Queen Mary's Dark Harbor 2016: Review

Dark Harbor: Scares and Laughs

One of the most anticipated events of the season is Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor. The event features three mazes on the ship, two inside of the old Spruce Goose dome, and one on the festival grounds. A highlight of Dark Harbor are the numerous stages with constant, rotating performances from a variety of side show performers. The monsters that roam through the crowds are highly interactive and know how to balance scaring the daylights out of you, and stopping to pose for a selfie. Management also allows entertaining slider shows. Sliding is a technique created by Knott’s monsters decades ago. While staff at Knott’s still utilize this technique, their higher-ups have stopped the once popular displays of their athleticism. Luckily, for fans, Queen Mary embraces this. There is only one new maze this year. “Intrepid” can be found inside of the dome. The Iron Master character and his band of minions promise you will have a frightfully good time. In terms of concept, “Intrepid” manages to use many techniques unique to the marketplace. Upon arrival, guests will enter through the engine of a steam engine. The conductor will split groups up on separate paths. One path will take you straight into the maze on the ground level. The other will send you up a flight of steps onto a catwalk, where you will be able to see the action from up above. Both paths rejoin halfway through the maze, and you will be able to choose from multiple paths to the exit. You will need to do this maze more than once to get the full experience. Upon return, if the Captain sends you the same way, politely ask him to go the direction you haven’t been. The other five mazes return this year with slight variations. “Deadrise” is in a new location on the midway and seems a bit longer. “Circus” has been pushed back further into the dome. “Lullaby” and “B340” have slight variations, and “Soulmate” take a slightly different path.

Upcharge (and highly recommended) experiences include a 4D theatre (tons of fun), a swing ride, and paintball. Each is an additional $5.00 cost. The “Sideshow” is a favorite way to escape the crowds, sit down, and enjoy personalized acts with numerous photo ops with the characters. For $5.00, you can enter and exit as often as you like, and the area features its own private maze attraction.

The mazes on the ship itself present a bit of a challenge based on available space, but the designers do their best and the talent will haunt you. The mazes off the ship rival that of Knott’s and Universal. As previously mentioned, “Intrepid” is one of the best mazes of the year. Dark Harbor excels at atmosphere and talent. The actors are in it to win it, and know how to work a crowd. There is a returning cast of characters that guests seek out to see and take photos with. No other event has been able to brand itself in this way.

If you really want to splurge, go for the VIP ticket, which includes an entrance ticket, a front of the line pass, two drinks, and all-you-can-eat tacos on the deck above the grounds.

My only complaint in previous years has been addressed… security lines are much quicker now and gates open earlier to allow guests to queue and visit the bar before event begins. Arrive early though, the parking lot fills early. If you don’t park in the main lot, you must be bussed from the overflow, wasting time. One can simply enter Dark Harbor and not do any of the mazes and have a great time. The event gets better and better every year!

Mazes: Intrepid (10/10) Deadrise (10/10) Lullaby (9/10) Soulmate (7/10) B340 (7/10) Circus (7/10) Shows: Various/Ongoing (10/10) Slider Show (10/10) Upcharge Attractions: Sideshow (10/10) Swings (10/10) 4D Theatre (8/10) Paintball (N/A)

For more information and hours, visit www.queenmary.com