RMS Queen Mary, ocean liner of the Cunard–White Star line. The Queen Mary’s creation and launch was nothing if not extraordinary and her story is rich with history, elegance and grandeur. It was launched in 1934 and served as a transatlantic liner, troop transport, and cruise ship until 1967, when it was docked permanently at the port of Long Beach, California, to serve as a hotel and conference centre. As the only ship from the golden age remains fully functional, the giant museum witness a legendary of history.
From the time her construction began in 1930 in Clydebank, Scotland, the Queen Mary was destined to stand in a class all her own. Queen Mary sailed on her maiden voyage on 27 May 1936, with boasted five dining areas and lounges, two cocktail bars and swimming pools, a grand ballroom, a squash court and even a small hospital. The Queen Mary had set a new benchmark in transatlantic travel, which the rich and famous considered as the only civilized way to travel. She quickly seized the hearts and imaginations of the public on both sides of the Atlantic, representing the spirit of an era known for its elegance, class and style.
Queen Mary won the Blue Riband in 1936, which was a recognition to the fastest ship across the Atlantic. Queen Mary sailed at high speed for most of her maiden voyage to New York, until heavy fog forced a reduction of speed on the final day of the crossing, arriving in New York Harbor on 1 June 1936. Queen Mary lost the Blue Riband title to SS Normandie in 1937 and recaptured it in 1938, holding it until 1952 when it was taken by the new SS United States.
As World War II started, the Queen Mary’s transformation into a troopship had begun. She was painted a camouflaged grey color and stripped of her luxurious amenities. Dubbed the “Grey Ghost” because of her stealth and stark color, the Queen Mary was the largest and fastest troopship to sail, capable of transporting as many as 16,000 troops at 30 knots.
After the end of WWII, the Queen Mary began a 10-month retrofitting process, which would return the ship to her original glory. On July 21, 1947, the Queen Mary resumed regular passenger service across the Atlantic Ocean, and continued to do so for nearly two more decades. The increasing popularity of air travel helped signal the end of an era for the Queen Mary. By 1965 the entire Cunard fleet was operating at a loss.
After crossing the Atlantic 1001 times, Queen Mary was officially retired from service in 1967. She left Southampton for the last time on 31 October 1967. On October 31, 1967, the Queen Mary departed on her final cruise, arriving in Long Beach, California, on December 9, 1967.
Long Beach, Southern California is where Queen Mary remains permanently moored, giving visitors a unique glimpse into a bygone era when steamships were the most regal way to travel. The Queen Mary is now a floating Hotel, Attraction and Event & Wedding Venue, home to three world-class restaurants and an icon in Southern California. The ship is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has accepted Queen Mary as part of the Historic Hotels of America.
The Queen Mary features some of the grandest, most intricate and beautiful interior designs ever aboard an ocean liner. Influenced by the Art Deco movement of the 1920s and 30s, the interior design includes strong curves and geometric forms representing elegance, glamour, function and modernity.
Among facilities available onboard Queen Mary, the liner featured two indoor swimming pools, beauty salons, libraries and children’s nurseries for all three classes, a music studio and lecture hall, telephone connectivity to anywhere in the world, outdoor paddle tennis courts and dog kennels. The largest room onboard was the cabin class (first class) main dining room (grand salon), spanning three stories in height and anchored by wide columns. The ship had many air-conditioned public rooms onboard. The cabin-class swimming pool facility spanned over two decks in height. This was the first ocean liner to be equipped with her own Jewish prayer room.
The cabin-class main dining room featured a large map of the transatlantic crossing, with twin tracks symbolising the winter/spring route (further south to avoid icebergs) and the summer/autumn route. During each crossing, a motorised model of Queen Mary would indicate the vessel’s progress en route.
As an alternative to the main dining room, Queen Mary featured a separate cabin-class Verandah Grill on the Sun Deck at the upper aft of the ship. The Verandah Grill was an exclusive à la carte restaurant with a capacity of approximately eighty passengers and was converted to the Starlight Club at night. Also on board was the Observation Bar, an Art Deco-styled lounge with wide ocean views.
Woods from different regions of the British Empire were used in her public rooms and staterooms. Accommodation ranged from fully equipped, luxurious cabin (first) class staterooms to modest and cramped third-class cabins. Artists commissioned by Cunard in 1933 for works of art in the interior include Edward Wadsworth and A. Duncan Carse.
