The Galactic Starcruiser Delivers The Most Immersive Star Wars Storytelling Ever Imagined

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This article will contain mild spoilers for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.

Invited by Disney and Lucasfilm as part of the first batch of press to participate in the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser voyage, I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I arrived. The entire concept has been spoken of in hushed tones for years as having a level of immersion we couldn't have imagined. But having repeatedly visited Galaxy's Edge — the "Star Wars"-themed land at Disneyland and Disney World — I couldn't imagine a way they could make it more immersive.

With the attraction Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run, they actually put you in the cockpit of the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy. In Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, you're drafted by the Resistance, captured by the First Order, and rescued by Finn — after coming face to face with Kylo Ren himself. Rey and Chewbacca roam the park, always in the middle of a secret mission you're invited to participate in if you want to. So... really, how much more immersive could they possibly get?

The answer is a lot.

The Halcyon

On the surface, the Galactic Starcruiser feels very much like a Disney cruise ship. You book passage for a completely contained three days and two nights of a voyage aboard a luxury ship. The Halcyon itself is located just outside of Galaxy's Edge on Disney World's property, but as soon as you take the shuttle pod up to the ship, you're wholly immersed in "Star Wars." The crew of the Halcyon await you, ready to take your bags directly to your room and show you around the storied history of the ship. The Halcyon, they'll tell you, is 275 years old and it has seen service in a lot of eras. It helped tow the Starlight Beacon to a rescue mission in the High Republic era. In the era of the Empire, it served as a personal command yacht for an Imperial officer. The Purrgill-class ship boasts 13 decks and 13 engines — lucky numbers for the ship's designer — but as a passenger, you'll only see three decks, and on those decks, so many things happen. The ship had been recently retrofitted for its anniversary voyage to Batuu (the setting of Galaxy's Edge), which was the first place it sailed to on its maiden voyage.

Every cast member knows the story inside and out. All of the interaction that you had hoped for in Galaxy's Edge with every person in a "Star Wars" costume is kicked up a notch here aboard the Halcyon.

The ship itself is nothing short of gorgeous, feeling at once like a luxurious and forgotten piece of "Star Wars" history and something that has all the hallmarks of a galaxy far, far away. Every room has a viewport that looks out into space and a droid link to speak to the ship's logistics droid. There are droid ports and blinking lights everywhere and the shape and feel of every room has all of the classical design touches of "Star Wars." With Doug Chiang — the legendary designer who has been working with Lucasfilm since the mid-'90s and established the look of the prequels — there are many parts of the ship that look like one of his illustrations come to life.

The Rest Of The Ship

Aside from your room, most of your time will be spent in the Atrium. This is the main part of the ship where the major parts of the story you're stepping into will play out. It's where the captain and cruise director will welcome you, it's where the singer Gaya will perform for you, it's where you'll interact with other passengers, droids, and alien species. Attached to the Atrium is the bridge, a bar — The Sublight Lounge — a shop, and the pods where you come and go from the ship at the beginning and end of your journey.

You'll take meals in the Crown of Corellia dining room on the fourth deck, where half of the cabins on the ship are located. It's an opulent dining room and the food is themed completely in-universe and of a quality you would expect on a high end voyage like this. The fourth deck is also home to a few other locations you'll find yourself in. It houses the climate simulator — a tranquil garden that simulates the climate of the destination planet where you can go to relax and get a breath of fresh air. The lightsaber training pods are right next door, where you'll learn to wield a lightsaber. They were installed by a Jedi in the High Republic era as thanks for the help the Halcyon offered the Jedi centuries ago. There are also standard things you'd find on a ship: the engineering room, the brig, and the cargo bay. These are locked to passengers, unless they're able to hack some systems or make some connections to get access to the ship.

There isn't a single wasted space on the ship and you'll find yourself exploring every inch of it as you go about finding your way through your own, personalized "Star Wars" story.

The Stories And Interaction

There are a number of ways to interact with the story unfolding around you. First, there's your datapad. Disney issued us a datapad that let us send and receive transmissions from characters that were walking around the ship, whether that was Gaya's scoundrel of a manager or the captain of the ship itself. Your responses in this datapad really determine the story you're going to interact with, but so will your in-person interactions with the characters. Most of those interactions will happen with members of the ship's crew or the cast members in other capacities, but there will be times where you're literally trading secret notes with fellow passengers, puzzling out the overall story.

