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Thursday, March 13, 2014

THE QUEEN MARY--WHAT A TRIP!

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
One of the magnificent lobbies on the Queen Mary
Expect surprises when you travel, and you will not be disappointed.  Rob and I booked a room aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California for a one night stay just to see what there is to see on an antique luxury liner no longer at sea.  What a good surprise in many ways. 

Let me get the negative off first because the positives totally outweigh it.  Our room was not nice at all.  It was not even particularly clean, and the TV remote was missing.  Despite calls to the desk and promises from them, a replacement never arrived.  It’s true I booked an inside cabin because we were arriving from New York after dark and had plans for the next day; I saw no reason to spring for more expensive fare.  But that’s no excuse.  And, to be perfectly clear, we politely registered our complaints as we checked out.  Without requesting any compensation, the clerk apologized, spoke to someone, and then deducted a sizeable percentage of our bill.  They did the best they could to make things right, and I hope they also had a talk with the housekeeping staff.

Now for the surprises! 

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
Age has its beauty.  She's a graceful ship.
This is a magnificent ship with a stellar history.  At night it looks like something out of a movie, and indeed that is exactly how I felt.  The ship is festooned with lights, and the smokestacks are regally tilted back as reminders that they sent their smoke behind them.  The stewards are dressed in uniform, and around the ship there are pictures of and engravings of  Queen Mary, England's monarch at the time.

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA


Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
This ship was not originally going to be named the Queen Mary, but the builders had to have the royal permission to name is after Queen Victoria.  When the King was asked, "May we name it after our most beloved Queen?" the King replied that his wife, Queen Mary, would LOVE to have the ship named after her.  Would you have the nerve to say, "No, I meant Queen Victoria?" Hence, the new luxury liner was christened The Queen Mary.
We arrived while  a winter program, CHILL, was in progress with ice skating and other winter events going on in the midst of warm California.  We didn’t participate, but we did enjoy the beautiful sight.

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
The view from the deck down to CHILL with its lights, ice skating,
and winter activities in the middle of Long Beach.
We also arrived just as a Steam Punk Symposium was getting underway, and no, we had no clue what that was about, so let me define by way of that nefarious source, Wikipedia:

 Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century.  Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West,” in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
Everyone was in a party mood, and this man carried his invention.
The Symposium participants were a delight.  They arrived, some entire families in costume, carried steam inventions, and had their own Steampunk Boutique in one of the ballrooms—a fascinating place where we were definitely conspicuous.  They definitely wanted to be photographed.

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA

Why book the Queen Mary for this Steampunk gathering?  She is post-Victorian, so post their interest time period.  It’s as close as they could get in time.  For us, it was perfect!

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA

One of the complaints I read on Trip Advisor is that staying aboard the Queen Mary was like spending a night in a museum.  How great is that!!!!!  That's precisely why I wanted to stay there.

In the evening we dined aboard the Queen in The Chelsea Chowder House and Bar.  We had very lovely, ice cold oysters, and looked out over the water at Los Angeles’ sights.  Rob’s seafood platter and my calamari were just right, and if the linens were not first class, it didn’t matter at all; the service was good, and we were aboard one of the world’s greatest ships.

Walking around the ship after dinner was delightful.  Occasionally we’d see the Steampunk folk strolling the teak deck as well.  The walls inside and out were covered with poster-sized photographs of the rich and famous who sailed on this ship--clearly the world’s most exciting ocean liner in its day boasting five dining areas, two cocktail bars and swimming pools, and even a small hospital.  She was also, for 14 years, the fastest transatlantic steamer as she outraced her sister ships across the Atlantic Ocean.  Civilized and luxurious, she carried Bob Hope, Loretta Young, Clark Gable, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.  Queen Elizabeth sailed on her—the current Queen Elizabeth’s mother!

In the morning we breakfasted in the Promenade CafĂ© amid many Steampunkers dressed for their Symposium.  It was a grand way to begin the day.  On the walls here were photos of the kitchen as it ran during the ship’s heyday, and that put us in the mood to take the self-guided audio tour which came as part of the hotel package.  We expected to skim through and be gone in an hour or so; we stayed for more than three amazing hours learning about this grand piece of history.

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
This wasn't the only complex panel we saw, but only one part of it,
that piece at the bottom, seemed familiar.  The number of gauges and
controls was staggering.
Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
This photo captures a mere sliver of the engine room.  It is enormous.  We
spent a lot of time reading the information down here and being dazzled by
the power and complexity of it all.
Movies of ships' bowels and engines simply do not do justice to the size and power of these mammoth vessels.  The Queen Mary spent the WWII years chauffeuring American and Canadian soldiers to the front.  Its speed was appreciated.  Returning to passenger service after the war, it saw the beginning of a different kind of trans-Atlantic voyage--by air. They attempted retro-fitting her with stabilizers to make the voyage less "rocky," but that proved less than successful. Eventually she ended here in Long Beach, California.  Take a look at some of these pictures taken on our tour.  There is also an impressive timeline that traces a thoroughly captivating history.

Queen Mary, Long Beach CA
Just to give you a view at an original anchor.  Compare that with the height of Rob!
If you are in California in the LA area, this is definitely worth a day trip! We won't see her likes again.







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