Haunt Review: The Queen Mary's Dark Harbor (2018)

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Arguably the best year to date, Dark Harbor's newly designed mazes are likely to be a highlight of your Halloween season. With Jon Cooke, of Knott’s Scary Farm fame, joining the team as head maze designer, attendees should expect higher quality mazes from previous years.

Out of their 6 mazes, there isn't a flop in the bunch. New wait time signs have been added to the lines and more than ever a VIP or Fast Fright pass is recommended to avoid long wait times (On opening night there was a 90 minute wait time for B340!!!).

We have conveniently rated the mazes on a 1-5 scale (with 5 being phenomenal) to help plan your screams in the harbor. Information about hidden bars are also scattered throughout the review. However, it is rumored that one needs to talk to characters outside the maze in order to get tokens to access the hidden bars.

INTREPID

Dark Harbor - Intrepid

Dark Harbor - Intrepid

Description: All Aboard! The Ghost Train Waits…A Phantom coach forces the Queen Mary’s original ship builder to relive his wicked wrongdoings to shipyard mates, Scottish brethren and plagued family that led to the Iron Hell his soul rots away in. Follow the spine-chilling path to an evil sea witch where a deadly pact was made spawning the horrific half-metal, half-creature known as the Iron Master.

Review: Intrepid wins most improved and MVP this year. Anyone who has gone to Dark Harbor for multiple years may have felt that Intrepid struggled to achieve the level of quality of the other mazes in the park. This year Intrepid has been redesigned with more interesting spaces, more jump scares, and higher quality set design. In particular, the outdoor cemetery equipped with fake snow blowing through the trees was a picturesque, eerie, and haunting scene that was the most intriguing maze design I’ve encounter all season…maybe ever. Similar to previous years, you arrive on a train in Scotland where you meet the Iron Master and his cronies. Unlike mazes inside the ship, there is a themed exit creating a full circle narrative. Having done Intrepid first, it set a very high bar for the rest of the mazes. We give Intrepid a 5/5.

CIRCUS

Dark Harbor - Circus

Dark Harbor - Circus

Description: It’s the night before a dust-covered, rickety old circus opens to the public. 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!

Review: Circus was true to form. With a walk-through of deceptive fun house mirrors, ball pit, an opportunity to spin the wheel, bungee performers, and carnie monsters, Circus felt very much like a circus. Dark yet lighthearted, Circus shows you the playful side of the harbor. At one point, attendees are asked to go either to the left or the right, however both directions lead to the same room and appears to likely be a technique to cut down on traffic rather than offering repeatability. In addition, the secret bar is very hidden and has been rumored to be among the vanities. However, I looked and personally was unable to find it. We give Circus a 4/5.

FEAST

Dark Harbor - Feast

Dark Harbor - Feast

Description: Chop-chop! It’s time to report for duty as the new line cook on board the world famous Queen Mary. However, all is not what it seems as the kitchens have gone dark and the smell of rank, rotting meat fills the air. From dinner service to the kitchens, the angry spirit of an evil Chef washes back from a watery grave to serve the high-class Queen Mary passengers of 1948. Face the souls of poisoned travelers, gruesome ship staff and of course, the horrific Chef now serving the living to the dead. Let the Feast begin.

Review: Feast is very different from last year both in location (where Soulmates used to be) and also in style. Feast felt darker and more sinister than ever. With intense music playing consistently in the maze, a heightened sense of fear and urgency is present throughout. The highlight of Feast is definitely crawling through the meat grinder, where attendees can see the blades spinning beneath them. The intensity of the music does not seem to really pay off, as it continues play even after going through the meat grinder leaving guests waiting for more. However, Feast was a frightening and creepy experience with plenty of gore. We give Feast a 3/5

B340

Dark Harbor - B340

Dark Harbor - B340

Description: A series of inhuman crimes tormented the Queen Mary passengers during a routine cross-Atlantic voyage in October of 1948. Follow the lead detective on the scene as he uncovers the evil truth behind one of the most notorious criminals to ever invade the luxury liner: Samuel the Savage. The investigation follows a sinister journey filled with terrifying twists and turns that point to the most infamous stateroom on the ship: B340.