The short version of the overall story is this: many of the ship's crew have sympathies with the Resistance, including the Captain and the Cruise Director. When the First Order arrives to investigate their suspicions that there are passengers or crew aboard aiding and abetting the Resistance, things heat up from there. But there are more than a dozen side-stories running simultaneously as well, whether that's with the ship's mechanic, Sammie, Gaya and her band and manager, the ship's captain, or anyone else. Everyone has a story that you can follow. At the very first muster call for the ship, the First Order arrives in the form of Lt. Croy, a lower ranking bootlicker exactly in the mold of General Hux, and a pair of First Order stormtroopers. As they roam the ship and you interact with them, the story unfolds with you as a participant. You're forced to make some difficult choices. It is literally impossible to do everything and see everything as part of the story, you'll need to compare notes with fellow passengers doing other things and members of the crew. Your datapad will send you on missions and you'll be asked to slice into panels and break into restricted areas to do jobs or pull heists for whoever it is your politics line up with. Want to help the First Order? You can. Want to join the Resistance? There are ample opportunities. Want to be a scoundrel and help pull a heist in the middle of the ship? You'll get your chance. Want to simply relax and enjoy the story play out before your eyes? I suppose you could do that, too.

The great thing about the app-driven end of the storytelling is that it also serves as your schedule. As you complete missions or interact with things aboard ship using your databand — a "Star Wars" version of Disney's Magicband — new events will pop up on your itinerary. Not all of them are as they seem. You know, just in case your the datapad is intercepted by the wrong people. That bridge training you might not feel like attending might become very important to the story. That dinner show might be vital to helping one cause or another. That particular autograph session might drive a whole host of storytelling opportunities.

Galaxy's Edge

As part of your passage on the Halcyon, you have a planned excursion to Batuu. No matter what side you've chosen in the fight raging aboard the ship, you'll be given missions to complete planet-side. Some will have you delivering messages or doing very fun spy-craft. At one point I had to show a bartender at Oga's Cantina a secret symbol and they, in turn, put a coaster down under my drink with a special QR code on it, that happened to be the communications credentials to a forger Oga hooked me up with. It opened more storytelling opportunities and affected things going on in my story on the ship.

The thing I was most impressed about, though, is that all the storytelling for the rides in Galaxy's Edge are greatly enhanced and make a lot more sense when you take the voyage on the Halcyon. Why is it so important for Chewbacca to loan Hondo the Falcon to steal coaxium? The answer is you. And the mission you're on. Smuggler's Run changes slightly when you're a passenger on the Halcyon, performing a mission.

As part of the voyage, you get fast access to all of the rides in Galaxy's Edge and can take a shuttle back to the ship at your leisure. The shuttle itself is very cool. Sure, they probably just put you in a shipping container on the back of a truck to bring you "planet-side" but never once does the immersion break. In fact, the only thing that breaks the immersion is the overcrowding at Disney World.

The Verdict

I'll be honest, I was blown away. LARPing at this scale in the "Star Wars" universe was something I thought impossible. They've done it in smaller ways before — I still wish I had a chance to visit The Adventurer's Club — but I've never seen anything with this much behind it. Everything is part of the story and you get to see and do all kinds of amazing things. The thing I loved most about it, though, were not the big moments where everyone watched on, acting out the part of the main story. My favorite moments were the small ones that only I saw or participated in with a small group. Whether that was a moment where two key characters meet for the first time and realize they're both on board the Halcyon, or teasing Lt. Croy about his towel usage, or interacting watching kids on the ship do their best to protect the characters they care about, all of these small moments added to the grandiosity of the overall story.

That I was able to experience them enhanced everything.

One of my favorites was that situation with Lt. Croy. Earlier, we had asked a member of the Halcyon crew about what it was like and how they were coping with having the First Order aboard. They rolled their eyes and told us how demanding Lt. Croy had been, demanding that they bring him 36 towels the night before. We asked what they were for, but the crew member didn't know. Later that day, when trying to break into the Engineering Bay, my party and I turned around at the sound of Lt. Croy's voice, asking us what we were doing trying to get into a restricted area.

We bluffed.

And one of our number asked him what he needed all of those towels for.

Without missing a beat, he explained seriously that every towel had a different use and we were able to engage and redirect him into this conversation while another of us continued working on solving the problem of getting into Engineering.

The best moment in this story, though, happened when we were trying to stall Lt. Croy. He had just committed some heinous bit of business or another and I was able to plant myself in his way and ask him where his towel was. The distraction was only momentary, but the glare he gave me was so intense and perfect, I couldn't believe it. On the surface, it might have seemed silly and, at times it was, but it also was delivered with gravitas. 

That's just one example of something small that builds out of throw-away bits of business. Each one of these made me feel like I was in a "Star Wars" story. Each one made me feel like my actions had consequences and that the choices I made mattered and the lines I spoke meant something.

It was nothing short of astounding.

If you've been on the fence about forking out the money for the experience, I don't blame you. It is pricey. And for many, it is definitely too pricey. But if you can put together the money for it and manage to make it work, this is the experience for you. It will make you feel like you're living in "Star Wars." Take the immersion of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, then turn it up to 11 and for two and a half days and you'll understand what you're in for on the Starcruiser.

For someone who has dreamed about that since he was a little kid, the whole experience was exactly what I needed, even if I didn't quite know it.

You can follow Bryan on Twitter.

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