my new guests to ask rapid fire questions. And normally I’ll ask about favorite park and favorite movie but this is a Star Wars Episode. It’s being posted, if you’re watching it live or listening live the day it comes out it we’re just past Star Wars Day May 4, so I of course had to reframe these with some Star Wars focused questions. So I want to start out with your favorite Star Wars movie. I’ll let either of you go first.
Stephanie: Return of the Jedi.
Danny: Definitely as a child Return of the Jedi was the one like I probably wore –
Stephanie: You got to have Ewoks
Danny: – that tape out as an adult. I really liked Rogue One.
Matt: I so both great answers. There’s really no wrong answer. Maybe Attack of the Clones still, [laughs] that’s still a good movie too the Rogue One. I remember seeing that in theaters and it was the first non-Star Wars saga movie and even the intro was different. The music was different. It’s not John Williams, but it’s so good.
Danny: Is it, it really captured a different tone, I think than –
Danny: – The classic Star Wars movie. The cinematography was great. It really felt more ground level like mixed in with the individuals, you know, who are part of this bigger saga.
Matt: I agree. It was so good. And of course Return to the Jedi is a classic.
Danny: Like as a child I definitely you know if I was ever home sick or whatever, like it was returned to the Jedi on a loop all day.
Danny: Yeah, definitely.
Matt: Fair enough. How about your favorite Star Wars character?
Danny: I’m very fond of the Droids in general. Specifically, I really like BB-8.
Stephanie: I was gonna say BB-8 also
Matt: I love that you know he’s one of the of course newer characters from the Disney Star Wars trilogy. Episodes 7, 8, and 9 I also really love BB-8 I actually have the when they first came out with I forgot which brands the the mini BB-8 droid that you can use your
Stephanie: The sphero we have it too
Danny: The sphero yes I have it too
Matt: Yes, this one. I haven’t. I haven’t played around with him in a while. But even just it was a birthday gift for me. And it was such a fun gift. I love BB-8 that’s a great answer.
Danny: I don’t know if you’ve ever tried this feature but that droid has a watch with me function where you can turn it on and sync it up with the movie. Like with Episode Seven.
Danny: He reacts and makes noises and that was super fun.
Matt: I did that once and it was so much fun. I have to admit and I haven’t now I really want to go and watch Force Awakens and power up BB-8 charge him up and have him watch the movie with me.
Danny: For sure
Matt: Alright, few more questions. Last one related to the movies and specifically your favorite Star Wars planets. This is getting a little more geeky
Stephanie: I really always loved Hoff I don’t know why I’m not even a winter person. I’m not a snow person and Empire’s not my it’s not my worst Star Wars but it’s not my favorite Star Wars. But I always love that idea of them being in, like parkas, and they’re being like tontons, and I don’t know, I think the outfits did it for me.
Danny: I mean, I guess it’s a moon, not a planet, but I’m gonna say Endor again, just from that childhood love of Return of the Jedi.
Matt: That’s great, and I should specify either one of those would be fine. I’ve always wanted on Star Tours than in the old version of Star Tours, when they advertised for going to Hoff would have been nice if we went to Hoff. But hey, now with the adventure continues, there’s a lot more places that you could go and visit. Alright, so two more questions. These are a little targeted to the parks, but I guess a little bit the movies as well, lightsaber color what is or would be your lightsaber color.
Stephanie: Pink, like a pinky purple. So I guess the kyber crystal would be the purple one,
Danny: The Purple one?
Stephanie: But it gives that pinkish glow.
Danny: Sure. I like that classic blue.
Danny: From Anakin’s saber that you see it Episode Four, that sort of pale light blue.
Matt: Yes. Excellent answers, last one. This one is specific to the parks, and it’s very simple, highly controversial. But I think there’s no wrong answers. Blue milk or green milk?
Stephanie: Green milk
Danny: If I mean, if I had to pick one, I guess green, but I really don’t enjoy either of them. To be honest.
Stephanie: On Starcruiser. They have unlimited blue and green milk. So you did a taste test. And you did say green?
Danny: Yeah. But like only if I have to pick one.
Matt: I’ll admit I’m a little bit in your camp, Danny. I like both of them. But I cannot drink an entire cup in one sitting.
Danny: Oh no
Matt: It’s just a little too sweet for me, and it’s like drinking candy. So I definitely get that. But I’m also Team Green, where whenever I do a poll on Instagram, it’s always blue that wins. And I don’t know if it’s because that’s the classic color or if that’s the most –
Danny: I think that is I think that is you’re right. It’s that classic color. And it’s one of those things, you know, when they were making these movies, blue milk, it’s such a small detail that you know, was not meant to be like a major Star Wars plot point. But the fans latched on to it and it became this thing.
Danny: And it’s one of those little a lot of the things that we know and love about Star Wars, especially the things that people like to geek out about, are these really, you know, inconsequential details that took on a life of their own.
Matt: Yeah, it’s so true. And it is such a small detail. But I’m glad that you brought up the fact that you can get unlimited amounts of milk on the on the Halcyon so we’re going to talk a little bit about that. But let’s start out first by talking about the media preview before we get into, you know, part of my goal today is talk going as far as the booking process and or the pre- arrival experience.
Matt: But for you as Star Wars fans, your first experience aboard the Halcyon was part of the media preview. So you had heard about the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser, of course, through all the hype online, all the discussion, the preview footage, I’m sure you had your own expectations going in. So I’ll start with your expectations when you went to the media preview before you know as you’re getting ready to to to board the Halcyon, what were your expectations going in?
