1. The Queen Mary – Long Beach, California

    Recently I have found myself trying to make a more determined effort to visit different sights and attractions I have been putting off going to for ages and the Queen Mary in Long Beach is no exception. I have lost count at the number of times I have been to Los Angeles over the years and never got round to heading to Long Beach however last month, I finally made that journey.

    Before leaving my hotel, I tried to book my entrance ticket to the Queen Mary using a 25% off voucher code I found on Retail Me Not. Sadly the Queen Mary booking website is not iPad or iPhone friendly (I do not travel with my laptop) and does not recognise non-US telephone numbers despite ticking the “International Number” box and there is no way to leave it blank as you cannot continue the sale without the information. So the moral of the story is use a laptop to book your tickets online until they have updated their website – it does seem ridiculous in this day and age that a website which is used by a large number of international visitors is not mobile friendly.

    After this slight setback I left my hotel to start the journey to Long Beach. I was staying in Pasadena so would be using the Metro Rail train to get there. After taking the Gold Line to Union Station, I transferred to the Red/Purple Line to 7th Street/Metro Center before changing to Blue Line to Downtown Long Beach station. The journey took 1 hour 45 minutes. I decided not to take the car (which would have been quicker) as I did not want to be driving back later in the day when I would be extremely tired and jet lagged plus the parking fee at the Queen Mary was $18 whereas my train journey cost me less than $10 return.


    From Downtown Long Beach Station I walked around the corner onto Ocean Boulevard where I waited only a few minutes for the Long Beach Passport bus which connects all of the Long Beach attractions completely free of charge. The journey to the Queen Mary took about ten minutes.


    When the bus pulled up at the Queen Mary I had a small heart attack when I saw a line of people at least 200 metres long (no exaggeration!) but thankfully these people had just disembarked off the visiting Grand Princess that was docked next to the Queen Mary and were waiting for the bus into Long Beach and not waiting to enter the Queen Mary. There was also a tacky “English Village” area to one side of the car park which reminded me of the area next to London Bridge in Lake Havasu.


    There were only a few people in line for tickets. I asked about the 25% off code that I had and despite having screencaps of their website errors which had stopped me from booking online, they refused to honour the discount so I had to pay the full price of $29 for a “Queen Mary Passport” which includes access to the ship, a self guided audio tour, one 4D theatre showing and one guided tour. I was asked which time I would like for the “Ghosts and Legends Tour” which I declined. There are other tickets available which include extra tours and access to more exhibits.


    After leaving the ticket booth, I spent a few minutes taking photos of the bow of the ship. There is also an old rusty decrepit looking submarine moored next to the Queen Mary.


    To board the Queen Mary you can take either the stairs or elevators to level 4 of the exterior tower where you walk across a bridge to the ship and enter on the Promenade Deck.


    As well as having zero interest in taking a guided tour, I also did not use the audio tour which was included with my ticket. I always prefer just walking around and seeing everything for myself and reading all the information that is displayed for everyone. One thing I did see is that they would want to keep your passport in exchange for using the audio guide – what a ridiculous system. Sorry but I’m not leaving my passport (one of the most important documents I own) with anyone – that’s never going to happen in a million years. Why not have an audio guide you can download onto your iPhone before you visit like some other places I have visited before – it seems a much better idea if they’re that worried about people stealing their audio guide devices.

    I also looked to see if there was any free wifi which there was not. You could access it for around $4 (I think) for your visit which I decided I would pay for. I had to fill in similar information on their website to what I had done earlier during the day and after having no luck once again after entering my UK number, I tried my old US number which I used to have which didn’t work either.


    From the Promenade Deck I headed straight up the stairs to the Sun Deck where I noticed a sign that the ship horn would be sounding shortly. I walked up one deck to one of the bridge wings to hear the horn and had to stop myself laughing too loudly when it blasted and everyone else on board jumped like crazy. If you want to hear the horn for yourself, it sounds at 10:00am, 12:00pm, 3:00pm and 6:00pm.


    After hearing the horn, I spent some time looking around the bridge. I enjoyed looking at the various Telegraphs as well as seeing the information about the water tight doors, stabilisers and the ship’s communication systems. Behind the bridge you could look at the senior Officers Quarters.


