The Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Rises from the Depths

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The Ringmaster and The Captain overlooking the crowd

Darkness has once again descended upon the legendary Queen Mary in Long Beach for Dark Harbor, Southern California’s most terrifyingly authentic haunt, with six mazes, private patios, and FOUR new captivating secret bars masked in menacing darkness, waiting to be uncovered. Those daring enough will have the opportunity to venture through Dark Harbor in hopes of stumbling upon the demented delights brewing within The SideBar, Door 13, The Line Up, and The Broken Compass. Guests are encouraged to push their curiosity, mingle with monsters, and test their fears in hopes of discovering the strongest spirits at Dark Harbor to sip on the to-die-for new specialty cocktails that only lurk within.

All your favorite spirits from the paranormal steamship make their appearances in seven “lands” composed of Shipyard, Galley, Port, Bayou, Nursery, Midway, and Midship.  The most important thing you need to know is that there are six scare mazes in the fairgrounds and onboard the Queen Mary herself.  The provided guide-map can be a little tricky to navigate, but we’ll try to be your compass through the confusion. Best to prepare yourself for the high seas so you don’t miss out.

In addition to the new secret bars and specialty cocktails, Dark Harbor hosts additional bars including Crime Scene Alley and Hideaway, The Last Drop, The Barrel Tasting Room, Rusty Nail & Pier and 9-degrees Ice Cave, which will also provide guests with delectable drinks to quench their deadly thirst. For those with more than just a hunger for horror, cabana menus offer tantalizing table service platters with a variety of enticing entrée options. Head to the Mess Hall at Deadrise for a loaded macaroni and cheese cup or work up an appetite for Poison Pizza at Feast. Guests can take a break from the tricks with treats like crepes, iScream malts and shakes, cotton candy martinis, and liquid nitrogen infused kettle corn that will chill guests to the core.

Ariel acrobat performance
Preparing meals

Monsters are free to roam the area with twisted flips and balancing unicycles.  They’re very approachable and photo friendly. Make sure to interact with the characters to gain access to a brand new feature this year: secret bars inside the mazes!

Will this character grant you access to the secret bar?

Learn more how to access the secret bars in the description at the END of the guide-map; where most people would not bother reading.  This makes the hunt even more gratifying!  Read carefully as a clue may be hiding in plain sight.  There are four secret bars altogether.  We were able to find two of them.  Continue to read which of the scare mazes have something to hide.

The Ice Cave serves more than just vodka tastings

The Ice Cave is a 9 degree ice bar serving up vodka tastings.  However, keep your eyes open for a secret exit that grants access to the Intrepid scare maze located next door!  The Barrel Room in the Shipyard not only highlights Whiskies of the World, but also provides a clue to the secret bars.  The Gallows Bar may not be a secret, but the wishing-well directly across may grant a clue.

Oceanic decor alongside The Port

Performances throughout the evening occur on two main stages designed to be viewed from virtually any angle.  The Aerial Ring features death-defying acts.  Also in the Bayou is The Pyre stage with fiery acts twice nightly.  There’s also the smaller Sideshow stage in the Midway with close-up variety acts.  Vaudeville-type shows range from arial stunts, fire play, comedy, song, and hula loop dances.  Each act is only a few minutes in length, so you can grab a quick bite to eat and enjoy the shows.  Sliders also make the area their home with grandeur scheduled showtimes.  This group has more recently displayed the best of their skills here compared to competitors.  A 4-D Theater inside the ship and a ride on the swing from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch are extra cost attractions that have been around for years.

Playing with fire on The Pyre stage

Dancing with hoops in the Bayou
All tied up in the Aerial Ring at the Midway

SCARE MAZES

There are six scare mazes altogether.  Three inside the ship itself and three in the fairgrounds.

  • FEAST

First course is “Feast”.  You’re late for your shift!  Now you must avoid being fired and escape the wrath of the Chef, or be part of his special ingredient.

Dinner time!
Try the chef’s special!
Pots and pans
Who, I mean, what will we be having tonight?
Flowers to brighten up the room

Arrive in the dining room full of dead bodies.  Now try to slip your way through the kitchen past disembodied body parts and hanging slabs of protein in the meat locker.

Clearing the table
Keeping the kitchen clean

Your only option now is to crawl inside a meat grinder and out the other end.  Pray the machine doesn’t start automatically while you’re inside!

Fresh ingredients in minutes!
Passing through an engine room
An eerie sight of the propeller

The talent here really understood their role and delivered the story with their screaming dialogue towards the guests.  The visuals really does matche along and helps complete the story that is being told.


  • B340

Next we’ll be checking in to room “B340”.  But don’t expect to check out.

Always knock before entering a room
The story unfolds

A detective has lost his life solving the murders aboard the Queen Mary.  The guests are sent on a film noir case to piece together the crime and discover the secrets of Samuel the Savage.

