Stardust Team Member Lisa visited Galaxy’s Edge at Disney World and reported back what it’s like in the era of face masks and social distancing.
It’s hard to believe a pandemic from planet Earth was able to travel across the galaxy to the planet of Batuu, but with interplanetary travel being so common, it appears it was inevitable. The locals of Batuu have been working hard to keep their planet safe and clean for not only themselves, but for space travelers and heroes alike. If you’ve previously traveled to the planet of Batuu, you’ll notice some differences in this new era…
The Rise of the Resistance Reservation System
If you’ve escaped the First Order on The Rise of the Resistance, you may remember having to be at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 5 AM (or earlier!) to secure a boarding pass. The system has changed dramatically since those early days. In order to prevent uncontrollable crowds outside the park a new boarding system has been implemented. Boarding groups will be released at 10 AM and 2 PM during the day, so no need to be the first one in the park. As before, a boarding pass still does not guarantee entry on to the ride. I received a 10 AM pass and was assigned boarding group 31. My boarding group wasn’t called until 3PM and there was a short wait before the first part of the experience. An important note, while Disney has cut many preshows out of rides in order to promote physical distancing, Rise of the Resistance is one of the only rides that has kept each of it’s preshows, as they are crucial to protecting the story and experience for the ride. The preshows do look a little bit different than before. Each party is assigned a number going into the first preshow area and you will follow that number until you are on the ride. This provides easy guidance so guests know where to go while keeping their physical distance. Once on the ride vehicle, you will not be seated with other parties; as a solo rider, I had a car all to myself. On the opening day, there did seem to be some delays in the rides functioning, but that may be due to the new physical distancing procedures and not being able to move travelers as efficiently as before.
Savi’s Workshop and Dok Ondar’s Den of Antiquities
One of the most popular experiences on Batuu is Savi’s workshop, where you get to customize and build your own lightsaber. For the time being, Savi is not leading any building classes, but has instead loaned out his workshop to Dok Odnar. He’s moved his most popular merchandise- the legacy lightsabers- to a place where travelers can try them out, while keeping a safe distance. In Savi’s Workshop you will find some stations have been turned into a display for the available hilts, and adjoining stations are a display for the blades. Several hilts are sold out, but they are kind enough to let you know which before you head in. Batuu Citizens will help you find the lightsaber replica you are looking for, then guide you to a second room where you can find accessories such as blades, belt clips, and carrying bags. You are then directed outside where you can purchase your items. The system runs quite smoothly. Only about 3 guests were allowed inside the workshop at a time, and lightsaber hilts were sanitized between each guest touching them.
Dok Ondar does, however, keep some merchandise in his storefront. If you’re looking for the elusive black Kyber Crystal, that’s the place to go. Kyber Crystals have been moved to the table behind the register, but just ask a cast member and they will retrieve the crystals you’re looking for. The rest of the shop appears untouched. The display case at the counter still holds display models for the available legacy lightsabers, and there is still a wall of Holocrons for purchase.
Smuggler’s Run is perhaps the most unchanged part of the Batuu experience. Social distance markings in the queue remind parties to stay 6 feet apart, and with lower guest capacity, the wait time is down significantly. Cast Members no longer hand out cards with crew assignments, and you no longer share the ship with other parties. When it’s time to board, the cast member asks what part of the crew you’d like to be and they guide you to your seating assignments for Engineer, Gunner or Pilot. While we were in line, there was a slightly extended wait but an announcement informed us the crew was performing scheduled cleaning of ride vehicles in order to keep it as safe and clean as possible.
The Black Spire Outpost
Many outpost shops were closed or had a later opening than the park. In the open shops, it did also appear inventory was low on some items. It’s clear that while the park was closed, the supply chain was certainly interrupted. Docking Bay 7 is open for food, but as with many other quick service locations, it is mobile order only. You must place your order on the app and mark when you arrive. Once your order is ready a cast member will direct you to where you may pick up your food and then you may find a table. Every other table is marked off in order to promote physical distancing.
In order to protect some of our favorite Galaxy’s Heroes some changes had to be made to the way they greet travelers. Throughout the day you may see a Storm Trooper on a balcony while Vi Moradi tries to sneak past him to her ship. Fan favorites, Rey and Chewbacca may say hi to you from behind a barrier, and Kylo Ren rules the galaxy from the stage in front of his ship. It was a great experience to see the creative ways the characters were willing to say hi to guests, and still pose for selfies while making sure everyone remained safe and distant.
Minor changes had to be made to the Build Your Own Astromech experience. Upon entering after paying for your droid you are asked to sanitize your hands before you begin building. You will then be directed to a numbered marker at the conveyor belt by a cast member, only about 3 of the usually available spaces are used. When ready to build you will wait in line until a station opens, all stations are blocked off by plexiglass barriers, except for some stations with two next to each other to allow families to stay together when building multiple droids. With the exceptions of distancing, the experience has not changed. I witnessed cast members cleaning the tools between each guest to ensure maximum safety on a high touch area.
Face Coverings & Distancing Markers
All cast members have new face coverings matching their Batuu citizen costumes. Some are also wearing face shields. Some cast members on attractions are equipped with a personal microphone so guests can hear them when they are delivering safety instructions. There are distancing markers not just on rides, but also outside the marketplace, and outside all other stores, and even in high traffic areas to reminds guests to keep their distance.
Overall, the experience felt different, but it did not take away from the immersive environment of visiting the Edge of the Galaxy. Cast members are dedicated to keeping the magic alive, while also maintaining necessary health and safety measures. I look forward to a day when we can again travel to Batuu without a face covering and experience rides, shopping and dining in their full capacity.
Editor’s Note: Images provided by Stephenie except for Lisa’s Rey bound & Droid Depot.