By Cory Bilicko
Admittedly, based on reading previous years’ consumer reviews on the Internet, my expectations for the Queen Mary “Shipwreck” event were not very high. Former attendees had complained about rude security personnel, ridiculously long lines, and mazes that offered more downtime than fright factor. What were my friends and I about to get ourselves into? Would the persons in security jackets be more terrifying than the ones in black capes and gory make-up? Would we be waiting in line so long that we ourselves would be walking dead by the time we got to the entrance? And, most importantly, would the mazes be so dull that we’d die of boredom?
Perhaps because the attraction is now under new management, our experience resulted in quite a different outcome. Well, two out of three ain’t so bad, I suppose.
We dealt with security employees several times, as we had several questions about where to go and what to do next. Each of the personnel we encountered was nothing but courteous and helpful. Unfortunately, as people (primarily teenagers and young adults) were waiting in line to purchase tickets, the crowd grew overly eager and some began pushing. Security seemed to have their hands full, but we didn’t witness any rudeness on the part of their team.
As far as long lines go, those Internet complaints weren’t unfounded. Unfortunately, one of the queues was indeed so serpentine and lengthy, we waited in it for about 15 minutes then realized we’d only moved about one-tenth of the total line. So we got out of it, rather disappointed that we’d miss out on the “Isolation Chamber.” Perhaps if the event planners had instructed some of the actors to interact with those stuck in line, the wait time might not have been so fearsome. Granted, we did go on a reduced-price preview night, which may explain the large draw; other nights might be less crowded.
The mazes were actually pretty frightening. The actors (many of whom are theater students from Cal State Long Beach) were aggressive and creepy without being inappropriate. They stayed in character and each one seemed to have his or her own approach to confronting us. In fact, one or two just stood there, completely inanimate– which sometimes is scarier than the “in your face” kind of terrorizing in spook houses. At times, we’d enter a room and see several still “bodies,” trying to anticipate which of them were actually dummies and which were real folks in costume– it was hard to tell the difference sometimes. Make-up artists from the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer are on hand this year to help create the look of the ghouls, ghosts and killers, and the different areas are effectively “dressed” to create spooky atmospheres. There were indeed a few rooms that appeared to be unoccupied of creatures, but that vacancy only left us wondering and allowed our suspense to build more.
Based on the overall scares and the ambience, I’d certainly recommend “Shipwreck,” but I’d also suggest bringing along several companions so that waiting in line is not the scariest part of the evening.