Dark Harbor 2018 Review
The Captain, The Ringmaster, The Iron Master, Scary Mary, Samuel the Savage, Chef, Graceful Gale, The Voodoo Princess... they're all BACK (and with a vengeance)! The Queen Mary's Dark Harbor gets better every year. The event plays off of the history of the famed ship and its haunted lore. The creative team has come up with a cast of characters that are the focal point for the mazes and entertainment. The atmosphere is that of a haunted carnival, with numerous stages, roaming performers and monsters, slider shows, and bars. While the event is confined to a relatively small footprint, those limitations have not impacted the offerings. Guests have access to 7 zones, 6 mazes, 4 stages, Slider Alley, and more than a dozen bars and restaurants. Upcharge experiences include a swing ridge, a 4-D movie, and hookah lounge... all of which are not to be missed.
Those wanting an adult beverage need not look too hard, as there are numerous bars located throughout the property. Not so noticeable are the secret bars hidden within three of the mazes. In order to access these bars, guests must secure a token. Earn these tokens by interacting with staff and characters out on the streets. Once the token is in hand, it is up to you to find the entrances. The bar inside the INTREPID maze offers an elevated view of the those passing through. The entrance is not easy to find, and it was designed that way.
In terms of mazes, there are six this year. This number is one short of last year, but all been significantly upgraded. The three off-ship mazes have seen major changes done to them, and for the better. This year, Jon Cooke of Knott's Scary Farm fame lent his hand in enhancing the experience throughout the event (and it shows). All six of these mazes had little faults to being with, and the updates have made them even better.
theFUNnelCakeBlog's two favorite mazes this year were INTREPID and CIRCUS. Both have been favorites in the past, but this year they offer even better set pieces and special effects. INTREPID looks amazing, and CIRCUS is playfully scary. FEAST, which debuted last year has a new home on the opposite end of the ship, occupying Graceful Gale's old spot. Despite utilizing a previously used location, the maze is brand new. Not to worry, the famous "oven" scene from last year is still there!
In terms of entertainment, it is non-stop. From being greeted by various performers as you wait to enter, to stopping to watch aerial acts, to fire dancers, to sideshow oddities, you can spend an entire night just seeing the shows and never setting foot inside of a maze. On the streets, the characters from the mazes roam free amongst other monsters, all of whom are willing to stop and take a photo between the scares. This is something both Knott's and Universal prohibit, but it works incredibly well at Dark Harbor. In the age of selfies, Snapchat, and Instagram, it's almost as important for guests to get a picture with the talent, as it is for them to walk through a maze. The staff do an amazing job of juggling the reason they are there... to scare, with obliging almost every guest with their photographic requests. In addition to the roaming talent, something Dark Harbor has become known for is their "slider shows." The practice of sliding was born at Knott's Scary Farm. While monster sliding is still done on a nightly basis at Knott's, management put an end to the athletic displays of it years ago. This is also something Dark Harbor embraces open heartedly and showcases several times a night through choreographed shows. The slider shows are a highlight of every visit. The last few years, the Dark Harbor sliders have invited their friends from other theme parks to join them for shows on closing night. If all of this were not enough, you can upgrade to VIP status and enjoy a buffet and drinks on the platform outside the ship for a birds-eye view of the event. For those wanting the royal treatment, private tours and cabanas are available. For $5, you can take a ride on the swings, direct from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch. For another $5, head onto the ship for a 4-D movie (this is a TON of fun, and should not be missed... even though it lasts less than 10 minutes).
Last but not least, The Ice Cave offers a unique experience. For $9, guests enter a bar that is kept at just 9 degrees. Put on a warm parka, and enter for Vodka tastings. You choose from a variety of flavors. We tried the lime, root beer, and birthday cake. But, the plum was our favorite. Dark Harbor has found its niche amongst the competition and they do it well. Although their parking price is higher than any other attraction, the ticket prices are more affordable than other comparable events. Overall, the offerings are well worth the parking and entrance fees. The event scares and entertains. Every year we make multiple visits, and every morning after Dark Harbor, we are left with the feeling of wanting to go back the next night. When you go often enough, you actually look forward to seeing the cast of characters each visit. Look for The Ringmaster and say "hello." Just don't take her away from her sippy cup!
The Queen Mary's Dark Harbor runs select nights through November 2, 2018. The late running date allows staff from other haunts the opportunity to enjoy the event. More info at queenmary.com Enjoy the photos from opening weekend below!
Bound for eternity. The restless Iron Master combs the earth for elusive artifacts. Join his journey through the Scottish Highlands by hopping aboard the Intrepid Express from the Jon Brown Shipyard. First Stop: Edinburgh cemetery, and Roselyn Chapel ruin said to be teaming with sprits. Will you escape the lore of the Norsemen? Note: New scenes and scares elevate Intrepid to one of theFUNnelCakeBlog's top 3 mazes of 2018!
A ghostly voyage damned to an eternal war against the living helmed by The Captain. Head to boot camp with Half-Hatchet Henry and traverse the treacherous remains of the vessel as it rises from the deep. To escape this perpetual hell, find your way into the eternal light. Note: Secure a token, and look for the secret bar with a view of the maze below.
Sneak into the rickety traveling circus the night before it opens for an adventure you never bargained for. Discover the freaks lurking within the shadows of the big top. Think you out-witted the Ringmaster? Your curiosity could be your demise.
Note: Newly designed, Circus scares and entertains. Mirror, mirror... tell me where the secret bar is!
The other three mazes are located on the ship itself. In FEAST, you're late clocking in for your shift aboard the Queen Mary and your only chance for survival is to escape the wrath of the Chef. Meet Samuel the Savage in B340. Take over for the late detective of the infamous Queen Mary murders of 1946 which drove him to his untimely demise. Descend into the bowels of the ship on this hunt for the murderer. In LULLABY, beware of the bear! It is believed that those that encounter Teddy suffer the same fate as the youngest resident spirit, Scary Mary. Sneak through her eternal nursery, while avoiding her childish games.
Non-stop, park-wide entertainment sets Dark Harbor apart from its competition. Make sure to see the slider show!
For $9, enter The Ice Cave for Vodka tastings! For $5 each, take a ride on the swings and see a scary 4-D movie!
Decorations and atmosphere galore in this haunted carnival setting with a picturesque backdrop.