Tuesday, September 26, 2023

A Galactic Adventure Begins

Ernie had been through a lot of crazy experiences at this point. First he saw a bunch of spooky stuff going down at the Magic Kingdom, then he saw all the critters on earth plus the planet Pandora at Animal Kingdom.

Things were about to take an even crazier turn.

When we were at Walmart last night we took the opportunity to indulge while avoiding amusement park prices.

Speaking of avoiding high prices, one side quest on our list was to go to a nearby outlet mall and check out the Disney Character Warehouse where they sell overstock and discontinued Disney stuff at cheap prices. When we got there though, the line was so nasty that we gave it a pass. We had too many important things to do today!

We headed back to the happiest place on earth for some more excitement.

First we hit Disney Springs. The outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex's name didn't ring a bell but it turns out that it's had a lot of different names over the years. Prior to 2015 it was called Downtown Disney, which is a much more familiar name to my ears.

I made note of the few times I saw Reedy Creek Improvement District referenced. It's been in the news a bit lately due to Disney's public battles with Florida's sad and short governor "Meatball" Ron DeSantis. This year the state took control of what was previously a pseudo-governmental body that did things like issue bonds for construction projects and maybe run the fire department. That sort of thing.

Lydia was excited to try the DOLE Whip Sampler at Swirls on the Water.

There was:
Pistachio and Purple Cheesecake Soft-serve garnished with Roasted Salted Pistachios
DOLE Whip Pineapple swirled with Vanilla Soft-serve garnished with a Pineapple Wedge
Salted Caramel and Pumpkin Soft-serve Swirl with Caramel Sauce garnished with Caramel Crisp Pearls

Linda spotted an Amphicar zooming around in the water. It was made in West Germany in the 1960s.

I have a ten year Chinese visa burning a hole in my pocket and TWO Chinese Disneylands I haven't been to.

I was so excited to finally be going to Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser that I took screenshots of the map on the way there.

I talked about it here, but we very nearly didn't get to attend Starcruiser at all. When Disney announced that they were closing it I said to myself "I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened". So I was a bit stressed by this entire situation. I dragged everyone here so I felt responsible for them having a good time. I also dragged Hank into this so he was another worry as we'd be sharing a not large room amongst the 5 of us. Ernie is a wildcard. If he couldn't sleep or got sick or something that would be a damper on things. I had also read a little bit about the experience while trying to avoid spoilers. And I kept seeing advice from the super nerds. What time to arrive was a big question on my mind. The earlier we arrived the sooner we could enter. People described immediate runs on the gift shop where stuff could potentially sell out before some people were even on board. This was exacerbated by the fact that they were shutting it all down, so I know for a fact that some cool items were already completely gone and that others were being rationed. The fact that I knew that this was a one time only attempt at this was stressful as well. If we missed some important story line or something then that would be a too-bad-so-sad situation.

There was a valet which was fancy. So the idea is that this is just a little port on Earth and we would be taking a transport up to our cruise starship.

I was already so stressed that I was about to hyperventilate. We arrived wearing some Star Wars t-shirts but many of the other guests were already decked out in full regalia. We were about to embark on the second to last voyage so I think that our group was full of super nerds. This added to my stress because I felt like everyone else was an expert and I was the only one who didn't know what the heck was going on. It was all very "first day of high school."

I had seen a lot of these pictures on social media and I had thought it would be cool to get the photo in our fanciest clothes, but I didn't realize the sequence of events. Still a fun picture anyway.

We got exclusive Disney MagicBands that would end up being really important to our voyage. They were very sleekly integrated into everything on the ship.

Waiting in line was actually kind of fun. It gave me a chance to examine everything and it built the suspense.

Even the safety video was fun.

We took a "shuttle" up to the Halcyon. This little journey was really fun and well done.

"The Halcyon starcruiser is the jewel of the Chandrila Star Line. Onboard the 100-cabin Corellian MPO-1400 model starcruiser, you'll voyage to the far reaches of the galaxy in legendary comfort and style. Recently refurbished and reoutfitted, the starcruiser combines modern conveniences with the romance of the age of exploration." ―Chandrila Star Line

I remember just thinking "wow" in my head when we first stepped aboard. The Atrium on Deck 6 is quite an impressive space. It was like being on a sci-fi movie set. Every detail of the place was perfect.

