A First-Person Experience Aboard This Historic Cruise Ship
You notice the Queen Mary – indeed, start to get a bit of excitement not unlike when you were a kid riding in the backseat of a car on vacation and knew you were getting close to your destination – long before you arrive at her.
She stands tall and proud, visible across the bay from several vantage points in downtown Long Beach, CA, almost luring you to her like some type of magical, magnetic force.
One you arrive you pause for a few moments, looking straight up at her huge size, as if gawking at a skyscraper. You see a black-and-white photo of passengers departing on one of her earlier voyages and picture yourself being one of them.
Yes, being at and on the Queen Mary is cool. Way cool.
For starters, she’s a legend. She was the premier cruise ship of her day, a majestic, well, queen, crossing the Atlantic between England and America. She carried dignitaries, some of the richest businessmen in the world and the top celebrities, as well as “ordinary” passengers.
Then again, she was also a service vessel, transporting hundreds of thousands of American troops across the Atlantic to fight the Nazis in World War II. Some 15,000 soldiers crammed her decks and every open space on voyages, and because of her speed, she was never threatened by German submarines. To this day, veterans come aboard the Queen Mary and tell their stories about having been on the crossing.
Winston Churchill also used the Queen during the war for his voyages to meet with President Roosevelt.
So when you step on board, you step a bit into this history.
The decks of the Queen Mary are wooden. There are original areas such as the radio room that are preserved with plaques explaining their use at the time and historical photos of some of her of high-profile passengers. There’s a lot of brass and an art deco lobby on one of the decks.
You can walk and take your own personal tour – stopping off at the wine tasting room to get a glass of vino to take with you if you like – or better yet, see if Everett, the “captain,” is available as a guide (no extra cost; be sure and watch the video in this post).
There’s a bar up front, a few shops and a couple places to get a some food plus the more elegant Sir Winston’s restaurant, and always some type of exhibit, be it Princess Diana or Churchill.
The Queen Mary is also a floating hotel and staying in the rooms is certainly something that provides a lot more character than a lot of today’s chain hotels.
Foe one, your windows are portholes! The shower also has knobs saying “Hot Salt” and “Cold Fresh.” (Tho you do use a conventional shower head.)
But there are quirks, too. The rooms are only modestly sized at best and if you’ve got a double room, the beds are narrow and short. The showerhead comes only up to about your shoulders on a 6-foot person and the tub is in kind of a V-shape so your feet are uncomfortably at an angle as you stand in the shower.
It is around this time your realize the Queen Mary is old. She’s a grand old lady to be sure and glistens at night. In fact, she’s beautiful.
But the next day, you also realizes she’s a bit of a “Maggy May.” That’s a term I use from the Rod Stewart song – you know, “the morning light really shows your age.”
The Queen Mary is an experience and she is indeed cool. She’s worth the time. She’s also an underappreciated Los Angeles landmark. You don’t see people crawling through her surroundings to get a selfie as they do at the Hollywood sign. In many ways, she’s like a sunset, slowly fading into the distance.
The Queen does have on-board events for major holidays (4th of July, New Year’s Eve) with fireworks, a Sunday champagne brunch and special dinners, plus several other events throughout the year in an adjacent park (ScottsFest and a BBQ festival among them).
Note, however, this experience is not cheap. It’s $27 just to step aboard her, even for a drink (and a beer in the Observation Bar will set you back 8 bucks). Parking is also a whopping $18 or $22 for overnight, tho you can take a free shuttle or $5 water taxi from downtown Long Beach.
There is also a Russian submarine, the Scorpion, berthed next to the Queen Mary. It’s so small compared to the Queen you may not even notice it. I’ve been once and, well once is probably enough. In fact, I actually think it’s closed now due to excessive rust.
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