Escape Room players Jasmine and Stuart Wheaton from Washington, DC recently played Puzzle Break’s Escape The Rubicon on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas. We chatted with them about the experience.
Room Escape Artist: Can you give us a little background about yourselves as escape room players and cruise takers?
Jasmine & Stuart: We’ve done about 40 escape rooms, which includes our first and only escape room marathon in New Orleans last year with Room Escape Artist’s Escape Immerse Explore. We were nervous for that event but ended up having so much fun. We literally doubled our escape room count that weekend! We do escape rooms whenever we can now… but as you know it’s an expensive hobby and so we can’t all do over 700 *cough cough*.
We have been on a handful of cruises, but this one was by far the largest ship… huuuuuge!
Was the escape room a factor in your decision to go on the cruise?
We were already planning on doing a cruise. Having an escape room on board was a cool novelty that pushed us to choose that particular boat over another.
What was the process for booking the on-board escape room?
There were multiple booking times throughout each day, spaced out by 90 minutes. You could book online through the same web portal where you could purchase all other excursions and events. You could also book at the entertainment desk.
Whom did you play with? Tell us a bit about your teammates’ backgrounds in escape rooms and how they ended up playing this game.
We played in a mixed group of 8 people, composed of 4 groups of 2.
One group had played a few rooms in Kansas City before coming on the cruise. The other two pairs were completely new to escape rooms.
One beginner couple had heard of escape rooms before and wanted to try it out, since there was one on board.
The couple with experience had the same mindset as us: excited to see what a cruise ship escape room would be like.
One unique aspect about playing with strangers on a confined living space is that we saw them again over the course of the week.
Was that awkward?
Not really… it was such a big boat that we didn’t have to interact again if we didn’t want to. We could just say “hi” and move on.
What were your impressions of the experience? How did this game compare to what you expect from an escape room?
The set design was impressive, given it was on a boat. There was only one room (space is at a premium!) but it had a good look and feel to it, consistent with the theme. It was certainly more scenically impressive than many other escape rooms we’ve played.
The room was advertised in one video as having some of the “best technology in escape rooms.” There were a few big puzzle moments revolving around tech, but we had problems with some things being broken or too confusing. RFID tags and maglocks are standard tech, as far as we can tell. It’s cool tech, but not the “best technology in escape rooms.”
The gameplay was clearly intended to be team-oriented, as many puzzles required multiple people to complete them. We were given “tasks” to complete that fit in with the theme, but in reality we would just do a bunch of puzzles and then be told – either by the game or the gamemeaster – that we had somehow completed the task.
Either the room was extremely challenging, or usually everyone’s day-drunk by the time they make it to the escape room. The gamemaster told us that we were only the 7th group to beat it in 4 months!
Some of the puzzles were decent, but the cluing was poor for most of them. There was also one long, repetitive process puzzle… and the more we did of of it, the more we couldn’t help but think, “come on, why would all the crew members on the ship SPOILER REDACTED?!”
Who was “gamemastering” the experience?
One of the entertainment staff members was the gamemaster. We recognized her from other events around the ship. She stayed in the room the whole time, unenthusiastically giving hints and minor plot progression. Having multiple jobs to do around the ship every day is probably detrimental to quality gamemastering.
It was evident that the gamemaster didn’t have passion, hint-giving skills, or thorough knowledge of the game. (She had to call someone at one point to get the answer for a nonfunctional puzzle.)
Did the gamemaster give the players any background on Puzzle Break, the creators of the game, or other escape rooms?
There was a video-based introduction to the scenario and standard escape room gameplay (i.e. don’t use force.) We don’t remember any mention of Puzzle Break or the existence of escape rooms outside this one on the ship.
If you were on another Royal Caribbean cruise, would you book another escape room? And will the existence of an escape room on board impact your choice of future cruises?
Yes, we’d book one again… because it was a good deal at $20. It’s more affordable than most escape rooms and a fun thing to do when too sunburned for anything else! However, we would certainly consider it a nice-to-have rather than a selling point for a cruise. The chance to experience a different room aboard another ship would sway our decision only slightly.
Room Escape Artist Conclusion
Thank you, Jasmine and Stuart, for thinking through this unique escape room experience for our readers! We aren’t big cruise-takers… so the odds of us covering this game ourselves are near zero.
Escape rooms are a specialized business and a major undertaking. We respect Royal Caribbean for installing a game at all, let alone investing in something that looks good and adheres with current trends in escape room technology.
On the other hand, gamemastering is as hard as it is essential, especially when there’s a good chance that the players are a few drinks deep. It is a specialized job that necessitates training and requires practice. Maintenance should be assumed.
We love that there is an escape room available on these ships. We wish that the gamemastering and maintenance were more in line with the set design.
Finally… why in Poseidon’s name was the win rate so damn low? It’s on a cruise ship!