Queen Mary 1 - Homage to Ocean Liners

| March 1, 2006

If you want to learn as much as possible about ships, nothing beats a stay at the Queen Mary Hotel and Museum in Long Beach, California. This is the original Queen Mary, not the mega-liner Queen Mary 2 launched two years ago. Permanently moored in Long Beach Harbor next to Carnival Cruises' anchorage for ships visiting Mexico, she is the perfect hotel for a pre or post-cruise stay, and with several gourmet restaurants, live entertainment venues, shops, museums and even a "ghost tour" led by world renowned expert in the paranormal, she is worthy of a visit in her own right, to pay homage to the queen of ocean liners. See the complete photo gallery here

Built in 1936, the ship was acquired by Long Beach when Cunard decommissioned her in 1967. The bid of a mere 3.45 million dollars was accepted by Cunard because the city promised to keep the ship in its original condition. And so they have, her elegance on regal display. You will visit rooms graced by the world's most infamous and beautiful people, from Winston Churchill to Marilyn Monroe, Liberace to Leonardo DiCaprio (during the recent filming of The Aviator).

Theater - scene of Aviator
Churchill Suite

You can sleep in one of her third or second-class near original staterooms (updated with fridge, phone, TV and Internet) at the price of a decent hotel. Or you can opt to sleep in the same suites as Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary or even Winston Churchill inhabited. On my recent visit, I stayed in the Winston Churchill Suite - a beautiful set of rooms. What a feeling it is to share a common experience with one of history's immortals.

In her day, Queen Mary was the largest and fastest ship in the world - winning the Blue Riband for the fastest Atlantic crossing at the time; averaging over 30 knots. I was surprised to see a ship built in 1936 still qualifies as big. At over 80,000 gross tons and 1000 feet long she is bigger than the average cruise ship was just 10 years ago. And her average cruising speed of 28.5 knots is faster than 90% of cruise ships today.

Churchill Office
Churchill Bedroom
Fresh Air Vent

One could easily spend two full days seeing and experiencing every painstaking detail so lovingly preserved by the Long Beach maritime historians.You will learn about the history of "cruising" from the days when ships were called "liners," transporting passengers across the world's oceans. You will come to appreciate the rich historical culture of onboard traditions like formal dinners, high tea, art galleries, and live shipboard entertainment, and gain a deeper insight of ship technology today by seeing where it originated.

Russian Submarine

The Queen Mary complex actually encompasses several attractions in one. Along with the ship, which is a true museum with displays and interactive features, you can also tour an actual Russian submarine tied up alongside, or visit a separate museum contained within the bow of QM1 currently dedicated to the Titanic (this exhibition may change).

Tours Guided tours are available to walk-ons and hotel guests alike. Walk-ons (a day-pass for $23) and Overnight hotel guests get the "self-guided tour" included at no extra charge. Hotel guests also get and the haunted encounters tour. The following tours are offered at different times (varies daily depending upon demand) and for different prices for day-passes and guests. There is no set schedule of tour times, which makes planning a little confusing. I recommend you call the tour desk at 10:00 am the same day to see how the schedule is shaping up. The number is 562-435-3511 x1050.

Once you get onboard, head directly to the tour desk on Promenade deck, mid-ships portside to get the latest scheduling.


The self-guided tour (free to everyone who comes onboard) is the best tour of all and I recommend planning to spend at least three to five hours on it. You meander from the engine room to the smokestack, visiting all kinds of memorabilia along the way. The actual museum artifact display area are hidden away in the bow of the ship and contains re-creations of the original suites, and first and second-class cabins. You can see the original tea sets, linens and decor as well as pieces of historic significance. There are also relics of the war years when the ship was commissioned as a troop carrier for American GIs going to Europe.

Be sure to get the map for this self-guided tour and plan to take the recommended route to see everything and more. There are a thousand nooks & crannies to discover between the various pinpoints on the map.

