When the RMS Queen Mary took her maiden voyage in 1936, she was the ultimate luxury ocean liner. She made 1,001 transatlantic crossings before being retired to Long Beach, California in 1967, where she now serves as a floating hotel.
Rich in history and tradition, the legendary – and allegedly haunted – Queen Mary Hotel transports guests to a bygone era. You can capture the experience of what transatlantic travel was like in the 1930s when you spend a night or two on board what is definitely a hotel like none other!
Art Deco Elegance
Furnished with 1930s-style art and décor, the Queen Mary Hotel’s 314 guestrooms conjure up images of the ship’s sailing days. In fact, even though it has undergone numerous refurbishments over the years, designers left many of the original features intact in the rooms to add to the ambience. Non-working touches such as original fans, salt water faucets in the showers, and porthole windows truly transport you back in time.
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Of course, modern creature comforts now prevail; every room features flat screen televisions, phones and comfortable beds and linens.
The lobby, shopping promenade, Observation Bar and event spaces all share that art deco flair.
The Queen Mary Experience
Have you ever gone on a cruise? You know that really exciting, anticipatory time right after you board but before the ship leaves port, where you can relax and wander around and explore everything there is to do and see? That is pretty much what your entire stay upon the Queen Mary feels like.
We found our first night on the ship really exciting. For my husband, who has lived in Southern California his entire 40+ years, driven/sailed past the Queen Mary countless times but never gone on board, this was a very cool experience. It was fun just poking around the ship, reading the “Haunted Sightings” signs and sharing some good old-fashioned family bonding time.
Hallways are long and elegantly carpeted, paneled in dark wood and for the most part windowless. This is where the creepy factor first kicked in for me! (Cue the twins from The Shining!)
The ship has been upgraded over the years, but don’t expect a ton of modern luxuries. The rooms have wi-fi, but in our experience the service was slow. There are also not a lot of electrical outlets for charging phones, tablets, and other devices. (A good excuse to turn them off or leave them packed in your luggage!)
The hotel was also built with the expectation that there would always be engines running, so now that the ship is silenced, sound travels easily. What might have once been drowned out by the noise made by a running ship now echoes and reverberates through the walls. It is not unusual to hear a neighboring room’s muted conversations or television, doors closing, people walking down the corridors, etc. So if you have kids that like to get a little rowdy, be prepared to reel them in.
Amenities & Attractions
From historic tours, to paranormal attractions, retail shops, spa and various events, there are a wide variety of things to do and see while on board the Queen Mary.
Amenities include a fitness center, spa, historical exhibits, and the Observation Bar, where cocktail-sipping guests enjoy panoramic views. There are also numerous guided tours visitors can purchase, and a highly-enjoyable audio tour that comes free with your hotel booking.
The Queen Mary’s newest exhibit just opened in March. Located on the Promenade Deck, the new model ship gallery features intricately detailed, scaled down models of the Queen Mary, Titanic, Lusitania, Britannia, Oregon and other legendary liners. You will even find a miniature Winston Churchill strolling on the model ship’s deck; the former British prime minister crossed the Atlantic three times aboard the Queen Mary in the 1940s.
Adjacent to the Queen Mary Hotel, you will find the embarkation port for Carnival Cruises and the Catalina Express boat to Catalina Island, making the Queen Mary a perfect pit stop on a longer vacation.
What Works for Families
• An array of rooms and suites in sizes and bed combos to fit every family’s size and budget.
• The Queen Mary Hotel offers kids a free scavenger hunt checklist upon check-in. This was a fun activity for our family to work on together.
• The novelty of being aboard a real ship was in itself a really cool factor.
• Lots of historical tours and exhibits to occupy your time.
• Proximity to downtown Long Beach, Los Angeles, Catalina and Disneyland attractions.
What Doesn’t Work for Families
• Inexpensive dining options are limited. However we ate twice at the reasonably priced, casual Promenade Café and the food was always good.
• There is no pool, unless you count the first class pool featured on the ghost tour. But since you can’t swim in it and it’s known to be haunted, let’s just say there is no pool.
• If you have a little one in a stroller or a handicapped member of your family, be forewarned that some areas of the ship may be difficult to access.
• Finally, if you are going to embrace Queen Mary’s haunted reputation, be prepared for kids to want to stay close when the lights go out. We had a fabulously roomy Family Stateroom, and yet still ended up all smushed together in one bed!
Dining on Board the Queen Mary
The hotel’s signature restaurant is Sir Winston’s Restaurant & Lounge. This upscale restaurant is open for dinner only. Located at the top of the ship, it offers sweeping views of Long Beach Harbor. Also open for dinner only is the Chelsea Chowder House. As the name suggests, dishes here reflect New England’s coastal cuisine and a great selection of beers. While kids are welcome at both of these restaurants, the ambiance really is probably more appealing to grown-ups.
Another indulgent choice if you are visiting on the weekend is the Sunday Champagne Brunch. Served in the Grand Salon, previously the ship’s first class dining room, the spectacular spread features more than 50 international entrees and as much champagne as you can handle!
Promenade Café is the Queen Mary’s most family friendly choice. The menu is simple and affordable, yet you still get to enjoy nice water views and great service. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including a fairly expansive daily breakfast buffet. Take some time while you’re here to check out the great old photos from the Queen Mary’s heyday.
The Queen Mary also features daily lunch and tea service in The Tea Room, and the Midship Marketplace offers quick bites and a chance to get your Starbucks fix.
Healthy Tip for This Destination
Since the day it launched in 1936, the Queen Mary has offered guests an opportunity to stay in shape while traveling. The Fitness Center features state-of-the-art cardio equipment – treadmills, elliptical machines and exercise bikes – as well free weights and muscle workout equipment. It is open 24 hours.
Just for fun, on display are some original pieces from the First Class Gym of the 1930s. Display pieces include a belt vibrator machine, stretching rack, horse riding machine, cycle, wrist exerciser and boxing gloves.