Disney takes visitors to a galaxy far, far away


Galactic Starcruiser will have its grand opening on Tuesday. March, April and most of June are fully booked.

Disney began work on the starcruiser project about six years ago, Trowbridge said, as part of his design for Galaxy’s Edge, a $1 billion “Star Wars” addition to Hollywood Studios theme park in DisneyWorld. Galaxy’s Edge was about mass entertainment, while the starcruiser was designed for intimacy.

“We didn’t want it to be so big that people lost that ‘they see me’ feeling,” Mr Trowbridge said.

At the time, the hospitality and retail industries were repositioning themselves for millennial consumers. Staying in a hotel? Shopping in a store? How picturesque. Increasingly, creating “immersive experiences” was the ticket to relevance, and the more the experience intertwined the real and virtual worlds, the better. Interactive theater is also becoming fashionable, with “Sleep No More” in New York a prime example. (Audience members craft their own story by entering different rooms and choosing, over the course of several hours, which characters to follow and when.)

But that was uncharted territory for Disney, which doesn’t like to leave anything to chance. In fact, the company has spent decades perfecting the opposite.

Disney parks have always been about immersing visitors in a story, of course, whether it’s transporting them to Cinderella’s Castle or a pirate-filled Caribbean sea. But most Disney rides are passive experiences. You sit down and something happens. Young visitors now expect more: they want to be part of the action and even influence the outcome.

Galactic Starcruiser takes immersion to the extreme. If guests arrive the minute they are allowed and stay until checkout, they get 45 hours inside a game. Disney has always called its employees cast members, but the people hired for hotel staff go a step further — all, even the bellhops, are residents of the “Star Wars” universe who stay in character when you ask a question.

“If you would like a drink from your home world, please ask,” read the drink menus inside the ship’s Sublight lounge. The hair dryers in the room are labeled “thermal blowers”. Cutlery at dinner includes pairs of giant tweezers called “galactic grabbers”. Push a button in your cabin and a logistics droid, D3-O9, appears on a video screen to have a conversation, the dialogue changing based on your responses.

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