by Ellen Hall
The HMS Queen Mary, a 1019-foot ocean liner, was once considered the most civilized way to cross the Atlantic. Now a floating hotel and museum, the ship is docked at Long Beach harbor and is available for daily tours and hotel stays.
The Queen Mary was built in Glasgow Scotland and made her maiden voyage on, on the Southampton-Cherbourg-New York route, May 27, 1936.
According to legend, the Cunard line intended to name her Victoria. When the chairman asked King George V for permission to name the ship after England's most illustrious Queen, the King replied that his wife would be delighted. Unwilling to correct him, Cunard tactfully dubbed the ship Queen Mary.
Bigger, faster and more powerful than the Titanic, she held the record for the fastest-ever North Atlantic crossing.
For three years, her elegant staterooms hosted rich and famous guests such as Winston Churchill, Greta Garbo, and Clark Gable.
Converted to a troop ship in 1939 at the beginning of World War II, the Queen Mary was painted a drab gray, her portholes blackened, and her capacity increased from 2,410 to 5,500.
The Gray Ghost played a role in virtually every Allied campaign, including the D-Day invasion, setting a record for greatest number of people on a floating vessel in 1943 with 16,683 aboard. By the end of the war, she had survived a collision at sea, carried more than 800,000 troops, and traveled over 600,000 miles.
After the war, the Queen Mary was used for the 13 journeys known as the Bride and Baby Voyages. In 1946, she transported more than 22,000 war brides and their children to the United States and Canada.
The Queen Mary resumed her role as a luxury liner in 1947, making weekly voyages between New York, Cherbourg, and Southampton. She was withdrawn from service in 1967, as air travel replaced transatlantic flights in popularity. Her voyage to Long Beach was the last of 1,001 successful Atlantic crossings.
Today, thousands of tourists visit the ship each year, where they can stay in one of the Queen Mary’s 365 hotel rooms or dine at one of its ocean-view restaurants.
A number of tours are available for exploring the ship’s historic past. The self-guided tour lets visitors walk the length of the vessel, from the engine room to the wheelhouse. Daily guided tours provide a closer look at the Queen Mary’s former elegance, including the dining room and the indoor swimming pool.
Those interested in the ship’s supernatural side can take the Ghosts and Legends of the Queen Mary tour. Some consider the Queen Mary one of the most haunted places in the world, hosting up to 150 spirits.
The engine room and the swimming pool are particularly well known for paranormal sightings.
Also open for tours is the Scorpion, a Foxtrot-class Russian submarine moored just off the Queen Mary’s bow. Maneuvering the narrow passageways gives visitors an idea of what life was like for the 78 crew members who shared these cramped quarters for up to 3 months at sea.
The Queen Mary side of the harbor is a great place to watch the sun set on Long Beach.
Slideshow—all photos on this page
Website and all photos copyright © 2001–2016 Lee W. Nelson