The Guided Tour Mostly a short art-walk with a guide who will take you to the grandest rooms to describe how they were used in her liner days, and who created the various art pieces contained in them. You will learn what modern day movies were filmed in each of the rooms including "The Aviator", "Poseidon Adventure", "The Godfather" and many more.

Haunted Tours
Haunted Encounters Shows you all the places where supernatural events are said to have occurred. When we arrived at the ship, the manager told us, "The Queen Mary is about hotel, food and ghosts." Personally, I care about hotel, food and history, but for ghost chasers, there is plenty to do here.

Ghosts and Legends of the Queen Mary Another supernatural tour using special effects during an hour-long walking tour to various haunted places of the ship.

The Historical Tour Covers the war years when the British government recommissioned QM1 as a troop carrier. To accommodate all the GIs the ship was refitted with bunk beds in stacks of five and as many as 17,000 souls would sail on every crossing, sleeping in shifts. The guides tell me that to this day they are visited by veterans who took one of those rides.

Dine with the Spirits A regular weekend sellout, at an impressive $109/ticket. It is the guided dinner and tour with Erika Frost, a world-renowned paranormal researcher who takes guests on a supernatural ship tour. Featuring moving bed sheets and locker-dwelling apparitions, the tour is said to sometimes last long past 2:00 a.m. Her tour begins with a dinner in the haute cuisine "Sir Winston's" which is nearly worth the price of the tour in itself. This tour always sells out, so a reservation is recommended.

Queen Mary - Dining with Erika Frost www.ErikaFrost.com

Scorpion Russian Submarine Moored next to the Queen is an actual Russian submarine from the cold war years. The huge torpedoes painted with the U.S. flag symbols were especially amusing. So was the office of the "propaganda officer" who answered to no one, not even the captain.

See pictures of the Scorpion here

If you have never been inside of a submarine this is a special treat. To see the tiny living quarters for eating, sleeping and toiletries boggles the mind. And the fact that this tour of a Russian, Cold War era submarine is run by Russians makes it even more interesting.

Titanic Museum The stern of QM1 has been converted into a separate display museum currently showing a tribute to the original Titanic. It contains many recovered artifacts and beautiful scale models several feet long to show you how every inch of the ship was appointed.

Marilyn Monroe On the top "Sun Deck" is another memorabilia museum that is currently dedicated to Marilyn Monroe. Frankly, there was so much more ship-related stuff to see we didn't look inside, but it shows there is something on board for everyone in the family.

Queen Mary Tours Price List: The Queen Mary is open for tours from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm daily. Restaurants & Lounges have extended hours. Ask at the hotel bellman's desk for entrance to ship for restaurants after hours. Tour prices for hotel guests are between $5 to $10 apiece. ( Except submarine & Titanic which are separate concessions)

General Admission with Self-Guided Tour Adult (ages 12- 54) $22.95 Child (ages 5-11) $11.95 Seniors (ages 55+) $19.95 Military (w/ID) $19.95 Russian Scorpion Submarine Adult (ages 12- 54) $10.95 Child (ages 5-11) $9.95 Seniors (ages 55+) $9.95 Military (w/ID) $9.95
First-class Passage - Includes: Ghosts & Legends Show Scorpion Submarine Tour Behind the Scenes Tour World War II TourAdult (ages 12- 54) $29.95 Child (ages 5-11) $18.95 Seniors (ages 55+) $26.95 Military (w/ID) $26.95 Haunted Encounters Passport - Includes: Ghosts & Legends Show Paranormal Research Center Self-Guided Tour Adult (ages 12- 54) $25.95 Child (ages 5-11) $14.95 Seniors (ages 55+) $22.95 Military (w/ID) $22.95
Historic Combination - Includes: Self-guided ship tour Scorpion Submarine Tour Scorpion Submarine Adult (ages 12- 54) $16.95 Child (ages 5-11) $12.95 Seniors (ages 55+) $14.95 Military (w/ID) $14.95 Titanic Museum Adult (ages 12- 54) $16.95 Child (ages 5-11) $12.95 Seniors (ages 55+) $14.95 Military (w/ID) $14.95

See the complete photo gallery here

Restaurants The Queen Mary has several award-winning restaurants to accommodate all tastes and styles.

