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
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.