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Barry Pollack's "Going Places"

The Queen Mary - Long Beach


The Queen still reigns in Long Beach. It has been more than sixty years since the Queen Mary's maiden voyage. And for the last thirty years, this great ship has sat moored in Long Beach harbor, the largest floating hotel in the world, and an indelible part of the Long Beach skyline.
The RMS Queen Mary (562-435-3511) is easy to find residing at the very end of the Long Beach Freeway. The QM is not simply a place for a traveller to find a "room and a meal," it is rather a theme hotel. But unlike some Vegas resort that pretends to be someplace else, the Queen Mary "is what it is," a great ship with a remarkable history. While some may walk through the QM and and find it shabby chic with its teak decks well worn, portholes closed shut with decades of thick paint, others will look beyond its age and discover a living memorial to an era of lost grandeur, glamour, and courage.
When you stay in the Queen Mary, you stay in a hotel one describes not in "stories high" but in tonnage, 81,000 tons to be exact. It is a place where rather than "checking in," you "come aboard." You stay in a "stateroom" not simply a "room." And you look out at Long Beach's skyline through a porthole, not a window.
The staterooms are more spacious than you find on today's cruise ships, and they are comfortably appointed with fine and rare polished woods on the walls and built-in art deco furniture and fixtures. Daily rates vary from $99/night for an inside cabin to $650/night for a royal suite. There are several elegant "salons" that serve as wonderful venues for conventions, parties, and weddings. In fact, after thirty years in Long Beach, many of the Queen's current visitors are those returning again to recollect weddings and graduations held long ago. There is a spa, fitness center, several fast food restaurants, boutiques, and, of course, fine dining. There are three restaurants with beautiful harbor views - the Chelsea, specializing in sea food; the Promenade Café, with an art deco ambiance open for breakfast, lunch, or dinner; and Sir Winston's at the stern of the ship, a first class restaurant with food and service that revisits an era long gone, days when "classes" were separated aboard ship, when the price of a first class ticket could equal the cost of a home and a car, and only the super-weathy travelled in such grandeur on the sea.
Ships officers, each with their own credentials of real sea experience, wearing bemedalled navy uniforms, meander about the ship eager to answer your trivia questions about the QM. Ask and they'll tell you -
RMS Queen Mary stands for "Royal Mail Ship."
It was called the "Grey Ghost" during World War II. Converted to a troop transport, it holds the record for carrying the most passengers on a single voyage - 16,000 men. Hitler offered a bounty and the Iron Cross to any U-boat captain who could sink her. But the Mary was too fast. It could outrun a torpedo.
The QM is not content to just be a hotel. It is a tourist attraction. You can take the ship's "Historic Guided Tour." Visit aboard a Russian submarine moored alongside. Experience a Disneyesque "Ghosts and Legends" special effects guided tour deep into the bowels of the twelve-story ship, a tour that mixes real history with bizarre phenomena rumored to have taken place aboard the QM.
You can relax, shop, party, meet, and dine aboard the Queen Mary. But if you come here, I suggest you come not to just to "stay" but to "imagine." The list of the famous who travelled aboard her is a Who's Who of 20th Century celebrity. Your stateroom may have once been inhabited by Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, William Randolph Hearst, or Alfred Hitchcock. Its decks were tread on several wartime voyages by Winston Churchill, and since by Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and a multitude of kings and queens. So, if you go aboard, enjoy the ship and its amenities, and imagine yourself a part of history.