Stephanie: Well, so backing up to when Galaxy’s Edge opened at Walt Disney World I was at a media event for the opening of the land and Ann Morrow Johnson gave a presentation about Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser I think that was the first time the name was publicly revealed. And they didn’t tell us everything, they didn’t explain what it was going to be like they just said, you know something’s coming. It’s going to be a hotel, but it’s not going to be a hotel like you’re thinking. And from that point on, I was very much like, I don’t know what to expect. They opened a new deluxe hotel at Disney World and you kind of go in with some preconceived notions for Galactic Starcruiser I was expecting to walk in and say, wow, I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life. And that is for me, that’s what happened, it felt like I was literally walking onto a film set.
Danny: Yeah, I agree with Steph, my expectations were extremely high.
Danny: You know, as lifelong Star Wars fans as avid Disney Park fans you know, as people interested in the design and Imagineering of these things like sky high expectations. I the the comparison to a movie set is good because it’s richly detailed
Danny: And looks authentic, like the films, but movie sets are usually designed to only look good on camera.
Matt and Stephanie: Yeah,
Danny: Starcruiser is designed to look good, wherever you go from whatever vantage point you wind up having.
Stephanie: It’s all really tactile. It’s not like when you go on a film set or a theater set and you’re like, oh, this wall is hollow, or oh, those books are fake. Everything is so real. You want to touch everything, feel all the textures. The lighting everywhere looks amazing. And they change the lighting in the different rooms and the atrium and the Sublight Lounge bit depending on what’s happening in the storyline at the moment so as soon as we walked in it was this bright white glowing atrium, and it was totally like being transported somewhere else.
Danny: It yeah, to really illustrate this point, I literally tripped over some of the seating in the atrium.
Danny: Because I was so busy like bug eyed staring all around trying to you know, take it all in, I walked straight into there’s these lovely sort of bench banquette seating in the atrium, I walked straight into one of them.
Stephanie: Yeah It happened.
Matt: I mean, that definitely is a testament to the, like you said, the just impressive nature of walking in there. And, you know, I agree, obviously, movie sets are intended to only look good on camera. And this is it also sort of the same thing, but your eyes are the camera.
Matt: So everything is supposed to look a certain way, when you’re looking at it.
Danny: I mean, the movie analogy is apt because, you know, it feels like you have stepped into the worlds we’re used to seeing on screen. And in terms of that sense, you know, calling it like a movie set is very true. But if you’ve ever been on set or work in anything related to the industry, you know that these things are designed to photograph for the camera that not necessarily to be lived in. And what’s so amazing about Starcruiser is that they did take the time to make it a place that can be lived in that has that cinematic feel
Stephanie: Something else is I didn’t encounter a single corner on the ship where I was like, Oh, they really cheaped out here, they didn’t think anyone would look behind this cargo in the cargo bay –
Stephanie: And like they didn’t finish painting the wall. No, there’s like stamps on the back of the cargo that you wouldn’t see unless you crawl behind it. And like, it’s just amazing the attention to detail.
Matt: That’s awesome. I mean, we’re going to talk a little bit about each part of this. And I love the fact that the details are there, because when we talk about immersion, that’s a very, almost overused word. Everything is immersive these days in a theme park environments, or at least phrased that way. So when you have a truly immersive environment it like this one, it it shows. So I’m excited to chat a little bit about that, before we get to the I’m glad to get sort of your first impressions walking in on that media preview. But let’s now sort of turn gears to as a normal guests, anyone who’s not a part of a media preview, which is going to be 99.9% of those who do this experience. The first part of the process is booking the experience. And I know that for this experience, it’s a little different than just going online and looking for available resorts and picking your resorts and your dates in your room type. So what was the booking experience like for Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser.
Stephanie: So it took a long time. And to be fair, we were booking the very first day that we could as annual passholders, there were some days that you could book before it was open to general public. So we actually ended up being on the phone for about eight hours to try to get through to book it.
Stephanie: But once we got through the process was quite easy. What’s really different from a normal Disney World trip is that you cannot look at you can find the dates, the departure dates, it’s every two days, right? But they don’t tell you the prices and the price changes by departure dates. So you can’t look up and be like, ooh, this one week is way cheaper or way more expensive. I want to pick that one or avoid that one, you really need to call in and have multiple dates available that you’re available to travel. And also know if you want certain things if you want a certain type of cabin if you want to get Captain’s Table are those priorities over your dates. So for me, I really wanted to be there for Danny’s birthday as a special treat. And Captain’s Table wasn’t available. So I said no, I the room that I want is available, the date that I want is available. I’ll call back when all you put down a deposit than you have to pay in full 90 days out. So I was like, I’ll call it at eighty-nine days and see if anyone cancelled and we were lucky to get Captain’s Table. But when you call through, there’s a pre-vetting process. So we were on the phone, I don’t know four or five hours and then we got through and they were like okay, well we want to make sure that you know how much it’s gonna cost and you know that you’re not actually going to space and do you have some dates picked
Danny: They really did clarify, they really clarified that we understood this does not actually leave Earth’s orbit. And and
Stephanie: And I think part of that is like the popularity of people, like
Stephanie: Bezos is going to space right now people might think that’s a thing
Danny: Space space tourism space tourism is maybe going to be a thing in our lives. I mean, there are certainly people trying to make that a reality.
Stephanie: So they get through all of that they make sure you understand that it’s going to be interactive, it’s not just a hotel. And then once you’ve kind of cleared their process, they’re like, Oh, you’re very well informed, I’ll put you through to actually book with an agent. And then we were on the phone for some more hours and talked to a really nice agent who was all in universe, you know, using Star Wars terminology, and greeting us bright suns, and all of that kind of stuff. So it was pretty fun.