Review: B340 felt completely updated with hardly any set pieces from the original maze. The music was fantastic and a major highlight. The evidence numbers placed throughout the beginning of the maze initiates guest to their role as a detective uncovering the events that occurred in room B340. In addition, rumor has it that there is a small secret bar behind a door with three slashes on it. Excellent monster design, clever transition to rooms through coat closets, fantastic set design, and opportunities for physical immersion (i.e. crawling, walking up stairs) make this maze particularly impressive this year. We give B340 a 4.5/5.

LULLABY

Dark Harbor - Lullaby

Dark Harbor - Lullaby

Description: It has been long rumored that Mary, the little girl who drowned in the Queen Mary First Class Swimming Pool in 1952, has haunted the dark corners of the luxury liner since her untimely demise. Many experts theorize the haunting derives from Mary’s spirit attaching itself to the little girl’s stuffed toy bear. Perhaps the bear holds the gloomy secrets behind the wicked ghost of Scary Mary and why she still sings her eternal Lullaby.

Review: Lullaby was also completely updated from previous years. New set pieces and updated lighting create a darker tone. Despite Scary Mary wandering the bowels of ship and shouting “want to play?”, Lullaby was anything but playful. New themes surrounding Mary’s teddy bear are apparent and create a sinister tone. Also, new to 2018, there is a not so secret bar located in the maze that assists with transition. Veterans of Dark Harbor may leave Lullaby feeling nostalgic for previous renditions but it is nonetheless a delightfully haunting attraction. We give Lullaby a 3/5.

DEADRISE

Dark Harbor - Deadrise

Dark Harbor - Deadrise

Description: The Grey Ghost rises once again, set out on its annual ghastly voyage damned to its eternal battle on the living. With the fearless captain at the helm, guests will walk among the rusted carcass of the Grey Ghost as its full steam ahead into the flames of war. Those unfortunate enough to be caught in the ships warpath may either salute the captain or like an anchor, sink to the depths of the watery tombs.

Thoughts: If Deadrise gets a 3.5/5 for the maze, then the Door 13 bar inside is a 5/5 for most fun bar and is a must see. Inside the Door 13 lounge is a button to create your own scare in the maze, and it is an absolute blast. The maze itself provides opportunity for interaction in climbing a rope wall, going down a slide, experiencing water and fire features, and walking through the thickest fog imaginable. The obstacle courses in Deadrise are optional but certainly add to the experience.

In addition to the mazes, there are a variety of shows playing all night across two stages, a 4D movie experience, as well as a sliders’ show near the midway to entertain participants. One can also test their fate with a ride on the infamous Sinister Swings, formerly occupying Neverland Ranch.

There are also thirteen bars within the Dark Harbor, many of them hidden, exclusive, or within mazes. Some of the bars inside the mazes require tokens. It is rumored that tokens for bars can be obtained by talking to characters outside the maze. The abundance of alcohol can create a greater amount of intoxicated individuals in the park which could pose a safety risk to scare actors and participants alike. This is exacerbated by concessions being sold at a premium ($4-5 for a bottle of water and $10 for a slice of pizza for example). However, alcohol has been traditionally enjoyed throughout Dark Harbor without a reported major incident and can potentially elevate peoples’ experience who enjoy alcohol.

Among the notable bars, is the 9 degree Ice Cave where participants are able to drink uniquely flavored vodka shots (i.e. whipped cream, marshmellow, root beer, etc.) surrounded by spooky ice carvings. Another noteworthy bar is the Broken Compass where the Captain resides and is said to be in a previously un-accessed area of the park (rumored near the 4D movie experience). Although the immersive game was extremely well hidden and difficult to begin playing, it was suggested that it can begin by interacting with characters around the park. Participants can also rent out a creepy cabana to rest in between mazes, as there are extremely limited seating opportunities at the venue.

Overall, Dark Harbor sets itself apart from other Halloween theme park attractions with its uniquely haunted location and historical characters that unite all the mazes into an overarching narrative. Revamped mazes with higher quality set design, narrative, and monsters, makes 2018 Dark Harbor the best year to date. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.queenmary.com/calendar-of-events/dark-harbor/home/

Danielle Nicole