The most casual is the Promenade Cafe, winner of the Southern California Restaurant Writers 2004-2005 Sterling Award for American Cuisine. Ph: 562-435-3511 x1595

The Gold Award goes to the Chelsea for its seafood cuisine. Dress here is business casual. Reservations are suggested. Ph:562-435-3511 x1595

Finally, for elegant dining, you will want to try Sir Winston's. This restaurant boasts the Southern California Restaurant Writers 2004-2005 Golden Sceptre Award for Continental Cuisine as well as a silver for its wine. The pricing is not that much higher in this restaurant than the other restaurants on board, and it boasts excellent service, panoramic views, and a delightful menu. The dress code is semi-formal - jacket, no tie. Ph: 562-499-1657

On Sunday, the Grand Salon offers a spectacular champagne brunch in an upscale setting originally the first-class dining room. This is the only time this room is open to the general public not on tour, and it is a glorious setting where many movies have been filmed. If you happen to be here on Sunday I would definitely try this. Ph: 562-499-1606

Do not pass by "California Shakes" for a one of a kind, sure to amaze you, milkshake creation. Located right on the promenade deck, it offers 48 different kinds of shakes as well as smoothies, sodas and mochas. They will even customize gift baskets made up of California fruits and nuts.

If you are staying on the Queen Mary, there is no need to go elsewhere to eat. Menus are available online at www.queenmary.com.

Katt Tait
If you want a lower room rate and a quiet stay to see the history of the ship then stay during the week. The ship starts to hop on the weekends.

Appearing in Sir Winston's on the weekends is accomplished jazz and torch singer Katt Tait, sitting alongside the piano and taking requests.

The Observation Bar is a stunning art deco bar with etched glass and wooden frescos adorning a 180-degree view over the bow of the ship. A quiet drink here on a slow night would be thrilling enough, but on our particular weekend there was a karaoke Elvis impersonator that seemed quite out of place, but nevertheless managed to keep the roomful of drinkers amused.


The smallish show lounge of the ship is the adorably cute "Tibbies" which features a six-piece song & dance repertory offering "The Fabulous Forties - a Song & Dance Tribute to a Swinging Era". The show costs $60/adults, $30/children and includes dinner. The show was engaging and professional. I had personally worked with one of the singers during my years as a cruise ship stage manager, so I know these are veteran sea-going entertainers.

Shopping There are a few select shops on board, a Thomas Kinkade Gallery and one featuring Asian and Oriental treasures. There is a darling tee-shirt shop with comfortable nautical, and naughty gal wear. My favorite was a shop on ship lore that offers collectable books on liners, cruise ship souvenirs, scale models of famous ships, and those original Queen Mary tea sets for over $1000.

Getting There The closest airport is the Long Beach airport. If you have a car you simply get on the Long Beach Freeway and go as far south as possible until it ends at the ship entrance on Queen's Way. The ship is close enough to downtown Long Beach, including the Pike Amusement Park, that one could spend a day shopping with no fear of getting lost at all. Getting to downtown from the ship would be about a $6 taxi ride. Or you can rent a Segway scooter right outside the ship.

Enterprise Car Rental has a drop-off office right next to the ship, and the Carnival Cruise pier. If you are booked on one of these Carnival cruises you could consider renting a car at the airport, driving it to the Queen Mary, and dropping it off.

Buses: the 232 line starts at the LAX Metro terminal, and ends in Long Beach. You can take the Metro 232 bus from LAX lot C to downtown Long Beach (Broadway and Pine) for about $1.25. It might take an hour to hour and 15 minutes, but is very cost effective.

From Long Beach airport, the #111 city bus goes from the airport to downtown Long Beach and the waterfront area.

Long live the Queen.

Queen Mary: 1126 Queen's Highway Long Beach, CA, 90802-6390

Hotel: 800-437-2934 www.queenmary.com

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