Matt: That’s exciting. That’s great that they have that step in the process, I guess the way that they communicated this and also Danny to your point, the fact that space tourism is very likely going to be more available option for tourists in the future, not so distant future. It’s good that they clarify those things. And make sure that you’re aware of all those steps. And then once you do get past those, yes, I fully understand what this is, then they immerse you right away into the language that’s used and
Danny: Yeah, it’s really you know, the the extra details is what goes you know, to your point about immersive and that’s a word that gets thrown around. This really does embody it, because even when you’re booking when you’re talking to that Disney booking agent, they are in universe they are using the terminology you know, they are referring to you know, they don’t refer to your visit to Disney World, they refer to you going to the spaceport to board the Starcruiser for your journey like.
Stephanie: And that is true all the way to after you leave the ship when you get your guest folio. It doesn’t have the Disney World logo in the top corne, it has the Chandrila Star Line logo in the top corner.
Matt: That’s amazing.
MattL: That’s, that’s detail oriented, for sure. And, you know, part of the communications I also wanted to talk about, because when you take a trip to Walt Disney World, you receive emails about your upcoming trip.
Matt: If you have a certain level of your concierge level, sometimes you get a phone call prior to your trip as well. What was the experience like for pre-arrival before you even left for your trip, what sort of communications were a part of the experience,
Stephanie: So we didn’t really get any communications we could see in our Play Disney Parks app. And in our my Disney Experience app, we could see that we had reservations, they were linked that we had dinner at a certain time. If we had booked something like Savi’s workshop or Oga’s Cantina, you actually have to do that through your star cruise or agents so that it’s built into your itinerary so you don’t miss other activities that they plan for you. Which we didn’t have so we didn’t get any of those. I do think that that’s a byproduct though of us being in Canada not getting emails. Apparently there are emails that go out that are like little video messages and things to get you hyped up. We actually don’t get any communications even annual passholder communications because of some of the regulations around email spam and things in our country.
Danny: We’ve never been able to get a clear answer from Disney about this but there are
Danny: Just because we live in Canada, everything from paper mail to even email communications, it’s
Stephanie: It’s a little bit different
Danny: Just not quite the same
Stephanie: But 30 days out from your trip your itinerary starts to fill in on the Play Disney Parks app you can go in and there is that data pad area in Play Disney Parks that you can play on Batuu but there’s a whole separate one for Starcruiser so even more than 30 days in advance you can go in and learn to use like the translator function and some of the other things you can you can learn some facts about the ship you can see
Danny: There’s a little bit of vocabulary and like common phrases which are different than like you know on Batuu
Danny: They say bright suns on the Halcyon on they say best journey.
Stephanie: Yeah, and ta’bu e tay and some of those. So it teaches you those things. 30 days out, you start to see your itinerary fill in. It’s like you’re going to arrive during this window and your dinner is here. Your lightsaber training is over here. And then there are some other activitie, some are real activities, some are activities that may not actually happen or they might happen but be distractions for other things happening in the storyline.
Danny: Yes we were speculating as our itinerary started to populate. So bear in mind this is before anyone had done any cruises, no medias, no public cruises. Nothing,
Danny: Thirty days in advance because we flew on a very early journey. And so we’re looking at our itinerary you know, and it’s saying that there’s a Sabacc tournament and I’m going I bet you it’s not a Sabacc tournament, I bet it’s just an excuse to get the guests into one part of the ship for some sort of a story element,
Stephanie: There is a Sabacc tournament. And it is a reason to get people in one part of the ship for a story element
Danny: I was only half correct. Like Steph says, there’s a lot of these things on your itinerary. There’s a sector set, which is sort of the Halcyon version of bingo,
Stephanie: Know your co-pilot,
Danny: Which is kind of like the what do they call it, the dating game,
Stephanie and Danny: The newlywed game.
Danny: Those things are real, and they do happen on the ship and you can participate in them. But they often serve as distractions for other bits of story elements that is happening in the background.
Matt: That’s very cool. I am and it’s a brilliant way to design the itinerary as well and making sure people arrive at certain points,
Stephanie and Danny: Mmhmm
Matt: or in certain places that element story elements can happen. Before we get to those story elements. Let’s talk about the arrival itself. You’ve been looking forward to this trip,
Matt: You fly to Orlando,
Matt: What was the arrival experience like on the Halcyon?
Danny: Honestly, this is the only part of the experience we were less than blown away by
Stephanie: Arrival and Departure
Danny: Arrival and departure, it was a little more complicated for us because we were arriving via rideshare if you’re driving your own vehicle, some of the difficulties we experienced would not be an issue for you.
Danny: So the good I’ll start off with the good. we were already staying on property at Walt Disney, we were staying in Art of Animation the night before because we wanted to make sure we arrived in you know, no trouble at the airport, etc. We got a wonderful in-room in-universe message on the phone welcoming us as Halcyon cruisers. And you know they let us know that transportation would be provided complimentary from our hotel to the spaceport
Stephanie: Just to go ask at bell services the next morning and they would send us on our way.
Danny: Yeah. And again, like I said that voicemail totally in-universe all the right lingo.
Stephanie: They also extended our checkout automatically to noon so that we could stay in our room, get ready in our costumes and everything and then just get a car at noon and head over.
Danny: Yeah, they don’t let you actually board the star cruiser until 1pm. Because they need time for the previous voyage to actually depart and get their cars and leave. And then there’s a quick turnaround.
