Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 2017 Review: Dark Harbor Sets Sail For 2017

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor in Long Beach California, once again opened it’s heinous doors to frighten the people of Southern California. This year, they have 7 mazes with one ALL NEW maze on the ship, FEAST! Which stars the new iconic character, CHEF. We were able to attend this monster filled party on opening night this year and it was filled with chills, scares and some missteps. But overall, Dark Harbor is still an incredibly fun event to attend every year.

This years layout for Dark Harbor was drastically different than the past years. Circus and Intrepid were moved out of the Dome and into the midway. With that, most things got moved around to make way for those attractions. With Circus now in the center of the venue, things feel slightly disjointed and separated more than it has in recent years.

Overall, Dark Harbor has maintained its circus/fair style atmosphere and it continues to be an extremely fun environment . It makes you want a fried Twinkie really bad!

The street characters walking around the all encompassing scare zone are amazing. Dark Harbor has some very talented and unique characters scaring their guests. And let’s not forget about the headliners! Dark Harbor is known for their icons: The Captain, Graceful Gale, The Ring Master, Samuel The Savage, Half Hatchet Henry, Scary Mary, The Voodoo Priestess, The Iron Master and Chef. All of which can be found walking around and mingling with guests. If you are lucky, you might even find them in their respective mazes (except The Voodoo Priestess, RIP Voodoo).

Entertainment

Dark Harbor has the largest list of entertainment that we have ever seen at a haunted event. They range from big and small acts but they are all extremely entertaining in their own ways. This sets Dark Harbor apart from other events because although it’s foot print may not be as big as Knott’s or Universal, they pack it in with entertainment to make it feel like a much bigger event. I would like to see them lessen the amount of acts and possibly take that money to the mazes or hire more street monsters. Even if they were to take some of the acts away, it’s still an incredibly impressive lineup.

Right next to the dome, there is Slider Alley. Apply named because it’s where the nightly slider show takes place. Although through the night you will find sliders everywhere.

This impressive group of sliders put on on one heck of a show and it’s truly something not to be missed. It’s high energy, has a story and some dangerous stunts!

Mazes

DEADRISE

Deadrise is a WWII escort ship that helped guide The Grey Ghost through enemy-infested waters. After a fatal crash during one of their dangerous voyages, Deadrise sank to the bottom and has been resting in her watery grave in the depths of the sea ever since. The wreckage of Deadrise has once again been called into service by the star of Dark Harbor, The Captain, to escort him and his armada of ghosts and monsters into a battle against the living to reclaim Dark Harbor

Deadrise was always one of Nikki’s favorites and one that grew on me over time. It felt as though the maze was always in flux and continually changed year after year. Honestly, that is amazing because you can never predict scares! Deadrise, for being off the ship, was always the scariest in our opinion and was always the longest.

This year is no different with length, but it seem to falter with regards to scares. It might have been when we went through, but it felt severely understaffed. As opposed to prior years when you felt like you couldn’t go 15 feet without running into another monster. The scares in this maze, although spread out, are effective and extremely creative.

CIRCUS

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and experience the world’s most horrifying circus! Face your greatest fears as you wander through a terrifying tent of terror. Disorienting illusions, maniacal magic acts, and a cadre of sideshow freaks are certain to shock, stun, and startle even the bravest of souls.

As mentioned before, Circus was originally under the dome but was moved out of it for this year. I think it suffered greatly because of this move. With the lack of space, Dark Harbor seemed to be forced to axe the Side/Freak Show add on that they’ve had in years past. But it came back this year in a form with Circus. It felt as though they mixed Circus and Side/Freak Show together, but not really the best of either. The character and fun aspects that made Circus so unique and extremely entertaining were stripped away. We were extremely happy to see the ball pit return though!

This was one of the mazes that included a secret bar within the maze. We were so curious to know how they were going to pull this off. If you just had a bar sitting in the middle of the maze, it would cause so many problems. But I am happy to say that they solved it easily. I will not give away anything more, but you might want to make sure you are very nice and polite to the Zoltar machine.

