Love is fun & colorful.
Your wedding photos should be too.
We’re the Kivii – Elyssa & John Kivus, the nerds you see up there getting ready to board the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser at Walt Disney World. The Galactic Starcruiser is a large intergalactic space cruise ship named the Halcyon. Or if you’re not quite ready to suspend your disbelief and get THAT into things yet, it’s the new immersive Star Wars Hotel that Disney built in Orlando. We got to take our trip at the beginning of April, just a month after the hotel opened. We were joined by Fenway the Husky who you see in my arms above (dressed as another beloved space traveler), and John’s good friend Seth (not pictured above, but you’ll see him in photos below.
Okay, here’s how I’m breaking this post down, ’cause it’s A LOT, so buckle up and check out this TOC Table of contents
***Note on the photos: I only took like 5 photos the whole trip. John & Seth took the vast majority of these photos/videos on their phones. John only took a few of me with one of our “real” cameras. We were too invested in having a great experience and being in the moment to photograph the way we would if this were a Kivus & Camera documentation. That said, there are some awesome professional photos in here shot by a Walt Disney World photographer. I put those into a slideshow gallery. You can check out my epic Naboo Handmaiden outfit and Seth’s Mandalorian armor
Okay, you’re my mom, or another person reading this who has maybe seen some of the movies, only vaguely knows Star Wars things, and maybe didn’t even know a Star Wars Hotel existed. I’m going to give you the the shortest explanation I can of the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser / Star Wars Hotel.
Several years ago the Walt Disney company bought Lucasfilm (as in George Lucas, as in the Star Wars universe). After that acquisition is when the new Star Wars movies, starting with The Force Awakens, began being filmed and released.
Disney also decided to incorporate Star Wars more fully into their parks, building Star Wars Lands at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California. In Disney theme park speak, Land just means section of a theme park; think Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Adventureland, etc. So, Star Wars Lands, named Galaxy’s Edge, were built in California and Florida. When you walk into Galaxy’s Edge, you’re entering the planet Batuu and you can see Star Wars characters like Rey and Chewbacca walking around.
Now, onto the hotel. Disney took on an ambitious project with this hotel. It’s a fully immersive 3 day, 2 night Star Wars experience. The idea is that you’re going on a cruise, but instead of boarding a boat and going to the Caribbean, you’re boarding a space ship (a galactic starcruiser) and going to the Outer Rim of the Star Wars Galaxy. So the hotel doesn’t have rooms, it has cabins. It doesn’t have windows, it has viewports, where you see the stars and other ships and satellites going by (and you see the trademark blue streaks of jumping to light speed). It doesn’t have hotel staff, it has crew members, etc.
Other things work similarly to a boat cruise though: it’s all-inclusive except for alcoholic beverages and a couple of add-on options. Everyone boards the ship at the same time and disembarks at the same time, so you’re with the same other guests for your whole cruise. You sit with other people at dinner, and breakfast and lunch are come and go, all-you-can-eat buffets. There are kids club things. There’s a great bar, a ship store, and you have an excursion day where you can get off the ship and go explore your Port of Call. In this case, you’re going to Batuu (i.e. Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World).
This is me spoiling my own last question, but I think it’s important to put above the spoiler fold too. So here’s my TLDR version of “This thing is really expensive for such a short trip. Is it worth it?”: For the three of us, yes absolutely worth it!
CRITICAL FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN DETERMINING IF IT’S WORTH IT FOR YOUR FAMILY OR FRIEND GROUP
TYPES OF STARCRUISER PASSENGER GROUPS WE SAW
TIPS FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO GO SPOILER-FREE
John & I stayed pretty spoiler-free before going, but there are a few things we agree we wish we’d known. I don’t think they’re spoilers, just helpful tips that will make your trip more fun:
so turn back if you don’t want to see pictures, read about what happens, etc. etc.
