Queen Mary: Dark Harbor
As a Halloween enthusiast, I choose at least one haunted attraction each October to satisfy my need to wander through the dark, wringing my hands, and waiting to be scared. In previous years I’ve visited Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, Knott’s Halloween Haunt, Six Flags’ Fright Fest, and even the unfairly (in my opinion) maligned and now-dead Ghost Ship in Newport Beach. This year I rallied the troops for Queen Mary because it was the one anchor (pardon the pun) haunted attraction in the LA area that I hadn’t tried yet.
After some debate, my group decided to go with the $20 Happy Haunting Hour tickets directly through the Queen Mary’s website. According to the site, the tickets are discounted a few dollars because they are only good for entrance between 7 and 8 PM, in essence, the Happy Hour. Other options we considered were the Costco deal, which includes two front of the line passes for $75, or the LivingSocial deal for $22, which also included a day pass to come back in the future and tour the Queen Mary. Considering the frightful cost of some other Halloween happenings in the area, $20 – $30 is pretty good. We thought we were being sneaky going on a Sunday, which has proven successful for circumventing crowds at Universal, and by going early. Who needs to pay an extra $20 for a front of the line pass, right?
Big mistake. If you are going to the Queen Mary, save yourself a major headache and spring for the front of the line pass. We arrived around 7:30 PM and the line was already circling around the parking garage. By the way, parking is $15. By the time we got into the venue, our Happy Hour passes had technically expired for entrance. They were honored anyway because I think there would have been a mass mutiny otherwise. Another useful tip: security will confiscate your gum and mints. My brand new pack of Extra was callously tossed and I lied about my Trader Joe’s mints to keep them safe.
Dark Harbor has 6 mazes, 3 of which are actually on the ship. Because of the hour to hour-and-a-half lines, I only made it to 4 of the 6 mazes. As a Halloween completist, this really bothered me.
This was the first maze we went through because it was recommended by a staff member. It’s actually aboard the ship, and according to the map description is supposed to be like trying to escape from a sinking vessel. Although the bottom level had some simulated water leaks, once you climbed the stairs, that theme almost completely disappeared. I was disappointed that they didn’t use their own storyline to their advantage. How cool would it be to see water tanks with porthole facades containing drowning actors beating on the glass? The highlight of this maze was seeing the swimming pool with fog rolling off it and a creepy little ghoul girl running around. But once again, wouldn’t it have been much more effective to see the pool dyed or lighted blood red with ghostly passengers swimming in it? I’m seriously considering starting my own haunted house.
This was the best one for sure. It takes place in the dome that harbors the Spruce Goose. We were all surprised when we stepped into a strobing tunnel and suddenly the floorboards were yanked out from under us. It felt like slipping in a puddle. This one was also the most maze-like. A combination of mirrored walls and black curtains completely confused me at some points and I wasn’t sure where to go. If you only make it to one maze here, make sure it’s this one.
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED
By the time we got to this one, half of our group had disbanded and given up because of the wait times. This maze was definitely the longest and winds around the inside of a building. The theme was a backwoods village, featuring a creepy country murder house, a butcher, and a swamp. I have to say that even the stand alone, stationary figures inside the house were scary. The swamp culminated in a room with bodies hanging everywhere and I couldn’t tell which ones were props and which ones were actors – terrifying! The most surprising element was a section of harshly lit, bright white rooms covered in blood. After being in the dark the whole time, this was an interesting contrast.
When we came out of Village around midnight, the crowds had dissipated considerably. We were able to get into Deadrise right away. Touted as the brand new maze for 2012, Deadrise was also the weakest. The concept for this one is the wreckage of ship, captained by ghosts. The set design was really great, but that’s the extent of my praise for this one. There wasn’t anything innovative about it, just your basic ghosts jumping out to scare you.
After the final maze, we took a brief tour through the central area where all the food and merchandise was located. The general ambiance was actually very well done – shipping crates and bodies hanging from netting, zombies wandering around. The bands playing left something to be desired, but that’s to be expected.
In the end, I think Dark Harbor is definitely worth a visit, but you must have a front of the line pass if you want to enjoy your evening. I don’t believe Queen Mary expected the crowds that turned out. However, they’ve been doing this long enough that they should have known better, especially in the third weekend. Several announcements were made throughout the night changing the park closing time from midnight to 1 AM to 12:30 AM to accommodate the crowds. The closing time kept changing, which was confusing. Expect long lines just to get in the park, expect long lines at the mazes and bathrooms, and make sure you go with friends that you don’t mind engaging in long conversations.