The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor 2019 Review
The SoCal landscape is filled with competition in the haunted attraction world. Everywhere you look, each theme park has some type of haunted attraction, and there’s even independent haunts! Each one trying to leave their mark and show what makes them unique. The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor doesn’t need to try too hard since its location is one of the most haunted places in the world! You heard that correctly, Time Magazine named The Queen Mary as one of the Top 10 MOST Haunted Locations in the world! The once luxury cruise liner has seen its fair share of death and life throughout the years and it clearly made an indelible mark upon the ship. Now it sits in Long Beach as a hotel where people get to spend the night and hope (or pray) that something doesn’t occur in their room at night. If you’re as impatient as me, you’ll look to their incredible haunt, Dark Harbor for a quick fix in scares. We absolutely adore Dark Harbor and love it even more that they build upon the ships history to help mold Dark Harbors story. No other haunt can claim that! Real ghosts inspiring their monsters!
BEFORE THE HAUNT
Before the Haunt even opens, Dark Harbor sends out some of its highly talented monsters to roam around and entertain the crowds while they wait patiently to get the crap scared out of them! We absolutely love having these interactions to help pass the time!
One notable interaction was with Alfie The Clairvoyant Rat! One, we love rats. Two, it was a fun and different type of entertainment that you don’t seem many other places. Make sure to get to Queen Mary early so you can partake in some drinks as well as some of the wonderful entertainment.
If you’ve never been to Dark Harbor before, let us tell you that there is absolutely no shortage of bars to wet your whistle. Bars you can find easily and others…not so much. Some of the bars at Dark Harbor are known as “Secret Bars” where you’ll need a token or know where the secret entrance is to obtain access. Lucky for us at TPD, we love stiff drinks and we were also able to get access into the secret bar in Lullaby!
This bar was known as Fathom 6, named after the fact that you are currently 6 fathoms below the water line. The area where the actual bar is located is an area of the ship that is known for having high amounts of paranormal activity. We only know this because of our tours and experiences aboard the ship during regular hours. So if you’re a believer in the paranormal, then this might be the perfect secret bar for you! If you listen to the podcast, you might hear a spooky story that Nikki needs to share about our experience going to Fathom 6!
We love the idea of “secret bars” sporadically placed throughout Dark Harbor and adds a level of entertainment and fun that not many other events have!
Set up a play date with Mary, who is always looking for a new friend. Mary allegedly drowned in the First Class swimming pool aboard the ship back in ’52 and has been rumored to be haunting the ship ever since. Self-proclaimed medium Marty Roberts is hired to investigate this phenomenon by leading an exploration to the famed swimming pool and changing rooms. Be on the lookout for a little girl with a Teddy Bear, beckoning you to play games. But be careful, Mary’s friendships last forever.
We always love visiting our friend Scary Mary when at Dark Harbor, although the idea of a dead child stalking us down the dark and narrow hallways of the ship gives us goosebumps. This maze starts off rather slow and around the half way point hits a fever pitch and never really stops till you exit the maze. The lack of scare actors in the beginning of the maze put us off a bit and actually made us a bit confused. But it really built up suspense for us and we found ourselves slowly peaking around each corner, hoping not to come face to face with Mary herself.
One of the biggest notable differences for us was the change in tone. In previous years, Lullaby has had a hint of humor because of the “dead child” angle. But this years incarnation of the maze felt way darker and must more sinister. We think this works unbelievably well with Mary and her story.
One major set piece that was removed from the maze was the actual pool. The maze no longer takes you along side the pool where the little girl supposedly drowned. But since they couldn’t take you by it, they recreated the pool and took you through it! Although we thought it would be a bit bigger, it was truly astounding to see how they pulled off the effect and scene. When you’re busy looking up, Mary comes at you from below! Its unsettling and absolutely terrifying!
Moral of the story here is when Mary asks you to be friends…YOU SAY NO AND RUN!
Everything you have heard about B340 is true. Follow the lead detective on the scene as he uncovers the sinister truth behind one of the most notorious criminals to ever invade the luxury liner. According to ship and police reports during a cross-Atlantic voyage in October of 1948, passenger Samuel was deranged and dangerous and went on a bloody rampage against passengers and staff before being captured and locked in Stateroom B340, only to vanish. When police entered the room, the blood-soaked walls, cruel carvings, and no sign of Samuel launched a mystery that to this day remains unsolved. You don’t want to be the person who finds him.