SPOILERS STARTING IN
If you book a trip on the Galactic Starcruiser, you aren’t just booking a 3 day, 2 night hotel stay. You’re being fully immersed into the Star Wars universe where action is happening and you’re invited to be a part of it. If you go, I thoroughly encourage you to get into it and be a part of the story. That’s what makes it fun. Here’s the breakdown of the the immersion experience:
Part 1: LARPing in general
If you’ve never heard of LARPing, I encourage you to check out this awesome wedding I photographed a few years ago. But. LARPing stands for Live Action Role Playing. You know what board games and video games are, and you may be moderately familiar with Dungeons & Dragons. LARPing is taking that to the next level. You become your board game/video game/D&D character. You have a costume, a persona, and missions. So does everyone else playing the game with you.
Part 2: The storylines on the Starcruiser
The Galactic Starcruiser is one giant Star Wars themed LARP. In addition to the crew members who are there to help with luggage and work the ship store, lounge, and cafeteria, there are crew members who are bonafide actors playing important roles. Several of them are alien species too, which is really cool. You’ve got the ship’s captain, the cruise director, the musician Gaya who performs at dinner, her accompanist, her manager, a mechanic, a traveling musician, a First Order officer and more.
There are three overall “storylines” you can become involved in during your time on the Starcruiser (you’ll see in my log/memories that I wanted to experience as much of all of them as I could)
Part 3: The data pad and control centers
There are two different aspects to the game play on the Starcruiser: the app side, and the character interactions. They don’t necessarily sync up perfectly either, because the app doesn’t always know when you’ve spoken in person with a character, and the actors don’t know what you’ve been up to on your data pad.
But the data pad is an app for your phone or tablet. If you want to get really into the game play and missions, you’ll want to have it open and have your phone with you all the time. You’ll get communications from the characters, and it will instruct you in how to complete your missions.
Part 4 The characters you’ll meet and interact with
This was my personal favorite aspect of the game play. The actors on our Starcruiser trip were all outstanding. They mill about throughout the trip and talk to you, will pull you aside for a chat about secret missions, and give you fun storyline information. Special shoutouts to Raithe Kole who ate up every moment of interacting with guests, Sammie the mechanic/Resistance fighter who was constantly running through hallways followed by a horde of younglings, and Sandro the sweet musician who wrote songs with us.
We checked in on a Monday and got to the entrance about 1:15. There’s a solid amount of security, with a guard house and gate series as you drive in (they asked us if we had any weapons, specifically mentioning lightsabers or blasters, real or costume, which was the first theming touch).
When we pulled up to the main doors, there were crew members to tag all of our luggage and bring it to our cabin, which left us with just our backpacks to get in line for more security. Metal detectors this time. After that, there’s sort of a traditional Disney queue situation where they count out a set number of people and take you into another room. There you get a little safety speech that lets you know about the two different alarm sounds/colors you could hear during your stay. One for a “part of the story emergency” where all the guests are supposed to go to their muster station, and one for a legitimate IN REAL LIFE emergency. Once you’ve heard that, your group gets to load onto a launch pod to be picked up by the Halcyon!
Most of the videos in this post are between 20 seconds and a minute. There’s only one longer than that and it’s the last one. They’re fun little videos, so definitely watch! Here’s the launch pod experience (and sorry, I can’t figure out how to make them fit into the post the same way as the photos!)
When we got off the launch pod, we were welcomed by a crew member. Since there are only 350-400 guests for a given cruise, and the arrivals on the actual ship are staggered by the launch pods, each party had their own crew member guide to welcome them. Ours gave us a basic tour of the ship’s Atrium (lobby) and pointed out the lounge, ship store, where the cafeteria was, etc., then took us to our cabin. She also told us about data pad training, but we never did that (we probably should have for at least a few minutes).
About an hour after driving up to the gate, we were at our cabin. All of our belongings had made it safely (you can see them stacked in the corner in the cabin photo below). We took some photos of the cabin, did a little bit of organizing our respective belongings, and Seth put on his costume.
Then we went exploring. We browsed the ship store and I bought an Amidala cloak that I’m mildly obsessed with now. Around this time we also started getting messages on our data pads from some of the key players: the ship’s captain, the cruise director, Lieutenant Croy from the First Order, etc. The Atrium was filling up with guests and crew members, and people were talking about Gaya, the superstar singer who was going to be performing at dinner. She hadn’t arrived yet, but other characters were roaming the Atrium too. I chatted with Gaya’s backup singer/musician, a Rhodian named Ouanni, briefly met Gaya’s manager Raithe Kole, and introduced myself to the ship’s astromech, SK-620.
