Queen Mary's Dark Harbor has opened it's gates once again and welcomed it's victims, we mean their guests to come inside for another terrifying year of fun, screams and chills. This event is always one of our favorites year after year and 2017 looks to be even better than ever before. For the first time ever, Dark Harbor has 4 mazes aboard the Queen Mary. Feast, the newest maze at the event based on an evil chef who used to cook sailors in his meals during WWII until he was caught and cooked alive himself. The three other mazes on the ship, B340, Soulmate and Lullaby all have new layouts, taking you into parts of the Queen Mary never before seen by the public. Intrepid is back for it's 2nd year while Circus and Deadrise continue to be fan favorites. The talent across the board is full of energy and personality. The makeup artists are some of the best in the business. And the Fire show that performs twice a night on the main stage is not to be missed. Here is our full review on this year's event.
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. Gone this year is the small stage off to the side where they had live performances last year to entertain you while you waited. It was a bit disappointing to see the stage gone as it provided guests some entertainment while they waited. It is now just a large open area with some photo opportunities against the wall to your right. 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 Chef.
They exchange humorous insults before the Ringmaster and Chef 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. It's always great to see the look on the faces of guests who are there for the first time when they hear all the monsters inside waiting for them. It's a bit unnerving if you've never been before. The Captain asks the crowd one last time, "Do you want to come in?" The crowd goes crazy and the Captain states, "Then by Captain's orders, 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.
Once inside, you will find a completely new layout. Since the Princess cruise line purchased property that used to belong to the Queen Mary, the dome is no longer an option for Dark Harbor. This made for a new footprint that in our opinion was a bit underwhelming compared to years past. We felt that last year's layout was much better however we also understand the challenges the producers and designers of the event had to face this year without being able to use the dome along with adding a 4th maze on board the ship. There are 3 stages now. The main stage, the performance stage and the circus stage. The main stage and the performance stage are out in the middle and can be viewed from 360 degrees. This was an interesting way to view some of the performances however we must say that during the fire show (our favorite at Dark Harbor) some of the lighting made it challenging to truly appreciate the show. From where we were standing the first time we watched the show, there was a bright orange light basically in our face the whole time. We did watch a couple of performances on the performance stage and the lighting over there was much better no matter what angle you watched from. We will get used to this new layout, but it is not our favorite layout Dark Harbor has ever had.
Our favorite show at any Halloween event is definitely the Fire show located on the main stage at this year's Dark Harbor. 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. We have gotten to know most of them over the last 12 months and can tell you that you won't find a more hardworking, dedicated, classy group of people than this group of fire fiends. 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 2017 maze lineup is strong again. There is really only one maze that isn't very strong this year. Although 6 of the 7 mazes are Dark Harbor are mazes that were here a year ago, most of them have been changed up to give them a fresh feel. Here is our maze by maze review in no particular order.
Have you met the Chef? Of course you haven’t because if you had, you’d be dead already. He would have cooked you in one of his famous meals. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time. Enter Feast. The 4th maze onboard the Queen Mary where you will explore parts of the ship not seen by guests in decades. You will visit the cafeteria and of course the kitchen. You will be served a meal prepared especially for you by the Chef himself. This maze we feel is a better debut than Intrepid last year. It’s not the strongest maze in the lineup this year, but it is done very well. The talent was very good and pretty funny in some places. Be prepared to crawl on your hands and knees at some point during the maze. It’s not the most comfortable thing you have to do this Halloween season. You basically crawl on wood with no padding so it is a little hard on the knees. There is a way around it for people who can’t physically crawl, but if you are capable, you should do it. Overall this is a really fun maze and a good addition to the lineup. Also get ready to climb a lot of stairs as this is the only way to get across to the entrance of the maze and in turn the only way to get back after you exit. It makes for good exercise though.
Intrepid was a fun maze last year but was a bit underwhelming considering the hype surrounding it going into the event. This year, the maze has moved from the dome over to the Voodoo Village area and it is much improved. The train still sits at the entrance of the maze but gone is the multilevel path from last year, which is ok with us. There are some really great scenes this year and a lot of Scottish characters including the Iron Master himself. You get to see some of his blueprints for the Queen Mary which gets him agitated when you look at them. There is a room with some really cool melted steel props. But about half way through the maze, the story gets really murky as you head into the Voodoo Village portion of the maze. It really deviates from the original story and it doesn’t flow all that well, but the rooms are really cool and so are the characters so it’s not that big of a deal. There is one room towards the very end of the maze that is just fantastic and is something that is totally different than you’ve seen at any other theme park haunt. We won’t give any details as we don’t want to give anything away, but all we’ll say is, watch out for what lurks in the green fog. The talent in this maze is really good however there is one portion in the Voodoo Village area where the characters are wearing masks with long noses and they need to be aware of how far their mask actually sticks out. Our 2nd time through the maze we had a character pop out from the dark and stabbed me in the arm with the mask. It wasn’t that big of a deal and it didn’t really hurt all that bad, we understand things happen. But had this happened to a guest who was already in a bad mood for whatever reason, we can see a confrontation occur that could have been avoided by the talent being aware of their space. Overall we feel this maze is better this year and is headed in the right direction. We would like to see the story flow a bit better, but it’s a fun maze with lots of potential.
