The Queen Mary sailed from 1936-1967, after which she was permanently moored in Long Beach, CA and refitted as a floating hotel. During her time in service she carried passengers and also made for one of the largest troop ships in history. I've actually stayed on the ship before, back when I was a kid in the 1980's. Funny to realize now that the time between my two stays was longer than the time between my first stay and the ship's final voyage. I'm getting old.
I've always loved history in general and ocean liners specifically. When I was about 10 years old, my dad bought me this book about passenger ships, and I was hooked. It was the period from about 1910-1960 that interested me the most, when the biggest and most beautiful ships sailed and of course, some of the biggest tragedies occurred. (And some of the biggest mysteries - Titanic was found just after I got that book.) Of course it was also my dad who took me on my first trip to the Queen Mary.
The amazing thing about the Queen Mary is that, unlike many other floating museums around the world, she is basically as she was. The hotel operators (who seem to change weekly) have blocked off access to parts of the ship you're not meant to see, but except for some of the lower passenger decks, you're not missing much.
One of the now-blocked staircases.
You can even access the ship's infirmary, its engine rooms, and of course all the first and second class rooms and decks. And whatever updates have been done (mostly shopping and food options) have had to conform to the ship's original design. It's like going back in time.
The ship's "isolation ward", where contagious passengers were kept until arrival in port.
It even sounds like it's still a running ship, especially as you move aft. The important part of this video is the sound:
Most of that's probably the air conditioning system that didn't exist in 1936, but now not only cools the guest rooms but also provides a pretty convincing facsimile of the engines running and water rushing by.
The guest rooms themselves were originally first and second class staterooms, including suites that you can actually book that were once used by royalty and heads of state. We had a standard "deluxe king" booked at a AAA rate, and it seemed to be a pretty standard first class stateroom.
Parts of the ship were remodeled in the 1960's, and it shows - these green wallpapered areas have aged less gracefully than the wood-paneled art deco of the original 1936 decor. There are rooms in both sections of the ship, and it's kind of a crapshoot what you're going to get. Our first room had some wood but was mostly wallpaper; it also had two big portholes and a problematic door to the next room that let in so much sound it was like being part of the other room's conversation.
We asked to change rooms and got one that was actually smaller and less nice but had no between-rooms door and was very quiet. That's the thing with staying here - you really have to accept that you're paying to stay on a historic ocean liner, not a true hotel. The walls are steel and they are paper thin, and the doors between rooms are light and anything but airtight. The windows are real portholes, and some of them work better than others - the ones in our first room would not close.
There are various tours you can take but the ship's worth exploring on your own, and we did.
Almost all of the original etched glass still exists on the ship. Unfortunately a few panels (not this one) have been cracked.
It's definitely worth taking the tour, though, which gets you into a few places that are inaccessible otherwise and of course gives you a little more background on everything you see. If you're lucky, your tour guide will be old and crotchety. Ours was great; one of those guys that seems borderline senile until you slowly realize that it's all an act; just his warped sense of humor.
The first class lounge - not the even bigger dining room. Still a beautiful space.
The dining room was in use (it's rentable). We caught a glimpse of it on the way out but I didn't get any pictures.
Amazing metal work. No, that's not a painting. That's embossed and tinted metal.
Here's our tour guide showing off a panel featuring every wood veneer used on the ship. I think there are 37 in total. This panel is not original to the ship, but they found it at the shop that first worked on the Queen Mary and they had to have it for display.
This is the forward Observation Bar, still in use as a bar just as it was. The decor is unchanged since 1936, including that painting behind the bar.
The art deco styling. Apparently everything in this bar is original except the TV's.
More great metal work.
Of course the ship is famous for its "ghost" stories, most of which were probably invented by the hotel to sell tour tickets.
And this was the bread pudding. Mmmmmmmmmmmm!
We figured out that this is where Jack and Rose would have had their dance scene in the movie. James Cameron made it seem like it was down in the bowels of the ship!
"I'm the king of the world!"
All of the models that I can remember are Cunard White Star line ships - except this random model of the Normandie. From what I gathered the staff on board the Queen Mary seem to have a feeling of kinship (no pun intended) with the Normandie, most likely because of this famous photo and the fate the Normandie suffered just afterwards. It capsized while undergoing the troop ship conversion that Queen Mary had already successfully completed. That first photo is now prominently displayed on the promenade deck and is the first part of the main tour.
Queen Mary is an amazing ship, but I will say she could use a new coat of exterior paint!
Closing with a pointless 360 degree panorama from the stern of the ship.