Matt: Just a clarifying question. Did you book this The Art of Animation when you also booked the Galactic Starcruiser? Or did you –
Stephanie: No we booked it separately, yeah
Matt: -book it separately? Okay, so that so on the back end, this was linked automatically. There was nothing –
Stephanie: Yeah, we didn’t do anything special to make it happen
Danny: In the My Disney Experience App
Matt: That’s amazing.
Stephanie: Yeah, yeah
Matt: That’s very smart.
Danny: So then, you know, so they they called the taxi for us. The taxi was comped and we showed up right around 1230 is when we hit the gates for our one o’clock entry time. And again, the immersion right from the security checkpoint, you know, and it’s like when you go to any Disney Resort and they scan your magic band, are you checking in all of those questions? The security guard, you know, was asking, because there are some special rules. You know, even though it’s Star Wars, you can’t bring blasters. You can bring lightsabers but there’s some regulations about where and when you can have them and so you know the guy is asking us questions. You have sharp objects anything that might be considered a weapon. Steph had a porg, a stuffed porg and he noticed the porg and he like right in-universe but this is just like this is the guy in the Disney security, you know, in the booth at the gate, but he’s totally in on it and he’s playing along and it’s wonderful.
Stephanie: Yeah. So then we pull then when you get through security you pull up and there’s this very I will call it retro-futuristic porte-cochère looks like something out of the Jetsons maybe and you’ve like you’ve seen it your your listeners have seen this all the media took photos in front of this wall that says Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser I didn’t see a single normal guest take a photo there.
Danny: No That’s true. When we went on Media Day, everybody like everyone was scrambling, you know, forget the purple wall getting a photo with this Galactic Starcruiser logo.
Danny: That was the number one thing, on check-in day, a couple of the guests did, you know most people were just kind of waiting they do sort –
Stephanie: Just got in line
Danny: – of they put you in a queue right away when you get there because they don’t open the doors till 1pm
Stephanie: They whisk away your luggage which was in our cabin by the time we got in our cabin
Danny: That was a nice touch
Stephanie: Complete with Chandrila Star Line bell services tags. They give you your Magic Band, which is a white and gold Magic Band. You can actually buy a black or gray version also, I don’t know if you can also buy a black or gray version if that’s what you want. But this is the one that all guests get, and they call them Mbands on board.
Danny: They’re also not just like, they don’t just have a bucket of these magic bands like this one has my name on it, when we checked in, you know, and told them who we were, they disappeared into the back and brought out Steph and Danny Magic Bands not just like, here’s a random Halcyon band.
Stephanie: And then we got in a queue just like at the theme park. And then a few guests at a time were admitted, you go through another security check. So your bags actually get taken backstage, they get scanned just like they would at the airport. And to make sure that you’re not bringing in anything that’s contraband. And then you get scanned any bags that you have on your person get scanned through metal detectors and everything, then you go down this long hallway, this long concrete hallway towards a glowing Chandrila Starline logo. And then a few guests at a time are put into this little vestibule where you want to safety video just like it’s going to be a ride.
Danny: Yeah. I will say th- So there’s waiting at every point in this, you wait in a queue outdoors, to get your Magic Band, you then wait in a queue to tap in your Magic Band, then, because most people arrive in costumes, and sometimes the costumes are you know, they have armor and face masks and all kinds of stuff. It’s a little bit of a process because you go through like a theme park style, you go through the scanners. But you know, there’s a lot more taking off costume elements and opening up pouches and like it’s not very fast. And you know, depending on they try to do it party by party to not split people up. But if you’re behind a party of people in full Mandalorian armor, they’re gonna –
Stephanie: You’re gonna wait
Danny: – take a while to get through the thing. Then like Steph says, you go there’s an orientation video, it’s very much like the videos, you’ve watched before Soarin or Flight of Passage or whatever.
Stephanie: And that’s the last cue that you’re like leaving Earth
Stephanie: And that you’re after this point, everything is in universe, you will not hear the term Star Wars, you will not hear the term cast member. Everything will it’s like going into a play.
Stephanie: And everyone’s playing along the the the cast members are playing along the guests are playing along. And it’s so much fun. But I think the safety video’s really important, because there are dramatic events and events that might feel dangerous on board. But the video explains when you’ll know if you’re actually in danger or not. And what to do if something were to happen.
Stephanie: Very much like a traditional cruise muster drill.
Danny: Yeah, exactly. It’s very much like that, and they show you on this video, you know, you’ll have sort of red flashing lights and alarm bells. Those are emergencies in the universe that are part of the story. And then they will have this totally different everything, all the mood lighting turns off, regular bright white light comes on. And it’s a totally different message saying you know, this is a real emergency, this is not part of the story,
Danny: Etc. And yeah like Steph says that the last bit of you are on earth on a vacation. From that point on you get into the launch pod, and then it’s full on. Congratulations, you now live in the Star Wars universe. Let’s go have an adventure.
Matt: The I I like the idea of all the safety checks to be honest, although it is a bit of a hassle I find much like if you were to do the Disney Cruise Line
Matt: Or go into your point go into a theme park. I’ve never really minded
Matt: All those steps in the beginning
Matt: And it it really does Disney’s always put safety first
Matt: And it’s great to know that once you board that transport, that you feel safe and secure and you can now focus on having fun.
Danny: What I will say is that so you know we arrived at 12:30 and I would guess we were between 80 and 100 people back in the queue to board, there are reports you know so we probably took us maybe 45 minutes to get through that queue and into the launch pod to begin the adventure. Some people have reported waiting you know over an hour closer to two hours. My issue with the boarding process is that so we were in March the weather was perfectly pleasant, but it’s just an outdoor concrete you know there’s no seating. There’s you know, no air conditioning. I can just
Stephanie: Bathrooms, water, all that kind of stuff.