When a member of the staff showed up to take us to our rooms she also gave us a brief tour and pointed out some landmarks. Of course that had me internally screaming to go see all of those places immediately but we had some housekeeping to attend to first.

The guests were so elaborately dressed that it was easy to confuse who was an official character and who was just some guy.

Even the entrance to the rooms were heavy sliding metal doors. Every little touch of this place was super cool.

There was a tv that documented our ship's route to different planets. I guess according to this the Halcyon started the cruise not on Earth but in the orbit of its home planet Chandrila.

The room also had a comm link where you could talk to ship’s droid D3-09 in real time. She has some cool AI capabilities and was able to carry on a good conversation about a variety of things. One regret I have is not talking to her more. I know she had some entertaining things to say later in the night but by then his highness would be asleep so no robot talking for me.

There was also a good size "window" in the room where you could see a lot of space stuff happening. Also when the ship went into hyperspace you could see the stars streak by. Like... I would have paid a lot just for this room and the droid to talk to.

We didn't have our bags yet so we couldn't get into character but we headed out to explore anyway.

As I had been warned the ship’s shop, the Chandrila Collection, had a lot of people in it snarfing up all of the space souvenirs.

This dude was guest.

I did not know it at the time, but that big blue thing on the Mezzanine there is actually a work of art entitled "The Unified Galaxy", and was commissioned by Leia Organa. After the voyage I was hungry for any content related to the Halcyon and here I think Disney did a pretty awesome job. The ship is sufficiently old that numerous characters from different Star Wars eras have interacted with it. So I read the The Princess and the Scoundrel where Han and Leia have their honeymoon on the ship and of course not everything goes to plan. But the way they wove this place into the Star Wars lore was very cool.

Next we popped in to the nearby Sublight Lounge for a space beverage. Luckily it was pretty quiet. It would be much more crowded the rest of our trip. I think this is the last time I would see an empty seat at the sabacc machine.

The staff was all very good at staying in character and not sort of breaking the rules of the universe. For example the drink I ordered the

Firey Mustafarian
Served with Lava Extract
a├▒ejo tequila, mezcal, stone fruit, lime, chili, black salt

And when I saw the drink I exclaimed "oh Mustafar is where Obi-Wan cut Anakin's legs off". Our server heard and was like "oh are those friends of yours?" and we had a funny little conversation about it. The idea was that we were in the Star Wars universe but years later in the First Order era. Plus the average person wouldn't know anything about Jedi duels and would just be living their life as normal. It was a fun process to not really know the conditions of the experience beforehand but to kind of be guided into them by interactions with people on the cruise.

Our datapad app thing on our phones knew that we were on the cruise so we started to get messages from the crew and other less savory characters.

Next we headed to the Crown of Corellia dining room. It was such a well done experience both in terms of the space as well as the food and the staff.

The food was all heavily themed. For example if its was an omelet it would be labeled something like "sarlacc eggs with Hoth cheese" or something. It would kind of let you know the gist while staying in-universe. Some of the stuff was so heavily themed that you weren't really sure what it was at all.

The staff did such a good job building the universe. I was perusing the food selection, only person in the room, and a couple of the wait staff were having a conversation about Gaya the galactic musician. One then turned to me and asked me what I thought about her, etc. That was a memorable example of how they went out of their way to make the experience feel as real as possible.

Even the design of the food trays was really fun. The different foods came on little modular plates that fit into indentations on the tray and wouldn't slide off.

I wanted to make sure that they took care of Linda's proclivities so I told our server that she was from the planet Vegan. He really went deep into nerdtown after that, asking me a lot of questions about the planet and so forth. I heard that a lot of guests made these elaborate backstories but I was too lazy for all that. I decided that I'm a moisture farmer from Dagobah. If you talked to girls in high school I will explain this nerd joke for you. Luke and his family were moisture farmers on the desert planet of Tatooine, and Dagobah is a swamp planet, so I thought it would be an easier place to farm moisture. Anyway after I told our server that he went and made this green swamp drink of some sort. He wouldn't tell me what was in it but it clearly seems to contain the Green Milk they have on tap here. 