INTREPID

Do you dare go back to where it all began? Meet the mastermind, the creator and now the protector of the Queen Mary. The Iron Master has returned to reclaim the precious vessel he built, fiercely guarding it from the antics of the freaks and ghouls. Follow his maddening journey… if you dare step aboard.

Last year Intrepid was a very big let down. It had so many cool pieces but never really felt like a cohesive maze. I am happy to report that Intrepid is much better this year.

This maze got us so many times it’s not even funny. What I found interesting was how it utilized sets from the long gone Voodoo maze. It was blatantly obvious to someone who regularly attends the event. But for those who go rarely, you wouldn’t know the difference. Overall, a much improved maze, but still lacking in some spots.

SOULMATE

Gale has been haunting Dark Harbor looking for a soul mate since her mysterious disappearance. A meandering maze of mystery, Soulmate is where Graceful Gale lures potential suitors with her charm. Beware of her minions, whose job it is to chop up her suitors and reassemble them into the perfect man. Once you’ve been smitten by Graceful Gale, there is no escaping…even after death!

Now we are getting into the really scary mazes! Soulmate, our first maze on the ship has pretty much maintained it’s level of scares. Not much has changed from the previous year, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Filled with so many dark corners and wonderful tricks to scare you, Soulmate is fantastic. Graceful Gale never looked so terrifying and beautiful all at the same time.

B340

What would drive a man to madness and murder? That’s the answer B340 attempts to answer as we take a schizophrenic sojourn into the psychotic mind of Samuel the Savage. Tight spaces, darkness mixed with flashing lights, and pulse-pounding noises would drive anyone to the brink of insanity. Beware the wrath of violence of Samuel the Savage and be careful not to lose your head or your mind!

Our absolute favorite from last year, B340 returns and is just as scary as it was before. This maze is much more cerebral than most, but still packs a huge punch with scares. It was changed up a bit this year and for the better. It included a padded wall room that was stark white! When going from almost pitch black environments to such a brightly lit room, it’s extremely jarring but in the best ways. After that, your eyes are no longer adjusted to the dark and you can’t see anything again! So scary!

Also this maze takes you over the old engine room that is really just this cavernous empty room now. You walk over a bridge to get to the other side and it is truly terrifying! Especially if you are afraid of heights.

LULLABY

Ring around the rosy, a pocket full of nightmares. The new Lullaby maze takes the visitor on a spine-tingling trip through the story of little Scary Mary. Gone, but certainly not forgotten, Mary is looking for playmates to join her on the other side of hell. Will you succumb to the youngster’s pranks and tricks, or will you escape with your soul intact?

Our favorite this year, Lullaby is extremely unsettling, scary and so much fun! This maze is filled with so many unnerving moments that we never wanted to leave. The only maze to make me do the “Im really scared” dance that most people do. Wonderful atmosphere and incredible talent just filled this maze. Running into Mary was never something we wanted but we knew she was around every corner and we felt like we could never get away!

One thing I would love to see happen this year is a brand new beginning to the maze. Currently, the maze begins at Mary’s funeral when you are given a word of warning from the Pastor and walk into Mary’s realm through a coffin shaped door.

This maze is more special than most because you get to walk by the pool that is said to have the “Vortex” in it. The spot of the ship that is the most haunted. When you are surrounded by monsters, gore and violence; it’s hard to comprehend all of that information. Unlike previous years, you would be above it and look down, but this year you are on the same floor as the pool and it’s very creepy. They even have a good scare when people are distracted by looking into the pool.

FEAST ( NEW )

NEW this year and for the FIRST TIME EVER – a 4th maze aboard the ship!  The all-new Feast will take you on a terrifying journey into areas of the ship that have never before been accessible to Dark Harbor guests. During WWII when The Queen Mary was in service as a troop transport ship, an enlisted military man serving in the ship’s kitchen quickly moved up in the ranks to become a highly decorated Chef.  Unbeknownst to the soldiers traveling aboard, Chef had a dark side.  Quietly he would sedate a few solders at a time and collect them in the middle of the night to prep them for his latest dishes.  Eventually caught, the Chef was thrown into one of his own ovens and cooked alive. Ever-faithful to Chef, his dutiful kitchen staff sacrificed themselves to become his evil henchmen, burning themselves in the same oven. Chef and his evil crew went into hiding aboard the ship for many years.  Largely forgotten these long-time stowaways aboard the ship have resurfaced to resume their deadly duties by collecting new victims for some of Chef’s latest recipes.  Are you ready to be served?