Danny: You know for billing Starcruiser as this luxury amenity. That initial boarding does not feel luxury.
Stephanie: I wish they have a holding area kind of like when you take a cruise from Port Canaveral and you have this beautiful atrium, you can get all signed up, and then you sit down, chill out until like calling your number that would be great.
Matt: Hopefully they’ll take a lot of this feedback, I feel like they will and enhance a lot of these pain points
Stephanie: This is brand new and they’re gonna learn so much in this first year,
Danny: so when we when we did our our full experience for my birthday in March, I believe we were only the 10th, or
Stephanie: : 11th Cruise
Danny: Maybe the 11th. Yeah, the 11th departure. You know, they’re gonna figure these things out for all the testing that they do, you know, you do testing in secret with internal team members who already sort of know, these things, you know, there’s there’s information you can’t know until you actually have the public go through.
Matt: It’s true. That’s, I’m glad you had that early experience. And the more feedback they get, of course, the better they will also make this experience. So overall, it sounds like while there are a couple of points that could be improved with the arrival experience, it’s still once you get through that, which doesn’t sound like it takes more than an hour of your time.
Matt: It really is
Stephanie: And it could be less depending on when you arrive, depending on all the other travelers on your voyage if they all arrive at different times later earlier. But that –
Stephanie: -was a very small beef out of the whole experience.
Danny: It’s true. And it’s really my biggest nitpick with the experience, our difficulties were a little more heightened on departure. Like I mentioned, we arrived via rideshare. And it’s complicated to arrange the pickup. If you’re coming in your own vehicle, it’s valet parking, you know, it’s very straightforward. You you know, give your ticket to the valet they bring your car around, the cast member loads up your luggage hands you the keys, thank you very much, you’re on your way. Simple, straightforward. If you’re trying to get a taxi or rideshare, again, you know, there’s not really a good waiting place. Because of the way the parking lot is designed they can’t have these vehicles queued up and waiting for guests. They’ve got to call them in one at a time. It just it
Stephanie: It takes a it takes a little while.
Matt: That’s fair. Now let’s get to the fun stuff
Danny: Yeah, yeah
Matt: We’ve spoken about. I mean, this was definitely fun to talk about as well. But it was all about the arrival experience essentially 30 minutes discussing booking arrival
Matt: Expectations all that now your aboard the Halcyon what does the first let’s say hour of your experience look like cause I’m sure that there’s more
Matt: People who are behind you who are also
Matt: Boarding the ships. So what what does that first hour or so of your first day looks like
Stephanie; So right away after the safety video, you get into a launch pod, which takes you up into space. And that’s where you dock with the Halcyon and then you the doors open and you’re in the atrium. This is very cool. There’s windows so you can see you can see the trees and the sunshine and then you can see yourself kind of doing a little hyperspace jump, you see the Halcyon in the distance, that very distinctive silhouette of the ship. And you actually see little loading, I don’t know if they’re droids but like little loading equipment
Stephanie: That come grab you and attach you to the ship. So it all feels like whoa, this is actually happening. There’s there’s some like tactile stuff going on
Danny: It’s a little reminiscent of the elevator experience to go to Space 220 if you’ve dined at that
Danny: And then right away, you know the luxury experience that kicks in right away. There are so many staff, the Halcyon crew members, I don’t know the exact ratio. But when you get off the launch pod, there is a line of the staff waiting to greet you and one staff member per party. And the very first thing they do is right away take you to your state room so they can sort of get you settled in get you oriented. Your state room is a little different than a standard hotel room and there’s a few like features and stuff that they want to go over. They also want to verify that your mband your Magic Band is working properly because that is essential to tracking your progress through the gameplay.
Stephanie: They also let you know about ship tours that are happening datapad orientation if you need that and answer any questions that you might have right off the bat. And they clari- like Danny said they clarify some things about your room. There’s a viewport where you can see out into space but you can close that at night if you want. There’s some special amenities in the bathroom they clarify you’re allowed to take those home with you which is really nice because you might not know it kind of looks like it belongs in the room.
Danny: There’s this tin that’s got a a Halcyon logo and inside the tin are bath products that are made by h2o+ so it’s you know the company that you’re used to at Disney, but all the packaging has been updated to be in universe for the Halcyon. It’s all got the Chandrila Starline logo on it. Even the instructions on the back, I don’t know if the camera will, will get it. But there’s a little face model on the back and she’s got lekku she’s –
Stephanie: She’s a Twi’lek, yeah
Danny: – got the head pieces.
Stephanie: So they clarify everything. And then they introduce you to D3-O9 who’s the logistics droid of the ship and you have a comms link in your room where you can see her on video. She’s very clear. She can’t see you on video. She can only hear you. But you get to know D3-O9. And D3 then tells you you know you gotta go to muster drill? Why don’t you go get some lunch and she kind of begins your journey in that way.
Danny: D3. It’s worth noting. So these aren’t just canned responses. She is computer powered. You know, similar to
Stephanie: She’s powered by Alexa by Google.
Danny: Yeah, exactly. Well, Alexa’s by Amazon.
Danny: Hello, Google.
Stephanie: Hello Google, I don’t know. Is it Amazon? It is Amazon, not Google.
