This year marks the 10th anniversary of Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor. Over the past decade, Dark Harbor has sailed through mostly calm waters, providing a consistent and enjoyable Halloween event. There have been a couple of stormy years, but a night at Dark Harbor is usually a night of good Halloween fun for a decent price. This 2019 event follows the same pattern, offering a good selection of mazes, entertainment, and food and drinks.
This year, one of our favorite mazes, “Deadrise,” was retired, with the new maze “Rogue” taking its place. Other mazes were rearranged or plussed up. Overall, we found the mazes to be a bit darker and scarier this year, but there was one huge disappointment. Read on for our maze review.
Rogue (*New for 2019*)
Brace for impact! It’s all hands on deck as a rogue wave has hit the Queen Mary, causing confusion and fear as the ship turns completely on its side, in danger of capsizing. Will the Captain right the ship? Or will he lead her and all souls aboard into a watery grave, never to be seen or heard from again…
Dark Harbor was promoting this maze as being very innovative with new techologies and techniques that would make you feel as though you were being tossed and turned, and finally flipped completely upside down. Unfortunately, all this maze did was flop. The main scene of the Captain steering the ship as he looks out of large window at the waves crashing in front of him looks impressive…but from only the exact right angle. As you take more than a couple steps through the scene, the edges of the projection screen become clearly visible from nearly every other perspective, quickly ruining the illusion.
The rest of the maze doesn’t offer much at all. The rooms are mostly bare, with a few actors shouting at you to “get out right now.” The “upside-down scene” is also a bit of a let down: a couple of wall sconces turned upside down and rugs on the ceiling didn’t convince us we were flipped under the ocean. There are some water effects that help break up the monotony, and the maze ends with guests having to walk though soapy foam. We guess this is supposed to mimic the foam that follows a big wave, but most people exiting the maze just looked slightly confused. This maze has a great concept and with the right attention to detail could be great. But right now, it seems like a huge work in progress.
Everything you have heard about B340 is true. Follow the lead detective on the scene as he uncovers the sinister truth behind one of the most notorious criminals to ever invade the luxury liner. According to ship and police reports during a cross-Atlantic voyage in October of 1948, passenger Samuel was deranged and dangerous and went on a bloody rampage against passengers and staff before being captured and locked in Stateroom B340, only to vanish. When police entered the room, the blood-soaked walls, cruel carvings, and no sign of Samuel launched a mystery that to this day remains unsolved. You don’t want to be the person who finds him.
Moving onto good news, we were excited to see that Samuel is back and more savage than ever. This maze has been much improved over the past couple of years, and it was our favorite of 2019. This one got us good with some great actors and even better scares. There are some interesting props and set pieces here, with deranged nuns forcing you to crawl through scenes, and creepy ghouls popping out from every corner.
Let The Feast begin. Our evil Chef has emerged from his watery grave to overtake our dank and dark kitchens and will present a four-course meal guaranteed to fright! On the menu this fall, Chef has prepared an Amuse Bouche of angst and anxiety, followed by our first course of death and despair. Indulge in our main course of manic paranoia concluding with a dessert of dismay and terror. Come have a seat at our table, but don’t stay too long or you might end up on the menu!
Feast is another maze that made some great improvements for 2019. Gruesome scenes of slaughter, hanging body parts, and whimpering actors begging us “don’t tell the Chef…I couldn’t finish my dinner” as they puke into a bowl were very unsettling and helped set up some effective scares. But most exciting is probably the new ending, which takes you into the engine room and through the infamous “Door 13,” where the real Half-Hatch Henry was killed. Although there are no scares in this room and the regular lights are on, it’s a very cool reminder that this event takes place in an actual historic ocean liner. There’s also a bar at the end, where you can sit down and appreciate the underbelly of massive ship.
Set up a play date with Mary, who is always looking for a new friend. Mary allegedly drowned in the First Class swimming pool aboard the ship back in ’52 and has been rumored to be haunting the ship ever since. Self-proclaimed medium Marty Roberts is hired to investigate this phenomenon by leading an exploration to the famed swimming pool and changing rooms. Be on the lookout for a little girl with a Teddy Bear, beckoning you to play games. But be careful, Mary’s friendships last forever.
Scary Mary is back and ready to play! This maze has become incredibly darker and more sinister over the years. Creepy dolls and waterlogged scareactors come from behind shredded white curtains to deliver some solid scares. However, the scenes themselves are a bit bare and could use some additional effects and props to keep things interesting. But the maze creators use the sparce darkness to an advantage, keeping the screams coming as you travel through Mary’s underwater world.
Upon the Captain’s orders – the Ringmaster has returned to The Queen Mary with her collection of freaks, allowing guests to 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! But don’t let your guard down. She is always looking to add another cohort to her traveling show.
Who doesn’t love a good circus? The maze begins in a brightly lit circus tent populated by freaks and other sideshow oddities. Other rooms featuring mirror mazes, ball pits, and spinning tunnels are disorienting and fun, but not exactly scary. (Although they are probably more frightening if you’ve been spending any time at the numerous bars throughout the event.) This is a fun maze, but we really didn’t get scared in here this year. But that’s probably the point. The maze designers seem to have purposely created a space to showcase set pieces and great scareactor makeup rather than focused on fright.
A young shipbuilder’s obsession with his creation, the unsinkable Queen Mary, lured him to the moment that would forever seal his fate. Presented by an evil sea witch with the promise of immortality and success, his choice was made, and his flesh was exchanged with the steel from the only thing he ever cared about: his ship. Follow the path of wicked choices and wrongdoings to see what lead the Iron Master to become the horrific half-metal creature spending eternity in an iron Hell.
This maze has a very strange and convoluted backstory. If you didn’t read the description, you’d have no idea what was going on as you walked through this maze. (Actually, we read the backstory and were still confused.) You begin by boarding a train, but then quickly exit into a churchyard of shadowy figures and sheet-covered ghosts attending mass. Or something like that. Honestly, we think there is a great, ambitious story underneath all of this, but it’s just really hard to figure out while going through the mazes.
But regardless of the seeming incongruity between the scenes, this maze is probably the most detailed and fun to look at. It also offers the most variety of sets and characters, as you’ll meet the train engineer, gravediggers, plague doctor characters, swamp monsters, and the Iron Master himself. You’ll be taken through a steamy train, through falling snow inside a chapel, and though the green bogs of Scotland. There are some good original scares in here, too. Ultimately, we highly enjoyed our trip through the Iron Master’s surreal story.
The Scare Grounds & Terror Tips
Queen Mary is actually much more than just its mazes. They also offer a lot of entertainment that can distract you in between screams. You can ride Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch swings, grab a beer or cocktail at numerous bars, enjoy some pretty good food, or even rent a cabana and hang out with friends all night. There’s also a DJ and dance party every night. The fun carnival atmosphere of the Queen Mary grounds is a great way to spend an October evening.
One thing we want to mention is the parking situation. Last year, Dark Harbor greatly scaled back the parking availability, requiring most guests to park off-site and take a shuttle to the event. So remember to schedule this extra time into your evening. We definitely recommend arriving EARLY so that you can enjoy the mazes while the lines are the shortest and then experience the performers, sliders, and DJs later on. As it gets closer to Halloween, Fast Fright or Evil Express tickets might be needed to avoid very long lines.
Dark Harbor 2019 is once again a good event for a great price. With tickets starting at $34 and numerous discounts available online (check Groupon or Goldstar, for example), Dark Harbor continues to be one of the best haunt values out there.