B340 has always been a favorite of ours in the past. It always seemed to be a venture through the corrupted mind of Samuel The Savage! This years maze incarnation takes the story in a bit of a different direction. Instead of going through the monsters mind, you are following the lead detective on the scene as he uncovers the truths behind Samuel The Savage. It’s an interesting new take on the classic B340 maze and we think it works at times.
One thing that threw us a bit was the usage of masks throughout the experience. When we think Dark Harbor, we think about air brush makeup and prosthetics, not masks. So seeing multiple of the same mask took us out of the moments and didn’t really scare us. But plenty of people ahead and behind us were cowering in fear, so maybe it’s just us.
Out of all the mazes on the ship, B340 had the most impressive maze and set design. Along with driving electro-synth music, B340 is a fun maze and shouldn’t be missed.
Let The Feast begin. Our evil Chef has emerged from his watery grave to overtake our dank and dark kitchens and will present a four-course meal guaranteed to fright! On the menu this fall, Chef has prepared an Amuse Bouche of angst and anxiety, followed by our first course of death and despair. Indulge in our main course of manic paranoia concluding with a dessert of dismay and terror. Come have a seat at our table, but don’t stay too long or you might end up on the menu!
When Feast first premiered at Dark Harbor, we really loved the new monsters/ghost joining the ranks of the other iconic characters. Feast even gave me the biggest scare I’ve ever had at Dark Harbor…EVER! We still talk about that moment all these years later. This year includes lots of claustrophobic scenes where monsters can really take their time with you. Not overly scary, but definitely alarming. Sometimes you don’t always need the big scares to make a lasting impression.
But unfortunately for us, this years incarnation did not hit for us. As always, we know that timing is everything and we did this maze multiple times to make sure that wasn’t the case. But even with an additional run through, the maze still landed at the bottom of the list.
The one big problem for us was the lack of story. The further along in the maze we went, the more the story felt disjointed and not connected with the source material. We know well enough that most guests visiting are not looking for story moments or elements through the maze. Especially if they’ve visited any of the bars!
Upon the Captain’s orders – the Ringmaster has returned to The Queen Mary with her collection of freaks, allowing guests to sneak beyond the curtains to unveil the horrors lurking within the shadows of the big top. Hosting a menagerie of monsters and sinister creatures, the one and only Ringmaster returns with unadulterated and unbelievable horrors for all who step inside Circus! But don’t let your guard down. She is always looking to add another cohort to her traveling show.
We LOVE the wacky and silly humor of Circus. The scare actors in this maze do such a phenomenal job in creating an uneasy environment while still luring in guests for good scares. Multiple times through the night I forgot about the possibility of getting scared because I was having fun, and got scared way worse because of that! From the moment you step foot into their big top, you are welcomed by a myriad of different circus folk. Some of those scary and others not so scary. In all honesty, our favorites of this maze were the non-scary actors because it allowed for more meaningful interactions that stuck with us through the night. In one instance, a tramp clown brought us close into his tent but wasn’t saying a world. It almost seemed as though the wanted to tell us something but refused to talk. We then got a great scare from behind us from the bearded lady!
We were very happy to see the return of the fun house elements that truly give this maze its style and tone. The mirror portion of the maze, although small, packs a big punch and really gave us some good frights! Also, our favorite exit to any maze in history was placed at the end of Circus to our delight. If you need a break from the hardcore scary but still want to have some fun with your fright, Circus is the maze for you!
A young shipbuilder’s obsession with his creation, the unsinkable Queen Mary, lured him to the moment that would forever seal his fate. Presented by an evil sea witch with the promise of immortality and success, his choice was made, and his flesh was exchanged with the steel from the only thing he ever cared about: his ship. Follow the path of wicked choices and wrongdoings to see what lead the Iron Master to become the horrific half-metal creature spending eternity in an iron Hell.
The last time we were able to attend Dark Harbor, we weren’t all too thrilled with Intrepid. The maze just didn’t deliver on what we had hoped it would and were left with a sour taste in our mouths. Going into this years event, we were pumped to experience the revamped version that Jon Cooke worked on the previous year. We saw so many pictures of unbelievably beautiful set pieces. Needless to say, this years incarnation did not disappoint.
Intrepid really builds a level of suspense and a feeling of uneasiness that no other maze does at Dark Harbor. It also has multiple different tones from scene to scene which we really enjoy. At the beginning, things seem a bit lighter while we were going through outdoor sequences, but as soon as we got inside it got much much darker in tone. Inside, there is an incredible scene that is truly terrifying. You get to walk into a room thats filled with fog from your waist down and a green laser, almost acting as the top of the fog. The monsters are lurking down below, waiting for the right moment to jump for the perfect scare.
