Sunday 19 May 2019

We tried Ireland's latest escape room challenge - on a sinking ship in Dublin's Grand Canal Dock

Escape Boats is Dublin's latest Escape Room Challenge
Escape Boats is Dublin's latest Escape Room Challenge

Patricia Murphy

When it comes nights out with friends, the pub can often seem like the most natural destination but spending time together away from the pints can make for a refreshing change.

Certainly, it would be nice to wake up sans hangover after a night out with colleagues without fearing you've disclosed your darkest, inner most secrets to the office gossip, or having to face Snaps of your dance floor antics on a Monday morning.

Escape Boats is Dublin's latest Escape Room Challenge
Escape Boats is Dublin's latest Escape Room Challenge

And yet, anyone who has ever been burdened with the task of planning a work night out will know how difficult it is to find an activity that is booze-free.

Google searches bring up an alcohol-free nightclub and a trip to the Abbey Theatre, suggestions which I felt would fall very flat with the lads.

Which was why an invite to try Dublin's newest Escape Room came at the opportune time, on a sunny Friday evening in September.

Inspired by the escape trend spreading across Europe and the US, 'Zorg Ella' is Europe's first challenge built on a boat, which has been docked in Dublin's Grand Canal Dock since July.

Having previously undertaken an escape room challenge as a group, four out of six of us had an idea of what to expect. However, we learned quite quickly that our previous experience wasn't going to give us the upper hand.

The challenge is best undertaken with a clear head and that is because a team of up to six people is required to use critical thinking, teamwork and problem solving in order to triumph over the challenge, inspired by 1990s game show Crystal Maze.

Escape Boats is Dublin's latest Escape Room Challenge
Escape Boats is Dublin's latest Escape Room Challenge

Donning our hard hats, the team climbed into the ship's engine room and the door was locked behind us. From the onset, it was clear that everything wasn't going well with Zorg Ella, and if we didn't work together we might end up at the bottom of Grand Canal sleeping with the fishes.

Armed with the first clue, there was an initial panic as everyone frantically ran around trying to figure out a way to contribute to the team's success and the challenge does certainly test the dynamics of your group.

The imminent sinking of the ship almost calls out for a team member to take leadership, which is welcome for sheep like me, while in certain circumstances stepping back from the problem allowed for break throughs.

Our team did get stuck a few times when it came to the challenges, which was frustrating, but luckily we were allowed to cheat a little bit on two occasions as a vague hint from a intercom on the wall helped us on our way.

While it was frustrating to get a bit stuck, the elation when we figured something out and moved onto a new problem evoked claps and calls of excitement from the team.

Unlike other escape challenges we've completed, Escape Boats allows players to exceed their 60 minutes if necessary, and luckily we escaped after an hour and eight minutes. While we weren't as quick as Mensa, who tested the challenge earlier this year, it was a relief that we weren't as rubbish as the team who were so perplexed they had to be walked through the entire challenge by Zorg Ella's operator.

Ultimately, it allowed our group to work together and problem-solve in a different way that we've ever had to do at work and left us all feeling a bit proud of ourselves.

I won't tell fibs and say that we didn't wander to the pub for one or two after disembarking Zorg Ella, but it was certainly a great alternative to the routine post-work drinks, which gets a little stale sometimes.

And after saving a sinking ship, we deserved a pint.

For more information of Escape Boats visit

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