Working on a case can give one a massive headache
A clue to a secret bar?

A spirit may point your direction under the bed.  Should you begin to crawl?  Absolutely!  As we were taking photographs, the spirit asked us not to share what we discovered to the detective.  Excellent interaction.  The talent gave a good start to establish the story.

The crime scene

Follow the evidence, clues, and spinning crosses on the walls.  Don’t forget the check the closet… and walk through the other end!

Follow the evidence
Unclaimed baggage

Find yourself in the laundry room and meander past billowing sheets and washing machines.  The spin cycle could turn at any moment.

Washing up in the laundry room

We followed a conga line of people that got lost in this part of the ship and walked a very long way before finding no exit and had to walk back.  This lack of safety was quickly corrected with a monster in this area to direct guests to the correct pathway as well to the bridge overlooking the massive boiler room.  There used to be a sparkler here a few years ago that gave a sense of scope as the illuminating sparks drifted to the floor.

Above the boiler room

And end of the maze featured what appeared to be victims of Samuel the Savage with their intestines hanging past your face.  This is one of the few mazes that has a catchy musical soundtrack.  A welcome break from the dull silence in the majority of the mazes at Dark Harbor.  The previous theme here had guests traverse through the murderous mind of Samuel the Savage.  It’s a fresh look into the same character but from a different perspective.


  • LULLABY

Staying up late at night calls for a bedtime story.  How about a soothing “Lullaby”?

A bedtime story

Scary Mary is having a terrible tantrum.  Will you be able to calm her spirits or suffer in her wailing screams?  Her teddy bear is supposedly also an important story element that was not apparent.

Portraits align the hallway
The cradle will rock
A night light
Pretty, pretty, rose

Come play with her toys.  The cymbal-banging monkey and toy soldiers have been waiting for a new playmate.  Internally lit mannequins also wait for your arrival.

Timeless toys
Playtime is fun time
Anyone want to be a babysitter?

Replacing the traditional grand finale in the ship’s eerie swimming pool is the Séance Lounge.  Let’s face it, it’s a bar.  But not the secret kind.

Beyond this foreboding vault door is… a liquid lair?

INTREPID

This is no Platform 9 3/4
All aboard!

Climb aboard this steam locomotive.  Don’t be intimidated by the fireman.  He’s just feeding coal into the boiler.  Continue down the aisle to the back end of the train.  Passengers are at the edge of their seat.

We assume the Ice Cave bar mentioned earlier joins the scare maze starting from here.

Edinburdgh cemetery experiences a snowfall
Take shelter inside the Roselyn Church

It wasn’t quite clear, but apparently guests meet with a witch in the bayou who sealed the Iron Master’s fate with the devil.  Perhaps she’s offering a similar deal to you.

Never a good bargain with a witch hiding in a misty bog
A surprise package
Handle with care
Windows to the outside world
Results of a deal gone bad
Iron Master resides here

The story was also lacking here.  It’s all dependent on the monsters’ interaction with the guests to make any sense of how the rooms are connected.

CIRCUS

Who doesn’t love the circus?  Do you love it so much that you’re willing to break in after hours?  I dare you!

The circus is in town
Get your tickets!
Step under the big top

The story would have benefitted more if there were signs saying “Opening tomorrow night!” or Bearded Lady informing us to come back tomorrow for opening night.  We’re not open yet” to help strengthen the backstory the creators came up with.

The sliding floor slabs are back at it again after the spinning tunnel past the giant face as you enter the funhouse.  Clowns laugh it up in the mirror maze.

Mirror mirror, on the wall

A carnival barker entices you to enter past a mysterious black curtain and through an airbag hallway.  Turn the corner and be greeted by a giant lunging spider while getting caught in its web.  Pretty sure spider’s name is not Charlotte.

Don’t make any sudden moves

Remnants of plastic balls recall a ball pit that once occupied the maze.

Having a ball

Brush away a hanging curtain to reveal a dressing room with mirrors, tables, chairs, and make-up kits.  But what is this to your right?  A secret bar!

A place to put on your face
One of the secret bars

Not only does a specialty cocktail abound, but guests may also activate a mechanism to trigger a scare within the maze.  A puff of air escapes while the everyone watches from hidden cameras. Fun and spooky.

Waiting for a target to activate a scare
The view from the other side of the secret bar by the Sideshow Stage

The Sidebar secret bar displays decor from Dark Art Emporium.  Exit the bar behind an unseemly bookcase back into the scare maze.

Resting up for the next show

A carnie holds up deadweight by a single rope as you pass under the steel cages.  A clown entices guests to spin the wheel as a surprise bungee jumps in on the action.

Take a spin on the wheel

The idea of guests sneaking into a closed circus the night before opening is fun. The path to the secret bar would be more visually interesting if the bookcase was in the maze as the entrance to the hidden room.  It doesn’t make much sense to have a hidden doorway to exit the secret room once you’re already inside of it.


