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The Margin: Disney’s new $6,000 ‘Star Wars’ immersive experience draws mixed reactions

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Can Walt Disney World
DIS,
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make good on its promise to deliver an experience that allows guests to “see, feel and live ‘Star Wars’” — provided, of course, that they’re willing to pay well into the four figures for the opportunity?

Disney is in a pre-opening phase for its Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser immersive two-night experience — the formal kickoff is March 1 — but reports are already coming out about what exactly the attraction offers, and whether it lives up to the hype. (Not to mention the astronomical price tag.)

There’s no debating the fact that it’s an expensive ride (er, hotel stay). A family of four will pay about $6,000 for the experience — with lodging, meals and entertainment included, according to press reports. (A “tricked-out” suite will run around $20,000, according to the New York Times.)

The cost doesn’t include alcoholic drinks — a beer will run $13.50, the Times noted — or fun extras like “Star Wars”-themed clothing items from the gift shop.

The idea behind the Galactic Starcruiser experience is that you’re boarding, well, a “Star Wars” starcruiser — specifically, the Halcyon, which is billed by Disney as “a vessel known for its impeccable service and exotic destinations.” The “ship” is really a hotel with 100 cabins, but those who have been aboard note that you do get a galaxy “view” via video monitors that take the place of windows.

And you get to interact with a whole range of “Star Wars” characters (Chewbacca, Kylo Ren, et al), as well as hang out at a space-age bar (dubbed the Sublight Lounge) and eat all sorts of food with an out-of-this-world theme (blue shrimp, anyone?). The experience also includes a visit to the Galaxy’s Edge “Star Wars” attraction at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios theme park.

It’s a whole lot of “Star Wars,” in other words — and that may not always be a good thing, say some of those who have experienced it.

“This can get to be a bit much if you are not an ardent ‘Star Wars’ fan,” wrote Brooks Barnes in the New York Times.

““This can get to be a bit much if you are not an ardent ‘Star Wars’ fan.””

— Brooks Barnes of The New York Times

Joel Cunningham of Gizmodo attended a free press preview but still tried to put the experience in financial perspective. “I never, ever (ever) would have paid what it costs to take my family to this thing,” he wrote. But he nevertheless said “it really is incredibly cool.”

Cunningham explained that the experience “doesn’t really feel like being inside the gritty, lived-in universe of the original ‘Star Wars’ as much as it feels like being at the in-universe equivalent of a theme park … with all of the artificial authenticity that entails.” Still, he said this starcruiser ride comes with a worthy “plot” of sorts: “Every time you leave your room, you’ll bump right into the unfolding narrative, and unless you work actively against it, you’ll find yourself pulled into the story.”

No windows, but a view of the galaxy: One of the cabins featured at Walt Disney World’s Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.

Matt Stroshane

Chaim Gartenberg of The Verge similarly faulted the experience for being “a little too polished and clean.” He also pointed out that many of the starcruiser spaces are a little cramped.

“The main dining cabin is about the size of a medium-sized restaurant, while the atrium’s neon-soaked bar offers seating for a couple dozen people at most,” he wrote.

Perhaps more significantly, the cabins are very compact — almost in the style of those on a cruise ship, Gartenberg noted: “I’ve never stayed in a $2,000-per-night hotel room, but I would expect a lot more than this.”

Disney fan Maya Maslov waxed poetic about the dining experience: “Yes, there is blue shrimp in space (apparently). Yes, we ate it. Yes, it is as … unique … as it looks,” she wrote. But she also enthused about other onboard experiences, from the lightsaber training to the interactions with the characters.

“The idea is that you’ll be living your own ‘Star Wars’ story, roleplaying in a world where your actions truly impact the things going on around you,” she added.

CNN’s Ashley Strickland also praised the experience’s over-the-top appeal: “To call it a hotel would be uninspired and inaccurate — it’s a voyage.”

Disney officials clearly are bullish about the attraction’s potential to draw visitors — no matter what the cost.

A Disney spokesperson told MarketWatch that the experience “is a bold leap forward in highly immersive entertainment, delivering a two-night vacation experience in a whole new way.”

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