The Art Deco design was further enhanced by the use of over 50 different types of woods from all over the world, which earned the Queen Mary the nickname, the “Ship of Woods.” The highly decorative and luxurious woods were used throughout the entire ship – inside and out. Intricate marquetry, carvings and highly decorative murals were featured in every ballroom and salon of the Queen Mary. Accented with modern materials such as glass, marble, metal, enamel and even linoleum, the woods gave the ship an unmistakable grandeur that reflected a blending of classic style with modern age design. A total of 56 types of highly polished veneers appear on the Queen Mary, one for each of the British protectorates at the time the ship was built. Six of those types of woods are now actually extinct making the Queen Mary one of the few places they can still be found.
Art plays a prominent role in the décor of the Queen Mary with elaborate murals, paintings, sculptures and wood carvings found throughout the ship. Leading proponents of the Art Deco movement were commissioned by Cunard to create unique and contemporary pieces of art work, many of which can still be found on the ship today. Some of the most famous works are murals by Doris Zinkeisen, whose work echoed themes of mythology, animals and nature, abstracted into pure form. Today, the Queen Mary is widely considered one of the best examples and landmarks of Art Deco style in the world.
Queen Mary, bought by Long Beach in 1967, was converted from a seafaring vessel to floating hotel. The plan included clearing almost every area of the ship below “C” deck to make way for Jacques Cousteau’s new Living Sea Museum. This increased museum space to 400,000 square feet (37,000 m2).
It required the removal of all the boiler rooms, the forward engine room, both turbo generator rooms, the ship stabilisers and the water softening plant. The ship’s empty fuel tanks were filled with local mud to keep the ship’s centre of gravity and draft at the correct levels, as these critical factors had been affected by the removal of the various components and structure. Only the aft engine room and “shaft alley”, at the stern of the ship, would be spared. The remaining space would be used for storage or office space.
One problem that arose during the conversion was a dispute between land-based and maritime unions over conversion jobs. The United States Coast Guard had the final say. Queen Mary was deemed a building, since most of her propellers had been removed and her machinery gutted. The ship was also repainted with its red water level paint at a slightly higher level than previous. During the conversion, the funnels were removed, as this area was needed to lift out the scrap materials from the engine and boiler rooms. Workers found that the funnels were significantly degraded and they were replaced with replicas.
With all of the lower decks nearly gutted from R deck and down, Diners Club, the initial lessee of the ship, converted the remainder of the vessel into a hotel. Diners Club Queen Mary dissolved and vacated the ship in 1970 after their parent company, Diners Club International, was sold, and a change in corporate direction was mandated during the conversion process. Specialty Restaurants, a Los Angeles-based company that focused on theme-based restaurants, took over as master lessee the following year.
This second plan was based on converting most of her first- and second-class cabins on A and B decks into hotel rooms, and converting the main lounges and dining rooms into banquet spaces. On Promenade Deck, the starboard promenade was enclosed to feature an upscale restaurant and café named Lord Nelson’s and Lady Hamilton’s; it was themed in the fashion of early-19th century sailing ships. The famed and elegant Observation Bar was redecorated as a western-themed bar.
The smaller first-class public rooms, such as the Drawing Room, Library, Lecture Room and the Music Studio, would be stripped of most of their fittings and converted to commercial use. This markedly expanded retail space on the ship. Two more shopping malls were built on the Sun Deck in separate spaces previously used for first-class cabins and engineers’ quarters.
A post-war feature of the ship, the first-class cinema, was removed for kitchen space for the new Promenade Deck dining venues. The first-class lounge and smoking room were reconfigured and converted into banquet space. The second-class smoking room was subdivided into a wedding chapel and office space. On the Sun Deck, the elegant Verandah Grill would be gutted and converted into a fast-food eatery, while a new upscale dining venue was created directly above it on Sports Deck, in space once used for crew quarters.
The second-class lounges were expanded to the sides of the ship and used for banqueting. On R deck, the first-class dining room was reconfigured and subdivided into two banquet venues, the Royal Salon and the Windsor Room. The second-class dining room was subdivided into kitchen storage and a crew mess hall, while the third-class dining room was initially used as storage and crew space.
Also on R deck, the first-class Turkish bath complex, the 1930s equivalent to a spa, was removed. The second-class pool was removed and its space initially used for office space, while the first-class swimming pool was open for viewing by hotel guests and visitors. Because of modern safety codes and the compromised structural soundness of the area directly below, the swimming pool could not be used for swimming after the conversion, although it was filled with water until the late 1980s.
Opening as a tourist destination
On 8 May 1971, Queen Mary opened her doors to tourists. Initially, only portions of the ship were open to the public as Specialty Restaurants had yet to open its dining venues and PSA had not completed work converting the ship’s original First Class staterooms into the hotel. As a result, the ship was open only on weekends. On 11 December 1971, Jacques Cousteau’s Museum of the Sea opened, with a quarter of the planned exhibits completed.