DEADRISE

A sunken ship rises from the ocean floor.  It’s doomed crew chases you the down the course of the deck.  Flee from their clutches and explosions of fire and water.  A labyrinth of hatches, barrels, and cages slow you down.  But for how long?

Entrance and exit
Land ho!

During our encounter, the first monster decided to hold up the line using his body to block the doorway preventing anyone from proceeding forward.  Traditionally, monsters would want to scare the guests forward into the maze to keep the line moving and maintain a steady capacity.

Learning the ropes
At least it’s not the poop deck

Find your way out past the series of hatches and walls.  Careful not to accidentally back track the same way you entered.

Hatching a plan of escape

Hatch Door 13 slides open only for those with the wooden coin to the secret bar.

The secret bar overlooking the maze
View from the secret bar

Several buttons activate an explosion of air and water.  Carefully timed, this could be great fun.  However, a particular group went too far with the mechanism.  They lured unsuspecting guests to look INSIDE the barrel with the water cannon.  Because of the level the barrel was positioned, this causes great alarm for the safety of the guests inside the maze.  The water cannon should have been positioned on top of another barrel so as not to be a potential danger to someone’s face under high water pressure.

View from the maze of the secret bar
Barrels of fun

The creative team took joy installing a roped course inside this established maze.  But when tried giving the challenge a try, we were directed away to take the standard path instead.

Tying the knot
Don’t go into the light!

This maze also has a history of having trip hazards in its path.  Dragging camouflage netting and slippery floors are potential safety concerns.  Since the maze’s debut, it has been a crowd favorite for its unique design and winding layout.  But it never seems to get any noticeable upgrades in its logistics. Dark Harbor always appear to take a safe and proven route with little courage to proceed forward.


OVERVIEW

Offering the chance for repeat guests to unlock secret rooms definitely makes the experience different from previous years and makes itself stand out from other competing haunts.  It’s a scavenger hunt for adults which relies on puzzle solving without the “escape room” angle. The hunt is fun, but the reward may leave some slightly disappointed.  Thankfully the secret bar in Deadrise offers the chance to press a button to create their own scares at unsuspecting guests.  It’s a great concept.  Just needs more scare triggers, special photo ops (a chance to share on social media).  One downfall is the lack of communication how the concept works.  It is understandable to keep this a “secret” and want to lure people back.  Not sure how they ideally they want to attract people to this.

The mazes are more or less the same from previous years.  The creators boast how Knott’s Scary Farm maze designer Jon Cooke joined the Dark Harbor 2018 team and the “choose your own adventure” strategy.  It’s a hit and miss to some degree.  The crawl element in “Feast” is gripping.  Sinister Pointe accomplished something similar years ago.  It’s a sight for sore eyes this feature is brought back in some shape or form even in another maze.  The crawl element in “B340” should have been reversed.  Guests should have been guided to crawl under the bed instead of coming out of the bed on the other end.  The hidden ball pit and slide from “Circus” is missed from its days inside the dome next door.  We tried to go back and try the roped course in “Deadrise”, but we were directed to the challenge-less route.  The element of finding your way through the “scare zone” areas of this maze would be more enhanced as long as a monster splits the congo line of people walking through.

These “choose your own adventure” and “secret bars” can bring people back.  As long as they are aware these are what separates Dark Harbor from competitors upon arrival and in their radar.  Otherwise patrons can easily miss out on the uniqueness of the experiences and may leave disappointed.  This may also entice people to upgrade their tickets with Fast Fright, Evil Express, or VIP.  Which by the way, there is essentially three different types of fast passs, depending how much you are willing to pay; either with money or time.

The endless overpriced cabanas, bungalows, bars, food, parking, and add-on attraction prices may turn guests away after learning their discounted admission tickets was indeed “too good to be true”.  Safety may be questionable as well.  As we rode the Sinister Swing ride, we noticed a guest just wandered past the exit gate to get closer camera shots of her friends during the ride cycle.  There is no locking mechanism at the exit gates and the ride operator has no view of them either.

Overall, come early (with a full stomach) for the mazes and spend some quality time with the characters and shows. Try your hand at finding the secret bar coins for access and hope you find the entrance inside the mazes the first time.  Ticket upgrades will be your best option if you want to discover the secret bars yourself.  Given the very dark nature of the mazes, we recommend you hold on to your loose personal articles.  You wouldn’t want your car keys to get lost anywhere near the Queen Mary.  If you haven’t been to Queen Mary Dark Harbor in a few years, this may be a good year for a return.

Bringing the true infamous tales of The Queen Mary to life, the annual event is now open and continues through November 2, 2018. General admission ticket prices start at just $20 online, with Fast Fright, Evil Express, VIP, Ultimate Scream, and lodging packages available. For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit www.queenmary.com/dark-harbor.

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