After announcing that Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will permanently close in Fall 2023, Walt Disney World reopened bookings and quickly sold out all remaining voyages. This covers official statements and details, plus commentary about how it was able to sell out and whether that offers hope for the future.
In case you missed it, the final voyage for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will take place September 28-30, 2023. In announcing the closure, Walt Disney World indicated that it’s “so proud of all of the Cast Members and Imagineers who brought Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser to life and look forward to delivering an excellent experience for Guests during the remaining voyages over the coming months. Thank you to our Guests and fans for making this experience so special.”
“Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is one of our most creative projects ever and has been praised by our Guests and recognized for setting a new bar for innovation and immersive entertainment. This premium experience gave us the opportunity to try new things on a smaller scale of 100 rooms, and we will take what we’ve learned to create future experiences that can reach more of our Guests and fans,” Disney shared in a statement.
When the above announcement was first made, it resulted in Walt Disney World necessarily cancelling the reservations of guests booked on Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser between October and December 2023. As a result, the company paused new bookings for Starcruiser and contacted guests with previously-booked reservations for voyages departing on or after September 30, 2023 to discuss their options and modify their plans.
As a guest recovery measure, those previously-booked guests were given the opportunity to move to an earlier Starcruiser voyage at a discount of up to 50% off. Presumably, a good number took Walt Disney World up on that offer, because the final voyage of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser sold out even before general public bookings resumed.
Disney also ended all discounts for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser before general public bookings resumed. This included the 50% off discounts for Cast Members, as well as 30% off discounts for Annual Passholders and Disney Visa Cardholders. There was also a special offer for $700 off Deluxe Resort stays booked as part of a Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser vacation package. All were cut short prior to general public bookings resuming.
When general public bookings did restart for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, fans flooded the phone lines to get a chance at booking their preferred dates. Many, if not most, guests had difficulty getting through when calling (the only way to book Starcruiser) and were met with an “all circuits busy” message.
Some superfans reported having to call back several times to actually get a spot in the phone queue, and after waiting in hold for a lengthy amount of time, were told that their preferred voyage dates were already sold out. Others indicated that they were advised to “call back later” because the system was overwhelmed.
It sounds like a scene more out of Free Dining drop days than of a ‘failed’ full-priced interactive experience.
Those who did heed the call center’s advice and try again later almost assuredly were not able to book. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is now unavailable for new bookings, having sold out all remaining voyages in only a few hours.
According to Walt Disney World, availability is still subject to change and a very limited number of rooms could become available for new bookings from time to time. They advise continuing to check the website for any updates to availability. (The actual availability calendar has been removed, so calling is probably the best course of action. Perhaps first thing on Tuesday morning when the dust settles after the holiday weekend.)
As we wrote previously in our commentary to Walt Disney World ending Starcruiser special offers early, it selling out all remaining dates is completely unsurprising. Although Walt Disney World had difficulty filling voyages even at 30-50% off, there has also been no sense of urgency among potential guests.
The first ‘category’ of guests who booked the remaining voyages through the end of September 2023 are the first-timers. We’ve heard from many Walt Disney World fans who have indicated that they’ve been waiting for better deals, erroneously assuming that the prices would continue to fall if bookings remained soft. Others simply hadn’t found the time or budgeted for Starcruiser yet. All of these folks would now have a firm deadline for booking Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, and that undoubtedly pushed some off the fence–even if it meant having to pay full price.
Then there are the diehard Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser superfans. It’s common criticism within the Walt Disney World fandom that unpopular experiences don’t gain a following until Walt Disney World announces they’re closing, and then they’re suddenly beloved. This sentiment is stupid. It should go without saying, but something can be unpopular with the general public and have a fan following. (It’s like these critics have never heard the term “cult classic” or don’t know what it means.)
Even Stitch’s Great Escape played to packed houses on its final day. Ellen’s Energy Adventure, the random exhibits in Innoventions, Camp Minnie-Mickey, and more all surging crowds prior to closing forever. This happens with just about anything Walt Disney World has ever closed. When Dino-Rama finally goes extinct, there will be a crowd on its final day to mourn the “loss.” You better believe that I’ll also be there, just to make sure it actually closes.
There’s also the reality that Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is no Stitch’s Great Escape. While it has polarized the fandom and there are no shortage of people who will be attending the funeral just to make sure it’s still dead, Starcruiser has a group of ardent adherents. Many of those who love it…really love it.