The Atrium was bustling, but the bridge was empty, so we took some pictures there and then started looking into the data pad stuff. At least John & Seth did; I got frustrated with it and decided I didn’t want to be looking at my phone for the data pad stuff all the time, so I just let John handle the messages and missions and what not from then on. They figured out how to get us access to the engineering room, which was one of the missions based on our responses to the initial data pad messages.
TOP FOUR FAVORITE MOMENT FOR ELYSSA (#4): We’re about 2 hours from checkin and I’ve noticed that everyone between the ages of about 7 and 12 has formed into a pack despite being strangers just a bit ago and they all know each other’s names already and they’ve all got their phones (or a parent’s phone) and have OF COURSE figured out all the missions already. They’ve unlocked the engineering room AND multiple other things. The younglings are far better at the app than we are.
After some lunch, mingling, and a little bit of learning the data pad on our own, the next item on our agenda was the Captain’s Muster. All guests were called to the Atrium and assigned to muster stations (just a specific quadrant of the room). Captain Keevan and the cruise director Lenka Mok welcomed us and were about to propose a toast when Lt. Croy of the First Order showed up and explained that he was on board because the First Order believed the Halcyon to be harboring Resistance fighters. One of the ship’s mechanics, Sammie, was ordered to the engineering room to do something (I can’t remember exactly what) for the First Order.
So, right after muster we went to the engineering room to meet Sammie. The pack of younglings had already gotten there and were swarming the guy. But as the tallest child present, I was able to talk over their heads and offered Sammie whatever assistance he needed, telling him that the Force was strong in my family. He pulled the three of us over to a corner and explained that he was there as a member of the Resistance and needed someone to try to get close to Lt. Croy to obtain information about the First Order.
KEY MOMENT FOR ELYSSA: this is when I decided I was going to be a double/triple agent (but obviously for the good guys because I am one with the Force and the Force is with me).
After meeting Sammie and agreeing to get information from Croy for him, we went back to the room for me to put on costume #1. Our comms droid told us this was the best time to be meeting people before dinner so once I was changed, we headed back to the Atrium. As you’ll see in the photos below, I made good on the meeting people goal. I spoke to Croy in the lounge and told him I was on a diplomatic mission from Naboo and would appreciate knowing more about the First Order’s concerns. I talked to Gaya’s manager Raithe more and realized he was the key character for the scoundrel/rogue storyline.
The lounge might have been my favorite themed space by the way. It’s like the cleaner, quieter version of Oga’s on Batuu (to be fair, I think Oga’s is really cool too).
A traveling musician named Sandro (he’s the Togrulan with the beautiful instrument in the video above) was sitting in the Atrium working on music with two Twi’lek guests, and I sat and listened to them for a while, before superstar Gaya finally made it aboard. She came down to listen to Sandro singing with the Twi’lek guests, but we had to go, because we had booked a portrait session to get epic photos around the ship in our costumes.
So, now here are the AWESOME photos from our session with the Disney photographer. (Note that this is an add-on option. It’s not included in your Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser stay base price.) I’ve put them in a slideshow, but if you hover over it, you can also click through one by one.
Since we finished our portrait session in the lounge, we ended up just relaxing there with some SPACE COCKTAILS before we were scheduled to go to bridge training. We probably should’ve gotten some sort of citation for firing missiles under the influence now that I think about it!
The bridge training was super fun! We were all pretty invested in playing along with the roles (firing missiles, grabbing cargo, defending the ship with shields, etc.) so I don’t have any photos/video, but I bet there are good clips on youtube.
By 8pm we were definitely ready for dinner. We’d upgraded for one of our dinner nights to be at the Captain’s Table, which basically just means you get a great seat, can talk to the captain, get a free champagne for the Captain’s toast (alcoholic beverages were the only food/drink NOT included in your cruise price – they got charged to the cabin), and I think we had an extra course and a bonus dessert too. Again, this is add-on option, not included in the base price.
The food was pretty good. I don’t think anyone would call it amazing, but it was good. It definitely looked really cool though! And we weren’t there for the food anyway. Never take me anywhere for the food. I am a child and will pick pizza or a cheeseburger and fries any chance I get.
