With much fanfare,
Queen Mary arrived in
Long Beach Harbor on December 1967 to begin its well deserved retirement
after 30 years as the premiere luxury liner sailing the waters of the
North Atlantic Ocean.
|The Queen Mary as a top attraction
The conversion to change Queen Mary from an
ocean going luxury liner to a floating hotel, tourist attraction and
venue for special events began almost immediately. The retired “Queen of
the Seas” opened to the public at her now permanent home in 1971 and
more than 50 million visitors have since walked its decks.
In case you were wondering, the R.M.S in the title means to
“Royal Mail Ship.”
Queen Mary represents another age when the only way to cross the “pond”
was by ship and the most luxurious ship was the Queen Mary.
She was the fastest on the transatlantic route and the epitome of
|Her Royal Magesty Queen Mary
brief time-line: The birth of the
Queen Mary was a long and laborious process. Plans to build her were
drawn in 1926.
Construction began in 1930 but was suspended in 1931 because
of the Great Depression. Eventually work resumed and the ship was made
ready for launching in 1934 even before the engines, superstructure and
interiors were added.
England’s King George V
made the opening speech and his wife, Queen Mary, announced that the
ship would henceforth be called…guess what?
Her Majesty Queen Mary then launched her namesake by breaking the
traditional bottle of wine against the ship’s prow. Interestingly, the
ship’s namesake never took passage on the Queen Mary during its time at
Today’s mega cruise ships, mostly traveling in
circles with a compliment of up to 5,000 guests and a myriad of onboard
entertainment resemble nothing less than floating theme parks.
Current sea going passengers
would understandably view the Queen Mary and its accommodations as
quaint, lacking the glitz they have come to expect. But the venerable
Queen Mary had something missing in our modern society - ELEGANCE. First
Class was just what the words meant…FIRST CLASS.
This aura permeated throughout the ship no matter what class you
|First Class on Queen Mary
When she entered
service, the Queen Mary was the most luxurious cruise liner in the
world. With its Art Deco
designs, paintings and sculpture the entire ship was a floating art
gallery. She was also known
as the “Ship of Beautiful Woods.”
Throughout the ship, 56
different varieties of wood veneers were used for decoration and design.
Many of the woods are rare and probably have never been seen by
most people. Some woods are so
rare they will probably never be used again in public displays of
The Queen Mary’s maiden voyage took place in May 1936, traveling from
Southampton, England to New York City.
She quickly became the most
popular liner plying the North Atlantic, but it was to be a relatively
brief run until after WWII ended.
England declared war on Germany in May 1939.
The Queen Mary was detained in
New York and in March 1940 was drafted into service as a troop and cargo
ship sailing the globe delivering soldiers and much need war supplies to
far flung ports of call.
She would remain in this service for six years.
In service as a troop ship during
The Queen Mary was designed to carry 2,030
paying passengers. During
the war years the number of passengers (military personnel) per trip was
increased to 15,740. On one
crossing the number of troops transported rose to 16,683, a record that
has never been surpassed.
The total recorded number of troops carried during her “military”
service is reported as 810,000.
Another item to be added to her history is that she was never
attacked by the enemy.
the end of WWII, the Queen Mary was refurbished to her peacetime
splendor and resumed passenger service in mid 1947.
During her peacetime service she carried 2 million passengers.
Today, reasonably priced “hotel” rooms on the
ship, once considered first class accommodations, are available to
guests. These accommodations make most of the current crop of
motel/hotel rooms appear to be oversized closets.
Judged by any
the Queen Mary reigned, she
was the epitome of luxurious ocean travel. The ship’s personnel were
available 24/7 and strove to satisfy passenger’s needs no matter how
trivial. Many regular First
Class passengers would check first to see if their favorite steward
would be on-board during their crossing before booking.
Classes of passage:
It is interesting to point out the differences in passenger classes.
The common perception is that First Class, Cabin Class and
Tourist Class meant Top, Middle and Bottom locations on the ship.
