While you can’t fall in love on the Titanic as Jack and Rose did in the 1997 blockbuster film bearing the infamous ship’s name, you can do so on a ship that is larger, faster and just as historic. Be a passenger for a day on the RMS Queen Mary and welcome aboard your next romantic adventure.
Passengers for the Day on the RMS Queen Mary, Long Beach, California:
It’s hard to imagine anyone not knowing the tragic story of the sinking of the RMS Titanic after striking an iceberg in the Northern Atlantic in 1912. If you missed the history lesson in school, you probably learned most of the details from the 1997 best picture movie.
The incredible story of a young couple falling in love while their world was literally sinking around them created a fascination for many with being a passenger on such a magnificent ship and preferably one that won’t sink.
You can find such a ship on a road trip from Los Angeles in only a 30-minute drive. The RMS Queen Mary is the closest still floating resemblance of the Titanic, but has a history and story to tell that is as fascinating and romantic.
Leslie and I have visited numerous times, taken the tours, eaten in the restaurants, and even rang in the New Year during an overnight stay. Each time we visit, we learn something new and gain a greater appreciation for all the wonders the ship has to offer.
1. Relax and Explore at the Same Time
Once onboard the ship you’ll make a voyage to an era where ocean liners represented the height of luxury experiences in the world. The RMS Queen Mary was the ship everyone who was anyone living in Europe, and the United States wanted to be on.
While exploring from the bow to the stern, you can feel the history and hear the voices of her passengers during the 40 years of service crisscrossing the Atlantic either to entertain princesses or evade German U-Boat’s. So take your time, relax, and explore the numerous picturesque locations.
2. Additional Amenities for Added Pleasure
On top of that, there are fine dining restaurants with views of the Pacific, a wine tasting experience, and even a full-service spa to help get you ready for a romantic evening stroll along the promenade deck.
The Queen Mary experience can be expensive overall between the tours, restaurants, and hotel rooms. However, you can choose the more affordable options and do a self-guided audio tour instead of a group one if you are on a budget.
2. Advance Planning
Depending on when you visit, restaurants and tours may be booked. Make a reservation and buy your tickets online beforehand. You may find discounts for tours through AAA.
3. Thin Walls
We stayed overnight on the RMS Queen Mary for New Year’s Eve. Of course, people are up very late partying, and this may not be a typical experience. But, we found the walls to be thin and were kept up most of the night by the noise.
Best Place to Steal a Kiss:
The most romantic spot on the ship may be on the bow if you want to try and replicate Jack and Rose’s famous scene in the movie Titanic. However, they don’t let you right up to the front of the RMS Queen Mary. You may find a more romantic and secluded spot on the open-air deck of the ship facing the City of Long Beach better suited to take in the moment together.
A Grand History:
The Queen Mary made its maiden voyage on May 27, 1936, from Southampton, England to the United States. Despite being built during the great depression, she was considered to be the most luxurious ship ever built, surpassing even the Titanic.
As a result, royalty and anyone that could afford the expensive transatlantic journey sought to be aboard the ship. Some of the most famous guests include Audrey Hepburn, Walt Disney, Clark Gable, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and Queen Elizabeth.
Not only did the RMS Queen Mary deliver its passengers in class and style, but also faster than any ship that had come before her, setting a speed record across the Atlantic that was held for 14 years. In less than four days, she could transport several thousand passengers to their destination in New York.
The RMS Queen Mary vs. The RMS Titanic:
Most people don’t believe it when stepping on the ship, but the Queen Mary is considerably larger than the Titanic by overall length and gross tonnage. An added bonus, not that the Queen Mary needed them, but her lifeboats could hold 145 people each compared to the Titanic who’s only held 65.
Luxury Liner to Military Ship:
The allied nations in World War II owe the RMS Queen Mary a great debt of gratitude for its wartime service. During the war, Hitler’s German Navy U-boats were scattered throughout the Atlantic to stop the United States from sending aid and military support to its fellow allies. The U.S. needed a fast and safe way to transport troops, and the Queen Mary came to the rescue.
Shortly after war broke out, the Queen Mary was loaned to the United States and transformed into a formidable troop transport. She was painted a camouflaged gray color, stripped of her luxurious amenities, and retrofitted with guns for defense.