The talent in this maze is really good however there is one portion in the Voodoo Village area where the characters are wearing masks with long noses and they need to be aware of how far their mask actually sticks out. Our 2nd time through the maze we had a character pop out from the dark and stabbed me in the arm with the mask. It wasn’t that big of a deal and it didn’t really hurt all that bad, we understand things happen. But had this happened to a guest who was already in a bad mood for whatever reason, we can see a confrontation occur that could have been avoided by the talent being aware of their space. Overall we feel this maze is better this year and is headed in the right direction. We would like to see the story flow a bit better, but it’s a fun maze with lots of potential.
What was our favorite maze of 2016 returns as our favorite maze of 2017. Lullaby begins at the funeral of Mary. A little girl that drowned in the pool aboard the Queen Mary many years ago. It is said her ghost still haunts this ship and on your journey through Lullaby, you realize the stories are true. After attending Mary's funeral you will 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. Each Mary you find has a different personality which makes each one unique. It never feels old or stale as they all have something new to offer. One of them may ask 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. Another one tells you she wants to play marbles with your toes. Another Mary seems sweet enough until she tells you she wants to cut out your eyeballs and roll them down the stairs. The talent in this maze is wonderful and the cast that plays the different Mary's are very convincing and creepy. Major props to the Mary at the very end of the maze who is known as "Taco" Mary because she loves tacos so much. You are an amazing talent and it is always fun to watch you scare. All around a great team effort makes this the best maze of the year for Dark Harbor for the 2nd year in a row. Special shout out to the makeup artists who give Mary her different creepy looks in Lullaby. You are all so incredibly talented.
Graceful Gale. What can you say about this tortured soul? She traveled aboard the Queen Mary many years ago looking for her soulmate. All she found was death. Hers to be exact. Her ghost now wanders the ship looking for a soul to take. Will you oblige? This year’s Soulmate follows a fairly familiar path as it has in the past. At least in the beginning. You still start in the propeller room where you meet a young Gale looking for love. She often stops to chat with passengers and introduces herself. It’s a great way to introduce the character and to get guests involved early. The ladies that play this character do a very good job. They are perfect for their roles. Moving along you go through a couple of rooms where you encounter some haunted fellows before making your way up 3 flights of stairs. The stairs inside the Queen Mary are very steep. We do not know how drunk people make their way up and down these stairs. As you make your way through the maze you encounter a couple of ghostly Gale’s as well as some other creepy characters. This year’s maze felt a lot shorter than in year’s past. This used to be one of the longest mazes at Dark Harbor but not this year. Besides Circus, this one might be the shortest. This is still a fun maze but not much has changed over the last couple of years. This was probably our least favorite maze of the night. It did feel fairly empty as far as talent goes both trips through on opening night but, the talent that was in there was working hard. This maze has been at Dark Harbor for several years and though we love the story of Graceful Gale and the character, we would not be disappointed if they decided to put a new maze in this location next year.
Another maze on the ship that has been rerouted, B-340 takes you on a terrifying journey through the mind of Samuel the Savage who has been unleashed once again and this year, B-340 might be better than ever. Always one of the best and creepiest mazes at Dark Harbor, this year’s maze is fantastic. Twisted, dark and creepy, you will find yourself face to face with Samuel himself. Will you get out alive? We did, but barely. You find out fairly early in this maze that Samuel's mother had issues. Major issues. Kind of explains why Samuel ended up the way he did. As you travel deeper into his mind, you start to see the horror he has experienced and unleashed upon his victims. It is quite a wild ride. This maze has once again proven that it is here to stay for the long haul. The talent is amazing with lots of energy all the way through. This is a definite must this year at Dark Harbor. The line for this maze can get pretty long so either make this one of your first stops or upgrade to front of the line to skip the long wait-times. Major kudos to the B-340 team this year. You're the reason this maze has been around for so long and is still exciting, fun and popular.
Deadrise continued right where it left off in 2016 as one of the strongest mazes at Dark Harbor. Another new layout this year, the talent is still as energetic as it has ever been. They are very good at interacting with their sets and guests and bring a creep factor not seen in the other two mazes outside the ship. They are a great group of characters that play off of each other and off of you to make sure you have a thrilling time. Back this year again is the water effect that everyone loves to try and run past but usually fails. My biggest complaint of this maze comes from this water section. Normally it would be no big deal but on media night while walking through with our cameras, we got to the water cannon and before we stepped through that area, we announced that we had cameras and to please not shoot off the cannon. Cameras are expensive and don't handle water very well. I made this known loud and clear and when we attempted to pass through the water cannon was activated and got my camera wet. This was before the general public was let into the event and we were the only two in the maze at the time so there was no reason for whomever it was shooting off the cannon to actual shoot us with water. Our cameras did make it out ok, but this could have been very bad. My suggestion moving forward is, on media night when you know lots of media members will be walking through with expensive equipment, make sure that you are only shooting off the water cannon on those that are not carrying cameras, or video cameras. This is really our only complaint on this maze as it is still one of the best mazes at Dark Harbor and one of our favorites. The talent is around every corner and they come at you with a ferocity not seen in any other maze at this event. 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 this mazes finale.
