On April 14, 2003 the Long Beach Cruise Terminal at the Queen Mary was dedicated, as a second Los Angeles terminal port. Once the royal dame of the seas, the legendary Queen Mary is now affiliated with flashy, young, Carnival Cruise Lines. The project was accomplished with the cooperation of the City of Long Beach.
The 81,237 ton, 1,019.5 foot Queen Mary is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Her maiden voyage was in 1936. She is still afloat as a 365-room Art-Deco hotel being renovated and refurbished, as we write. Constructed by John Brown & Co., Ltd. of Clydebank, Scotland for Cunard Steamship Co., Ltd., this behemoth was retired from regular passenger service September 19, 1967. Her "Last Great Cruise" began October 31, 1967 ending in Long Beach, California where ownership changed from British registry to the City of Long Beach.
As a troop ship, she carried 765,429 military personnel during World War II. Normal passenger capacity was 1,957 with a crew of 1,174. Her twelve decks housed three classes of passengers who sailed during the most luxurious era of cruising, with Third Class comparing with our modern First Class. Celebrity passengers, such as Fred Astaire and Liberace, who weren't on board as entertainers, generously put on special shows solely for the Third Class passengers. The Queen Mary didn't provide the elaborate entertainment that Carnival ships now offer. Other celebrities who voyaged on the Queen were Bing Crosby, who became deathly seasick, and Clark Gable, who enjoyed the Observation Bar.
The 1,850 portholes are in sharp contrast to the modern liners' huge windows and verandahs. On the Queen Mary a variety of imported woods, crystal chandeliers, and art created the subdued opulence affluent passengers expected. Now Carnival ships feature granite, marble, neon, fiber optics, soaring glass elevators, and crystal imitating the elegance of past luxury liners, but there is nothing subdued about the Carnival décor.
Staying Aboard Today
The Queen Mary's Ghosts and Legends show introduces guests to a special effects show, as they are guided into supposedly haunted areas of the ship. The first-class swimming pool, no longer in use, has been a site of apparitions and unexplained phenomena. We felt goose bumps listening to some of the tales but, unfortunately, never encountered any ghosts during our stay in a room that was comparable to a modern ship's stateroom. The suites were spacious and lavish, as they are on today's liners.
Hotel diners enjoy excellent, well-presented cuisine, while viewing the glittering skyline.
Treasures from WWII and historic exhibits of the Queen's maiden and final voyages are on display. Pre- and post-cruise hotel packages start at $115 per person per night, double occupancy, and include a free rental car. All can be partnered with three- and four-day Baja cruises, as well as seven-day Mexican Riviera voyages on Carnival's Ecstasy and Elation. The newer Carnival Pride will be added to the port's schedule September 21, 2003. Early arriving Carnival passengers may relax in a lounge in the Queen Mary, conveniently check in there, and simply walk onto the ship once boarding is permitted.
The New Terminal
Carnival, the only cruise line to construct a terminal in the United States, invested $40 million dollars in this project. A brilliantly engineered gangway shifts up, down, and sideways to accept different size ships. The cruise berth can accommodate ships up to 1,100 feet long. The 30,000-square-foot passenger terminal is located in the geodesic-domed building originally constructed to house tycoon Howard Hughes's folly, the "Spruce Goose." A parking garage shelters approximately 1450 vehicles. Numerous Carnival representatives provide for quick check-in, and an area is set aside for Immigration and luggage to make debarkation more passenger-friendly. This terminal is now among the most technically advanced in the world. The principal architects were BEA of Coral Gables, FL, and the engineers were Moffatt & Nichols of Long Beach, CA.
A surprise shower didn't dampen spirits, as we watched the very first ship, the 70,000-ton Ecstasy, glide into port to dock. She then sailed to Mexico that afternoon with excited passengers, who probably didn't hobnob with any movie celebrities in this age of economy cruising. A free shuttle bus and an AquaBus,a new 49-passenger water taxi, transport guests of the hotel and port to the new Long Beach Aquarium and Shoreline Village shops. Construction of a new group of stores is underway. This port is less than a half hour's drive from Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm, both popular tourist destinations. Guests will find this port much more enjoyable than the San Pedro port utilized by other cruise lines. The old and the new existing side by side is a definite asset to southern California's cruise passengers.
If You Go
A complimentary self-guided tour of the Queen Mary is available. Guided tours take visitors into areas not available to the general public. These are available for a nominal fee and include the "Ghosts and Legends Show" and "Treasures from the Queen Mary Archive."
Stateroom Reservations: (562) 435-3511; (800) 437-2934; www.queenmary.com
Photos courtesy of Jack White and Alan Walker
Jack and Toni White of Rancho Mirage, California have, for many years, been freelance travel writers specializing in cruise travel. Their articles have appeared in newspapers throughout the United States and Canada, including the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and Vancouver Sun. Prestigious Palm Springs Life magazine published their article on filming the movie "Out to Sea" on the Holland America Line Westerdam. They also write regularly for Mature Living and Plus, formerly Senior Life.
Jack graduated from USC as an architect. His background in architecture allows him to review, write, and produce photographs from a unique perspective. Toni attended UCLA after graduating from Hollywood High School where she had been the Feature Editor of the Hollywood High School News, where one of the writers was comedienne Carole Burnett. Toni lived abroad for many years in South America and in the UK and has a familiarity with different cultures that influences her writing. The Whites love to travel and especially want to share their passion for cruising with you.
Toni & Jack White may be reached at: JACNTONI@aol.com.
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