I was satisfied with the level of mess that we made.

The  Sublight Lounge was really popping off now.

When we arrived back at the room our luggage had appeared and so Ernie the Ewok got all geared up for some adventures.

In addition to the characters walking around in the flesh they will give you missions to complete on your datapad. Raithe was the sort of slimy character on board so a lot of his stuff had to do with sneaking around and other sketchy activities.

Working with him got us access to the otherwise forbidden Engineering Room. There was a lot of stuff to interact with in there.

I may have seen this graffiti in the engineering room but certainly didn't think anything of it. This is also a reference to the Princess and the Scoundrel novel. Leia is an important diplomat after the fall of the empire and so is doing important work on the Halcyon, and Han is bored and has nothing to do. He ends up playing sabacc with some sketchballs hiding in engineering and carves Aurebesh initials spelling HS+LO into a pipe.


You know you're a galactic success story when you're on vacation and they have three kinds of tap water available. Sparkling, cold flat, and ambient flat. Don't worry, I tried them all.

The bridge looked amazing and had a fantastic view of whichever planet we happened to be near. I believe we were still in orbit of Chandrila at this point. A huge nerd might tell you that that big ship on the left hand side of the window looks like it could be one of the Halcyon's sister MPO-1400s (which include the Wanderlight, the Idyll, the Sojourn, and the Sterling).

Lydia had sort of a female Han Solo type thing going on.

After muster was kind of tough on me. I knew that this was now the period that many of the different faction's characters were available and it was a good time to befriend them so you could follow their quest line. This experience was sort of like being in a video game: you choose what character you wanted to be and what quests you wanted to accomplish. Like many video games you can do a lot of stuff but you can't do everything in one play through. Some people will play a game multiple times in order to see all the different possible stories. Well since Starcruiser was being shut down I only had one shot at this. Also a bit annoying was that if our group wanted to stay together we had to all make the same plot decisions.

This was where things started to get a little annoying. I think that since the Starcuiser was about to close that the place was packed to the gills. I know people made an app where they could look for a spare bunk bed in strangers' rooms, etc. And I also think that not only were there a ton of people here but they were more hardcore than is normal. I know for a fact that some of the other guests had already been here numerous times. They hugged or chatted with the staff like they were friends who already knew each other, not the strangers that the story expected them to be. So I got frustrated at times because some of these pros seemed to almost be cheating to me. They knew how the story went, they knew where to be and when, and they knew the actors playing the characters. I would be waiting to speak to a character and one of the guests would give them some elaborate handmade gift! It sometimes felt like I was the uncool new kid at the cafeteria which was especially annoying because I felt like this experience was so expensive that I shouldn't have to feel this awkward. On a couple of my especially moody occasions I thought to myself "no wonder this place is closing. It's crazy expensive and I'm a big nerd and I'm still sort of having trouble engaging." Things greatly improved but there were some bumpy parts especially in the beginning.

There were stations all over the ship you could use to do sneaky stuff.

Hank talking to the new engineer Sammie character. At one point he tried to pull me into his group/story arc but I wanted to get evil with the First Order so I blew him off. Sadly this whole experience is based on the crap third movie trilogy. I would much rather have done some classical Emperor serving/rebel scum crushing but one does not get to choose the era he fights in, sadly.

I think that brush with Sammie where I told him to eat poodoo resulted in an increase in familiarity level. I'm not quite sure how this all works. Like is Disney tracking our movements and our proximity to the characters or what?

The little guy on the right is SK-620 the ship's astromech droid. A rolling rebel scum trashcan, if you ask me.

Today we had "bridge training" which involved rotating around different stations on the ship, such as shields and doing little mini games to accomplish goals. It was a fun reason to look out the giant windows on the bridge.

Our training was interrupted when some real business had to be taken care of.

Seeing the ship enter hyperspace was a really beautiful experience.

In addition to the great meals in the Crown of Corellia, there's also a little snack area available that is available at all times. You can order complimentary hot appetizers in the lounge as well. I don't ever recall being remotely hungry on this voyage.

I walked in on some secret stuff going down in the engineering room. Chewbacca was on board! I'm going to rat this walking carpet out to the First Order the first chance I get.

