Staying on the Queen Mary
Annabel’s face was a picture of joy as we stood at the entrance to the Queen Mary at Long Beach, California.
We’d just told her the news that we had booked a room onboard and were staying the night on this magnificent ship.
She thought we’d just come to have a look around the outside before going to another hotel so to see her face light up was magical.
I don’t think many guests arrive wearing rucksacks but after the concierge pointed out the entrance to the ship we rode the elevator up to the main lobby level.
Immediately on entering we felt this was somewhere special and knew we would love our stay.
We’d got here early afternoon from the centre of Los Angeles but were delighted that a room was ready for us.
Part of the reason for booking the stay was that every year the Queen Mary put on their Christmas event where the ship is decked in lights and has a Christmas tree lighting ceremony with Santa and Mrs Clause and other entertainment.
Our room was on B deck at the stern of the ship so we walked the huge long corridor that runs the whole length of the ship to our room.
The Queen Mary was built in 1930 in Scotland and legend has it that she was supposed to be named Queen Victoria but on when Cunard directors went to King George to ask his blessing for the name they said “We have decided to name our new ship after England’s greatest Queen,” meaning Victoria but King George took it to mean his wife and replied ” My wife will be delighted that you are naming the ship after her”
She had her maiden voyage in 1936 and then a very eventful life before ending her sea faring days in 1967 when she was bought to Long Beach.
After having such an amazing history it’s no wonder that the ship does look a little on the tired side but whereas we had read bad reviews about the state of the rooms etc, we embraced everything about being able to stay on board and found everything just fine.
With a porthole widow overlooking the sea and the Long Beach skyline we were more than happy.
Rather than feeling the room was tatty, we felt it was nostalgic and only added to our experience.
Once we got our bearings we were off to explore the ship.
We did get ourselves a bit lost a couple of times but it’s the joy of staying on board a ship I suppose.
Some of the Christmas events were taking place at the stern of the ship near the engine room which visitors can take a look around.
The ship felt quiet with only a few visitors this early in the day so we took advantage to explore the engine room with its many levels and catwalks, dials and boilers.
We could literally feel the history oozing out of the ship as we walked.
There’s a theatre in the stern of the ship and it was playing The Polar Express for the holidays so we all loved watching and getting in to the festive spirit
Back on the main deck in a lovely little lounge area, Mrs Clause was holding a story telling hour which we all listened to intently.
The length of the promenade deck was decorated with Christmas trees and lights and nice for taking a stroll along in the evening.
Once the sun had set it was time to go and see the main Christmas tree lightning up on the bow of the ship.
We were a bit puzzled as there wasn’t a tree in sight but all became clear when after a countdown by the ships captain, Santa and Mrs Clause, the huge front mast of the ship lit up with a brilliant light show with light strung in the shape of a tree.
Now if you didn’t know, the Queen Mary is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in the world and as such there are regular ghost tours of the ship.
Annabel was eager to take the tour so she and I decided to do the I hour tour that evening.
A small group of us gathered and was met by our guide who led us around some of the off limit parts of the ship and recalled the stories of alleged hauntings.
Whatever your beliefs about such things, the tour is really interesting and delves into the history of the ship and some of the characters that once sailed aboard her.
Getting to see the off limits parts of the ship including inside the very bow of the ship was amazing and Annabel and I really enjoyed the tour.
The Queen Mary had quite a turbulent history and when World War 2 broke out she sailed all around the world carrying troops and prisoners of war between destinations.
Hitler apparently offered a huge reward to any u-boat captain that could sink the Queen Mary, which by now had been nicknamed the Grey Ghost due to her all over grey paint job and the speed with which she could sail.
She could carry up to 16,000 troops at one time which is mind boggling to say the least.
Thankfully she survived the war and returned to her civilian duties carrying fare paying passengers across the Atlantic ocean.
There are no budget options for food on board with the choice being between upmarket expensive at The Sir Winstons or the less expensive Chelsea’s Chowder House.
The Chelsea Chowder House is fairly expensive ( by our standards) with the cheapest main course besides salads, being the London Burger at $18 at the time we were there (December 2018 ).
I must say though it was delicious and the service was great with an amazing view from the ship while you’re eating.
Annabel went for just an appetiser of Loaded Steak Fries ( $12 ) and we were really surprised at the huge dish that turned up.
The steak fries were really good and so many she couldn’t finish them so we were happy to help her out.
We don’t normally go for deserts but they did have chocolate festive log and with it being the holidays an all we decided to share one and although it was yummy it was a tiny portion.
We couldn’t go to bed without one more exploration of the ship.
We’d picked a very quiet time to stay with only about 50 or so of the 350 rooms occupied so it almost felt like a ghost ship with its long empty corridors.
The lady at the reception desk explained to us that mid week is usually quiet but then the cruise ships come in most other days and people stay on board the Queen Mary the night before or after their cruises.
We took Sue around some of the spots where we had gone on the ghost tour and told her the stories ( good idea just before bed, right ).
It was time to retire to our room but on entering it was so cold we had to request some extra blankets from housekeeping.
We had a surprisingly comfortable and restful night even with all the ghost stories and were ready to check out after another wander around the decks just taking in the atmosphere.
It was really quite hard to leave the Queen Mary.
There was something about her, I don’t know if it was the energy of the place or the history and nostalgia or a mixture of everything that made our stay so memorable but we do know that we would love to return one day to experience staying on board again.
I think you can probably tell that we loved our stay on the Queen Mary.
Annabel had read all about it and so it was really nice to surprise her with a stay on board.
We loved wandering around all the different decks, the engine room and other areas.
You can see one of the huge propellers underneath the ship in a area that has been drained and filled with shallow clear water.
It’s very cool to feel what it would have been like to be passenger over 80 years ago sailing the Atlantic.
The Christmas event was nice and is free if you’re staying as a guest on board.
We would thoroughly recommend staying on board or even a visit to look around.
The Nitty Gritty
How to get to the Queen Mary
The Queen Mary is located at Long Beach near Los Angeles, California.
There is plenty of parking at the Queen Mary if you’re driving.
You can also get there by public transport ( which is the way we arrived ) from central LA by taking the metro blue line all the way to downtown Long Beach.
You can then either take a cab to the Queen Mary or take the free Passport red bus which does a circular route around Long Beach and has a stop right outside the Queen Mary.
The Passport bus is also great for getting back in to downtown or to visit the Shoreline Village and park area.
Visiting The Queen Mary
We stayed on board for one night but you can also visit to look around the ship or take a tour.
If you want to stay on board then you can book through all the major hotel booking sights or book direct with the Queen Mary
We booked direct because they were doing a special price for their Christmas event and stay.
The Queen Mary offers tours around the ship, several haunting tours of different lengths and tours of the engineering side of the ship.
They also have many events throughout the year that you can book online.
If you decide to stay on board there are several room options and we went for a family room with two Queen beds which was fine if a little tired around the edges.
Try and get a room on the starboard side of the ship as you’ll get a view out onto the sea and Long Beach beyond.
Eating on board
As I wrote in the article, food options on board aren’t cheap.
There are several options including the Promenade Cafe which is open for breakfast and lunch until 4pm
The Chelsea Chowder House that serves dinner from 5pm ( we ate an evening meal here and can say the food we had was really nice but again not cheap.
The Sir Winston Churchill restaurant that is fine dining.
There is also a coffee shop at the Midship Marketplace that sell pastries and ice cream.
Don’t forget you can always leave the ship and go to the Shoreline Village that have a range of eating options.