The newest maze and the fourth on the ship, Feast doesn’t pull any punches. It’s dark, creepy, disturbing, violent and oh so good. We walked through this one twice we loved it so much. Wonderfully creative scares were utilized to set itself apart from the other mazes on the ship and they were very effective. This maze actually gave me (Gabe) the worst scare I have had this season! Nikki could tell it was real fear because of the way I sounded and she laughed so hard!

When Chef was introduced at Midsummer Scream, I was not all that impressed with the character but I was with the premise of his character and the maze. The maze did not disappoint for us but I do wish Chef were a bit more disfigured than he seems to be. If you are coming to Dark Harbor, you will love this maze and do not miss it! Because I guarantee the Chef won’t miss you.

Bars

This year, the event has more bars than ever before. Cold bars, tiny bars, big bars, hidden bars, crowded bars, secluded bars, and everything else in-between. To be specific, the event has: 2 Themed Bar Experiences, 1 Tequila Tasting Room, 4 Walk Up Bars, and 5 Queue Line Bars.  In years past, Dark Harbor always had the most bars out of any event we went to! We’re not sure if people asked for more or if this is the teams way of determining the type of clientele they want at the event. Realistically, events like this do need bars, but do we really need that many? Our opinion is no.

Unfortunately, it seems as though some of the mazes (previously discussed) took a back seat to these libation filled experiences. Personally we would love to see these mazes staff better than have three extra bars.

One of the bigger disappointments of the night was The Meat Locker, an Ice Bar Experience.

Venture into the frozen depths of Chef’s Meat Locker where he keeps his latest victims on ice.  This one-of-a-kind ice bar experience will take you into a 7-degree environment for up to 20-minutes if you can stand the frigid cold!  Choose from a curated selection of flavored vodkas to create your custom tasting flight, but keep one eye open for Chef to make sure you don’t end up in his next recipe. 

Although the concept of this bar is extremely cool (quite literally) and fun, what you are getting for the price of admission is simply not worth it. It cost $18 dollars at the door in order to experience The Meat Locker. You are given a rather large jacket and escorted into the experience to taste any type of Vodka they have in stock! Anything ranging from Cotton Candy, Chocolate, Fruit Loops and many more. One thing the description leaves out is that each tasting is a half shot pour. If we had paid $36 for both of us to get in, we wouldn’t have been very happy. Lucky for us, Dark Harbor provided us with a couple drink tickets for media night. But we felt cheated when we handed those over instead of just grabbing a beer.

Now this wouldn’t have been a big deal if things were consistent, but the crew that worked the bar were not pouring evenly or consistently. One of the bar tenders was pouring closer to a full shot and our bartender seemed to be pouring less than a half shot. Even at one point taking the shot glass almost out of my hands and poured it back in. We hope that they get this experience dialed in for the rest of the haunt and wouldn’t mind seeing it come back in the future but at a much lower price point.

Prices and Parking

The prices for Dark Harbor are always a steal. One of the cheapest tickets in town, you are getting many incredible experiences for the price of admission. But this year, there is a small change we noticed. When pulling up to the gates of The Queen Mary there were huge signs that said $40 General Parking. We were shocked to say the least. For people attending the event on opening night, this might have been a shock to their system. This is a HUGE deterrent from attending the event, but luckily during the writing of this article, Queen Mary has posted many things regarding their parking situation.

FASTEST SERVICE by parking at the Aquarium of the Pacific Parking Structure and taking the all-new Dark Harbor Express operated by the Aqua Link.