Oh my God, it's a mirage
I'm tellin' y'all, it's a sabotage

There were a lot of side activities that with Ernie and everything else we had going on I never felt like I had time for. This was like a fashion show type thing. There were several game tournaments, some droid racing thing, etc. If I had free time I was exploring or drinking exotic alien cocktails in the lounge.

"Between the passenger services desk and the Chandrila Collection rests the Hyperspace Compass (“Restored by our founder Shug Drabor in the earliest days of the Halcyon‘s travels”)." If you're doing the Raithe quest line I believe your group steals the crystal out of this thing.

Both of these two with Chewy are Disney bloggers. The one on the right had fan strangers approach her in Galaxy's Edge later on. They make their own costumes, do podcasts about Starcruiser, and host events like cruises and Star Wars themed rock concerts. I ended up on a ship full of hardcore fans and I'm just trying to survive out here.

I booked us a photo shoot before dinner. Everyone got dressed in their finest space people outfits and we got some great shots around interesting parts of the ship. I've seen a lot of other people's pictures in the Sublight Lounge that looked cool but it was very crowded.

We got a few in the lounge next to some cool creatures that lived in a tank on the bar.

Ernie the Ewok really stole the show, as can be expected. Here he is doing some light sabotage in the engineering room.

Uh oh

The photographers were really focused on getting these shots of him on the floor in the hallway. They look cool I guess but it was annoying because we had to stop any time another guest walked by.

I was excited to get some good ones on the bridge with the amazing looking planets and stars behind us.

There was a section of the online Disney store that only registered Galactic Starcruiser guests could access. So exclusive. They had some good looking space clothes to choose from. I am sporting the "Star Wars Formal Tunic for Adults". Astronaut Samurai is how I think I would describe the vibe here.

The shoot was pretty expensive so... yeah I'm just going to put a lot of them here to get my money's worth if that's ok.

They let us play with the bridge controls which I wouldn't have dared to do otherwise.

Their lights changed colors when they wanted to do cool effects.

We headed to dinner and got good food and a lot of entertainment too.

Obviously had to go with a Dagobag Vimlet in order to stay in character.

Gaya is a galactic superstar who came aboard the Halcyon sometime after we left port. She sang some songs but there's more to her than meets the eye. She has her own quest line going on as well.

Chewbacca was creeping around at some point and was thankfully arrested by the stormtroopers and taken to the ship's brig. I felt much safer with this criminal off the streets.

A fun little portion of a secret note came with our bill, and we had to find other patrons and match up our portions to find the entire message. This was cool but bittersweet because it was becoming more and more clear that some very cool stuff was going down that I couldn't be apart of because I was taking a different path. In a perfect world I would have joined signed up for this experience a few times so that I could see all the different stories and adventures.

Back at the room I got to hack the Halcyon for the First Order.

After Big Ern went to bed Lydia and I did some more exploring to see every inch of the place that we'd missed.

Lil bridge makeout sesh.

"In the doorway to the Sublight Lounge is the Halcyon Fluke (“During the ship’s dedication this bottle of Chandrilan wine did not shatter against the hull, becoming a symbol of good fortune known as the Halcyon Fluke”)."

When I'm doing all the evil stuff I end up needing a lot of snackies.

The climate simulator is set to simulate the climate of the ship's next destination. I suspect it is meant to allow guests a place to get fresh air without leaving the compound. At one point it was raining and the poor worker lady guarding the door was trying to tell us it was closed while staying in character. It was amusing. It was actually really stormy this couple of days so being inside all day doing Star Wars adventures was perfect.

In one area there's a tiny little door and a little plaque in Aurebesh.

I was proud of Lydia for getting into the spirit of geekiness by using her datapad to translate. It read "Shug Drabor" which a kindly passerby reminded us is the engineer who oversaw the construction of the ship. He's a tiny little dude.

Avid readers of the Star Wars: The Halcyon Legacy comics will of course remember Drabor's appearance on a table in the Crown of Corellia dining room.

Speaking of the comic, Anakin Skywalker fought Asajj Ventress on the Halycon and singed the wall with their lightsabers.

The scorch marks are visible to this day!

At the end of the night we started to get notifications for all of the adventures that tomorrow held in store.

I finally started to get some recognition for just how evil I can be.

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