On 2 November 1972, the PSA Hotel Queen Mary opened its initial 150 guest rooms. Two years later, with all 400 rooms finished, PSA brought in Hyatt Hotels to manage the hotel, which operated from 1974 to 1980 as the Queen Mary Hyatt Hotel.
By 1980, it had become apparent that the existing system was not working. The ship was losing millions each year for the city because the hotel, restaurants and museum were run by three separate concessionaires, while the city owned the vessel and operated guided tours. It was decided that a single operator with more experience in attractions was needed.
Jack Wrather, a local millionaire, had fallen in love with the ship because he and his wife, Bonita Granville, had fond memories of sailing on it numerous times. Wrather signed a 66-year lease with the city of Long Beach to operate the entire property. He oversaw the display of the H-4 Hercules, nicknamed the Spruce Goose, on long-term loan. The immense plane, which had been sitting in a hangar in Long Beach for decades unseen by the public, was installed in a huge geodesic dome adjacent to the liner in 1983, attracting increased attendance.
Wrather Port Properties operated the entire attraction after his death in 1984 until 1988, when his holdings were bought by the Walt Disney Company. Wrather had built the Disneyland Hotel in 1955, when Walt Disney had insufficient funds to construct the hotel himself. Disney had been trying to buy the hotel for 30 years. When they finally succeeded, they also acquired Queen Mary. This was never marketed as a Disney property.
Through the late 1980s and early 1990s, Queen Mary struggled financially. Disney pinned their hopes for turning the attraction around on Port Disney, a huge planned resort on the adjacent docks. It was to include an attraction known as DisneySea, a theme park celebrating the world’s oceans.
The plans eventually fell through; in 1992 Disney gave up the lease on the ship to focus on building what would become Disney California Adventure Park. The DisneySea concept was recycled a decade later in Japan as Tokyo DisneySea, with a recreated ocean liner resembling Queen Mary named the SS Columbia as the centrepiece of the American Waterfront area.
Get an up close and personal look at the Queen Mary, from the ship’s groundbreaking construction and royal launch as the most luxurious and technologically advanced ocean liner at the time, the Queen Mary’s history is full of action, adventure, romance and paranormal activity. Explore the ship frm bow to stern, inside and out, and hear unique stories, facts and insights about the Queen Mary frm tour expert guides.
The Cunard Story – The Cunard Story An exhibition on the Queen Mary, one of the most celebrated Cunard ocean liners—explores the rich history of the extraordinary company that designed and built more than 150 ships over the past 175 years. Today, Cunard offers the most luxurious and unique cruise experiences available—adventures curated for travelers who savor the world.
The Steam and Steel Tour – The Steam and Steel Tour will take guests approximately 25′ below the water line where they will have a chance to walk through Boiler Rooms 1- 4, as well as the Water Softening Plant and the Turbo-Generator Room 1.
The Glory Days – Delve into the ship’s expansive past, including her groundbreaking construction, her time as a troopship during WWII and of course, her glory days as the world’s most luxurious and technologically advanced ocean liner.
Churchill – Few public figures have had more influence on modern political and social life than former British Prime Minister, Winston Spencer-Churchill. Fewer still had an ongoing relationship with the Queen Mary. To commemorate their affinity a new Churchill-themed exhibition has been brought to the Queen Mary.
Haunted Encounters – Ever wanted to know some of the stories and legends regarding the famous hauntings of the Queen Mary? Then the Haunted Encounters Tour is the best place to start. This approximate one hour tour will share many of the more well-known or infamous stories of the paranormal residents that now occupy the legendary ship in a non-scary introduction to the ghostly tales of the Queen Mary.
4D Theater – Buckle up and get ready for a more unique side of the ship in the Queen Mary 4-D Theater. Feel the rock and bump of every action scene, smell, feel the rush of the wind or the splash of the living ocean as the Queen Mary is proud to present two exciting movie options. Explore the history of the Queen Mary in an unforgettable 18-minute documentary or plunge deep down into the ocean as you learn about the most infamous sea creature alive today in Shark.
The Shipyard – Measuring 26 feet, weighing over 600lbs. And made from 250,000 LEGO bricks, the LEGO Queen Mary brick model ship is a masterpiece to be seen. The model was designed by England’s certified LEGO Builder, Bright Bricks, Inc., to commemorate Britain’s most famous ocean liner.