She was nicknamed the “Grey Ghost” because of her stealth and stark color and became the largest and fastest troopship during the war. Overall she transported close to 1 million troops during the war and over 16,000 during in one trip, which is a record for the most people ever transported on a vessel.
Winston Churchill used the RMS Queen Mary to sneak back and forth to meet in America during the war and considered it his headquarters at sea. He actually signed the D-Day Declaration onboard.
Hitler knew of the Queen Mary’s existence and wanted it sunk. Sinking her would be a huge blow to the allied forces and substantially delay their war efforts. Hitler offered an enormous monetary reward and a high-ranking promotion to any U-Boat captain that could find her. But, the Queen Mary would never be caught and sunk.
Returning to Style:
After the war, she returned to being one of the grandest cruise ships on the seas for two more decades. Eventually, her era had ended, and she was put up for auction in 1967. Now she sits in her new home in the City of Long Beach, California where she offers visitors a glimpse of what it was like to be a passenger on one of the most historic ships in history.
How to Experience the RMS Queen Mary Today:
While it is possible to do a self-guided tour, you will miss seeing certain rooms and hearing about detailed stories and the intricacies of the ship. Plus, it is huge, and it helps to have a guide, so you don’t get lost. We’ve taken all the tours offered and appreciate the experience. We think you will too
There is also a new ship model gallery and 4-D theater. The ship model gallery gives you a fun way to examine the different parts of the ship on a much smaller scale. The theater’s show unfortunately at this time is not connected with the Queen Mary’s story. We skipped it.
They do have a tiny and nicely air conditioned room where they play a fascinating movie reel telling the personal and intimate story of several passengers. It provides an emotional experience but truly makes you understand how special of a place you are visiting.
For a limited time, there is an exhibit devoted to the legacy of Princess Diana. It contains many of her heirlooms including dresses and photographs as well as a detailed history of the royal family.
Do you like Brunch? If so, you have come to the right place. There is an outstanding international brunch buffet that will leave you stuffed. Afterward you’ll need to spend some time walking off all those calories. The ship provides plenty of room to do that.
The Observation Bar & Art Deco lounge is a perfect place for a cocktail, lunch, and relaxing during the day. You will find several other choices on board and an even a wine tasting experience. But for the evening, we highly recommend Sir Winston’s Restaurant for a romantic dinner. This is a fine dining and gourmet experience that is listed as Open Table’s top 100 most romantic restaurants.
3. Overnight Stay
The RMS Queen Mary true to its original elegance offers many different overnight accommodations depending on your budget. There’s an onboard spa and work out facility. Or you can try using the gym equipment from her opening days!
We stayed over for a night, but being New Year’s Eve it was very loud, and the walls were thin. Depending on your room, you most likely won’t have that same experience. A really neat thing is that the rooms have been left intact with their original fixtures. Although, most are not operational and do not offer hot salt water out of the faucet. They are still fun to check out.
4. Attend or Plan a Special Event
Throughout the year there are numerous special events on and surrounding the ship. We have been to their New Year’s Eve party and Halloween Dark Harbor experience. Both are done well and worth a visit. There are also music festivals, MMA fights, and comedy shows.
Or you can plan your own event for a private function and even a wedding.
5. Paranormal Activity
A ship with this much history must have had its share of deaths on board. If you are brave enough, you can go hunting for the spirits that haunt parts of the ship nightly. There are daytime ghost hunts and nighttime paranormal investigations. We thought parts of this ship were very spooky, especially the pool and boiler room area. Do this at your own risk!
Desperate Repairs Needed to Prevent Sinking:
You will see some renovations commencing, but the RMS Queen Mary needs a lot of work to restore it to its glory days and avoid a similar fate to the Titanic. Naval architects studies show that $289 million in urgent repairs are needed to prevent flooding and hull collapse. Don’t let this deter you. Your visit will help fund the worked needed.
The Queen Mary was close to being sold for scrap metal or turned into a high school before the City of Long Beach won her in an auction. Today, we are so grateful that this floating treasure is available to everyone for the experience of being a passenger without leaving the port.
Next time you fly into or visit the Los Angeles area take the short detour to Long Beach, and you will not be disappointed.
Have you visited the RMS Queen Mary? If so, what was your experience? Can you share how it compares to modern day cruise ships? Did you believe it was larger than the Titanic? Please share and feel free to ask questions.