    After looking around the bridge, I made my way along the Sports Deck to the Shuffleboard Areas. You could see clearly into the lifeboats which seemed to be in a state of rot and decay. In fact there was paint falling off the ship in so many places which was incredibly sad to see.


    Further along the Sports Deck was the Radio Room and Wireless Room.


    Walking along the starboard side of the Sun Deck was great as it was very quiet when I was there. It was a beautiful sunny day when I visited the Queen Mary and the view of Long Beach across the harbour was great.


    It was also quiet at the stern of the ship which allowed me to get more photos with no one else in them. You can access the Isolation Ward from this area.


    The Isolation Ward area was not only used as a medical facility but also in in case of stowaways. There was also lots of information displayed about rescue at sea, crew and passengers who died onboard and burials which took place whilst at sea. I was the only person in this area at the time and I found it incredibly creepy.


    Whilst walking back along the Promenade Deck towards the bow of the Queen Mary, I stopped at the Midship Marketplace Cafe for a Starbucks. My Grande Soy Latte cost me just over $7 – I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much on a coffee before! I dread to think how much the restaurants and bars are onboard.


    When I reached the bow of the ship, I was incredibly happy to see hardly anyone there – I did not head there as soon as I boarded as I had seen it was quite busy from outside. Now with so few people around, it was easy to get all the photos I wanted in peace and quiet.


    Back inside the ship on the Promenade Deck, I spent some time in the Model Gallery checking out the incredibly detailed models of various ships including the Queen Mary, the Lusitania and the Titanic. In the Shipyard area, there was a giant Lego model of the Queen Mary.


    The Queen Mary hotel rooms are located over three decks. Also on these decks are the Firehouse and Travel Bureau exhibits. One of the only ways to see the First Class swimming pool is to take the Ghosts and Legends Tour which I did not do but I knew this before I declined the tour. I really do not want to see it when it is filled with special effects lighting and smoke from a fog machine.


    To get to the Engine Room, you take the walkway from R Deck outside of the ship and down to the entrance on D Deck where you need to show your ticket to enter. The 4D theatre is also located here which I avoided as they were showing Planet Earth and Spongebob Squarepants – neither of which interested me in the slightest or had anything to do with the ship.


    There was only a handful of people in the Engine Room at the same time and it was so quiet that once they were out of sight around a corner, I found the whole area even creepier than the Isolation Ward earlier in the day especially as I was walking around by myself. It reminded me of a Halloween Horror Nights maze and half expected someone to jump out at any time – thankfully no one did.


    Next I came across the Propeller Box which was built onto the exterior of the ship so that you would be able to view the one remaining propeller that is still attached to the ship beneath the water. Along with the lighting and the echoes of voices nearby, it was incredibly eerie but absolutely fascinating to see. Everyone walking into the box seemed to have the same reactions of awe and being creeped out.


    There was also information displayed on the Queen Mary’s time as a troopship when she once carried 16,082 soldiers from New York to the UK – the pictures were fascinating. There was also mock ups of the different class cabins to look at but it would have been a lot nicer to see the real versions of these as a lot of the cabin areas of the Queen Mary were gutted when the ship arrived in Long Beach in 1968.

    After leaving the Engine Room I walked back alongside the outside of the ship to grab some last photos before quickly visiting the gift shop on my way out. I did not buy anything as some of the souvenirs were strange and tacky to say the least.


    Once I had disembarked I walked to view the stern of ship to get some more photos and you can clearly see the propeller box.


    I had already decided earlier in the day that I would walk back to Long Beach instead of taking the Passport bus. It took me about 30 minutes to get back to the Downtown Long Beach Metro Rail stop and was well worth it to get some great views of the Queen Mary whilst walking across the bridge.


    Thankfully I did not have to wait long for a train and since Long Beach is at the end of the Blue Line I was able to get a seat for the entire journey back to 7th Street/Metro Center.

    I enjoyed my day out at the Queen Mary but I would not go back. Given how much they charge for everything, it is very sad to see her falling into such a state of disrepair and see so many different areas closed off as well as looking desperately old, grubby and tired – I would not want to stay in the hotel overnight. She needs some TLC and fast!

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