Let's Stay On The Queen Mary In Long Beach

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The Queen Mary Hotel at Seaport

You could call the Queen Mary a floating museum, now that she is permanently dry docked in the Long Beach, California harbor — but she is much more than a icon of a glorious past.

Queen Mary StatisticsShe is emotional nostalgia.

She is a representative of not only an era of distinguished travel, but also a huge Art Deco memento to the still living veterans of World War II. The Queen Mary was a major instrument of war, then of peace. She ferried thousand of troops from the Pacific theater from 1940 to 1942 and then from North America to the European theater — and she still to this date holds the record of the most passengers carried on a single voyage — 16,000 Gis.

Many of the exhibits onboard the Grey Ghost are representative of her days as a troop carrier. Longer than the mighty Titantic, the Queen Mary was the fastest ship on the high seas, even the Wolf Pack U-boats couldn't keep up to her amazing 28.5 knots. Why was she called the Grey Ghost? She was painted a military camouflage grey and she glided through the starry, wind swept waters like a ghost — and if you take the Ghost and Legends Tour, you will learn that many passengers thQueen Mary Historic Time Lineat died on-board (over 40) during her trans-Atlantic crossings often reappear at odd times and locations — dressed in vintage period fashions.

And then there are the 330+ British sailors that were killed in a highly top secret and tight-lipped disaster. The Queen Mary was so fast that one of her escort cruisers, the H.M.S. Curacoa (Kir-A sow-a), tendering her off the coast of Scotland, crossed her path and proved too slow. The Queen sliced through the cruiser's mid-section and sunk the warship in minutes, taking those lives to their secret, watery grave — and the news never appeared until after the war to avoid alerting the Axis powers of her true North Atlantic route. The accident barely caused a ripple in the Queen, but a large section was gouged out of her bow superstructure, and you can see where the replacement steel was welded back in on the Ghost and Legends Tour.

Cruise From Long BeachThe Queen Mary is more than a museum or keepsake for an entire war generation. She is also today a fine dining experience and a wonderful 365-stateroom hotel. You can voyage from the past to the present in the museums, but the real artifacts are the staterooms made up exactly as they were during the Queen's magnificent heyday.

The warm paneled woods and huge staterooms now offer outside cabin porthole views over the harbor of Long Beach. At one time you could draw warm seawater (heated by the ships enormous boilers) or freshwater for your bath — with special soaps provided for the seawater bathing that was de rigueur of the day. Queen Mary still provides comfortable quarters and special milled soaps and toiletries, and maybe when you wake up in the morning for your morning juice your breaStay On The Queen Marykfast companion will be one of those ghostly apparitions reading the morning newspaper in your suite's antechamber. Don't laugh or mock — there have been such reports — and on many occasions, and recently.

I indulged myself for the all-inclusive experience as a modern-day passenger and I was amazed at the new renovations that included air conditioning and internet access, data ports, touch-tone direct dial phones, and king, queen and twin beds.

Stay At The Queen MaryThe ship was the first to use that innovative material of the times — plastic — Bakelite is found on certain areas of her hallway handrails. The Queen Mary has the latest in fitness equipment, and a bustling business center. During her epic classical era the Queen had a squash court, swimming pools, grand ballroom, and a small, but well equipped hospital.

Just about every section of the Queen Mary is now open for exploration. What a beautiful ship she is and I feel jealous that I am denied North Atlantic passage on her foot polished decks, rubbing elbows with the elite of North America and Europe. Celebrity passengers have included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Liberace, Jack Benny, Gloria Swanson, and other Hollywood and royalty types.

The Queen Mary is now a private enterprise leased from the City of Long Beach, which paid more than $3 million to bring her to the port in 1967, a port that once was a hub of Liberty ship construction during World War II. My mother was a riveter at the Long Beach dockyards, so she must have known the harbor well.

Sip Brandy at the Observation BarThe Observation Bar is where Clark Gable once sipped Brandy as he made his way across the Atlantic — and the venue is still alive with fabulous sunsets and distinctive drinks. It is located near the Chelsea restaurant.

For a fine dining enjoyment, Executive Chef Tom Tassone creates an epicurean excursion daily. Named 2001 Chef of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers Association, Chef Tassone overseas the culinary efforts on-board, including those at the 4-star Sir Winston's (named after Churchill — and many of the The Chelsea for Fine Diningsuites are also named after historical personages — Churchill, Eisenhower, The Windsors, etc.).

Sir Winston's is strictly a formal restaurant located on the fantail, and it is the signature dining spot on the Queen Mary. I dined this evening at Chelsea, a less formal experience with wide harbor-side windows and still first class, most famous for its seafood. The gold-award winning nitery is open Wednesday through Sunday evenings. Reservations required for both Sir Winston's and Chelsea. But of course, the Queen has a majestic wine list. Did you doubt? During the day I dined at the Promenade Café or the coffee and bakery shop, or if you are here on a Sunday, partake the famed Champagne Brunch featuring more than 50 food stations! Wow, the Queen knows how to live! Long live the Queen!

To know the Queen you have to take the tours — there are numerous guided tours, or you can take the Self-Guided Shipwalk Tour. I really recommend the Ghost and Legends Show highlighting the haunted history of this stellar steel giant. The Treasures from the Queen Mary Archives and the Behind The Scenes Tour are a great prelude to the World War II Guided Tour or the exceptional tour of the Cold War era "Scorpion" Russian Submarine floating alongside at the Queen's guay.