About half an hour into dinner the cruise director Lenka Mok welcomed everyone and introduced Gaya for her dinner show. And Sandro played backup! This was fun because when I’d talked to him earlier, he’d explained to me that he sold everything he owned to get on the Galactic Starcruiser in an effort to make connections so he could make a difference with his music.
Lots of storyline action happened during dinner. Gaya confronted Croy about how the First Order treated her people, and that got interrupted when Sammie (remember, working undercover for the Resistance) came in with Chewbacca, as well as the horde of kids who pretty much just followed Sammie everywhere. Sammie had caught Chewie and came to tell Croy, who told Sammie to put the poor Wookiee in the brig.
After that chaos we turned to dessert (always my favorite part), but little did we know that while we were eating SPACE DESSERT, the younglings had already figured out how to break Chewie out of the brig, but we heard that good news as we were leaving dinner.
The first day (yes, this is still the day we checked in, we’ve been on board for about 7 hours now) ended with a toast in the Atrium from cruise director Lenka Mok. That got interrupted by First Order chaos (you had to have seen this coming right?) To prove his loyalty, Croy ordered Sammie to lock up SK (the astromech and Lenka Mok’s bff) until the First Order could get information from him and wipe his memory.
That’s it for day 1. We all left the Atrium a little worried for SK and Chewie but ultimately trusting Sammie.
NOTE: there are a bunch of other optional activities we could have done instead of our photo session/exploring/data pad stuff:
On the second day, we got up around 7:15 to get dressed and get to breakfast (we were making the most of our trip y’all!!!). And that meant we could be on one of the first shuttles to Batuu for the cruise’s planetary excursion (like you’d have an excursion to Cancun on a Royal Caribbean cruise). Before we could board the shuttle, we went through the climate simulator room (top left photo below), so you know what to expect on planet, and we were given a special Halcyon passenger pin, so citizens of Batuu could identify us. The shuttle to Batuu (top right photo) took just a few minutes and we arrived to pretty pleasant day.
At this point, we’ve received various messages from all our contacts about missions on the planet (remember, I’m trying to get the experience of all three storylines, so John’s communicating with EVERYONE for me). You can see some of our missions in the data pad screenshot on the left below, but basically the missions involved going to Oga’s to get information, riding both Smuggler’s Run to get Coaxium, and Rise of the Resistance to spy on either side, and scanning various cargo containers around Batuu into the data pad.
We tried to complete our Batuu missions pretty quickly because we’ve been to Galaxy’s Edge a bunch, and wanted to spend the majority of our time on the Starcruiser. So as soon as we’d done everything we wanted to do, which means (1) the missions/rides (2) John eating a Ronto Wrap or 2, and (3) me buying Leia’s lightsaber because Leia is my everything and “there is another”), we took a shuttle back to the Halcyon.
Most of the guests were still on Batuu, so the ship was relatively empty around lunch time. John refreshed with some green milk, and I took the time to get some photos in my excursion day Rey outfit (the clothes she wears to go find Luke at the end of Force Awakens/start of Last Jedi). But, because I am a total nerd, I also had my Amidala cloak with me to disguise my Rey costume in case I saw Croy. I wanted him to continue to trust me.
One of the things we found as an optional activity on the itinerary was Cantina Chronicles, and another guest we’d been chatting with was going to that at 12:30, so we did too. It turned out to be a mocktail tasting at the Sublight Lounge. But for Cantina Chronicles, the crew members told us fun stories about the drinks, their ingredients and their planets of origin. This was one of the included activities (no extra cost) and you got three mocktails with a water for your palate cleanser.
TOP FOUR FAVORITE MOMENT FOR ELYSSA (#3): The other thing we’d noticed on the itinerary was droid racing (catered to younglings). It happened to be getting started as we left we lounge, and we saw the kids gathering in a corner of the Atrium to ready their droids. Some of them had their own droid that they’d built on Batuu, but the ship crew also had droids available for anyone who wanted to borrow one in order to race.
