Friday, October 20, 2017

Dark Harbor @ The Queen Mary

Hello everyone! I'm Jenny, Conbon's sister, and I've forced Conbon to let me be her staff writer, because I have commitment issues with my own blog and I've spent my entire life leeching off her.

Now that we've gotten introductions out of the way, I want to tell you about the time we got the SHIP scared out of us at Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor. Sorry, we saw that phrase somewhere in a promo email and knew we needed to use it. For those of you who have never heard of it, Dark Harbor is an annual Halloween event that features scary mazes, live entertainment, and professional creepy people. It takes place on and outside a permanently docked cruise ship in Long Beach.

I've always been fascinated and scared ship-less of the Queen Mary because of all the stories about it being haunted that I heard growing up. I was actually a little excited to attend my high school prom because it was advertised like we would be able to go ghost hunting. It turns out, a dance there really just means you get your granola bar and gum taken away and you are confined to one banquet hall and a tiny adjacent room where students do karaoke with the chaperones. That was probably the scariest part.

Anyway, Conbon and I were fortunate enough to attend Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor media preview on its opening night this year. We started off at the RIP Lounge, which overlooks the Dark Harbor (they call it a "ghost-eye-view") and has a VIP bar with all-you-can-eat tacos. We were paid visits by various creepy characters, including a gypsy violinist. It's always scarier when they look at you but don't talk. The view was pretty cool, especially as the sun was setting and the park was coming alive.

There are seven mazes total, each featuring a ghost rumored to actually be haunting the Queen Mary. The newest maze, FEAST, is inspired by a not-so-popular chef who was shoved into his own oven aboard the ship during World War II, according to the OC Register. You get a chance to feel his last moments if you choose to take the shortcut and crawl through the oven.

We went through all the mazes and my favorites were Soulmate and Deadrise. Soulmate was maybe the most creepy one because the ghost story felt most realistic. The characters, donning death masks and fancy vintage clothes, were often wearing the same costumes as many of the stationary mannequins so you never knew who was real. And it’s was aboard the boat, which itself is spooky without needing to be decorated. There were pretty antiques strewn about, which made me want to take a closer look, but don’t do it, because Graceful Gale, who was a first-class passenger who disappeared in the 1930s is looking for her soulmate and she and her friends do not discriminate.

Deadrise was the most stress-/pee-inducing. The ghouls, comprised mostly of sailors and naval folk, were pretty confrontational. We met the Captain earlier in the RIP Lounge but he made another appearance here to lead his crew on a quest to make us cry. There were a lot of elements involved, including fire, fog, and water, so be careful not to slip when someone surprises you. The whole maze is kind of an assault on all your senses so you never know what to expect next. We hid behind an old man, thinking that maybe the crew would take it a little easier on him, but I think that made us magnets instead.

All the other mazes were pretty good too:
• INTREPID: Meet the mastermind, the creator and now the protector of the Queen Mary, Iron Master.
• CIRCUS: Step right up as the Ringmaster startles with disorienting illusions, maniacal magic acts, and a cadre of sideshow freaks.
• B340: Descend into the insidious mind of Samuel the Savage to face his worst nightmares.
• LULLABY: Hush Hush don’t cry; Scary Mary is just looking for her next playmate.
• PANIC 4D: As soon as you put on your 3D glasses, you are thrown in to this 4D virtual maze of a creepy house full of all kinds of gross stuff.

Other new experiences include the Chef's Meat Locker, which is a 7-degree ice bar where you don a fur coat or you'll freeze to death, and a secret hidden bar in one of the mazes (I think we found it and, probably so as not to cause a slipping hazard, they serve jello shots).

Some other attractions include:
• SIDESHOW: Step ‘backstage,’ rub elbows with resident freaks, take in a show or a drink at the secret bar
• CREEPY CABANAS: Host a private soiree, order a freak show, enjoy instant access to Sideshow & Swings. (Please note you are not safe from monsters up here, a mistake we made.)
• SINISTER SWINGS: Take a spin on the infamous Neverland Ranch Ride.
• MAINSTAGE: DJ spins between a variety of nightly entertainment shows, plus special guest performances.

Really, the whole space is a stage. There are performers walking around constantly, sneaking up on unsuspecting guests. This guy was my favorite. He walks around on stilts, holding a severed head, which he uses to kiss people on the face when they're not looking.

There is a whole show devoted to the guys who slide around on knee pads when you least expect it, sparks flying everywhere, called Slider Alley. It's pretty mesmerizing to watch how far these monsters can slide over and under each other.

I’ve been to most of the Halloween maze events in SoCal and I have to say that for the price, Dark Harbor is pretty worth it, but get there early to hit up as many mazes as you can because it gets packed really quickly. If you want to splurge, they do have an upgrade that gets you to the front of the lines.

Dark Harbor is going on through November 1, 2017. If you are looking for a deal, Goldstar is selling tickets from $9 to $19.