An Art Deco masterpiece
I have long had an interest in ocean liners and a visit to the RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach was one of the highlights of my trip to the USA in 1986.
RMS Queen Mary was launched in 1934 and made her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in May 1936.
She took the record for the fastest Atlantic crossing from her French rival “SS Normandie” and held it from 1938 until 1953.
Apart from her famous war service as a troop ship, she was exclusively employed on the Southampton to New York route until her retirement to Long Beach in 1967. In her new home she acts as a tourist attraction and a hotel.
She is an Art Deco masterpiece and is the sole survivor from a time before aeroplanes were the main form of trans-continental transportation. A visit to her, and especially a night spent aboard her, is like a trip back in time and is thoroughly recommended.
I spent my first night aboard the Queen Mary in 1998 on a business trip. I had jet lag and couldn’t sleep so I spent a lot of the night exploring the ship at night. Some of the places were a little “off limits”, so a special experience was made even better by the lax security in places.
I stayed again in 2005 with my wife.
After I began working in the USA more often from 2010 I was able to visit more. As of 2017 I have made five more overnight stays since including one two-night stay. Every time is magical to me. I kiss her hull as I arrive and then I just get swept up in her charms.
Here are 13 things I like most about her….
1. Her \Profile.
Although not quite as elegant or even as “Art Deco” as her great rival “Normandie”, she has a beautiful side profile. She is best viewed from central Long Beach where her starboard side can be seen perfectly from across the bay.
2. A Drink in the Observation Bar
The bar, situated right at the front of the ship, is dripping with Art Deco fixtures and artwork. They have live Jazz in the evenings and the atmosphere is pretty magical.
3. Her Wood and her Floors
The interior of the ship is decorated from woods sourced from all over the British Empire. There is a display of the different types used. The floors are mostly in Korkoid; a mixture of rubber and granulated cork that was popular at the time of her construction.
4. The Verandah Grill
The Verandah Grill is located right at the back of the ship and had a great view of the wake. In service it acted as a grill room during the day and a night club after dark. It was very exclusive and often booked up many weeks in advance of sailing.
The décor features thick jet black carpets and murals painted by Scottish artist Doris Zinkeisen. The murals are on a circus theme and are just fabulous.
In Long Beach the Verandah is kept for private events and is not usually open to the public. If you know your way around it is possible to sneak up the back staircase for a cheeky look.
5. A First Class Cabin
Most of the hotel rooms are former first class cabins. They have very comfortable beds but unfortunately they also have very thin walls. The thickness of the walls wasn’t a problem in service because the noise of the engines masked the sounds. If you end up with noisy neighbours it is best to use ear plugs. The cabins retain most of their original fittings including the old salt water bath controls (no longer operable) and bakelite handles on the original chests of drawers.
6. The Swimming Pool
Another Art Deco masterpiece. Only available as part of the extra (supplement paid) tour.
7. The Restaurant
The restaurant fills the whole width of the ship and has a large mural of the Atlantic on the forward wall. The mural would track the position of the Queen Mary as she moved across the ocean. The restaurant is theoretically open only on Sundays when a brunch is served, but in practice you can wander in at anytime.
8. The Engine Room
When the Queen arrived in Los Angeles most of her boilers and engine room equipment were ripped out to make way for a vast “museum of the sea”. The funds ran out and so the museum never happened. Ironically the only engine room to survive is now the most popular part of most people’s visit. It is a fascinating place to wander around looking at all the machinery manufactured by long-defunct British companies.
9. The First Class Lounges
The first class lounge was the main public room on the promenade deck and was where many of the passengers would spend their days on board. It doubled as a theatre too. The first class smoking lounge was directly behind it. Both are beautifully lit and decorated with art. Although both are usually roped off with no admittance signs, it is usually possible to sneak in. They are really worth a look too.
10. The Little Touches
The ship is crammed full of little design touches and displays. There is always something new to discover on each trip.
11. War Service
The on-board museum about the Queen Mary’s role in WW2 as a troop ship is fascinating and very moving. She still holds the record for the most passengers ever to embark on one vessel. Churchill loved the Mary too and crossed on her during the war. He is said to have invented the idea of the D-Day floating harbours in the bath of his cabin on board.
12. The Promenade Deck
The first class promenade is almost reminiscent of a British seaside pier. It once stretched around the whole ship. Sadly it is now mostly filled in on the starboard side but it is still complete on the port side. To me it has quite a special atmosphere.
13. Looking Forward to the Next Visit