Monday, March 2nd ~ On board the Queen Mary
I was so excited to have my sister and brother-in-law stop by on their way to Arizona. Their time with us was limited, and we opted to take a day trip to Long Beach to tour the Queen Mary. Built by Cunard line in Clydebank, Scotland, she was originally known as job #534.
Although Cunard had maintained a legacy of naming their ships with names ending in “ia” such as Mauretania, Aquitania and Berengeria, legend has it that the tradition was ended due to a miscommunication of sorts.
“As per protocol, legend states that the Cunard directors went to ask King George his blessing of the ship’s proposed name saying, “We have decided to name our new ship after England’s greatest Queen,” meaning Queen Victoria, the King’s Grandmother. Upon which the King is reported to have stated, “My wife (Queen Mary) will be delighted that you are naming the ship after her.” ~ queenmary.com
What a story this grand lady has! Often compared to another great ship, the Titanic, she comes out on top with some pretty impressive statistics. Queen Mary VS Titanic:
The Queen Mary is longer (1019 ft vs 883 ft), heavier (81,237 vs 46,329 gross tons), faster cruising speed (28.5 vs 21 knots), more powerful (160,000 vs 46,000 horsepower), newer (1936 vs 1912 maiden voyage), taller (12 vs 9 decks), had more crew members (1174 vs 860), and yet was designed to carry fewer passengers (1,957 vs 2,440).
Of course the statistics that stand out the most, is that the Titanic sunk on her maiden voyage in 1912 after hitting an iceberg, where as the Queen Mary went on to complete 1001 transatlantic voyages.
There are several different tours offered. Planning on spending most of the day there, we chose the Historical First-Class Passport tour which is a combination of several of their best sellers. Currently $33 per person if purchased on site, you can save a couple of dollars by booking online. There are also AAA and senior discounts available.
First up was the guided Glory Days Historical Tour which highlighted her history, and accomplishments including setting a speed record that held for 14 years.
During her first three years she shined as the most elegant ship afloat. Carrying dignitaries such as Winston Churchill, Hollywood celebrities like Bob Hope, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Elizabeth Taylor, and Audrey Hepburn, and even the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
She served as a military transport ship during WWII, and then returned to passenger service in 1947 before being decommissioned in 1967. She now sits in the Long Beach harbor and is being used as both a hotel and tourist destination.
We visited some of the main salons, strolled along the promenade, admired the 56 different woods used in the construction, walked through the corridors and checked out a suite.
I loved that in the bath you had a choice of hot or cold salt water and/or hot and cold fresh water.
One of the most impressive things I learned about the Queen Mary, was the huge numbers of service personnel she carried during WWII.
“Dubbed the “Grey Ghost” because of her stealth and stark color, the Queen Mary was the largest and fastest troop ship to sail, capable of transporting as many as 16,000 troops at 30 knots.” – http://www.queenmary.com
Every inch was utilized, including draining the swimming pool so it could be outfitted with bunk beds. The soldiers ate, slept and exercised on three different shifts according to the red, white or blue badge they were issued upon boarding.
Up next was the Ghosts and Legends tour. The Queen Mary has a reputation for being haunted with unexplained happenings a fairly regular occurrence. This tour discusses the legends and most frequent “sighting”, as well as a chance to visit the old boiler room and the First-Class swimming pool where regular paranormal activity is said to occur.
Time for a lunch break at the Promenade Cafe. The onboard restaurant has a varied menu which is a little pricy, but the food was flavorful and well presented. The service was sadly sub-par but that is sometimes simply the luck of the draw.
I did love the view though from the Cafe windows!
In the afternoon we were on our own for a self-guided audio tour. We picked up our headphones and proceeded to wind our way to explore the balance of the ship which included the bridge, captains quarters, communication center, upper decks, lower decks, chapel, infirmary and engine room.
Some additional pictures from the engine room:
Throughout the ship, information placards were hung that gave fascination details about a variety of topics including quarantines and burial at sea, the names, ages and nationality of stowaway passengers, and legendary entertainers that performed on board.
Interestingly (for me anyway), in the old days, when a crewman died at sea they were sewn into their hammock and just as they were to close the shroud, the final stitch went through the deceased nose, I guess in an effort to determine that they were in fact dead.
This turned out to be my favorite of the tours we did during the day. I was able to simply take my time, and enjoy each room. Just FYI, the audio tour is free for any guest staying onboard at the Queen Mary Hotel.
Also right next door (and included in our tour package) is the Scorpion Submarine. Built in what was then Leningrad (St. Petersburg today), this Soviet top-secret attack submarine served the Russian Federation for 22 years during the Cold War.
We climbed down the steep metal ladder and entered into a claustrophobia inducing narrow corridor that made me wonder how on earth it could possibly carry 56 sailors, 10 midshipmen and 12 officers.
Starting with the missile chambers, moving through tight round port-hole style doors, we also investigated the captains tiny quarters, crew bunks, communication center, kitchen/dining area, and of course the guts of the metal tube, the engine compartment.
My sister has experienced deep diving on a small exploratory submarine, Alvin, during her time working with USGS, and I think this submarine seemed roomy to her. I was in the other camp, and honestly thankful when I climbed up the ladder and back to fresh air.
Intriguing – yes it was, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone with an interest in military history, submarines, or any nautical vessels. But if you have limited flexibility, or uncomfortable in confined spaces, this may not be for you.
And what about staying overnight? If you are from out of the area, and are looking for a unique place to stay with a variety of things to do in the area, you might want to consider staying here. For information on room types and rates, you can click here.
This might help you plan your stay: Other things close by
Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful for being able to spend the day with my sister and brother-in-law. Living in different states, we do not have the luxury of just hopping in the car to simply visit over a cup of coffee on a moments notice. So, the times we do get together are special indeed!
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The Queen Mary sounds fascinating Joanne – definitely right up my street. Love the story about the deceased crewmen too – ouch!! We’ve been on a submarine in dry dock a few years ago – so claustrophobic, I’m with you on that. Couldn’t imagine spending weeks under the sea on board.
Joy, I’m not as limber as I was in my younger days and crawling through the submarine portholes between each compartment was a wee bit more challenging than I had imagined. I did get a few laughs at my own expense though. Seeing the Queen Mary was lovely. She has started to deteriorate some after all these years, but you can still get a wonderful feel for how magnificent she was in her prime.
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What a beautiful ship!
Clara, she must have been something when she first started her voyages. If you closed your eyes you could almost imagine being on board “back in the day”.
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I loved the tour, thanks! We sailed back and forth to Europe as a family when I was 12. We went over on Holland America’s newest ship at the time the Rotterdam, all shiny and modern, and returned on the oldest ship in their fleet – the Nieuw Amsterdam, very elegant. Because of my father’s job, we went first class which was quite divine, even at 12.What a wonderful way to travel
What an adventure – especially for a 12 year old! I’m sure you have some very special memories of that trip with your family.
what a fun, interesting day! I think I would have been uncomfortable on the sub, but I can see myself being QUITE happy on the QM!
Quite an era and a fun glimpse into the glamorous past years.
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