Disney immersive Star Wars hotel

by Dror Denishman

Disney goes all-in for immersive Star Wars hotel experience

In case you’ve been hiding out in an asteroid field or your ride is mired in the swampy waters of Dagobah, you might have missed the fact that it’s been a little more than two years since Disney opened its massive Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge experiences at its theme parks in Orlando, Florida, and Anaheim, California. The extensions of Hollywood Studios in Florida and Disneyland in California transport you to the fictional planet of Batuu, where everything is Star Wars, from the food and drink to the stores, to the opportunity to build your own droid or lightsaber to encounters with the likes of Jedi heroine Rey, First Order leader Kylo Ren, lovable Wookie Chewbacca, and threatening stormtroopers. 

The real treats of the park are the two immersive rides it offers. The first, Smuggler’s Run, offers movie fans the chance to fly Han Solo’s legendary ship, the Millenium Falcon, using a combination of flight simulators, video screens, animatronic characters, and augmented reality. The second, which first opened in 202, is Rise of the Resistance, a multi-level, multi-faceted experience that lasts about 18 minutes and includes dazzling use of motion, sounds, holograms, and other special effects to make groups feel like they have been drafted into the Resistance, board a shuttle which is summarily captured by a First Order Star Destroyer, interrogated by Ren and fellow baddie General Hux, and then broken out of prison and put on a thrilling trackless ride that leads to encounters with a massive AT-AT walker, an Imperial probe droid, Ren and his fearsome red lightsaber, and a full-on space battle between the forces of good and evil. For all of its immersive fun thus far, the House of Mouse upped the ante considerably in early August when it released its first advertising for its newest endeavor in a galaxy far, far away.

A New Kind of Cruise Ship

Rather than build another ride, the park is clearly thinking bigger, as in the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser, a two-night experience that looks, acts, and feels like you are onboard a massive interstellar starship. Guests get their own cabins onboard with immersive screens that emulate a flight through the galaxy, along with rumbling engines and announcements from the captain. Other revolutionary, and as yet only-hinted at technology allows visitors to use extraordinarily lifelike lightsabers, interact with iconic Star Wars characters, take on missions around the ship, get an exclusive ‘shuttle ride’ to Batuu without having to stand in line, and engage in a massive space battle using a combination of live-action effects and a massive, immersive theater. About the only downside (or Dark Side) to the endeavor is the price tag. The two-night experience for two people is a Forceful US$4,900, or $6,000 for a family of four. So if you’re planning on booking a flight when cruisers open in Spring 2022, it might be time to hit up your old pal Jabba the Hutt for a loan.