The Queen Mary

A little while later we found ourselves in Long Beach and within sight of the Queen Mary.

A few of the group made the obvious comparison with the Titanic, we would find out later that the Queen Mary is in fact larger than the Titanic. The Queen Mary is longer by nearly 140 feet, and a mere 6 feet taller.

The Queen Mary first sailed in 1936, She was a troop ship in WW2 before returning to handling fee paying passengers. She retired in 1967 and was permanently moored in Long Beach, opening to tourists in 1971.

Once on board we were given the keys to our cabins, and we all experienced the maze like structure of the passenger decks. The corridors all look the same and it’s a little confusing to find your way about, as if you take a wrong turn you end up in another corridor that is decorated and looks exactly like the one you have just come from.

Later in the afternoon we would be having a tour by the ‘Captain’ of the ship, this left a little time to explore Long Beach itself. On our way in I had spotted a few shops to have a look at; cheap jeans and a sports shop come to mind as I type this.

So a few brave souls went to the bus stop to catch the bus into the shopping district of Long Beach. The bus route was rather interesting as it skirted the are we wanted but never seemed to get close enough for us to get off, just as we thought we would be heading back to the Queen Mary, the bus went where we wanted to go.

I went off on my own to have a look at the shops, which turned out to be a bust, the cheap jeans were cheap but the shop owner looked proper dodgy and I had to bluff my way out of the shop as he stood in my way!! I had just enough time to grab a sandwich at a 7-11 before getting the bus back, or so I thought.

I knew the route back would be equally circuitous as the journey in but I didn’t reckon on the driver, who seemed unaware of traffic signals – green means you can go! He sat at one set of lights letting the light cycle from green back to red and then green before he went. The route takes in the aquarium at which point the driver decided this would be a great point to have a toilet break. I actually shouted at him “where are you going??” he replied “toilet break, you going to the Queen Mary?” with that he got off, thankfully he didn’t have to stay long and we were on our way.

The tour was due to start at 2pm and I felt like a character in a film, you know the one, he’s dashing across the city to make his appointment and just makes it. I got into the lobby with a minute to spare. As I arrived the Captain started his spiel.Our tour was just for the group, I don’t think the public get this particular tour. We seemed to go in lot’s of places that he had to unlock before we went in.

This picture shows the shopping area, which is pretty much as it was in the 1930’s. The shops sell souvenirs, kick knacks etc and some clothing. Originally in this area was the ship library. At the end of the corridor on the right is the bar area.

This is the original mural above the bar, I didn’t get a shot of this room but it has been used in lots of films, as have many of the larger spaces on the ship.

Films & TV programmes shot on location here include: The Aviator, LA Confidential, Pearl Harbor, Batman Forever, Murder She Wrote, The Poseidon Adventure, Chaplin & Charlie’s Angels.

This was a ballroom type space that is used for conferences and other gatherings.

I think this is a metal engraving and is in the same room as the picture above (it’s at my back in that picture). The squares you can see are for used for film projection, and are original.One of the promenade decks, as soon as we stepped out images from the Titanic flooded my brain. You can just imagine wealthy Edwardians promenading down a space like this – not on this ship of course but you get the idea.There are lots of pictures of former guests on the ship; this is Buster Keaton and the consensus was that the lady is Lucille Ball. Buster around this age did appear in an episode of I Love Lucy and was a keen supporter of Lucille in her early career. I’m a big fan of Buster so I had to take a picture of the picture!

Another grand space and another grand piece of artwork, this time a useful one. Each day guests were able to track their progress across the Atlantic as staff moved an ship shaped indicator across the map.When the guided tour finished, the Captain said that we should also check out the engine room which a lot of the group did. However I was now feeling quite tired after my less than stellar nights sleep (I’d been awake since about 2am on the train), so as people went left to the engines I turned right and headed to my cabin.

My plan was to dump my camera, chill out for a few minutes and then explore the ship – my body had other ideas and I woke up about 3 hours later!

Feeling a bit more alive I finally went exploring.

Firstly here is my cabin
The series of bars you can see in the third picture were originally used to tie down your cases. You can imagine on a sea crossing, you wouldn’t really want your cases loose in the cabin.

Queen Mary – For those not up on their Royal lineage; Queen Mary was the Grandmother of our current Queen, Elizabeth II.
A seemingly never ending corridor.
On the sides of the corridor you can see a white rail. These are the original rails from the ship, although they weren’t installed at the time of the first crossing. On the tour the Captain told us that during the first crossing there were many injuries as people were knocked into the walls or fell over due to the swell of the sea. What he didn’t tell us and I’ve found out since, is that there was no carpet as there is today, the floor was tiled.

This is the travel bureau laid out and looking as it did in the 1930’s. Passengers could come here and get travel advice for their destinations or even book another holiday.The RMS Queen Mary is permanently docked in Long Beach, here is the wall that keeps the tide out.The lifeboats, although these aren’t the original one boats, they were removed when the ship was docked here.Same goes for the funnels, the boilers were removed during the renovations in the early 1970’s, to get them out the funnels were dismantled. They collapsed and had to be replaced with aluminum copies.

A game of Shuffle Board anyone?

It’s possible to walk around most of the ship, and a lot of it is laid out like a museum. This is the Bridge, in this area are the sleeping quarters of the Captain and officers, which are cleverly shown by the use of cutaway walls.

I explored pretty much all that was possible to see, even venturing down into the hospital section, which was a little creepy as I descended down the steps into a section of the ship that was deserted!

Pelicans!As I was getting to the end of my exploring I heard an engine and looked out to see a seaplane getting ready to take off.So that was my tour done. Oddly I felt more alone here than I had during the whole trip. I’d spent three days on my own in New York but that hadn’t bothered me, having bonded with some of the group and now being on my own for looking back was only a few hours, I suddenly felt as if I was totally alone. With hindsight I think it was tiredness more than anything else.

In the evening I went to eat and was prepared to do so on my own but I spotted one of the couples from the trip. I went over to join them but they were just finishing, so I made my excuses but they told me to sit as they would also appreciate the company. They were only going to head back to their cabin, so we spent an hour having a good chat, which cheered me up.

After the meal we went our separate ways and I amused myself by trying to find the quickest route back to my cabin – can you tell I was a bit bored?

Well it took a few takes but I eventually got it, you can see how a like each corridor looks, and as a bonus there is a quick tour of the cabin.

Our brief stay in Los Angeles & Long Beach would be over in the morning. It was hard to get a sense of the city in such a short time, mainly as we didn’t really get out and explore it. We had a similar amount of time in Chicago but as we could get out I was able to see the city. LA is somewhere I would like to comeback to, if only to do a studio tour.

The following day we would be traveling up the coast to San Francisco, it was a journey that should have taken most of the day and ended up taking longer that it would for us to fly back to the UK.