Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser One Year Later - How a Return Voyage Stacks Up

Image: The view from the bridge on Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. (photo by Brooke McDonald)
Image: The view from the bridge on Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. (photo by Brooke McDonald)
Brooke McDonald
by Brooke McDonald
Last updated: 4:50 PM ET, Mon March 6, 2023

March 1 marked the one-year anniversary of the opening of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, the immersive two-day, two-night experience at Walt Disney World that takes guests on an adventure to a galaxy far, far away aboard the Halcyon Starcruiser. Our Star Wars-obsessed family's first voyage a year ago was nothing short of life-changing - an emotional whirlwind that left us tearful when it was over, and desperate to return.

After a year spent eyeing another visit, Disney invited us back on the Halcyon to share our experience as return guests. Thrilled but also nervous, we approached our departure day with two big questions: One year later, had the experience changed? And if it hadn't, how would a return voyage stack up?

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser One Year Later - Has It Changed?

The short answer is Galactic Starcruiser at its core has not changed at all. One year in, the breadth and quality of experiences, amenities, food and service, and the incredible performances by the actors, met or surpassed that of our first voyage - not a single component fell short the second time around.

And yet, our second voyage was also completely different from our first - it had to be. The essence of the Galactic Starcruiser experience is its ability to impact every guest on a uniquely personal level - your path and your interactions are your own and no two journeys will ever be identical. Here's a closer look at our return voyage.

IYCMI: Galactic Starcruiser Is Still Not a Hotel

Still too often mistaken for an expensive Star Wars-themed place to crash at Walt Disney World (though the cabins with their iconic Star Wars bunks do make them the coolest rooms on the property), Galactic Starcruiser is not a hotel - it's an experience - a dynamic story guests step into the moment they board the launch pod at the terminal. A year in, this story still has the same beginning and end, but what happens in the middle - and the role guests play it - is up to them.

Star Wars bunk bed
Star Wars bunk bed. (photo by Brooke McDonald)

Choosing (and Changing) Our Own Adventure

Across all voyages, the top-level itinerary remains the same - you'll muster in the atrium at 4 p.m., dine at a set time in the Crown of Corellia Dining Room, be entertained by galactic superstar Gaya, participate in Bridge and Lightsaber Training, and take an excursion to Batuu, aka Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

But, you'll also be faced with path-altering choices at every turn. Will you help the Resistance, support the First Order, explore your Force sensitivities, or just say yes to the highest bidder? Every step you take and choice you make on the Halcyon can - and will - change your path.

On our first voyage, we went in blind and allowed the story to pull us in. I joined my older son on his Resistance path, mirroring my responses with his in the Datapad (Starcruiser speak for your smartphone, which becomes a key in-story tool for helping to guide your role in the experience). But, after just a few interactions with the charismatic First Order Lt. Croy alongside my Dark Side-leaning 5-year-old, I ditched the Resistance (swapping spots with my husband) and never looked back.

Auden watching Lt. Croy, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser
Auden watching Lt. Croy. (photo by Brooke McDonald)

On our return voyage, my kids and I felt so attached to our previous First Order and Resistance experiences that we couldn't dream of turning to the Light (or Dark) and changing it up.

My husband, intrigued by the stories he'd heard about the so-called Scoundrel path, opted to try a new direction this time. He made fast friends with Gaya's confident, persuasive manager, Raithe Kole, and before we knew it, began sneaking around and choosing his words wisely, coyly telling us not to "worry about" what he was up to, and that he needed to "step away to take care of some business." Not normally the assertive type, he really came into his own this voyage - and said he enjoyed it even more than the first. Anecdotally, I've heard countless stories like this of Starcruiser's ability to engage introverts in unexpected and empowering ways.

Redoing a Path Is Anything But Repetitive

The Halcyon is filled with secret spaces - "rooms where it happens," so to speak. At any given moment, small groups are hatching plans and cementing alliances around the ship, and my kids and I found that even following the same paths we did last time, we often landed ourselves in different rooms, and had new and unique conversations at every turn.

Some of the actors onboard were the same ones we'd grown attached to on our first voyage. My then 5-year-old was so captivated by Lt. Croy on the first voyage that he asked for the character on his 6th birthday cake and talked about him almost daily for a year. To my son, "our" Lt. Croy was "the" Lt. Croy, and we were lucky enough to have the same actor again. Lt. Croy recognized my son's mostly quiet but unwavering devotion to him and made his return voyage even more memorable (watch some of the highlights here).

Many of our actors were different this time though - each as talented as their previous counterparts - and brought their own unique interpretations to the performances.