Circus also has a new location this year since the dome was unavailable for Dark Harbor. There is a cool façade at the entrance to the maze that has creepy glowing eyes that change color. It’s a great way to start the maze. Once you enter there are multiple paths you can take just like last year. There is a mime in this room who helps you select which path to choose. But can you truly trust a mime? You’ll have to follow their lead and find out. One of the paths you take leads you straight to the ball pit. A staple of the Circus maze the last few years, this year’s pit is filled with really hard balls that roll around under your feet instead of being more on the squishy side as they have been in year’s past. When we first stepped into the pit it was very hard to walk. The balls roll around almost too much and we can see this being a bit of a danger to those wearing high heels or people who have had a little too much to drink at one of the many bars at Dark Harbor. We feel as though the ball pits of Circus past were a little better and safer. Our recommendation is to push the balls out of the way so your feet actually touch the floor, then scoot along the ground without allowing any balls to get under your feet. This is the safest and quickest way out of the ball pit. The clown that patrols the pit is very funny. Kudos to her for really utilizing her character well. After the ball pit you will encounter a mermaid in a tub, a bull on a spinning stool and a sexy bearded lady. After that you may encounter a Zoltar machine. Speak with him to see if you are deemed worthy. If you are, you might just be shown the way to a special room that not everyone gets to see. We are not going to give you any details of this new room though. You’ll have to speak with Zoltar and find out if you are worthy enough to be shown the way. The rest of the maze is similar to last year. There is the mirrored section which leads to the vortex tunnel. The ending of the maze is similar to the short maze you used to have to take to get to the Freakshow in year’s past. There is a lot of fog and bright white lights that make it difficult to see. And if you can make your way out, you’ll have a surprise waiting for you at the end.
With the new layout this year, there are a lot less food options, although there are plenty of bars. The food locations are basically tents instead of actual food places like they've had in the past. It is still fairly expensive but right on par with the price of any theme park meal. We had a pizza, an order of fries and a bottled soda. The pizza was just as good as last year even though it was from a different vendor, the fries were kind of cold and didn't have much flavor at all and the soda was a coke from a bottle so it tasted normal. We tried a churro again this year and I still thought it was pretty stale but Lisa enjoyed her half. They have a few other tents that sell burgers and such which we didn't try. Overall the food still is nothing to brag about but we've had worse and paid more. We were disappointed that there weren't as many options as in previous years. And to us there are way too many bars. We'd rather have more food options since we don't drink. But we don't go to Dark Harbor to pig out on food, we go to have fun and get scared and usually only grab a bite to eat if we get hungry. Still we'd like options and this year there just aren't that many.
Parking at the Queen Mary for Dark Harbor started at $40 this year. I know the space is limited but $40 is a bit outrageous for parking. Luckily the management team at Dark Harbor listened to the complaints and adjusted their price after the first weekend. Parking is now $20 at the Queen Mary which is the same price as last year. Major thank you to the management team for showing that your guests voices are heard. This says a lot about how you run your business and makes people want to come to your event. Another option is to park at the structure next to the Aquarium for $16 and then hop on a ferry called the Dark Harbor Express that will take you across to the Queen Mary. Round Trip is free with a valid Dark Harbor ticket. If you plan on parking at the Queen Mary, make sure to get there early to ensure they still have parking. 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 usually cheaper than a general admission ticket for Halloween Horror Nights. It is definitely worth the up-charge as lines on a busy night can reach 2 hour wait times. Being that Dark Harbor closes at midnight on certain nights, having to wait in 2 hour lines will guarantee that you will not be able to see everything. Pay the up-charge, get the front of the line and see everything multiple times. We will never attend Dark Harbor again without front of the line. It makes your night so much easier. We highly recommend it.
Overall 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. While we are disappointed in the lack of food choices, the rest of the event is as great as ever. They continue to grow and have become one of the best Halloween events in Southern California. While the mazes are not as detailed as say Knott's or Universal, they don't really need to be. They have a natural creep factor with the history of the Queen Mary. It doesn't get much creepier than walking through a haunted ship in the dark with creatures and freaks lurking at every turn and in every corner. If you've never been to Dark Harbor we highly recommend going this year. It is a lot of fun, the talent works hard and the makeup artists are amazing. Another great year at Queen Mary's Dark Harbor.
A big thank you to all the ghouls, creatures, clowns and characters of Queen Mary's Dark Harbor. You are what make this event so enjoyable. All your hard work, high energy and love for this event is obvious every time we go. Without you this event would not be as successful as it is. You all give it 100% every second you are out there and it does not go unnoticed. You are all a wonderful cast of characters, extremely engaging with guests and very camera friendly. This allows guests to go home with great memories that they will remember for a very long time. So thank you. Your hard work is truly appreciated and we can't wait to see you all again very soon. And if you see us out there and you've read this review, don't be afraid to say hi, let us know what you thought, pose for a photo. We would love to hear from all of you.