For a great price of $3.00 per hour or a maximum of $16.00 per vehicle (CASH AND CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED) you get to take advantage of this convenient and easy parking option:

  • A cheaper parking price than at the Queen Mary parking lot.
  • Convenient access in and out of the parking structure at the Aquarium of the Pacific located at 99 Golden Shore, Long Beach, CA 90802.
  • Board the Dark Harbor Express boat service (operated by Aqua Link) near the Aquarium of the Pacific for your short boat ride over to the Queen Mary.
  • Dark Harbor Express is the fastest and most scenic way to get to the Queen Mary and avoid the traffic going into the Queen Mary parking lot.
  • Roundtrip fee aboard the Dark Harbor Express is FREE with a valid Dark Harbor ticket.
  • Dark Harbor Express service will operate from 6:00pm to 1:30am on each Dark Harbor date.
  • Parking fee will be collected upon exiting the structure.  LOST TICKETS WILL BE CHARGED $24.00

An alternative offsite parking option is available at the Long Beach Courthouse with shuttle bus service to the Queen Mary.

For the price of $15.00 per vehicle (CASH ONLY) you can enjoy the following services:

  • Long Beach Courthouse is located at 101 Magnolia Avenue in Downtown Long Beach.
  • Board a shuttle bus for your complimentary ride over to the Queen Mary.
  • While the shuttle is complimentary, the wait times can be long during peak operating hours.
  • The shuttle bus will operate from 4:00pm to 1:30am on each Dark Harbor date.

LIMITED PREMIUM PARKING OPTION:  If you prefer parking onsite at the Queen Mary there are a limited number of spaces available at a premium price of $40.00 per vehicle:

  • Due to the limited number of parking spaces available the Queen Mary onsite parking lot can sellout at any time.
  • Oversized vehicles must park at the Queen Mary onsite parking lot.

All of these options seems like they want to keep people from parking at the actual Queen Mary. Although some of these options are a more financially reasonable, we can’t help but be left with a bad taste in our mouths.

OPERATIONS

Many things that happen on opening night of events can easily be attributed to opening night jitters. Some effects aren’t working, monsters aren’t getting the timing right on scares and many other things. They are always excusable, but what isn’t is operations. Every year The Queen Mary puts on Dark Harbor,  so there shouldn’t be any issues with running the event. But this year it seemed as though staff just wasn’t prepped well enough for opening night.

Through the night, we had many occasions where we had staff gave us incorrect information, took odd approaches to maze pulsing or just out right didn’t do their jobs. One instance was at Lullaby. Each group was gathered on the walk way before entering the experience and briefed on maze etiquette. This was completely out of place and really odd. It was almost like she was yelling at us for something we had not even done yet. No other maze on the ship had something like this and it really took us out of the mood before going into the experience.

Another instance was when we were leaving the event. Like many events, there is a massive crowd of people leaving at the same time which can create an operational nightmare. But as we were exiting the parking lot, we sat in our car for a good 10 minutes as people walked past us, figuring the attendant would eventually let us through and hold off the crowd. He never did, so at the next opening, I slowly made my way through. As soon as I did this, he was not very happy with me and was making some very rude hand gestures ( no he did not give me the middle finger, he was miming what he wanted to say because we had our windows up). We eventually left, but on a very sour note because of this guy who just didn’t let us go. When it comes down to any of the situations we discussed, it all comes down to training. There is no doubt in my mind that training continually goes on before and through the event, but at the time of our visit, it was rough.

Even with all of the problems that happened, Dark Harbor is STILL an incredibly fun and scary event. We never miss it! There is something so incredibly sinister and creepy about the ship ALONE! When you fill it with monsters hiding in the shadows, it is incredibly terrifying. Every year Dark Harbor returns with its signature style, humor and scares; all of which we have come to know and love. We don’t plan on missing any year of this event, even if it has a few problems. If you are thinking about coming this year, know that your experience will probably cost a bit more than years past. But, Dark Harbor still offers fun, quality scares and unique maze designs.

If you want to learn how you can purchase tickets to Dark Harbor, make sure to go to http://www.queenmary.com/events/dark-harbor/

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