Among the many realizations during our second voyage, we learned we'd only scratched the surface the first time when it came to fully understanding the story and its key players. The roles of the main characters might seem on the nose at first - captain, cruise director, entertainer, mechanic, lieutenant - but get a furtive moment with any of them, perhaps initiated by a sly shoulder tap and a "Can I trust you?" and you'll uncover complex personalities and motivations.

Beyond the high-level First Order vs. Resistance plotline, there are countless subplots driven not just by right vs. wrong, but by egos and aspirations, love interests and artistic dreams. Even after covering all things Starcruiser as a journalist for a year, I was astonished to discover so much more nuance and layered character development than I'd picked up on previously.

Dining Continues to Deliver

Dining experiences aboard Galactic Starcruiser remain unchanged - and that's a good thing. All meals are included in the cost of your voyage, and there's so much more to try than one could manage in a single visit.

Breakfasts and lunches in the Crown of Corellia Dining room are served buffet style - guests grab a tray and assemble their perfect meal from a technicolor array of individually plated dishes that fit together like a gorgeous culinary puzzle.

I tried my hardest to pick dishes I hadn't tasted last time, but with only so much time - and stomach space - I had to revisit my favorites, like the Fire-melted Cheese Takeaway with Red Fruit Soup Dipper, an exotic-looking, but familiar-tasting take on grilled cheese and tomato soup; the Sunny Nut Butter & Jelly, a green pod best described as an alien Uncrustable; and the Daily Sweetbread at breakfast, a trio of pastries served with a delicious blue bantha butter that shares the same flavors of the iconic blue milk, available in unlimited quantities alongside the green version.

Breakfasts the Crown of Corellia Dining Room, Star Wars
Breakfasts the Crown of Corellia Dining Room. (photo by Brooke McDonald)

In addition to meals in the dining room, an array of snacks are served in the Sublight Lounge. We swore on our second voyage we'd take the time to relax, sip cocktails, play some Holo-sabacc, and snack on Mustufar Tuber Chips or Smoked Cheese en Cloche. Yet somehow we found ourselves at midnight on night two, having only ordered a single snack and played one round of Sabacc - so consumed were we throughout our voyage with never missing a story moment or character interaction. "Next time!" is once again our refrain, because it's simply not possible to do it all in a single voyage - or even two voyages.

Special Dishes for Restricted Diets

I did try a range of new (to me) dishes this time around. Dietary restrictions and allergies are meticulously catered to by the culinary team onboard, and as a vegetarian, I'd been encouraged to speak to the chef upon my arrival on our first voyage. But I discovered so many vegetarian options during my first lunch without making additional requests that I never took the time to discuss any additional or alternate options.

Dining aboard Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser
Dining aboard Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. (photo by Brooke McDonald)

Curious what else might be offered, on my second voyage I let the chef know I was vegetarian and each night at dinner, I was served delicious vegetarian extras. On the first night, they brought extra servings of the bright green Flora Vegetable Spiral Dumplings, pillowy bao buns filled with potatoes and curry, served alongside meat versions filled with "Tip Yip Chicken" and "Bantha Beef."

I was also served a delicious crispy glazed tofu alongside the Green Herbed Fluffy Rice and Flora Vegetables. On the second night, I got a plant-based replacement for the Insta-famous blue shrimp cocktail that arrives at your table in a cloud of billowing dry ice vapor. For me, it was crispy spring rolls also served enveloped in the swirling fog. With the main courses, I was served a beautiful plate of roasted Romanesco cauliflower surrounded by colorful veggies atop a bright green puree.

A New Experience - 'Spirits of Adventure'

One new offering not available on our initial voyage that I tried this time was "Spirits of Adventure," a cocktail-tasting experience in the Sublight Lounge. During the $125 upcharge experience, one of the ship's excellent bartenders shares the backstories of four of the Halcyon's popular cocktails and leads the group in four unique toasts as you try each drink. A pricey but fun experience, this is a great opportunity to socialize over drinks with other adults on the voyage. A complimentary non-alcoholic tasting experience, "Cantina Chronicles," is also available.

Spirits of Adventure, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser
Spirits of Adventure. (photo by Brooke McDonald)

Applying Lessons Learned

Returning to the Halcyon, we were able to apply our own tips to improve our experience too.

Don't Overpack

Costumes absolutely enhance the experience, but if you're spending too much time on wardrobe swaps in your room, you're guaranteed to miss something. We found four total outfits to be the magic number - one on day one, a second the next morning for the excursion to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, a third for the second afternoon and evening, and a fourth for departure day.

