Queen Mary Ship and Hotel (Long Beach, California): is this old icon of a ship worth visiting today?

Queen Mary Long Beach
RMS Queen Mary at Long Beach California

When I first wrote this posting and recorded a podcast about the RMS Queen Mary liner at Long Beach in California, it was heading towards Halloween time at the end of October. What got me thinking about writing the posting was that I received an email newsletter reminding me that one – if not THE – most haunted places in the United States was the ship and it was celebrating (is that the right word!) Halloween.

Today, the Queen Mary is still billed as one of the most haunted venues in the United States.

In this posting I cover:
  • History of ship in Long Beach
  • Things to do on the ship
  • Attractions and events around the ship
RMS Queen Mary at Long Beach
Being in Los Angeles California for work, I could not miss the opportunity to head down to Long Beach and visit the famous “Queen Mary” which is berthed there and operates as a part hotel and part museum. Located at 1126 Queens Hwy. Long Beach, Ca. 90802. You get there by heading south from Los Angeles on any Freeway (405, 91, 105) to the 710 South. The Queen Mary is located at the very end of the 710 Freeway in Long Beach.

The ship has now been there sitting at the same berth for significantly longer than it was actually in service. The ship arrived there in 1967, and so has been there for coming up to a staggering 40 years. Long Beach authorities paid a few million dollars for the ship, but soon regretted it as the costs to refurbish it as an attraction spiralled into something like $100 million.

I had visited the ship years ago, but with my new found passion and interest in cruise liners and Cunard. I really wanted to visit the ship again. And I am glad I did. 

It was even more interesting having read more and seen videos about the Queen Mary history. I would encourage you to try and do that before you visit the ship, although they do have some good and concise exhibition areas and videos covering its history.

In my view they do not capture enough of the glamour and varied life the ship led while in service from the mid 1930s, through the 2nd World War, and into the glory days of trans-Atlantic liner travel through the 1950s until the rapid decimation and pretty much destruction of the trans-Atlantic service by the jet liners in the early 1960s which led to both the Queen Mary and her sister ship the Queen Elizabeth being sold up after often there being more staff than passengers on the route.

The ship is large. Although it did not initially look as large as I remembered the ship, once I was on and wandering around (at one stage getting lost) inside it!

The thing that struck me, reading the material posted around the ship about its history since it arrived at Long Beach, was the very patchy history of ownership and success of the ship as a museum and hotel. It sounded like it has not really been that successful and came close to being scrapped…although as it has been declared a heritage site or something now it is protected.

Even Disney, operated the hotel and attraction at one time. Disney took on the lease as part of a clever – if maybe naughty – attempt to play off Long Beach and Anaheim as the venue for the new Disney attraction which they walked away from after deciding on Anaheim.

As you approach and go on the ship, you do get the distinct feeling that it is a kind of maintained neglect. But do not let that put you off, as the ship is still an amazing experience and well worth visiting.

They keep adding new initiatives like the “ghosts” tour, which I will cover later, being used to try and drum up new interest and reasons to get fans back to visit again.

Queen Mary Funnels

The “Queen Mary” attraction – what to do there and some tips

The day I visited (a Monday) it was very quiet indeed, and initially I thought that this was great as I had the ship more or less to myself… but it became increasingly spooky wandering around the corridors and beneath the deck areas of the ship and long and gloomy corridors with no-one around. I can see why so many ‘ghost stories’ have emerged!! And found myself scuttling around some parts of the ship.

On board, the public (i.e. those not staying at the hotel part of the ship) you get to go around the upper decks of the ship and see the bridge. This was quite something, with its brass controls. It is quite visually amazing. 

You also get to see the Captain and his immediate senior officers’ cabins. I really found these very interesting as all the furniture, fixtures and uniforms are there on display and as they were when the ship was in service. But even more interesting was to see where and how the ship was adapted for service in WW2, and how they managed to cram at time anything from 10000 to 15000 men on-board the ship. That’s about 4 times more than it was designed for. 

You get to see how the accommodation was configured to achieve that. It certainly was crammed and cosy.

One of the best sections on the tour is the Treasures of Queen Mary’ section which recreates all the cabins. That part of the attraction is quite hard to find, and it is really badly signposted and I almost missed them altogether and had to ask a few times how to get to that part of the ship. Last time I visited the ship, I had no idea that part even existed. So you need to make sure that you make sure you don’t miss this part of the ship, as it is well worth the visit as you get to see replicas of each of the different classes of cabins and the large diversity that existed on the ship.

I have taken a fair few photos of the ship, which you can take a look at. My photos of the ship: http://www.bembridge.co.uk/Queen_Mary_2004.htm

Decks of the Queen Mary at Long Beach

What else is there to do on and around the ship?

There are 3 things worth mentioning:
  1. Eating and drinking venues
  2. The Ghosts and Legends Tour
  3. The Russian submarine anchored next to it which you can visit
I am not going to talk about staying on the Queen Mary as a hotel, other than to say there are over 200 rooms that are all the old better class cabins and that you can find out rates and how to stay via the official site at: http://www.queenmary.com

Eating and Dining
There is a wide range of places to eat across all levels and prices. I cover these on the podcast and more information can be got from the link above.

