Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Queen Mary's Dark Harbor 2014: Review.. Encounters

Another fast year had passed by and it was finally time for our 8th Annual Halloween Trip! Can't believe that we have been doing this for almost a decade.

My brother was kind enough to let me borrow his nice & expensive camera. Before I invest a good amount of money into a nice camera I wanted to see if a better quality camera would make a major difference to the blog. There are a lot of pictures. About 200 to be exact for day 1.

Now onto the pictures.

I have been waiting for this trip all year, as I do every year. So once I got to the airport it really set me into vacation mode.

On the cover of SkyMall this month is the Doodle in 3D pen.

After a quick flight we arrived in Santa Ana/Orange County.

Picked up our rentals and headed straight for Amber Waves located at the Knott's Berry Hotel.

I have been stopping by this bar every year and this year was no exception. We arrived around 2 pm. Which is earlier than usual. The decorations were up, but the lights were on so it didn't really have the right atmosphere. The bartender told me that the lights will be going down soon after he finishes setting up the bar. The bar was quite lively for 2 pm.

I was glad to see that they had changed a few items on the menu this year. Drinks and food wise.

The Jack O' Lantern's Revenge.

Toothless Witch with a severed food gummy.

The Hypnotize garnished with a glow stick, the lights weren't turned off yet, but I'm sure it would have been a cool effect.

I think the spider egg sacks are a new addition this year.

Killer Cucumber.

Fire Starter

We were all buying drinks for each other. I somehow ended up with more than I can handle.

Alvin and his fiance Catherine eventually arrived to our little get together.

They eventually dimmed the lights. I believe that as time goes by it gets darker and darker until the lights are fully turned off. Usually a few hours before Knott's Scary Farm opens.

I still miss the fog machines and Halloween music they used to play.

For every Halloween shot you get a souvenir shot glass. We were gathering quite a collection.

Last year Peter got orange vampire fangs. Since we were there early they didn't have them out yet and had to go to the office to grab some for us. This year they were glow in the dark fangs with candy blood gel.

Nicole was trying to put on her fangs, but was having trouble.

and now she's ready.

Jason's fangs seemed to fit him perfectly. They actually look like his regular teeth.Even Ashley is shocked. Jimmy is just a drunk vampire at this moment.

Glow in the dark fangs and candy blood gel.

Eventually the other patrons left and we were the only ones in the bar.

More shots.

Pierce intensely watching the Seahawks & Comboys game.

After spending a few hours at Amber Waves, it was time to check into our hotel.

We had such a great experience at Hotel Maya  that we decided to stay there again and also visit Queen Mary's Dark Harbor.

This is a really nice boutique hotel. Nothing fancy, but we love the amenities and atmosphere of this hotel.

Wrist bands for pool access and complimentary warm cookies!

At the last minute Thi was able to join us for her first Halloween Trip with us.

While we were checking into the hotel. Jimmy and the others went and got us some pre-Dark Harbor snacks and drinks.

Nicole and Ashley got comfortable in their room very quickly.

The best view of the water from their room.

After we settled in I met up with Son, Alvin, and Catherine at the restaurant bar.

Fuego restaurant

After a quick snack and a drink at Fuego, we headed down to the waterfront lounge area. This is one of the reasons we like this hotel. They have a really nice area where you can lounge around by the water with really nice, comfortable furniture.

And fire pits. This one is gas, but there are others in the sand pit area that use reall wood.

Jimmy and Jason were able to get an employee to bring out a Hookah for them.

Pre-Dark Harbor drinks and snack.

Eventually an employee came by and lit the pit for us.

It was nice just hanging out and having drinks by the fire.

Around 7:30 pm we headed over to Dark Harbor. Dark Harbor is within walking distance from Hotel Maya. The side walk leads you straight there.

It was Ashlie's first Halloween trip with us also.

It was Jimmy's first time also.

Had an amazing time at Dark Harbor last year that we had to come back this year. There were a few new things for 2014.

We bought the fast fright and I highly recommend it to everyone. Even though fast fright is almost the same price as another ticket, it's really worth it not having to deal with the long lines. You even have a separate fast fright line to get into the event.

