Since the beginning of this year’s haunt season, the one event our Haunt Stalkers have been showing the most curiosity and anticipation about has been Ghost Ship. We were curious too, as we weren’t sure how well people who run a haunted hayride would do being out to sea. Alas, as the time grew closer for our haunted voyage to set sail, we started to become worried; not because we were scared, but because of all the bad reviews we read from the opening weekend. All along, we had purposely decided “not to attend opening weekend for this new haunt” (Terror Tip #7) to make sure they could work out any potential problems that may (would) arise. This proved to be a good strategy, as our “voyage of the damned” wasn’t as bad as we feared it would be (we actually feared for an extremely shitty experience), but it wasn’t great either. Simply put, we found Ghost Ship to be an overly priced but ambitious effort to create a new haunt experience.
Ghost Ship is an interesting and unique concept for a haunted attraction. The idea of being trapped in a confined space, such as a ship sailing in the water, can amplify the feelings of vulnerability that many already feel when going to a haunt. However, the problem is that the actual ship they chose (a modern yacht) doesn’t lend itself well to a fully immersible haunt experience. We found the layout to be disjointed, with the top deck being used for the prisoner execution show, the middle deck serving as a 1930s (or so) themed bar area, and the bottom deck housing the inmate maze, which is thematically linked to the execution show but doesn’t correlate that well with the bar sets. On their site, the story of the ship is described as a place where the most dangerous inmates in the country are held; so why would a floating prison have a bar with a piano player? And although they may have intended for all decks to appear to be from the 1930s, we don’t think that the time period was very obviously presented, preventing Ghost Ship from ever establishing a true sense of place.
When our cruise began, we were ushered to the top deck, where we were subjected to the execution show. Instead of being a show of pure horrors, it was pure comedy. We actually felt embarrassed for the (bad) actor who was trying to convince us that he was actually executing prisoners. At one point he couldn’t get his chainsaw to start up, so he just slid it across the prisoner’s obviously rubber neck. The crowd erupted in laughter, and in fact, we were all laughing throughout the “performance.” There was another scene involving a fan and some water, so if you’re sitting in the front few rows, you get sprayed, which is unnecessary and does nothing to accent the show. In addition, it was below 60 degrees and breezy out on the boat, so why would they think their guests want to get wet? That’s not scary–it’s annoying. This show was a real insult to everyone’s intelligence, and for $60, we felt it really lacked any kind of surprise or sophistication. The crowd was not pleased with this performance, and neither were we.
Moving down to the middle deck, Ghost Ship does have a somewhat nice ambiance in the bar area. This setting had decent mood lighting, a few interesting props, live music, fog, and roaming scareactors. On our particular cruise, they were also offering short-term discounts on food and drinks. We didn’t eat or drink anything on the cruise, as most of it did not look appetizing (the offerings included hot dogs and pizza that looked similar to elementary school cafeteria fare).
We also didn’t understand the cage-fighting inmates they had in the middle of the room. We’re not sure how cage fighting makes sense in the middle of a ghostly piano bar. Like the execution show, these cage-fighting monsters weren’t even the best of the worse actors. Speaking of, during our trip, there was some kind of incident between the lounge singer actor and a guest. While we didn’t see what happened, we suddenly heard a female guest scream and start claiming that the singer smacked her with the microphone and broke her fingernail. The actor claimed that the guest had touched her. As the guest screamed about her broken nail, the scareactor started cussing back at her. The guest kept it moving, but the singer kept ranting and cussing. Security did get involved–after the incident was over. While we certainly abhor the abuse or harassment of actors, we felt that this actor’s foul-mouthed reaction was out of line. Perhaps she should have excused herself from the stage to regain composure instead of going on a tirade. This really brought down the mood of the event for those of us who were in the vicinity of these shenanigans.
On the bottom deck is the short but sweet maze. Composed of only 8 rooms, surprisingly it had a few high-end props and professional looking sets, which we actually found to be impressive, especially for the confined space they’re in. We saw a lot of guests getting terrified in the maze, but in full disclosure, they also seemed like the kind of people who get nightmares after watching The Munsters or Scooby Doo. We think the groups they were letting in were too big, and a few of the scareactors were being overly dramatic, which was borderline corny. We went through the maze 3 times, as there wasn’t much else to do in this ship. It seemed like the actors were trying to stop people and stand in their way in a desperate attempt to prolong the maze. Overall, there were about 2 decent scares out of the 8 rooms, and the story line was consistent– but then, how could it not be with only 8 rooms?
After paying $60 for our tickets, we disembarked feeling pretty unsatisfied. We believe there is potential with this concept, but in order for it to work, it needs to be more sophisticated. It definitely did not live up to its promise or hype and has a long way to go before it can be considered a must-see haunted attraction in our book. Our recommendations for improvements include that they do away with the show on the top deck and make it the bar. They should then build out the maze to cover 2 decks. The maze should build more of the 1930’s nautical theme to better fit the setting. We also think that for $60, they should include some food or appetizers for free along with a couple of drinks. All of this would increase the perceived value of Ghost Ship significantly. The other option for the food and drink is that they can reduce the overall ticket price so guests don’t feel as bad about being upcharged for these items. We can understand why some people felt ripped off and upset about their Ghost Ship experience. For us, it was overpriced and not too scary, but there are worse haunts out there. Perhaps the folks from The Haunted Play should be leading the design for this event instead. With a few upgrades to the operations and overall management, this could one day be a first-rate haunted attraction. But as it stands now, it’s lost at sea.
Overall Ghost Ship Rating: 1 Skull