At Disney World, Cheerful Main Street Strikes Back Against Dark Elitist Star Wars Hotel

Star Wars was never a good fit with the optimistic good-will of Walter Elias Disney, the entrepreneurial dreamer from Marceline, Missouri. I smiled when I read the story quoted below.

(p. A1) Disney bet big that superfans would pay thousands of dollars to spend two days in the ultimate Star Wars experience. It’s going the way of the Death Star.

Part hotel, part immersive role-playing experience, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will close in September [2023], less than two years after opening with great fanfare. The hotel transports visitors to the world of the popular film franchise over two nights. Guest cabins resemble a spaceship, with views of outer space projected on screens designed to mimic windows.

Stays in the Starcruiser don’t come cheap: A family of four can expect to spend $6,000 and up, depending on the type of cabin chosen and visit dates. Travel agents and industry insiders say the high price contributed to gradually weakening demand after the property opened.

Walt Disney Co. has tested its theme park fans’ budgets in recent years, hiking the price of tickets, hotels and food at its attractions. Those higher prices and operational changes have drawn the ire of some of the Disney parks’ most loyal customers, including people who purchase expensive annual passes to visit the parks multiple times each year. Under Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger, Disney’s parks division has started scaling back some pandemic-era changes that upset longtime fans, . . .

. . .

(p. A2) A Disney spokeswoman attributed the Galactic Starcruiser’s cost to the way it thoroughly immerses guests in a fantasy world.

. . .

The Galactic Starcruiser’s steep price tag was a hard sell for even some of the most ardent Star Wars devotees, fans and travel industry analysts say.

. . .

“This premium, boutique experience gave us the opportunity to try new things on a smaller scale of 100 rooms, and as we prepare for its final voyage, we will take what we’ve learned to create future experiences that can reach more of our guests and fans,” a Disney spokeswoman said in an email Thursday [May 18, 2023].

While aboard the Starcruiser, visitors interact with costumed Disney employees, completing missions on the ship. Singers dressed as aliens give performances at dinner.

. . .

The attraction won an outstanding achievement for brand experience award from the Themed Entertainment Association, one of the industry’s top honors.

. . .

The hotel was expensive to operate in large part because of the so-called cast members who played roles in the immersive experience, said Dennis Speigel, founder and CEO of International Theme Park Services, which consults on projects at amusement parks.

For the full story, see:

Jacob Passy and Allison Pohle. “The Empire Strikes Out At the Star Wars Hotel.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, May 20, 2023): A1-A2.

(Note: ellipses, bracketed year, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 19, 2023, and has the title “Disney’s Star Wars Hotel Was Too Much—Even for Star Wars Fans.”)

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