Queen Mary's Dark Harbor has become one of our favorite Halloween events to attend every year. Dark Harbor 2016 is the best it has ever been. All 6 mazes are excellent, the talent is amazing, the layout has changed a bit for the better and the makeup artists are so incredibly talented they help bring the characters to life. Here is our full review for 2016.
The opening ceremony performed on a nightly basis at Dark Harbor in our opinion is the best of any major Halloween event. After you pass through security you take a group photo and then are held in a staging area until the event actually opens. There is a small stage off to the side where they have live performances to entertain you while you wait, barmaids walk around selling shots and in front of you is a large scaffolding with a sign, "Queen Mary's Dark Harbor". At the bottom of the scaffolding is a large metal gate. Just before the event officially begins, the Captain (one of the main characters) addresses the crowd to find out who is a Dark Harbor virgin. He is then interrupted by the Ringmaster and this year's new character, the Iron Master.
They exchange humorous insults before the Ringmaster and Iron Master retreat into the darkness. Then the Captain asks the most important question of the night, "Do you want to come in?" The crowd goes wild. He then asks, "Monsters, do you want them to come in?" The monsters begin to bang on the large metal gate and the crowd realizes what is in store for them once the gate opens. The Captain asks the crowd one last time, "Do you want to come in?" The crowd goes crazy and the Captain states, "Monsters open the gate." The gate is then opened and the crowd is greeted by a ton of high energy monsters ready to scare you all night long. It is such an exciting, fun way to kick off the evening.
The best show on the main stage this year at Dark Harbor is Fire Fiends. Performing twice a night, this group of highly skilled fire dancers led by the Voodoo Priestess herself, will keep you on the edge of your seat for 20 minutes with an array of skills, moves and performances you won't soon forget. Each member of this group is amazing at what they do and there is not a dull moment in the show. Not only are they wonderful performers but they are also a wonderful group of people. So please if you are attending Dark Harbor this year, show this fire family some love. They deserve it and you won't be disappointed.
The 2016 maze lineup is strong. There is not one weak maze this year. Although 5 of the 6 mazes are returning, most of them have been changed up to give them a fresh feel. Here is our maze by maze review in no particular order.
The lone new maze this year, Intrepid is based on the Iron Master and the building of the Queen Mary. Located inside the dome, the façade is the front of a locomotive with a giant scrim to the right that says Intrepid. Behind the scrim you can see scaffolding and sparks falling from high above. While the scrim isn't the most detailed part of a maze façade we've ever seen, it actually works with what its trying to accomplish.
When you first enter the maze, there are two paths to take. One takes you up some stairs to a second level (this was our favorite path) and the path on the right keeps you on the lower level. You are not allowed to choose your path, you are simply told which direction to go by a character dressed as a train conductor. Most of the maze is a twisted path of chain link fence, disorienting lighting and high energy talent. Overall this was a great addition to Dark Harbor's lineup. This maze gets busy fast so make this your first stop of the evening.
Our favorite maze of 2016, Lullaby begins at the funeral of Mary. A little girl that drowned in the pool aboard the Queen Mary. You then travel through dark corridors of the ship running into the ghost of Mary (who now goes by the name of Scary Mary) several times throughout the maze. She asks you if you want to play a game. Hide and seek is her favorite. She tells you to hide and if she finds you, she's going to take your head. She also will sing a lullaby or nursery rhyme, neither of which has a happy ending. The talent in this maze is wonderful and the cast that plays Mary are very convincing. Great team effort that makes this the best maze of the year for Dark Harbor. Special shoutout to the makeup artists who give Mary her different creepy looks in Lullaby.
Soulmate has a brand new layout this year. You get to go through the propeller room at the beginning of the maze and run into a young, beautiful Graceful Gale who asks you to carry her hatbox. It's a nice little touch and it's little additions like this that can keep a returning maze fresh. For the most part, this maze begins where last year's ended and ends where last year's began. The talent in here is very good. It's a very dark and creepy maze that keeps you on edge throughout your journey. Overall this is an excellent maze and should not be missed.
B340 is a creepy maze based off of Samuel the Savage. This dark twisted maze is pretty much the same as last year (which ins't necessarily a bad thing) so if you attended Dark Harbor last year you will notice the sets are virtually identical. However this maze is still scary and continues to work very well. If Dark Harbor has to replace an existing maze next year, this would be the one we wouldn't miss as much as the others. Having said that, this is still a very good year for B340 and the talent is definitely giving it their all.
Another maze with a brand new layout, Deadrise, was probably one of our least favorite mazes last year and we weren't really excited about it's return. But we are not ones to turn down a maze or experience so we gave Deadrise another shot this year and I am glad we did. The energy this year is some of the best at the event. The talent is around every corner and they come at you with a ferocity not seen in this maze before. The ending to this maze has to be one of the best and it's always fun to stand and watch people exiting. We won't give anything away but if you haven't been before, you will get a kick out of the mazes finale.
The last maze of our review is Circus. Still inside the dome, this maze has been given a fresh look. A clever and funny beginning gives way to multiple paths before meeting up later in the maze. The ball pit has returned although not everyone may have to go through it. The vortex tunnel has returned as well along with a familiar face or two. This maze has a great cast of characters who like to play with their guests. Won't give away any secrets, but if you have a clown ask you to go a specific way, just go along with it. You'll be glad you did.
The Freakshow is a combination maze/sideshow. You enter into a maze of shipping containers where you will encounter a bearded lady, a person with a shrunken head and a crude talking skeleton, among others. It then becomes very difficult to see as the lights get very bright, almost blinding which mixes with a thick layer of fog. Once out of the maze, you will find yourself near the sideshow stage. There are seats for you to sit and watch the performers, a bar and a lounge area with tables to sit and relax. There is also a tent where a gypsy will read your palm. This is a $5.00 upcharge but if you enjoy quirky little performances it is well worth it. The performers are fun, silly and energetic and make for a good time while you are visiting. We say spend the $5.00 and spend about 20-30 minutes at the Freakshow.
The food at Dark Harbor is fairly expensive but right on par with the price of any theme park meal. The pizza and fries are pretty decent and the nachos are really good. We don't recommend the churros as the one-time we ate one it was incredibly stale. They have other treats that we have yet to try but hope to before the season is over. Overall the food is nothing to brag about but I've had worse and paid more.
Parking at the Queen Mary for Dark Harbor is $20. Make sure to get there early to avoid having to park across the harbor. We always try and get parked by 5:30 at the latest and have never had an issue getting a good parking spot at that time even on a sold out night. If you get to Queen Mary at 8:00pm or later, be prepared to park across the harbor and get bused over. There is no way to really avoid that if you get there that late.
Front of the Line
You can purchase a front of the line pass for Dark Harbor that is cheaper than the general admission at Halloween Horror Nights. It is definitely worth it as lines on a busy night can reach 2 hour wait times. Being that Dark Harbor closes at midnight on some nights, having to wait in 2 hour lines will guarantee that you will not be able to see everything. Pay the upcharge, get the front of the line and see everything multiple times. There are still things you have to pay extra for even with the front of the line like the Freakshow and the Hex paintball, but those are only $5 a piece. We will never attend Dark Harbor again without front of the line. It makes your night so much easier.
Dark Harbor continues to get better each and every year and has quickly become a must see event during the Halloween season. The creative minds behind Dark Harbor are growing and evolving just like the makeup artists and the cast of talented freaks, fiends and monsters. This year Dark Harbor has proven that it belongs in the same breath as Universal and Knott's and will be a force for many years to come.