Ghosts and Legends Tour
Many people, including psychics, believe the Queen Mary is a very haunted ship. They argue that it lives up to the name of ‘The Grey Ghost’ that it was nicknamed during the 2ndWorld War due to her camouflage paint that meant she was a ghostly looking apparition churning through the seas.

The Ghosts and Legends show is a daily, special effects, walk-through show created aboard the ship that dramatizes actual paranormal and historic events that have been reported over the years. The set up is that some of what you see may actually not be created – it may be real ghost activity. The tour is based on stories from passengers and people who work on the ship.

The tour is spread over a huge 25,000-square-foot area and takes guests through locations not accessible to the public on other tours.

The main haunted areas are:
  1. The 1st Class Swimming Pool. Closed for almost 40 years, images of women in period swimming gear and wet footprints appearing are reported. Psychics claim the pool area is a vortex that allows spirits to enter and leave the ship. Give you the chills!
  2. The Engine Room/ Door 13. In 1966 an 18 year old was crushed in the water tight door, and reports of a blue overall lad walking down the corridor and disappearing at the door are common.
  3. The Queen Salon (old 1st Class Dining Room). A woman in white is seen dancing in the shadows. The spookiest story is the one tour guides tell of a young girl on a tour constantly claiming she could see the woman when no-one else could.
  4. First Class Suites (it does seem that the 1st Class spirits are the more persistent haunters doesn’t it). People staying there report ringing phones, breathing, covers being pulled off and a photographer had the image of a man dressed in 1930s clothes in one of the mirrors.
  5. 3rd Class Nursery. A baby died not long after birth and crying is often reported from the area the nursery used to be.
  6. The hull. In a tragic accident in the 2nd world war the Queen Mary zig zagging to avoid being destroyed by the German Navy submarines spliced through a Royal Navy escort ship called the H.M.S. Curacao killing 300 men. A TV crew had left recording equipment on overnight a few years back and found lots of pounding and other report horrible screams from the area the ships collided.
The Annual Queen Mary’s Halloween Terror Fest
Building on the haunted theme, this event is now been running for over 20 years!

The site says: “Every October the Queen Mary in Long Beach transforms into “The Most Terrifying Place On Earth” for Shipwreck, the Queen Mary’s Halloween Terror Fest. Each year Shipwreck unveils a new creation that delivers ultimate horror to the daring mortals that brave this terrifying event. Admission includes unlimited entry to all Mazes, the Boiler Room Club, featuring Live Bands, plus the huge 3 level Dance Party in the Queen Mary’s Exhibit Hall. Plus, don’t forget to visit the frightfully sexy Fright Mistress in her private lair.

Everyone knows the Queen Mary is haunted and is no stranger to haunted happenings. Throughout the years, Queen Mary employees, guests and visiting psychics have reported unexplainable events and paranormal activity aboard the ship. Visitors to Shipwreck will have the opportunity to encounter these areas as they descend deep into the bowels of the ship and navigate the closed corridors and dark hallways of this massive haunted vessel!”

Russian Submarine: Scorpion

Moored next to the “Queen Mary” is this Russian Submarine. Looking a bit shabby, it is very interesting.

The “Scorpion” theater, exhibit and gift shop areas are can be visited by everyone, and the views of the exterior of the submarine from the wharf are good. But the real interesting part is if you clamber inside.

But you need to be agile as it is very cramped and you better be fine and happy moving about in enclosed spaces.

On the sub, you learn and see that 78 crew shared 2 showers and 3 toilets, for up to 3 months at sea. Only officers had their own bunks. Ordinary sailors “hot bunked.” 27 bunks in the aft torpedo room were shared by 54 crew. They managed that by having 3 shifts per day: duty, maintenance and sleep.
The sub, you find out, is a Foxtrot class which was the largest conventional (diesel-electric, non-nuclear) Soviet sub. It searched for and tracked enemy forces during the Cold War, extensively in the Pacific Ocean. 79 Foxtrots were built between 1958-1984 for both the Soviet Navy and others countries including IndiaLibyaCuba and Poland. Although it was diesel powered it carried nuclear tipped missiles that could destroy a whole port.

3 diesel engines generate power for electric motors that drive the 3 propellers. At periscope depth, air for the diesels can be sucked from the surface using a snorkel. Below that, 4 gigantic battery banks take over.

I have no idea how men coped being in that sub. It is worth a visit.

Russian submarine next to Queen Mary Long Beach

shopping arcade on the Queen Mary
The bridge on Queen Mary at Long Beach

So all in all if you are in the Los Angeles area, I really do recommend a trip down to Long Beach to visit the Queen Mary!


· The “Queen Mary” attraction – what to do there and some tips
· Read more: http://www.queenmary.com
· My Photos of the ship
· Ghosts and Legends Tour
· The Annual Queen Mary’s Halloween Terror Fest
· Russian Submarine: Scorpion

Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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