Danny: If you remember, during the 50th announcements for all the celebrations of Walt Disney, they talked about adding an AI powered assistant to some of the hotel rooms. That same backbone technology is what’s at play here with D3-O9. And you can like you can go off script, you can ask questions, you can say whatever. And it’s a a computer generated response algorithm,
Stephanie: There will be times she’ll leave a little like a –
Danny: Flashing light
Stephanie: – flashing light to let you know she has a message that she needs to talk to you about. But other times, you can just tap your mband and see if she’s around. And we did that every chance that we got we used to go back to our cabin in between activities to see if we could talk to her to further our story. And we got to do some pretty cool interactions.
Danny: Yeah, she does. Like she has secrets. She knows things about other passengers on the ship. She knows historical details about the journey or about the planets you’re going to and it’s all relevant to how you’re playing the game.
Stephanie: And she’ll do nice things like sing you a lullaby at night.
Danny: Yes, it’s very, it’s very cute.
Matt: That’s so awesome. I’m sure it is probably powered by Alexa, because I know that Disney is also partnering with Amazon
Matt: To create the Hello Disney
Stephanie and Danny: Yes
Matt: Alexa devices as well, that are gonna be in the Walt Disney World hotel rooms. So it’s I I I I have seen some video footage of everything that you’re mentioning. And it’s great to know that it’s not just cause hard to tell sometimes with video that it’s not just the canned responses, but it is like speaking to a real artificial intelligence assistant, because that makes a big difference. And it doesn’t come easy to make something like that.
Danny: No. What’s remarkable about it too, is that you form an emotional connection with D3 like she is part of the story. And I mean, I guess we didn’t really there’s gonna be spoilers in this conversation.
Danny: There’s no way to avoid it.
Matt: No no no, this is a spoiler filled episode.
Danny: [Incomprehensible] But
Matt: Everyone has fair warning.
Danny: There, there’s a part of the story. So the first order comes they suspect there’s rebel activity, or resistance activity aboard the Halcyon. And so you know, this battalion of Stormtroopers arrives and Lieutenant Croy who’s their commander, and they throughout your journey, as the story progresses, they take over control of the ship, including a point in the story where they tried to deactivate D3-O9. And like, it’s it’s emotional you’re concerned she has become your companion, and she’s been helpful to you. And then all of a sudden, the Stormtroopers are gonna, you know, bust down the door and deactivate her and like you’re emotionally invested, but this is just an Alexa robot you know, I don’t feel that way about the one in my kitchen
Danny: But I did feel that way about the one in this hotel room
Stephanie: On the morning that we left she told me that I was her best friend and I cried
Matt: [Laughs] Look we we form emotional connections with our R5 droid on Star Wars Rise of the Resistance –
Matt: – and we’re only on that experience for four and a half minutes.
Stephanie and Danny: Yeah
Matt: So I can only imagine and it’s not as interactive as this.
Matt: So if you’re really
Matt: She’s she’s in your state room so that you know while it’s she’s in everybody else’s state room too it, definitely I can see how she almost becomes part of the family while you’re –
Matt: – While you’re aboard the ship.
Danny: Yeah. So after you’ve got your tour of the state room and you’re introduced to D3-09 then it’s sort of open time for a couple of hours. The lunch buffet is happening in the dining room, which is called The Crown of Corellia. You can
Stephanie: You can explore the ship
Danny: Yeah, you can explore the ship. Some parts are more open than others. You can see the crew members for a datapad orientation. There is like a formal ship tour if you want to go on that. But you’re also just free to roam, poke your head around, you know, see what you can do. There’s these computer consoles throughout the ship, and you go and you tap your mband on them. And at first they all just say, you know, access restricted crew member only. But the more you interface with these terminals, the more parts of the ship you go to, the more buttons you start pushing and poking. You you open up a larger realm of access. So you know, in our case, first we had to eat, we had to document the food for
Stephanie and Danny: For the magazine
Danny: and for our friends,
Stephanie: So that took a while
Danny: So straight to the dining room for us. And then after the dining room, we start exploring the ship.
Matt: That’s great. Let’s take a tangent to talking about food before we continue with the itinerary. How was the food on the ship? What were the options that were there? And can you talk a little bit more about the built in time with dining and anything else you can share when it comes to dining on the Halcyon.
Danny: For sure
Stephanie: I was so impressed with the food on the ship, Danny and I are both big foodies. Danny writes our dining column. And what I’ll say is it’s probably the most creative food I’ve ever seen and tasted in my life. Nothing is too crazy. It’s very familiar flavors, but it’s a lot of different colors. So like if you have cauliflower, it might not just be white cauliflower might be all the colors of cauliflower that you could ever imagine. And different combinations of things like pizza that has like Tikka Masala chicken on top of it basically. But you don’t really ever know what you’re eating because it doesn’t say this is a chicken pizza. It says this is a tip-yip flatbread so if you know some of these Star Wars words like tip-yip is chicken bantha is beef, red fruit is tomato, you can kind of start to piece things together. But it’s really very sensory and very exploratory. For your tastebuds, Disney’s not going to leave like lead you astray, they’re not going to give you anything too weird. These are foods you’ve eaten before presented in totally different ways maybe paired with different unexpected ingredients. Maybe you think something’s lemon, but it’s actually yuzu. So it’s a little bit different than you were than you were initially expecting.
Stephanie: It’s beautiful.
Stephanie: And it’s ambitious.
Danny: It is ambitious. And you know, they take a lot of big swings, and not everything connects. But on the whole, it’s very good. In classic Disney fashion, if you need to be accommodated for allergies or other dietary concerns, they’re totally prepared for that speak to your server, they’ll get you in touch with the chef it’s all fine
Stephanie: Or those first. During the first three hours on the ship. You can go talk to the hostess or the host –
Stephanie: – Who’s at the restaurant, they’ll bring a chef out to speak to you directly and that way everything will be taken care of for your cruise.
