It’s rather remarkable when you think about it that one of Great Britain’s greatest and most luxurious cruise ships has become one of Southern California’s most popular tourist destinations. Just how that came to be I’m not quite sure, but we are happy to have her here in Long Beach harbor.
The Queen Mary could almost be considered a consolidation of two ships. The British White Star line had begun work on a ship called the Oceanic in 1928. Cunard began work on the Queen Mary in 1930, which was known at the time only as hull number 534. Due to the depression, both lines ran out of money to complete their ships. Cunard approached the British government for a loan to complete it. The loan was granted on the condition that Cunard merge with the White Star Line.
Both lines agreed and the ship was completed after 3.5 years of construction at a cost of 3.5 million pounds.
The Queen Mary embarked on her maiden voyage from Southhampton, England on May 27th, 1936. The grand ocean liner set a new standard in luxury boasting five dining areas, two cocktail lounges, swimming pools, a squash court, a grand ballroom. beauty salons, libraries, children’s nurseries, a music studio and lecture hall, dog kennels, tennis courts and telephone connectivity to anywhere in the world (quite an accomplishment for that era). She was considered the only way to travel by the rich and famous.
In August 1839 the international situation with the impending World War II was such that the Queen Mary had to be escorted from New York to Southampton by a battlecruiser. She made one more trip to New York and by the time she arrived WWII had started. She was ordered to remain in port until further notice along with the Normandie and the newer Queen Elizabeth.
The three largest ocean liners sat idle until it was decided the ships could be used at troopships. the Queen Mary’s hull and exterior was painted grey and all of the luxurious appointments removed and stored until after the war. The Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were the largest and fastest troopships involved in the war, often carrying as many as 15,000 men in a single voyage, and often travelling out of convoy and without escort. It was said that the ships were so fast it was next to impossible for the German U-Boats to catch them.
During a voyage in July 1943 while the Queen Mary was carrying the largest number of soldiers ever transferred in one ship she was caught in a gale. It was the reports of this incident that inspired author Paul Gallico to write the Poseidon Adventure in 1969. Parts of the 1972 film by the same name where the SS Poseidon turned upside down and trapped passengers trying to escape were filmed on the actual Queen Mary.
During her years in service, the Queen Mary carried over 2.2 million passengers in peacetime and over 800,000 military personnel during WWII.
With air travel gaining popularity and the age of the ship, it became unprofitable to run her. On October 31st 1967 she made her final voyage, around Cape Horn, and arriving in Long Beach on December 9th.
The Queen Mary remains “in service” today as an iconic tourist attraction, hotel and special event venue. During the daytime hours the Queen Mary offers a number of themed guided tours. After dark the Queen Mary exploits its reputation for being haunted with tours and presentations exploring the paranormal activities and ghosts of the luxury cruise ship. You can even dine with the ghosts!
It also makes the most unique hotel you could stay at in the Los Angeles area. The well appointed staterooms herald back to the 1930’s and are very posh. You can experience first hand why the rich and famous would only travel on the Queen Mary. There are restaurants on board, and just ashore you have the restaurants and shops at Shoreline Village and Long Beach.
The Queen Mary is located at:
1126 Queens Highway
Long Beach, CA 90802
More information is available on the Queen Mary website.
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