The Queen Mary’s 2018 Dark Harbor is a terrifying triumph with a killer lineup of reinvented mazes and mysterious themed bars. Four of the bars are cleverly hidden speakeasies that you can only enter by obtaining a special wooden token and then handing it over at the secret bar entrance. Getting your hands on the tokens isn’t easy. Finding them is a fun game that adds a layer of mischief to the night. I’ll talk more about those later, but first… the mazes.
All of the classic mazes return, but they have been redesigned and reimagined with diabolically genius changes to the soundtracks, monsters, and design.
New soundtracks! Visiting the mazes on board the ship used to be a quietly spooky experience. The ship is reputed to be genuinely haunted, so wandering the rusty corridors with damp salt air breezing through the heavy portholes is unsettling. Now, each maze has a fully themed soundtrack with music and a pulsing heartbeat. All night, as I walked through the mazes, I just kept thinking… this music is so damn good. It’s amazing how much the addition of creative music and sound effects can add to an eerie experience. The sound designer took the storylines of each maze and unearthed the soul that brought them to life. My favorites were the loud pulse-pounding train in INTREPID and the ghostly LULLABY.
Monsters! There are more of them. Lots more. Relying less on animatronic scares, the mazes are packed with pranksters. There’s nothing like a live actor to scare the life out of guests and Dark Harbor’s monsters are sneaky. They hide on multi-level platforms, swinging down from above and crawling out from under you. It’s thrilling and unexpected.
Design! All of the paths have been redesigned and improved. Many mazes have alternate paths that allow guests to take what I call “the easy way” or “the hard way” through a maze. A few times, I walked through a maze and then heard rumors about an alternate path, so I went through again to try to find “the hard way”. If you don’t want spoilers, stop reading the review at this point and just know that this is the best year yet for this haunt. I absolutely loved it. Run don’t walk to get your tickets. However, if you want to know some the sinister secrets I discovered at the opening night event, read on…
Secret paths! Some mazes have rooms where the maze forks in two directions. These are not always obvious. In FEAST, there is a low hole in a wall where you can crawl through a narrow passage and then inch your way down a ramp into another room. In DEADRISE, there is a rope net/ladder that you can climb up to a platform. When I climbed up, I was high above the maze line with a nice vantage point to watch others walking by. People yelled up at me, “Hey, how did you get up there?!” It’s fun to find these secret spots and then let others in on the secret. The only way down from the platform was by using a fireman’s pole or riding down a twisting slide. There are more, but you’ll have to find them yourself!
Secret bars! Four of the mazes contain hidden bars where specialty cocktails are available for sale. To get into a speakeasy maze bar, you need a wooden token marked with a symbol for the maze or you need to find a generous spirit to help you get inside. To get the tokens, you need to talk to monsters meandering in the public areas or visit The Gallows wishing well. On one side of the token is a picture of the maze identifying logo. On the other side is a drawing of something you have to look for in the maze to gain entry to the bar. I found and gained entry to all four bars with a few tokens and some help from the monsters.
Don’t want the speakeasy spoilers? Stop reading now! Just go and find them by talking to monsters like I did… or… keep reading below if you’re the kind of person who reads the last page of a book first.
The four maze bars are located inside CIRCUS, DEADRISE, LULLABY, and B340. When I arrived at media night, I was given one token for a secret maze bar to start me off. Mine was for CIRCUS. You only need one token per party, so my husband got in with me. As we entered the maze it was a bit weird to be looking for a bar. You find it by talking to the monsters inside and basically asking them, “Um, where’s the bar?” It’s kind of strange and at first, I wondered if it took away some of the immersive quality of the maze, but then I quickly decided it didn’t as there were still plenty of monsters terrorizing me before I stopped them to ask about gaining access to their secret lair.
I won’t reveal where the CIRCUS bar is located, but once inside, you’ll discover that all of the maze bars have one or two cocktails themed for that maze. The CIRCUS bar is called The SideBar and I tried a shot of whipped cream vodka with frosting and sprinkles for $6.
Secret scare buttons! My favorite things inside the speakeasy bars were the big red buttons to allow guests to activate scary special effects in the maze lines. So, while you are having a drink, you can watch people walking by and scare them. So. Much. Fun.
I got into the DEADRISE bar with help from a zombie sailor. Outside the maze, I talked to a wandering monster who, after torturing me with slight of hand for a minute, gave me a wooden token. Unfortunately, it was the same one I already had used for CIRCUS. I decided to chance it and a nice monster let me use it to enter the DEADRISE bar. The bar there is called Door 13. That’s also a clue to finding it. In this maze, the cocktail was some kind of ocean blue drink and the big red button activated a water effect which could make the guests walking by jump if you timed it just right.
The third secret bar was easy to find. I don’t know why, but in LULLABY they had opened up the path to The Broken Compass and everyone walked through it. Maybe no one was able to find it and they just gave up? I don’t know. I didn’t have a token and didn’t need one. Inside the Ringmaster was holding court and a fortune teller was reading tarot cards.
The fourth maze bar was hardest to get into. I asked all kinds of wandering monsters for tokens. Had to perform tasks, including bowing before the firebreathing priestess, and always ended up with another token for CIRCUS. I heard a rumor that there were two maze bars on the ship and two off. So, after finding LULLABY, I decided to go through B340 a second time and just ask every monster. Walking into the maze, my husband asked three monsters how to find the bar. The third time was the charm. The monster grumbled, “follow me”. I followed him to a door where he knocked. Someone slid the door open a crack, “what do you want?” The monster with us said, “This is my uncle.” The guy inside nodded, “how many you got?” I said, “just two.” He nodded again and we were in!
I didn’t sample the cocktails at all of the secret bars, but it still felt thrilling to look for them and get inside. It was fun to be in a little hiding place and press the buttons to frighten guests. It was a like being the Wizard of Oz pulling the strings while Dorothy and her friends cowered. I loved it.
Dark Harbor’s 2018 season came roaring back to life with a brilliantly revitalized haunt this year. All of the mazes are dramatically darker with more sinister monsters, ingenious secrets, and stimulating design. The Queen Mary won my dark heart with the most stylish and spine-chilling haunt this year.
To buy tickets click DARK HARBOR.
Frightful nights run on select nights through November 2.