Day 3 of the NACUFS IDEA ’16 conference, and the morning after our evening of Angels baseball watching, Johann and Carl decided to skip the early sessions to instead act as tour guides and take me for some sightseeing of the area. Our first stop for the day: The Queen Mary ocean liner museum ship, moored in Long Beach, California!
Now a floating hotel and museum ship, The majestic RMS Queen Mary is a retired luxury ocean liner that sailed the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967, bowing out of service following the dawning of the jet age (which marked the beginning of the end for transatlantic passenger services on the whole).
Build for the Cunard Line in Clydebank, Scotland, the luxurious (and gigantic) Queen Mary was fast enough to hold the Blue Riband accolade a handful of times, earning the award as it shuttled its 2139 passengers and 1101 crew members on its standard route between Southampton and New York.
During the Second World War, the Queen Mary was painted navy grey, fitted with a degaussing coil (to protect against magnetic mines), and enlisted as a troop carrier, a job which she performed rather well – apart from that time where she accidentally killed 239 people by slicing through one of her escort ships, the light cruiser HMS Curacoa, of course.
(She is also known as having ferried Winston Churchill for his strategic meetings across the Atlantic a couple of times.)
As I mentioned earlier, nowadays the grand old lady operates as a floating hotel, with guests enjoying a pretty unique accommodation experience that does much to simulate what travelling across the Atlantic in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s must have felt like.
The other side of the business is acting as a museum ship, with plenty of different tour options and packages available. The historic tour is the one we opted for, and after being greeted by our fabulously entertaining tour guide (seriously, this man was brilliant!), our group was guided through part of the ship while being fed a steady stream of interesting information and stories regarding this beautiful ocean liner and some of the famous passengers she ferried across the Atlantic.
The ship is known for its extensive use of wood from all over the then British colonies, and its magnificent murals, art deco styling, grand bars and luxurious ballrooms also make for a particularly visually stunning tour.
There is a big collection of model boats/ships on board (a gem for model building fanatics), not to mention a room (The Shipyard) dedicated entirely to LEGO creations – the centerpiece being of course the giant 250,000 brick big LEGO Queen Mary model ship!
The Queen Mary has also garnered a bit of a reputation for being a ghost ship over the years (thanks to all that creaking wood), meaning that (what else did you expect from Americans?) Haunted Tour packages are also quite the big thing for the operators.
Now I’ve never been on an ocean liner (or any other cruise ship for that matter) before, so for me this was by far the biggest ship that I had ever set foot on, and admittedly, thanks the historic grandeur of the vessel, I absolutely LOVED the experience as a whole.
(In other words, highly recommended if you ever find yourself out in the Long Beach area as a tourist!)
Bonus: Directly in front of the moored Queen Mary lies the B-427 Scorpion, an interesting Soviet era attack submarine that has been operating as a museum vessel since 1995, going on show first in Australia at their maritime museum, before moving to Long Beach, California in 1998.
Sadly, the display is currently closed to the public, following the discovery of irreversible flooding in parts of the sub a couple of years back.
Bonus 2: I can’t remember exactly what movie I was watching the other day, but I spotted a golden mural, paused, and shouted to Chantelle, “Hey, I’ve seen that before!”. Turns out I was correct – given her grandeur, The Queen Mary shows up in a LOT of movies, commercials and television shows!
Bonus 3: That funny big dome out next to the Queen Mary is currently a cruise ship terminal (used by Carnival Cruise Lines), but before that it actually housed the magnificent Spruce Goose (the largest flying boat ever built, not to mention having had the largest wingspan of any aircraft ever flown) for a while!
Anyway, here’s the map if you want to go find all these things out for yourself!