Actually “class” locations were determined by the smoothness of
the ride at sea.
was in the middle of the ship (top to bottom) because it offered the
smoothest sailing. Cabin Class
was in the stern (rear) and
Tourist Class was toward the bow often giving these passengers a
roller coaster ride through the frequently turbulent waters of the North
accommodations had amenities not available to most Americans at the
time: cold air (from sea water), heated air from the boiler room and
en-suite bathrooms that might look a bit dated today but at that time
were the height of luxury. Bathtub
faucets even delivered hot and cold fresh or salt water.
Personal service was
one of the elements that made Queen Mary the premiere luxury ocean liner
of her day. Passengers in the First Class staterooms could even request
that the color scheme in their suite be changed for the passage.
class suites normally consisted of 5 rooms. The smallest suite had 3
rooms and the largest offering an amazing 10 rooms (a combination of
bedrooms, sitting rooms, bathrooms, dining rooms, and rooms for maids
and/or valets). The Duke
and Duchess of Windsor when traveling the Queen Mary usually bought 80
pieces of luggage to their suite and had another 75 stored in the cargo
But with the coming of
fast, reliable, affordable air travel, the Queen was no longer
profitable to operate. Speed was sacrificed for comfort and elegance. In
May 1967 the Cunard Line announced the Queen Mary would retired and
sold. The he City of Long Beach, CA submitted the high bid of
The Cunard Line
agreement with the City of Long Beach required that once docked in her
final resting place she would never sail again.
All of the boilers were removed from the ship.
The huge space created was turned into an Exhibit Hall for Trade
Shows, Conventions, Bridal
Shows and Proms, all events which today help pay some of the bills.
Without this agreement, the mighty Queen Mary would probably have
been turned into scrap years ago.
Visiting the Queen Mary
is a trip through time. It is
strongly recommended that visitors take one of the many available guided
tours for a proper understanding of the ship’s operation, history and
art. Every part of the ship
has a remarkable story to tell.
The uniformed ship’s officers leading the
tours will point out many locations which might be familiar to movie
goers and TV fans. These
locations were the exact spots at which a mind boggling number of movies
and TV shows filmed on the Queen Mary. Tour participants will visit the
Art Deco Bar on the forward observation deck, the ship’s wheelhouse,
Princess Di’s exhibit, the Queen Mary Exhibit Hall and many more points
of interest throughout the ship.
|Bridge of Queen Mary
Writer, Commodore Hoard &
We were honored to have Commodore Everette Hoard as our guide. He has
been with the ship for 33 years and knows every nook and cranny on the
Queen Mary and is an unending source of information about her history.
There are a variety of
eateries and restaurants on board from the elegant Sir Winston’s
(Churchill) to the Promenade Restaurant and even a sandwich shop.
On Sunday there is the ever
popular, magnificent Sunday Brunch in the ship’s Grand Salon.
It can be relatively quiet on the decks of the
Queen Mary during the week. But on weekends the Queen can rock with
entertainment and special events and as previously mentioned, the
fabulous Sunday Brunch.
I know people who have never been on-board a
ship of any size.
Just boarding a ship tied to the dock makes them queasy.
Here is an opportunity for them to experience a shipboard
experience without worrying about motion sickness.
Tied to the dock and surrounded by a breakwater, there is no
motion at all. The Queen
Mary is the only remaining transatlantic ocean liner from the “Glory
Days “of the golden age of ocean liners still afloat.
|The Forward Deck
Personal observations: The Queen Mary is at rest in her last and
For those of us who have lived her history and are familiar with
her accomplishments, visiting the Queen Mary for the first time is like
going on a pilgrimage. My
wife and I were born the same year the Queen Mary had its maiden voyage.
It was an honor for us to at
last have the privilege of finally walking her decks.
At 77 years the old
girl is starting to show her age.
The city of Long Beach owns the Queen Mary and it is obvious from
a visual inspection that the ship needs some restoration. The Queen Mary
is the city’s major tourist draw and the city should do everything
within its power to insure that the dowager queen of the seas pus her
best face forward for her visitors.
My suggestion for you
is to visit and savor the experience.
When she is gone, there will never be another ship like her. As
the Brits say, “Long Live The Queen.”
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