This year instead of having everything scattered, they centralized a lot of the food, bars, and entertainment.

Our first stop was the bar of course. This year for the first time they offered bottle service. I had inquired about it a few weeks ago, but after seeing the menu prices for the bottles we opted not to get it. Prices were a bit ridiculous, but when we arrived we were able to talk to someone and I guess they lowered their prices.

and so we ended up with bottle service.

First you pay a flat $99 fee to secure a cabana. Doesn't matter how many people are in your group. The cabana easily fit the 10 of us. The cabanas area is also roped off so we had a nice area to hang out separate from the crowd. The couches were very nice and brand new.

There's also a security person stationed at the cabanas so we had to get wrist bands.

We ended with 4 bands. 1)Dark Harbor ticket 2) Fast Fright 3) Cabana 4) ID check

They had originally priced two bottles of 375 ml of alcohol for $299 and that is really expensive, but when we spoke to them they had lowered their price to $200 for a 1 liter bottle of goose. I'm sure they had other options, but we didn't ask.

The bottle came with whatever mixers we wanted. After having a few drinks we headed off to our first maze.

Just look at that long line.

After the first maze (which I can't remember the name) we hit the maze right next to it.

Regular line on the left and we're in the fast fright line.

After that we were right back to our cabana. Of course with bottle service you have a server. Our server said he could get us any of the food in the event and so that we didn't have to wait in line.

Boy did he deliver. Loaded fries.

Also got a whole pizza.

BBQ platter. It came with ribs, skewers, pulled pork sandwiches, and grilled jalapenos. I think it came with a few hot dogs too, if I remember correctly.

After some food and more drinks it was time for another maze.

Since Peter didn't go with us this year the group talked me into doing a pistol (one legged squat) it didn't end well. I blame you Peter.

After a few laughs we headed to the maze Circus. This maze was not as great as it was last year.

For the first time every Dark Harbor was offering a premium haunt experience. Encounters. Which cost $15 a person and requires you to sign a waiver. I have done a premium haunt once and that was at Knott's Scary Farm in 2012 "Trapped" which was an amazing experience. So I was hoping for something similar. Since Dark Harbor barely opened on 10/2 there weren't many reviews that I could find about Encounters. What I had read so far on Yelp was that Encounters was not worth the money. We decided to find out for ourselves. When you purchase tickets for Encounters, you pick an appointment time. We chose 11 pm.

Here we are signing our waivers.

After signing the waivers, we were escorted to a big room which had rows of chairs and a film playing. We just watched the film until it was our turn.

I don't want to spoil anything for anyone that will be going to Encounters, but I will tell you that I don't think Encounters is worth the money one bit. I really regret not listening to the Yelp reviews on this one. It was a huge waste of money. There were probably about 3 cool effects, but other than that it was a waste of money. Huge disappointment. The build up to our appointment for Encounters and signing the Waiver was more exciting than Encounters itself.

But the people that did review Encounters suggested to check out the freak show which is only $5 a person. I passed it up last year thinking it was a museum of something but heard it was a cool little museum/haunt. So after being disappointed by Encounters we hopped into the Freak Show and it was worth every penny. I highly recommend if you haven't been before.

They space our the groups very well for this and that's all that I can say.

After we got back to our table. Our server was kind enough to pack all of our food items.

It was around 11:45 pm we decided to see if we could get on one more maze. So we tried to get on Voodoo, one of the new mazes for this year. To our surprise they wouldn't let us into Voodoo. They said that they had close for the day, but I argued that it wasn't midnight yet. The worker told me that they shut the line down based on the amount of people in line. So that by midnight everyone in line has gone through the maze. I think that policy is pretty stupid. Around this time our server had showed with my final billing statement and credit card charged. I signed and it and gave em a nice tip. We had been tipping all night. We're in the service industry and understand the amount of work that is done so we always like to take care of our servers. I asked our server if he could get us into Voodoo and he worked some magic and was able to get us onto Voodoo for the night.

Relaxing after a long night.

That's it for day 1. Got a long day tomorrow at Disneyland.

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