We think the only thing we wanted more of was the Iron Master himself. You only really get to see him once and at the very end of the experience. Maybe even seeing his transformation into what we know as The Iron Master.
A monstrous freak wave has hit the legendary Queen Mary, causing the ship to nearly capsize. The ocean liner is near a full breach and quickly taking on water as she tilts on her side. Chaos has descended as the passengers and crew are left disoriented and confused in the fight for survival, many plummeting into darkness or the tumultuous ocean. The Captain and the crew are hard at work trying to salvage the ship after the Rogue wave…Or are they?
The NEW maze at Dark Harbor, replacing a fan favorite: Dead Rise! At Midsummer Scream, the crowd went wild when they heard the premise and idea behind this new maze. We are happy to say that they delivered! Although not perfect, it is a worthy successor to Dead Rise and has carved itself a new path with some really fun elements.
Something really noticeable at the entrance of the maze was how quiet it was. Normally when you approach mazes, it somewhat noisy with screams, music and sound effects. But with Rogue, we heard nothing. This was a bit off putting for sure but we barely had time to think about it before we were shoved into the experience. As the maze progresses, you enter a dome where projections of waves and storms play out around you. This is why it was so quiet, the noise and chaos of the maze was held within the dome. Once you’re inside, you are thrown head first into the chaos of a ship that is about to capsize.
One of the effects used in the maze to make it feel as though you’re on a ship is a room that actually bounces back and forth. When you look out the windows of the room, you see a large projection of a massive wave coming straight for you. Although not perfect, it really puts you in the right mindset for the rest of the maze and makes you feel that chaos.
The cast of scare actors were also on point when we ventured through the maze. They took time to scare guests as well as have smaller moments with them. Whether that meant telling them in the most frantic way possible about the impending doom, or standing in your way so you are forced to cause water effects to happen. Their high energy really leant itself to creating the environment thats need to make this idea work.
QUEEN MARY SLIDER SHOW/ENTERTAINMENT
The talented group of sliders at The Queen Mary put on a phenomenal show! We loved how the show didn’t just revolve around the slides, but how they were able to incorporate character moments and story into the slides. This is the type of entertainment we love and implore others not to miss when attending Dark Harbor. This is also a good place to be if you want one of those coveted secret bar tokens!
The sliders aren’t the only entertainment at Dark Harbor! There are a multitude of different entertainment offerings that range from passive to down right frightening. You can go aboard the ship and experience PANIC 4D! This is a small $5 up charge experience that can really help if you need to rest your feet for a moment. But we warned, it will not allow your heart to relax!
You can also watch aerial artists, The Pyre, ride the Sinister Swings (from Neverland Ranch), or partake in the Haunted Hookah Lounge! We love how the event almost seems to have a never ending list of entrainment that goes on through the night. We never saw the stage empty!
Of course, you can always find monsters lurking around in each and every corner. Waiting for you to venture to close so that they can scare the daylights out of you!
To be fairly honest, last year we did not get to attend Dark Harbor because our Daughter was born. Obviously need to have priorities there, but we were sad to have missed Dark Harbor. With one year off, we came into Dark Harbor this years with a relatively high bar and we feel as though Dark Harbor delivered and, at times, surpassed our expectations. The level of dedication the monsters roaming the grounds have shown, and the quality of mazes (aboard and off the ship) at Dark Harbor have increased steadily over the years. The only real criticisms we have for the mazes was a lack of story, and for some, lack of scare actors. Where some or most of the mazes start off strong in story, it starts to drift off and lose its way. We want some more story moments scattered through the maze so the story doesn’t get as lost as it does. And in some mazes it seemed as though we went long stretches without seeing monsters. We are not sure if this was intentional to add suspense or not (sometimes that worked very well, on the ship specifically), but they were noticeably missed! With that being said, we know a majority of people are not looking for story and are just looking to get scared. We’ve said this about almost all the haunts this season! But pound for pound, we think Dark Harbor is probably one of the scarier haunts around. Specifically the mazes aboard the ship. Nothing beats the real life setting of an old ship that is supposedly extremely haunted. The creaking of the ship alone sends chills down our spine! Let alone the idea that there are monsters lurking within the shadows waiting for us!
If you’ve never been to Dark Harbor before, this is the year to go! Phenomenal mazes, great talent and superb entrainment offerings really makes Dark Harbor unique and scary. Head on over to QueenMary.com to purchase tickets and see what type of fun upgrades you can get while attending the event.