Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Review
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor is an annual month-long horror event in Long Beach, CA, featuring terrifying mazes, attractions, and live entertainment. The event takes place on the ship and outside on the Queensway Bay, set up just like a fair or theme park. Similar to other horror events, there are actors in costumes throughout the grounds that attempt to scare you and immerse you into the experience. Dark Harbor does have pay-to-see attractions that don’t come with general admission but aren’t necessary to enjoy the event. Throughout this review, I’ll cover everything that is included with general admission and touch on some of the extra attractions.
Voodoo House Pre-show and Opening Ceremony
The Voodoo House pre-show took place right outside the main entrance gate and was for VIP or Fast Fright pass guests. There was a small stage that had a few performers come on, but nothing too exciting and I was just surprised that they were asking for tips for not doing much. Essentially, the only benefit was that this allowed you to line-up right outside the gate and be one of the first into the event. The opening ceremony was only 5 minutes and featured zombie hosts that made quick jokes at the crowd. Though it was short, I liked it, had a few laughs and got me in the mood, which was the main point.
Dark Harbor had a great set up. Using just the area outside of the ship for the grounds, it was set up similar to a carnival or fair. It never got too crowded, which was a big plus. I was fortunate to come early, so I never dealt with the entrance line, but from what I saw, it was unusually long. That may be due to the mandatory security search at the beginning. All of the mazes were easy to find and the sideshow tent (which spewed fire every couple of minutes) and lounges were not overly decorated and seemed like a good investment if you had a big group. The actors all around had great costumes and, when they weren’t trying to scare you, were nice enough to take pictures. Lines for food and drinks at the bars were almost nonexistent most of the night. The event had more than enough of these stands. The only real downside was that everything was expensive, more than even theme park pricing. Other than that, this was a great way to decorate a horror event and it was well managed.
There were 6 mazes throughout that cover everything from circus terror to haunted ship horror. This includes 3 outside of the ship: “Intrepid”, “Circus Big Top Terror”, “Deadrise”; and 3 on the ship: “Lullaby”, “B340”, and “Soulmate”. Each maze included its own backstory and ranged from 5-15 minutes to get through. All of these were very well done and enjoyment really came down to whether you were afraid of these types of scares or not. The attendants were great with group sizes on all of the mazes and it never felt crowded in any of the mazes.
“Intrepid” was the new maze for the year and the first one I went through. The theme was based on the Iron Master, the supposed creator of the Queen Mary. This was the shortest maze of the 6 and was a good place to start for people that aren’t used to these events. It wasn’t too terrifying and the props were simple, yet the actors had several outlets to scare you from. I enjoyed it, but wish it was just a little longer.
“Circus Big Top Terror” was the most unique maze of the 6 and featured everything you’d expect at a haunted circus. The actors inside were great, with many in full clown/carney make-up. The best parts of this maze were the mirror maze and the disorienting illusions that you come across that made this attraction a real maze. At times, I really didn’t know where to go, which added to frightfulness. This was a maze I’d definitely go through again.
“Deadrise” was the only maze where you got wet and the costume actors outside really tried to strike fear into the guests. They themed this maze around a haunted WWII escort ship and it made you feel like you were actually on the boat, even though this wasn’t on the Queen Mary. The props weren’t too over-the-top and you never got soaked. At one point, there was a maze of cargo containers and you had no idea how to get out. I really enjoy horror mazes where they actually include some type of maze and not just a glorified tour, so this was a great, unexpected bonus.
“Lullaby” was by far my favorite maze. It takes you on the ship where you meet little Scary Mary and she tries to play tricks and pranks with you throughout the maze. I was actually terrified by this maze, simply because I had no idea when Scary Mary was going to pop out. This maze was decorated like a haunted doll ship and most of the actors were women dressed up as… you guessed it, dolls! You went through several areas of the ship and a lot of dark areas where the actors would talk to you and try to play games to scare you. By far, the scariest maze for me.
“B340” was a ship maze themed around a murderer named Samuel the Savage. This maze was pretty frightening and I enjoyed all the levels of the ship that you went through, but for the most part, I didn’t quite get the theme. This just seemed like any horror maze and didn’t really engage you much into feeling like you had a murderer coming after you. Decorations were great, but I felt like the actors on this one didn’t quite want to be there.
“Soulmates” was the longest maze and, to me, was their flagship maze. This had the biggest line and everyone coming out of it looked like they enjoyed it. It featured Graceful Gale, a woman who disappeared on the Queen Mary and now is eternally looking for a soulmate. It took me at least 15 minutes to get through and I was surprised at how in-depth this maze was. It had several levels and there were even some scenic parts of the ship that drew you into the theme. Overall, a great maze that really terrified guests and encapsulated the Dark Harbor impression.
Most of the attractions were stages on the side or near mazes, while non-stage attractions were not included with general admission and guests had to $5 to see/ride. Most of the stages were pretty bland. Not much to see and no one really stopped to watch. Even the main stage didn’t have that many people watching. Given the fact that half the time the main stage had only a DJ on stage, this is understandable. The Freakshow that attendees had to pay extra for was pretty much the same acts every 2 hours and they weren’t very exciting. It did include a short maze, but that was the only decent part. The best acts from that show were on the main stage at least once a night, so it wasn’t really worth it. The Sinister Swings were a little more worth it, but it was just like any other fair ride and nothing you had to go on.
Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor was a great horror event for Halloween and I would highly recommend it, as long as you get the front of the line tickets. Most of the complaints I heard from everyone around me were the long lines, but that can quickly be avoided by spending more on the tickets and having a better time. For general admission, it’s a worthwhile event if you have enough company with you. I didn’t have a single issue while I was there, and all the actors were very professional and never got in your face or overly tried to scare you. The last thing I would advise is to get to this event as early as possible because of parking and getting into the event. Overall, a great event that I would be excited to attend in the years to come.
Queen Mary's Dark Harbor
+ Not crowded
+ Well decorated mazes
+ Great scare factor
– Pay-to-see attractions
– Expensive food and drinks