Visit Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge - Even If You've Been Before and Will Be Back

It may seem counterintuitive to take precious minutes away from your pricey time aboard the Halcyon to venture to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge if you've visited the land before and will likely return. But this is a true VIP experience that feels much different than a regular day at the park. With a pin marking you as a Halcyon passenger, you'll receive a special acknowledgment from Cast Members, and will have Lightning Lane access to both Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. You'll also be given missions to complete via your Datapad while on Batuu - missions that will directly impact the course of your evening.

Although your voyage does include lunch and an alcoholic beverage (for adults) at either Ronto Roasters or Docking Bay 7, we prefer to skip on-planet lunch and make a quick visit to Oga's Cantina (bookable 60 days ahead of your voyage), get our missions done, and then return to the Halcyon for a buffet lunch. And if you're headed back to the theme parks on your disembarkation day, we actually found that we were able to use our lunch credit in Galaxy's Edge that day (park admission required).

Batuu Day
Batuu Day. (photo by Brooke McDonald)

Stay on Property Before and After Your Stay

We always prefer to stay on Walt Disney World property, and if you stay in a Disney-owned-and-operated resort, you'll get complimentary taxi transportation to Galactic Starcruiser and back to your resort if you're sticking around after your voyage - which we recommend. Another night at Walt Disney World helps take the edge off the sadness of leaving the Halcyon - and trust me, you'll feel it.

We spent our disembarkation day back in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and agreed it would be a tradition we'd keep on future voyages. Guests staying on property before and after their voyage can also take advantage of Disney's recently released hotel offer. Guests can save up to $700 on a two-night Disney resort hotel stay immediately before or after their voyage - nights can be split up, one before and one after the voyage.

Don't Miss Photo Opportunities

One new addition since our first voyage - a Disney PhotoPass photographer (known onboard as an "Image Scanner") is posted in front of the now-iconic Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser sign at the terminal entrance. Be sure to stop for that all-important "We're here!" photo. Image Scanners are also onboard and take photos in the ship's atrium, as well as during your excursion to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Save money on Disney PhotoPass downloads by purchasing Memory Maker ahead of your trip for an advance purchase discount.

A pricier upcharge photo opportunity, the CSL Portrait Experience is a 30-minute private photo session at various locations of your choosing around the ship (pending availability of spaces). At $400 for the session, it's not cheap, but the quality of these professionally lit, shot and retouched photos in our opinion justify the cost (and are perfect for holiday cards!).

Family photo in the atrium, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser
Family photo in the atrium. (photo by Brooke McDonald)

Be Curious and Explore

One of our biggest tips picked up during our first voyage was that from the moment you muster on the first day until it's time to say goodnight as events wind down on night two, there are near-constant opportunities to drive your story forward and connect with characters and other passengers. If you find yourself alone in the atrium between the hours of 4 and 10 p.m., chances are it's because there are secret meetings happening elsewhere. Didn't get an invite? Snoop around, tap your MagicBand on one of the ship's many consoles, pay a visit to the Engineering Room, the Cargo Hold or the Climate Simulator, and you might land yourself an unexpected role or meet a character who will ask for your help and alter your path.

Don't stop when you head back to your cabin, either. Logistics droid D3-09 will communicate with you via a screen in your cabin, and even those conversations can impact your path. Be sure to ask her to tell you a bedtime story or sing you a lullaby too - just trust us!

Secret meeting aboard Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser
Secret meeting aboard Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. (photo by Brooke McDonald)

Being curious and inquisitive while also remaining dedicated to our core paths gave us an even fuller experience this time. My kids and I further cemented our First Order and Resistance alliances, but we also found time to bond with the Saja, students and teachers of the Force who helped us explore our own Force sensitivities; clap along as aspiring musician Sandro workshopped new melodies; and admire my husband's unexpected devotion to the "very important" missions he had to do for Raithe.

Saying Goodbye - Until Next Time

When it was again time to say farewell, we cried just as hard as we did the first time. Galactic Starcruiser is a 45-hour emotional rollercoaster that makes you feel anticipation, elation, connection, and belonging - and then loss when it's over. As we watched the Halcyon fade from view during our return launch pod trip to real life, we knew the best way to dry our tears would be to commit to coming back, and we booked another voyage before we went to bed that night.

Saying goodbye to Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser
Saying goodbye to Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. (photo by Brooke McDonald)

Some might say, "Again?" But our second voyage cemented what we already knew to be true - returning to the Halcyon isn't doing the same thing "again."

On paper, an itinerary might look similar from one voyage to the next, but the experience will not. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is not a ride with a recorded soundtrack, nor is it a series of scripted performances. Every corner of the Halcyon is a stage for the living, breathing show that plays out within it on every voyage. And while the lead roles might be the same each time, the performers and their guest stars - the passengers - are the ones who will write their voyage's unique script.

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