Danny: Yeah. So breakfast and dinner throughout the thing are –
Stephanie: Breakfast and lunch,
Danny: Breakfast and lunch excuse me, breakfast and lunch are self-serve. And they they were described to us and we had the opportunity during the media event to interview the executive chef. He described it as a tapas style food presentation. So everything is in these little individual sort of ramekins. There are square ones and longer rectangular ones. And then you get this really cool tray with slots. And it’s kinda of like playing Tetris. You can fill –
Stephanie: Delicious Tetris.
Danny: – Yeah, like for every square, like two squares makes a rectangle. And then so you have I think there’s room for six items on the plate
Stephanie: Or three if you take some of the bigger items.
Danny: Yeah. And so you make these trays and you organize your your little tapas and you can go back as much as you like, just like any cruise ship. And the same applies to dinner, which is a plated, served meal. If you want seconds, just ask for seconds. They’re happy to bring it
Stephanie: And even if you don’t have an allergy or a dietary restriction, there’s always a chef around. So you’re like, what is in this salad? Am I Am I scared of this salad? What’s in this sandwich? I don’t understand. They’ll talk to you and tell you what it might be called on your home planet so that you can feel a little bit more comfortable. But that was the fun of it.
Danny: Yeah, like one of my favorites. So the appetizer for dinner night one
Stephanie: Dinner is seated on both nights and it’s two totally different menus.
Danny: Yeah, but so one of my favorite things of the whole cruise the appetizer round for dinner night one are these bao buns, these steamed buns with different fillings. They’re brightly colored. You get a vegetable, a chicken and a beef one. And the way they do the presentation is you know it’s all in universe. They do call them bao buns, which I guess is borrowing a word we already know You know, they come to your table and they say, you know, this is flora, this is tip-yip, and this is bantha, or as you might say, on your home planet, vegetable, chicken and beef. And so, you know, they’re they give you an assist to help understand the menu. But they do and like if you read the menu descriptions, it’s all tip yip, this and red fruit that and, you know, even the menus tried to be in universe
Stephanie: Yeah, something that they use a lot is I’m not sure if it’s pronounced Jogan [pronounced Yogen] fruit or Jogan fruit. But almost every dessert has Jogan [pronounced Yogen] fruit in it and –
Danny: Which I think is like a passion fruit. It’s like sweet and tart –
Stephanie; I looked, I’ve I’ve been researching this quite a bit. It’s actually like a blend of berries and tropical flavors.
Stephanie: But it’s very good.
Danny: So yeah, so breakfast and lunch, help yourself. And there is some overlap between day one and day two. But there are some items that are only available you know, for like breakfast on departure day is the only time you will see there’s a Scotch egg, they call it a meteor egg to one of the tastiest things on the whole sailing, it’s only available at breakfast on departure day.
Stephanie: Both of the dinners are multiple courses. So even if you don’t love something, something else is coming. And they’re really fabulous. They’re very adventurous. On the second night, all of the dishes are inspired by different planets. So you get a little bit of a story about the planet that it’s coming like this is the Mustafarian bread service. So there’s like this black charcoal bread and this like bright fiery looking like whipped pimento cheese basically. And the first night you actually have entertainment by galactic superstar Gaya who’s amazing. And it’s not just the food in both of these cases, there’s entertainment elements happening all around and some are really obvious like Gaya singing and some are not like Raithe is doing Raithe Kole who’s Gaya’s manager he’s like off in the corner making a deal with someone or perhaps a Wookie is being snuck through the dining room while a dance party is happening
Danny: There’s we we sort of alluded to this before where there are parts of your itinerary that are part of the story and official activities but they’re cover for story elements. So dinner night one Gaya is your performer and she’s great they bring the house down. You know, there’s a mix of like power power ballads and sort of love songs
Stephanie: I wish we could buy her CD
Danny: I’ve been I’m surprised it’s not available. Like I was looking on Apple Music and stuff to see if it’s out there. They’re great
Stephanie: Do people still buy CDs?
Stephanie: I wish I could download it on iTunes.
Matt: There you go
Danny: I think in the gift shop like I would have brought home a Gaya CD for sure. So one of her songs is this sort of like very dancey pop-y number and it has a dance move to it. And the crew will teach you the dance move. And there’s a point during dinner where they get the whole dining room up to do the dance while she’s singing the song and you’re totally invested in it. It’s super fun. If you pay attention around the perimeter of the dining room, you will see that the dance is actually a distraction because we are smuggling Chewbacca on board the ship who’s key to our resistance plot. And we’re all dancing so the storm troopers don’t see Chewbacca crouched down as much as a giant Wookie can can crouch sneak in through the dining room
Stephanie: To go hide in the kitchen, yeah.
Danny: And like you might miss this entirely. You might be so enraptured with the Gaya performance or with you know, eating your dinner or whatever you might not realize. Or if you’re you know, sitting off to the side, they might sort of tell you to come in come in, we need to make a little human wall so the stormtroopers can’t see as we bring Chewie into his hiding spots
Stephanie: Just like a normal cruise there’s so much food that you will never go hungry but if all of those meals are not enough, there’s always these cute little snacks up in the atrium, cookies, Parmesan crisps, popcorn all sorts of different things. On the last night there’s a sweets and treats buffet. It’s not quite at midnight, but it’s like a midnight dessert buffet like you might get on a normal cruise. And the Sublight Lounge has food items you do have to pay for cocktails and mocktails you don’t have to pay for sodas, coffees, that sort of thing and you don’t have to pay for food, and the food is so good at Sublight Lounge
Danny: Yeah Sublight Lounge honest like Sublight Lounge better than Oga’s for sure
Stephanie: Times a million
Danny: No contest. Everything from the menu to the theming the ambiance I would pick Sublight Lounge any day of the week
Stephanie: They’ll bring you out this beautiful like three little cheese balls that have all sorts of like pistachios and other weird things mixed into them inside a smoking cloche. They bring it to your table and they take it off, all this smoke comes out spreads throughout the lounge and everyone looks and says, Please bring me one of those it’s so much fun.