We sat down to watch and became the peanut gallery. Watching those races was AMAZING. Legitimately one of my favorite things we did. The kids were doing their best to figure out the controls for the droids and try to steer, but it was still sheer chaos, with false starts, a poor BB unit whose head kept falling off every time he got bumped, two brothers who kept trying to turn the whole thing into battle droids, etc. I took a picture with the champion, the only little girl racing, who won because she was focused and calm. Just cool as a cucumber. Of course she was dressed as Rey.
Things were still pretty calm and empty on the ship with lots of guests still down on Batuu, so we used a little time for John to take photos of me in my first Rey outfit all around the ship. Then we went back to the cabin and showered/changed for the afternoon (I wanted to wear Rey outfit #2 – the one she wears for most of The Last Jedi – to light saber training and dinner that night).
I wasn’t lying about the Force being strong in my family:
The next official activity was lightsaber training. Like the bridge training, I don’t have photos of this because all three of us were invested in giving it our full attention, but again you can probably find pictures and videos online. The lightsaber training was lead by the Saja (remember, those are the people who teach about the history and lore of the Force). It was much cooler than I expected. You could really feel as you blocked blaster fire with your lightsaber.
When that was over, we headed back to the Atrium where Gaya was signing autographs and giving an acoustic performance in the Atrium. I sat and watched for a bit with my new friends Ouanni and Sandro, but then an important mission came through from Sammie to meet him in the cargo hold, so I ran to check. The younglings had it covered by the time I got there (of course), so instead we went to the lounge for drinks and snacks.
While we were sitting in our booth enjoying cocktails and snacks, Gaya came by, and a few moments later Sandro & Ouanni (who have a storyline of falling in love <3 over the course of the cruise) sat down at our table. They stayed a while and we wrote a song together.
TOP FOUR FAVORITE MOMENT FOR ELYSSA (#1): While we writing music, we got to talking about songwriting, so I decided to tell Sandro about my favorite musician from Earth, and this ensued:
You guys, I’m Taylor Swift!
Around 5:30pm on day 2 is when the storyline pieces really started to come together. By this point all the guests had returned from Batuu, and depending on which of the three storylines the data pad app had determined you’re most involved with, you were receiving invitations to different things:
After those meetings, each of the three groups had takeovers of the bridge to carry out their group’s respective plans. These were staggered from 6:30-7:30. Since I’m really good at sweet-talking (and, let’s face it, probably because I have a bald cancer head), I got into all three even without an invitation to one of them. During the bridge takeovers, we handled the bridge operations (which we knew from training the day before) to carry out each group’s objectives. So we were firing missiles, grabbing cargo, and keeping up the ship’s shields. I can’t remember which bridge takeover it was, but at one point I got 69 hits on my missile firing. NICE.
Between the first and second dinner seatings, Croy declared the ship under First Order control since it was clear there was Resistance activity aboard. Then we headed to our second dinner, which included the blue shrimp the internet has gone wild over. (Meanwhile I got a kids meal, because you should never take me to a place where the food is the primary value. I will always pick comfort food.)
TOP FOUR FAVORITE MOMENT FOR ELYSSA (#2): Toward the end of dinner, I went out to use the restroom and when the door opened, Rey was standing right there in the corridor taking to one of the Saja. I told her she was my hero (at this point I’m dressed almost exactly like her), and that I couldn’t thank her enough for what she was doing for the galaxy. We talked for a minute and then she asked the Saja if there was room for me to join them in a private meeting. I DIED.
I’d left my phone at the dinner table, and of course John & Seth weren’t with me because I was on my way to the bathroom, so they had no idea what was happening. But Rey & the Saja led me and a handful of other people who were nearby into the lightsaber training room where Rey told us about the Force and helped us try to feel it. There was a cargo container in the middle of the room and Rey opened it to reveal a Jedi Holocron. I think I literally gasped and had chills. Rey had us all channel our energy to help her open the Holocron and then she thanked us and headed out with the holocron in tow. I don’t know if we all happened upon that moment randomly or if the other people had received data pad messages about it, but I’m so glad I went to the bathroom when I did.
At 9:15, the official storyline alarms started going off telling you to report to your muster station in the Atrium, and we all knew this would be the climax of the various storylines.