Ship Model Gallery – Combining precision and craftsmanship in an exacting work of art, ship models evoke the fascination that we have for the sea and sea travel.
When the sun goes down, the spirits aboard the Queen Mary come out to play. Explore the legendary ship with a series of tours that explore the haunted past and paranormal activity that the Queen Mary is known.
Illusions of the Passed – As seen on the hit series America’s Got Talent and Penn & Teller: Fool Us, Aiden Sinclair brings his interactive theatrical séance to the all-new Revenant Room, aboard the historic Queen Mary. Travel back in time and meet the ghosts and legends of the ship during a full-evening presentation of Paranormal Illusions. Experience this unforgettable encounter with the spirits of the past in a brand new, intimate theater aboard the historic Queen Mary.
Dining with the Spirits – Enjoy a first-class group dining experience with the award-winning Sir Winston’s Restaurant and Lounge menu before rolling up your sleeves and going on a fun and spooky haunted history tour.
Paranormal Ship Walk – Learn about the Queen Mary’s exciting history, while exploring all of the reportedly haunted locations. Discover the paranormal hot spots on the Queen Mary and judge for yourself whether or not the ship really is haunted.
Paranormal Investigations – Long regarded as the world’s most haunted ship and declared by Time Magazine as one of “America’s Top 10 Most Haunted”, join resident ship para investigator and ParaXplorer Project founder Matthew Schulz as he leads guest investigators into the depths of the RMS Queen Mary’s purported active locations, including those not available to the general public, in an effort to connect with spirits who may still call the ship home.
Midship Marketplace – Marketplace, located on the port side of the Promenade Deck. Perfect for guests on the go, the Midship Marketplace offers freshly brewed Starbucks coffee, homemade pastries, bagels, breakfast sandwiches, yogurt parfaits, fruit, oatmeal and much more.
Chelsea Chowder House & Bar – Capturing the feel of an authentic British chowder house, complete with subway-tiled walls, and a decorative tin ceiling, Chelsea Chowder House & Bar is a contemporary take on the traditional fish house.
Sir Winston’s Restaurant & Lounge – With stunning seaside views from nearly every seat, Sir Winston’s Restaurant & Lounge is perfect for special occasions and everyday enjoyment. At Sir Winston’s you don’t just eat, you dine.
Observation Bar – 1930’s sophistication and style, the Observation Bar and Art Deco Lounge is the playground of the cool. Classic and chic, the Observation Bar was formerly the First-Class Lounge and served as the hub for lively discussions over delicious drinks.
The Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, is one of the most unique meeting and conference venues in Southern California. Marrying iconic tradition and modern technology, the Queen Mary has everything necessary to facilitate a flawless event experience that visitors will never forget.
With over 80,000 square feet of functional meeting and exhibit space in 14 remarkable Art Deco salons, the Queen Mary provides an unrivaled authentic historical event experience. Conference rooms start at 522 square feet, perfect for smaller, more intimate meetings; while ceiling height ranges from seven feet to an astonishing 33′.
The Queen Mary provides more than just an unforgettable venue; we also offer a wide array of services and support to ensure your event runs smoothly. From full on-site execution and support, to A/V assistance, our professional in-house audiovisual team, AVMS, is able to successfully execute events of nearly any size and scope. coordination.
The Queen Mary has been host to unforgettable Southern California Long Beach weddings for over 50 years. From large and lavish extravaganzas to small and intimate affairs, we’re certain we have the venue to accommodate your wedding needs. Enjoy the warm California weather and get married on the bow, stern, sun deck or under the Gazebo during sunset. If you’d prefer a more traditional setting, the beautifully crafted Royal Wedding Chapel will make any couple feel like Royalty.
From the moment you step onto the landmark Queen Mary, you get a sense of the glamour and class of that bygone era. Our 14 Art Deco ballrooms and salons exude 30’s style and feature a wealth of handcrafted touches like exquisite wood paneling, original Art Deco light fixtures, etched-glass doors, original murals and luxuriously carved golden onyx fireplaces. Each space is unique and filled with character, the Queen Mary is sure to impress.
Aboard the majestic Queen Mary, overlooking the sparkling blue waters of the Pacific Ocean your magical day begins. The warm sun gently kisses the Gazebo as you await your big moment. Family and friends sit silently in eager anticipation. The music begins and you realize you are now only moments away. Your dream wedding is unfolding before your eyes and with every detail meticulously planned.
From our stunning outdoor Sun Deck Gazebo, to our unique Harbor View Deck, to the private Wedding Chapel, the Queen Mary offers enchanting indoor and outdoor wedding venues unlike any other in Southern California.