YouTuber investigates why Disney World’s expensive Star Wars hotel closed after 18 months

A four-hour YouTube video investigating why Walt Disney World Resort’s Star Wars-themed hotel and live-action roleplay experience shut down after just 18 months has made waves online, resonating with people both inside and outside the Disney fan community.

YouTube video essayist Jenny Nicholson, who specializes in content about theme parks, Star Wars and niche fandoms, described how she paid over $6,000 for her and another guest to share one room on the Galactic Starcruiser, the two-day, live-action role-play and resort experience.

The hotel, billed as a unique “immersive experience,” opened in March 2022 and shut down in May 2023, with many Disney fans saying it was unaffordable and poorly marketed.

Nicholson calculated that it cost about $2 per person, per minute — and according to her, it not only wasn’t worth it, but reflected an evolution in Disney theme parks from providing free perks for resort guests to selling them as expensive add-ons.

Despite being her longest video ever, her review of the Galactic Starcruiser has been viewed nearly 3 million times in the four days since it’s been posted. The video has gotten major reactions well outside its target audience of theme park and Star Wars enthusiasts, with Nicholson’s name trending on X for days.

Casey Neistat, one of the best-known YouTubers, weighed in, writing that Nicholson’s video “should be a case study for theme hotels/amusement parks/all things ‘experiencial.’”

Nicholson’s analysis that Disney greatly overcharged fans, leading to the experience’s premature closure, struck a chord with people who expressed shock online at seeing what the Galactic Starcruiser actually entailed versus what it cost. The general consensus behind many of the reactions to Nicholson’s video was that the experience was not just overpriced, but mediocre, while a few Disney vloggers and fans who also attended the experience disagreed with Nicholson’s review.

More than half of the video was Nicholson walking through her experience at the hotel in detail, which included a dinner show where her view was obscured by a pole, mini-games that she described as boring and pointless, and some actors who she said didn’t engage with her attempts to role-play. She praised many of the employees and the food that was included, but pointed out that some aspects of the already-expensive experience still cost extra, including watching full Disney movies in the hotel room.

“Disney has always had high prices, but they also have a reputation for quality,” she said in the video. “This was more than they’ve ever charged for an experience before, so the logic followed that this would be the greatest experience they’ve ever offered.”

Nicholson referred to positive Galactic Starcruiser reviews, including those from Disney fan content creators who were invited to the company’s media previews, which said that guests who could afford the experience would find it was worth it. She disagreed, arguing that Disney provided an experience that was actually not worth the value for its cost.

First passengers experience new Walt Disney World  Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file)
First passengers experience new Walt Disney World Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images file)

Nicholson factored in what she said were small rooms, disappointing and glitchy mobile device gameplay and comparable entertainment offerings to what is inside the much lower-priced Disney theme parks. She said that she believed the Galactic Starcruiser experience was only worth $800 to $1,000 per person, less than half of what it cost.

“Here’s my supporting evidence: The hotel went out of business,” she said in the video. “If the value of something is what people are willing to pay, I can objectively say the Disney company charged too much for this experience, because time showed that the majority of people on this Earth were not willing to pay it.”

Walt Disney World Resort pointed NBC News to statements it made at the time the Galactic Starcruiser’s closed.

“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,” the company told CNBC in a statement. “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.”

At the end of her video, Nicholson compares some of the original concept art and marketing for Galaxy’s Edge, the themed Star Wars land inside the Hollywood Studios park, with what ended up being put in the Galactic Starcruiser. She suggested that Disney took what was originally intended to be part of the park experience for all guests and isolated aspects as part of a much more expensive package, the Starcruiser.

“This isn’t only a pattern in the Star Wars part of the parks, either,” Nicholson said, noting that Disney’s scannable wristbands, line-skipping passes, ride photos, airport transportation service and even restaurant bread baskets have all transitioned from free Disney resort perks to paid add-ons over time — echoing a common refrain within the Disney fandom.

“This has become the new philosophy of the Disney theme parks,” she said. “More and more amenities that used to be free are now being put behind paywalls.”

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