Danny: It’s true. The cocktails are great. Unlike Oga’s where the drinks are pre-mixed, they are actually making drinks to order at Sublight Lounge. In general, I found the drinks to be a little more sophisticated. I find some of the drinks at Oga’s run a little sweet at least to my palate. Not the case at Sublight Lounge. The food menu is excellent you can get they call them little flatbreads, their individual pizzas. Honestly, the pizza on Starcruiser might be the best pizza at WDW
Stephanie: They do have a woodfired oven on board
Danny: Yeah so like they have a proper oven, and they’re making everything to order their little individual size pizzas like nothing sitting around nothing’s you know, and it’s really good crust and it’s really interesting toppings.
Stephanie: But while the food is very adventurous, these are things that you’ve had. There’s steak, there’s chicken, there’s pizza, there’s mac and cheese, there’s chicken nuggets, there’s salad, like everyone’s gonna find something that they want.
Danny: It’s true. It does get more adventurous than those items you know there’s kale porridge, and all kinds of different seafood and well, they called it kimchi, but I didn’t find it very spicy. But you know, like there’s, there’s interesting things. I do want to talk about the blue shrimp.
Danny: Which is something that sort of set the internet on fire when the pictures
Matt: I’ve seen, yeah [laughs]
Danny: So okay, here’s, here’s what you need to know about the blue shrimp. They use something called pea flower –
Stephanie: Butterfly –
Danny: – Butterfly pea –
Stephanie: – Pea flower –
Danny: – That’s what –
Stephanie: – It is a flower. The flower itself is a butterfly pea.
Danny: – Yes, it’s totally natural. And that’s what gives it the blue color. It imparts no flavor. It’s just this natural flower that is powderized. And the way they cook the shrimp in it is what turns them blue. They look so alien, and so wild. And they serve it to you in this in this vessel that’s got like a little bit of dry ice. So it’s kind of you know, smoky, and there’s a little seaweed salad that’s got all these weird like,leafy, frizzy, –
Stephanie: Like a little bit of cocktail sauce that it’s it’s not quite a jello, but it’s thicker –
Danny: – It’s a thick consistency
Stephanie: – and more gelatinous than a typical cocktail sauce.
Danny: – But so presentation like 12 out of 10 It looks so alien. So cool. So crazy. Take a bite, pick it up, dip it in the cocktail sauce tastes exactly like a classic shrimp cocktail, which I love. I think that’s delicious.
Stephanie: So but if you don’t like shrimp cocktail, maybe not the dish for you?
Stephanie: Chef Brian told us it took them six months to figure out exactly how they were going to accomplish this shrimp. And he says that there is no dish that they’ve created for Star Wars that or for Star Galactic Starcruiser that is more indicative of the home planet that it’s supposed to be from. And those special vessels that they serve it on were han- or custom created for the Starcruiser from somewhere in Spain that they had to find to make this very special shrimp cocktail plate.
Danny: Yeah, like it’s really great. I know people had a visceral reaction and they were like, I’m not touching that or I’m not like it’s so like of all the dishes. I think that one really captures the storytelling and the immersive the way they can make dining part of the Star Wars experience. And then at the end of the day, it tastes like a shrimp cocktail. So do you enjoy shrimp cocktail, you’ll enjoy it on Starcruiser
Matt: Good to know, there’s so much to talk about with food and it sounds like no matter what your palette is, you can find something on the ship and it’s adventurous but familiar –
Matt: – at the same time and all ties back to story. I definitely want to talk about story sort of pivoting to go back to the storytelling elements. There is I know a big [fades out] overarching story that connects all the events
[music begins and plays under Matt]
Matt: And with that we close out Episode 132, and part one of our discussion all about Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser as I teased out at the beginning of this episode, definitely stay tuned for part two because we talk in greater detail about the storytelling elements of Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser about the characters that are involved. We talk about the adventure that you take to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge about the merchandise about departure day. And some final thoughts regarding who would best benefit from taking this two night adventure and why you should consider making a reservation for Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser. I want to turn this conversation over to you though and get some of your thoughts about our discussion so far about Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser and maybe perhaps some of the questions that you would ask Steph and Danny and some other guests who have partaken in this adventure, you can send me your answers and feedback as always, in so many different ways you can follow Imagineer podcast on social media on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn @Imagineerpodcast. You can also follow us on Twitter @Imagineernews and I would definitely encourage you to look into our Facebook group. If you have a Facebook account, just go search for Imagineer Podcast under groups. We’re called the ImagiNation also called the Imagineer Podcast, Disney Fan Community. I’ve been investing a lot more time into this community. 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Hello, hello my friends. I am Hondo Ohnaka and this is Ohnaka Transport Solutions. Today I am offering the opportunity of a lifetime. I fly crews to transport this valuable merchandise across the galaxy, pilots to navigate, engineers to operate the ship and gunners to defend the shipments and that is where you come in [droid noises]