Sammie was running around like crazy (this actor is insanely talented btw, he had a pack of kids around him constantly and every time I saw them they were rushing somewhere, saving Chewie, lying to stormtroopers, etc. etc.).
While we were all standing in the Atrium, Kylo Ren boarded the ship and started waving his lightsaber around and throwing tantrums like usual. But Rey appeared and ignited her lightsaber, so they had their epic lightsaber fight. Chewie died for 34 seconds (just kidding!!! That only happens in terrible movies). But no, Chewie seemed to be under arrest by a stormtrooper (they came in from behind everyone, so Chewie was standing right next to Seth and I (John was up front somehow). Croy seemed proud that he had Chewie detained and therefore Rey should hand over the holocron, but WAIT! The stormtrooper removed his helmet and it was Sammie, our undercover Resistance hero!!!! He’d saved Chewie, and Rey had saved the holocron. Ren left angrily in defeat. Rey and the captain thanked us all. And all the resistance good guys escaped.
There’s a bit more (I can’t remember if it happened before or after Kylo Ren arrived) where some of the characters — Croy and Sandro are the two I can remember for sure — call out the guests that helped them the most by name and thank them. I got a thank you from Sandro for our time writing music in the lounge.
Once the storylines had resolved themselves, everyone gathered on the bridge to watch SPACE FIREWORKS. Then we headed back to the cafeteria for late night snacks and a performance from Sandro & Ouanni. Sandro sang our song! If we’re real, he probably has a base song, and then creates an improv verse based on the one he writes with whatever passengers he was talking to that day. So only parts of it were things we talked about, but he called out our names when he got to our verse!
That’s the end of day 2. The experience really packs a lot into the time you have. I liked that we didn’t spend too much time on Batuu. We got to do all the things we wanted (because you get lightning lane access to both rides as a Halcyon passenger) and got back to the ship after about 3 hours on planet. That gave us a lot of free time to enjoy the ship. But if you’ve never been to Galaxy’s Edge/Batuu before, you might prefer to spend more of your excursion day on the planet. It is a really cool land, and I highly recommend Savi’s Workshop experience, where you build your own lightsaber. John and I did that when Galaxy’s Edge first opened a few years ago.
We got up and packed all our stuff. You have to have it out in the hallway with your Halcyon luggage tags by a specific time so the crew members can load it onto carts and have it ready for your departure from the front gates. Once we had our stuff packed and ready for the crew, we went to the cafeteria one last time for the breakfast buffet. Finally, we sat and enjoyed the Atrium for a bit longer before boarding our return shuttle to Earth.
Like I said above, for the three of us, it was absolutely worth it! It’s definitely a pricey “vacation” but it’s so much more than a vacation and it’s definitely for a very specific subset of people. Read more about my thoughts there in the spoiler free section.
But we are very much in that subset of people. All of us had a really fun time and it was an experience I will never forget. Just to recap, my top four favorite moments during our Galactic Starcruiser:
So yeah. It was worth it for us! We won’t do it again any time soon obviously, but I’ll be watching to see how often they change out storylines, because I’d love to do it again with new characters and activities. I’d even do the exact same thing again in like five years though. By then it will feel fresh again.
If you got here just for the Star Wars content, surprise! I’m a wedding photographer and this is normally a wedding photography blog. I figured it was fine to share here though, since so many of our couples are Star Wars fans too. But if you’re a random Star Wars fan who found this and might be getting married soon, read more below!!!
We believe that love is fun and colorful, and your wedding photographs should be too.
Kivus & Camera are Raleigh Wedding photographers who create bold, colorful, magical memories of your wedding day with beautiful, artistic portraits AND enthusiastic, genuine moments. Your unique love story deserves to be told through unforgettable, breath-taking photographs that stand out from the crowd. Kivus & Camera love creating that magic. After all, as past bride Courtney says, we are photography sorcerers.
And though we call ourselves Raleigh wedding photographers, we definitely photograph Durham weddings, Chapel Hill weddings, Cary weddings, etc. We’re all over the Triangle area, and we’re happy to head to the beach or mountains and even to places outside of North Carolina! Just let us know where your love story is headed.
Want to know more? Check out more of our images or learn more about our nerdy selves or just send us a note! Can’t wait to hear from you.