This includes just about anyone who has actually done it. As Walt Disney World has pointed out, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser was an unprecedented achievement, receiving widespread praise and recognition throughout the themed entertainment industry, winning some of the industry’s highest honors. Starcruiser also has received some of the highest guest satisfaction ratings in the history of Walt Disney World from the thousands of guests who have experienced it firsthand.
This is also not surprising. If you’ve read our various posts about Starcruiser this year, you’ve probably seen the repeated references to its excellent guest satisfaction scores. Many of you didn’t believe this, presumably preferring the narrative that everyone hates it. That’s probably true in the broader Star Wars and Walt Disney World fandoms. The degree to which Starcruiser has inspired anger and contempt–rather than indifference–is relatively unprecedented. Suffice to say, Starcruiser has produced passionate responses in both directions.
In any case, the small-but-loyal diehards coupled with the fence-sitting first-timers should explain how Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser sold out all of its remaining voyages so quickly. They had a sense of urgency and a firm deadline for setting foot aboard the Halcyon for the first or final time, and between that and the capacity-constrained nature of the Starcruiser, spots filled up fast.
Nevertheless, the speed with which this happened is slightly impressive. Saying farewell to Starcruiser is different than Stitch’s Great Escape, because there’s essentially zero cost to the latter. That final day audience was probably almost entirely local Annual Passholders, plus a few first-timers who inadvertently stumbled upon the attraction and were confused by the fond farewells. I’d hazard a guess that almost no one loved that enough to buy a plane ticket or single-day park ticket to say goodbye.
By contrast, Starcruiser superfans are rearranging their vacation schedules and dropping several thousands of dollars on short notice to bid adieu to it. That’s dedication, and speaks to the lasting connections made and way the experience resonated so strongly. (We loved Starcruiser…but not enough for a full-price farewell!)
On social media, we’ve already seen some Star War: Galactic Starcruiser faithful openly wondering whether Walt Disney World might extend the Halcyon’s run “by popular demand” after seeing these bookings. After all, there’s clearly enough demand to fill cabins through at least the end of 2023, and probably until the Starcruiser’s 2nd anniversary in March 2024. Heck, maybe even beyond that. So…how does this spike in demand change the equation for the future of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser???
We don’t want to give anyone false hope or fan the flames on this wishful thinking. The strong demand for the final few months almost certainly does not change a thing. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will permanently close at the end of September 2023, and will never reopen. This wasn’t a ploy to juice demand; there is no “by popular demand” pivot for Starcruiser.
Again, we discussed all of this in our commentary to Walt Disney World Taking Up to $300 Million Loss on Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser. That was published while bookings were paused, and predicted that all remaining voyages would sell out. We actually took that a step further, saying that “the same would’ve probably been true if that end date were December 31, 2023. Heck, a farewell season with a telegraphed end date would’ve probably made Starcruiser viable through mid-2024. And that’s without discounts.”
We’re not patting ourselves on the back for a good prediction. This one was obvious to anyone who pays attention given the fan following of Starcruiser, past closures seeing spikes of demand at the end, and the limited capacity nature of the experience. If it was obvious to us, it was also obvious to Walt Disney World. They aren’t great with data and analytics (see greenlighting Starcruiser in the first place), but they’re good enough to know this.
What this says is that Disney just wanted to wash their hands of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, take the write-offs this fiscal year, and move on. For whatever reason, those write were more advantageous than letting the Halcyon have a proper “farewell” season and capturing as much revenue that way. Stated differently, taking a $300 million loss was deemed better than continuing to operate Starcruiser into the next fiscal year.
That’s kind of mindblowing when you consider just how much the full-priced voyages cost for October through December (lots of peak holiday dates in there!), but it should reinforce the reality that Starcruiser was also ridiculously expensive to operate. Contrary to what some Walt Disney World fans believe, this venture was not insanely profitable.
This reminds me a lot of an episode of Seinfeld during which Kramer tries to convince Jerry to claim that his stereo was broken during shipment: “Jerry, all these big companies, they write-off everything.” To which Jerry responds, “you don’t even know what a write-off is.” The two eventually concede that neither of them understand the financial impact of write-offs, illustrating a misconception among consumers that write-offs don’t cost companies anything. Except in this case, there’s a weird kernel of truth to that $300 million write-off for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.
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Thoughts on all remaining Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser voyages selling out at full price within only a few hours? Think this actually might give the company pause, and consider pushing off its closure until 2024? Surprised that the $300 million write off this fiscal year is more ‘valuable’ than the revenue from fully-booked, full-priced voyages? Still somehow convinced that the company will convert Starcruiser into a regular resort or reopen it as something else? Expect some of the tech to move over to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!