For a ship geek like me it is unessential wherever it is at high seas or just in port, a ship is a ship and it does not lose any fascination to me just because it is fixed to the pier for the rest of the time being. Particularly, when it is a legend of transatlantic travel like the astonishing R.M.S. Queen Mary. Once one of the most popular luxury liners during the golden ages of ocean passages, she is now serving as a boutique hotel and floating museum, commemorating the glamour and style of long-lost times.
Built within four years, hull number 534 entered service for the freshly merged Cunard White Star Line in 1934. Legend says, that Cunard had intended to call her Victoria instead, yet it was supposed to be his majesty King George V. who had volunteered his wife as a naming donor for the vessel.
She was one of the fastest passengers ships sailing the Atlantic ever built. During her sea trials prior to her maiden voyage in 1936, Queen Mary achieved over 32 knots which was a record at that time and still is today an immense speed for a passenger ship. She had also broken the record for carrying the most passengers (16,683 soldiers) aboard a single crossing during her times serving as troop transporter during World War II.
When speaking of overall passenger numbers, Queen Mary surpassed even the more modern and contemporary liners such as the SS Normandie by the rivaling French Line CGT. Her predominantly Art Deco interiors seemed at the time she entered service already too conservative and restrained, yet it was this traditional style that fascinated the passengers and made her a popular meeting point for the international jet set and stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Bob Hope, Fred Astaire, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo or Audrey Hepburn. Just to name a few.
Until the implementation of the first jet liner across the Atlantic in 1958, Queen Mary and her sister Queen Elizabeth were the backbones of luxurious transatlantic travel. Queen Mary was the consistent holder of the Blue Ribbon for years and her fastest crossing ever from New York to Southampton was conducted in 3 days, 22 hours and 42 minutes.
By 1965, the ship operated on loss only and Cunard decided to retire her and Queen Elizabeth shortly after. While Queen Mary had found a new home in 1967 in the port of Long Beach, California as a tourist attraction, Queen Elizabeth fatally sunk after a severe fire in the port of Hong Kong a few years later. After retiring in Long Beach, Queen Mary had completed a total of 1,000 transatlantic passages carrying over 2,112,000 passengers over an overall distance of 6,102,998 kilometers.
While the exteriors do show lots of signs of wear today, the interiors have still kept some of the glamour of the old days, taking you on a journey through the historic maritime luxury travel. Most of the original decoration has been preserved and some of the initial facilities and rooms are still accessible during tours which provide lots of interesting and detailed information about the ship itself and history around it.
Besides being a museum and hotel, Queen Mary is also used as an event location for weddings or movie sets. You will find restaurants as well as a café aboard and a few shops sell souvenirs.
The interiors of Queen Mary were fitted with 58 different woods (displayed on this hand-crafted fresco in the background). Each wood represented one of the countries belonging to the Commonwealth.
A model gallery of some of the most prominent transatlantic liners (including Lusitania, Titanic, Normandie and Queen Mary) in large-scale is set up at the port side promenade.
The First Class entrance hall features the latest remodeling of the interiors in the 1960´s. Most of the wall coverings had been replaced by then by plastic panels.
While there was some construction work going on aboard the ship, some of the venues were not accessible. We had booked the first class tour that visited the first class lounge and a first class suite while giving lots of great insight about luxury travel back then.
In order to react spontaneously to the personal taste of their premium passengers, Queen Mary held large numbers of various furnitures, carpets and color schemes in stock. If someone did not like the style of his/her suite, it could be redone instantly. First class service unsurpassed! Cunard´s service promise.
Some of the ship´s interiors are said to be haunted. Some of the ghost sightings are said to have taken place in the endless hallways and cabin corridors.
Another paranormal hotspot aboard is the indoor pool where the ghost of a child is said to laugh from time to time.
The promenade deck showcases authentic photo and merchandise material from the time the ship was in service.
The first class observation lounge in the front must have been one of the most popular meeting points on Queen Mary. It still is a cocktail bar these days.
There are lots of original pieces displayed throughout the ship. Particularly the immense handcrafted art work on exhibition is worth spending a moment to look at. There is so much attention to detail!
This first class lounge was used for the Sunday worship service and was accessible to all passengers aboard of all classes. No wonder, that it was always very busy as particularly the 3rd class passengers had the chance to dive into the luxury and decadence of first class, if even for a short moment.
Another impressive exhibition is located deep in the belly of the ship. The massive machine room can be explored and an additional showcase of original Titanic photographs and ocean liners artifacts are displayed right adjacent.
Mockups of original accommodations and public spaces aboard Queen Mary during her time as transatlantic liner and troop transporter are also very informative and give great insight into the life onboard.
Some of the original rooms are showcased inside the hotel area, such as the gym, the travel office, the second class lounge or the first class dining room.
Queen Mary was equipped with elevators and various staircases. Some of them even hold the original flooring.
The hospital at the stern of the ship. This was state-of-the-art at the time when Queen Mary was in service.
For crew only. A working spot that normal passengers did not get to see.
Ocean liners were equipped with ultra-modern radio rooms. Queen Mary´s was located close to the bridge.
Sounding a little tired, but the Queen´s horn is still working these days.
The black and red funnels, the trademark of Cunard Line.
Gorgeous views from the forward observation deck. Can you imagine the endless ocean in front of the bow?
Those life boats surely have seen better times. Thank god they had never been used.
No water slides, no surfing simulator. Transatlantic travel has been so different back in these days.
We had only planned to stay for a few hours when we boarded the ship during early noon. Yet in the end, Queen Mary casted her spell on us and there was always something to explore on each of the endless decks and in each corner. So we spent the entire afternoon on this fantastic and thrilling experience that made us eventually want to cut the ropes and sail away on the ocean of memories….
The Queen Mary
1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach, CA 90802
Info: (877) 342-0738
Hotel: (877) 342-0742