Queen Mary anchored in glitzy past
By Hugo Martin
Los Angeles Times
LONG BEACH, Calif. The Queen Mary's history has been star-studded and stirring.
When the ship was built in 1934, it was considered the fastest and most luxurious cruise ship in the world. On the seas, it hosted celebrities and royalty, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Elizabeth Taylor (the first guest to pay extra to bring a poodle onboard) and Bob Hope. During World War II, the ship was known as the Gray Ghost when it transported soldiers to the European front.
The city of Long Beach bought the Queen Mary in 1967 from the Cunard Line shipping company. Since then, the city has brought in several firms — including the Walt Disney Co. — to manage the ship and develop roughly 45 acres of adjacent oceanfront property. In addition to being a hotel, the ship offers tours and has three sit-down restaurants.
The ship is getting long overdue upgrades under new management company Delaware North Cos., a New York hospitality and food service company that also operates hotels and restaurants in the Yellowstone and Grand Canyon national parks and at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
As it remodels the 314 staterooms, the company has refurbished the rooms' original portholes and bathtubs — including knobs for hot and cold saltwater — but also added flat-screen televisions, hairdryers and iPod docking stations.
Bob Maguglin, the public relations director at the Long Beach visitors bureau and a former tour guide on the ship, said, "It requires a lot of tender loving care to keep it (the ship) up and keep it in beautiful condition; we are going to take you back in time."
To date, 75 of the 314 rooms and two of the restaurants have been renovated.
If you go: The Queen Mary welcomes visitors 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and is docked at 1126 Queen's Highway in Long Beach.
Tours: Several guided tours of the ship are available; a self-guided Shipwalk Tour on 12 decks of the Queen Mary is $24.95 (age 55-plus and military $21.95, ages 5-11, $12.95).
Submarine: You can also tour a cold-war-era Russian submarine, code name Scorpion, alongside the Queen Mary, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. $10.95 ($9.95 for age 55-plus or 5-11, free for under age 5). www.russiansublongbeach.com
Hotel reservations: 877-342-0742; www.queenmary.org, 877-342-0738.