Earlier this month, our family did something a little different for our annual vacation. Instead of going to Walt Disney World like we normally do, we set sail with Disney Cruise Line aboard the beautiful Disney Fantasy for 7 days in the Western Caribbean. However, this was no ordinary cruise. This was the first of eight sailings featuring a Star Wars Day at Sea.
Sailing with me were my husband, two sons (ages 10 and 7), daughter (age 4) and my in-laws. My husband and kids are big Star Wars fans. We’ve watched the Star Wars Rebels series together and I re-watched the original trilogy before seeing Episode VII, so I’m still learning, but I’m growing in my appreciation of the Star Wars universe. Needless to say, we were all really looking forward to this cruise and had high expectations about the promised activities.
The Star Wars Day at Sea had been so talked up by the crew members that our excitement just kept growing. When we arrived at the terminal to check in, the employees were all wearing Star Wars nametags, similar to the nametags that were sold at Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Star Wars Weekends. It was such a neat touch.
We boarded the ship wearing Star Wars shirts, as did many of our fellow cruisers. Once onboard, we were told that we would be “blown away” and “overwhelmed” by the amount of activities that were planned.
I’ll give you a run-through on the events we attended, as well as what else was available.
Star Wars Day at Sea was held on Wednesday, the second sea day of the trip, which fell right in the middle of the cruise. The night before, our stateroom host put a cling on our mirror that said “The Force is Strong with this Ship.”
We poured over the Navigator, planning which activities we wanted to attend.
We were up bright and early the next morning (we even ordered room service breakfast to save time!), donned our matching Star Wars t-shirts and stepped out of our room. The first thing we noticed was that the regular Disney music playing in the halls and elevators had been changed to Star Wars music – definitely a neat touch. We then headed to the 9:00 Jedi Training Academy: Trials of the Temple.
We were there about 30 minutes early and took our place in line, only about 10 people from the front. The doors opened about 10 minutes before the show was to start and we all headed to seats down front. This is where the first misstep took place. There had been no communication about how the kids were going to be chosen to participate in the show. We assumed we would have a fair shot since we had arrived early. When it was almost 9:00, several kids came walking down the aisle to meet a crew member down front, where they were all handed robes. Those of us who had been in the theater from the beginning looked around, confused about when the choices had been made. Several kids started going up to see if they could be in the show too. My older son went and asked if he and his brother could do it and was told yes, so he came back to our seats to get Jonah. When they got back to the front, they were told they couldn’t do it because they didn’t have robes. Confused, they came back and told us. A mom behind us said her son had been told no because he was wearing a costume, though when the show started, we noticed that one boy participating was actually wearing a full Darth Vader suit, including mask/helmet. Later in the day, we heard another mom say her boy had been told no because he wasn’t wearing closed-toe shoes. All of these rules are understandable, if they are made clear to begin with.
Our boys have done Jedi Training at Hollywood Studios, so we weren’t overly concerned, but we were disappointed in the lack of communication on how the kids were picked. There were only 16 kids picked for each of the 5 shows, so only a very small percentage of the kids onboard were actually able to participate. It would have been easy to add more shows and more kids into each show, as the stage was plenty big enough. We, and several others we spoke with, expressed our concerns on our comment forms, so I would not be surprised if this process was adjusted or made clearer on future sailings. The show itself was fun to watch and it looked like the kids were all enjoying themselves.
After that, it was time for our character meet and greets (on the first day of the cruise there was a form left in our stateroom and we could rank the three meet and greets in order of our preference). Our first meet and greet was “Bespin,” where we saw Boba Fett. The other character greeting in that room was Chewbacca.
We were also going to “The Dark Side,” where we would see either Darth Vader or Captain Phasma. A ticket was needed for these meet and greets and everyone had a specific entrance time. Darth Vader was greeting when we entered the room, but by the time we got up to the front, he had left and Captain Phasma had come in. You can’t meet her in the parks, so luckily, she was still there when it was our turn and our boys were thrilled. The third room, that we didn’t experience, was Tatooine with C-3PO and R2-D2 or Darth Maul.
After this, we headed to the “Guest Speaker Series” in the Buena Vista Theater. The speaker was Imagineer Wendy Anderson. My husband and I were really excited about this talk, because we love getting to hear from the people behind the scenes. Scheduled for 45 minutes, this ended up being a 20 minute PowerPoint presentation that showed all the ways Star Wars has already been incorporated into the parks and no new information. She did take questions from the audience, but most of her answers were “I’m not sure, but I can direct you to someone else.”
We did run into some Tuscan Raiders, Stormtroopers and Jawas roaming the halls, which was neat, but it was hard to get a good photo with them. They kept turning away right as I held up my camera. I have seen other photos of Imperial officers walking around as well as the Stormtroopers being out on the pool deck.
At noon, the Captain and Cruise Director came on with their regular announcements. After that, we got to hear the ship’s horn play the “Imperial March.” This was really neat! They also played it two more times later that day.
Video courtesy of Matt Dobrovolsky
We were at lunch, so missed the “Star Wars 101” session, but later heard that it was basically just a recap of the films.