The Queen Mary Of Long Beach
The oceanliner Queen Mary,saw action in both war time and peace time. Today, she's a hotel.
Due to her camouflage paint job and amazing stealth, they called her the Grey Ghost. The ocean liner Queen Mary, considered the pinnacle of luxury cruising, did her part during World War II. Transformed into a troop carrier, she would ferry more than 750,000 men during her six official years of military service from March 1940 to September of 1946. Her sister ship, the Queen Elizabeth, joined her in service.
Today, the ocean liner Queen Mary is retired from cruising and permanently docked in Long Beach, California. She has a new life now, as a unique hotel. Her staterooms are appointed with period style furnishings, fine artwork and the original portholes. Hotel guests can enjoy a complimentary self-guided shipwalk, and behind-the-scenes guided tours are available for a small fee.
Hotel Queen Mary amenities include: room service, valet parking, a fitness room, business center and on board shopping, among other things. Four restaurants are located on board. Sir Winston's and the Chelsea are awarding-winning restaurants offering fine dining with ocean views. Also available are the Observation Bar and the Promenade Cafe. Their Sunday brunch features 50 international entrees, and a children's buffet. Brunch is served in the Grand Salon, the ship's original First Class dining area. Reservations are recommended.
As both an historic landmark and a hotel, her decks resonate with echoes from two glorious careers, military and civilian. The Queen was launched by her namesake, Her Majesty Queen Mary of England in September 1934, though her maiden voyage did not commence until May of 1936.
The outbreak of the World War II on September 3, 1939, found the RMS Queen Mary nearing the end of her 143rd Atlantic crossing. She had sailed from Southampton four days earlier with a record 2332 passengers aboard, the vast majority of whom were Americans hoping to escape the European conflict that suddenly seemed inevitable. That passenger roster was actually quite small when compared to a maximum wartime capacity of 15,740 men carried at one time.
The Queen was soon to leave her civilian life behind. But first, she had to be fitted out for a different kind of service. Converting a passenger cruise ship into a working military vessel was no small task. In preparation for her new wartime duties, the Queen's luxury appointments were off-loaded, including several miles of plush Wilton carpeting. Over 200 cases of crystal, china and silverware were packed, along with most of her better furniture and fragile fittings. Armament was added to her top decks and a coat of paint would hopefully disguise her true identity.
When she reached Australia in April of 1940, even more conversion took place. Tiers of wooden bunks and rows of canvas hammocks soon appeared throughout the ship. Because the men slept in continuous shifts, the sleeping berths were given the name "hot bunks" since they never had time to cool off!
Over 2000 stateroom doors were removed and packed off to be held in storage, while her galleries were enlarged to handle the extra workload. The shops in the ship's main hall were converted into military offices. By May 4th, 1940, the Queen's transformation was complete.
Her exceptional speed, size and ability to safely navigate routes unsuitable for smaller vessels made her the ideal choice for a variety of vital assignments in addition to troop transport.
On three separate occasions, Sir Winston Churchill crossed the Atlantic aboard the Queen Mary. Churchill said, "Built for the arts of peace and to link the Old World with the New, the Queens (Mary & Elizabeth) challenged the fury of Hitlerism in the Battle of the Atlantic. Without their aid the day of final victory must unquestionably have been postponed."
It was said Hitler offered Germany's highest honor to anyone who could sink the Queen Mary, though no submarine ever touched this gigantic ship. Thus she lived up to her name, The Grey Ghost; invisible when the situation demanded. Returning to a normal routine after the war, her final crossing was in September of 1967. The Queen arrived at her "retirement" home in Long Beach, California in December of 1967.
By the late 1960's almost all the great liners were gone. But the Queen Mary remains, proud and regal for new generations to enjoy.
Ballrooms and meeting rooms are available on board the Queen, to accommodate parties of 10 people to 2000. If you're in the area, don't miss the opportunity to tour this grand ship or spend the night in one of her elegant staterooms. For more information call (310) 435-3511.