Visit a Legendary Ghost I booked myself on the Ghost and Legend Tour, and I am sipping a hot cup of joe (Gi joe moniker for coffee) from the starboard bakery before the tour begins, then I check out the replica posters in the Times Past antique poster shop on the Promenade Deck. The entrance to the Ghost and Legends tour is outside and you actually walk into the lower decks from a doorway cut into the Queen's bow. I look down the curving graceful lines of her traditional colors of black and red stripes painted ship length, but the aft is lost in the curves and horizon. She is so huge! With over ten million rivets holding the eight-foot-long hull plates together along her entire 1,019 foot length, the Queen had plenty of muscle — 160,000 horsepower —to move the 81,000 gross tons of steel.

There are still reported and recorded testimonials from people that see ghosts on the Queen, so I had to check out the veracity on the $4 million exhibit taking up over 25,000-square-feet of space within the bowels of the ship's bow, where the former boilers, now removed, were located. The most stunning aspect of the tour is when the ship slams into the simulated Caracoa — the boiler room fills with steam (fake, non-lethal variety), there is a dramatic change in temperature, ghostly images, special weathered ceilings and walls, electrostatic charges and a phenomenal water effect making me wonder if I will become one of the dark denizens of the ship's depths to later appear in a different time and a different era.

The first class swimming pool is no longer in use, but it is a familiar site for apparitions. Do you see the footprints made with no earthly body? The Art Deco pool is a vortex for the other side, according to clairvoyant paranormal experts. There are reports of women in vintage bathing suits, the sound of splashing water, and children laughing near the pool. I must admit I felt a tingler jump down my spine.

As a member of the Allied Forces The Grey Ghost traveled 630,000 miles and transported over 880,000 personnel to help win the war. In fact, the ship was Sir Winston Churchill's command post at sea. Later, she brought back war brides from Europe.

The Ghost Ship In The Pacific TheaterThe new World War II Guided Tour is well worth the time. You will see original gun turrets, glass encased sleeping quarters, top secret coding devices, the infirmary, and military adorned mannequins. After the tour I peered into the communication center on the top deck near the bridge. I saw a figure seated at the massive wireless, and I thought it was a mannequin. But the figure jumped up and started talking and I was shocked — thinking I was speaking to a ghost. But it was Pacific theater veteran James Null, and he explained that the Queen Mary still has the original working wireless equipment and the ship now is the clubhouse for the Associated Radio Amateurs of Long Beach, and you can chat with him daily via HAM on call letters W6RO. Now that is a living legend.

Queen Mary on her Maiden Voyage Arrive in New YorkThe Queen Mary was considered the most luxurious ocean liner ever to sail the Atlantic and she is included on the National Register of Historic Places. His Majesty King George VIII and Queen Mary of England, the grandmother of the present Queen Elizabeth II, attended her 1936 Maiden Voyage christening at Southampton, her home port. The Queen Mary was launched at the John Brown shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland in 1934. It took two years to outfit the staterooms. She made 1,001 transatlantic crossings. She opened to the public in Long Beach in 1971 after her last voyage around Cape Horn (she was too big for the Panama Canal).

Queen Mary Calendar of EventsThe Grand Ballroom was considered the most elegant public place on the ship, located midship, below the Promenade Deck (all first class cabins were midship — considered the most stable, with the most room), and in those times, open only for first class passengers for entertainment and dining functions. The ballroom is now know as the Queen's Salon and is open to the public on tours, and for special private events.

There are two ornate firesplaces in the salon, once at each endThe Grand Ballroom now called the Queen Salon as it appears today.; the ceiling is about two to three decks high, with tiles carved in curlicue art deco motifs. The orignal drapery is gone, but has been replaced with exact replicas, as has the furniture. First class passengers gathered here in the evening to watch first run movies on a large drop down screen that is still operational. While on the general tour you will note the filigree, and maybe notice the lady in waiting gowned in white — a ghost she is — waiting for the next opulent party with dancing on the marble floors with her friends that never arrive.

The Queen Mary is open year around as a hotel, restaurant, museum, shops and galleries, but also there is the Royal Wedding Chapel on-board, and the Queen Mary staff caters to all your needs for any function. You may want to be a guest for the big band orchestra entertainment and spectacular gala and fireworks on New Year's Eve, or the Scottish Highlander event in February, the Fourth of July fireworks display, or the infamous Holloween party each October; book all events far in advance.

The Queen Mary is dry-docked at 1126 Queens Highway at the south end of the 710 Freeway, on the water. Carnival Cruise Lines built a new cruise terminal nearby, and started serving passengers there in 2003. Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose, the world's largest airplane, is no longer hangered at the dome near the Queen Mary, and the dome is now used for civic and private functions catered by the Queen Mary staff.

You can pick up the Aqua Bus and AquaLink water taxis at the Queen Marina for only $1 during the summer months. These water taxis are a fast catamaran taxi operated by the Long Beach Transit A
uthority. They link the Queen Mary and the West Coast Hotel to Catalina Landing, Aquarium of the Pacific, historic Pine Avenue, Shoreline Village, Parkers Dock, and Alamitos Bay Landing. Long Beach Transit is reached at 562/591-2301; for private party charters call Catalina Express at 310/519-1212, ext. 4.

Book A Suite On The Queen Mary
Lovers of the Art Deco super liner era will be enraptured with this news. The Queen Mary sails again. The new Queen Mary II launched in 2004, and she will again fly the flag of Cunard Cruise Lines, extending the heritage with honor. She is expected to be the largest, and again, the most luxurious, and again, the fastest cruise liner ever built — and she will sail the North Atlantic routes that the Queen Mary originally steamed with posh pomp and circumstance.

By Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine. Read the Jetsetters Magazine feature "Sunday Champagne Brunch With The Queen," and, "The Scottish Highland Festival and Games," hosted at the Queen Mary.

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