Glory Days' Claire Gormly, rounds off her San Fran sightseeing with a trip on the high seas aboard the Queen Mary...
I am an avid biography reader, particularly old Hollywood movie star biographies. One thing most of the subjects of these biographies have in common is that they would travel from America to Europe on board the Queen Mary. Launched in 1936, she was the “grandest ocean liner ever built” and transported mail as well as movie stars between New York and Southampton, England.
I have heard about and seen pictures of this monarch of the sea for so long, that she felt like a myth, like all those long dead stars, not really real. Hence why as I drove up to the quay in Long Beach I had tears in my eyes.
It was vintage immersion heaven for me.
If you yearn for a real taste of “how things were”, the Queen Mary will not disappoint. I can honestly say that every part of her was just as I had imagined, all perfectly preserved for us to enjoy.
She was only used for three years before World War II broke out and she was drafted into service, carrying troops. But after the war, she resumed elegant service and was a passenger ship until 1967.
I had the opportunity to be hosted on board and to try out the tours. I was given a small room, but one that had all the original fittings, an art deco heater and the taps for hot or cold sea water that were no longer working unfortunately.
Apparently this would have been a third class room, situated at the front of the ship, so passengers would have had a lot of movement, but it was still rather salubrious for third class!
I explored the decks, the afternoon sun warming the wood through the glass on the promenade deck, I thought of Cary Grant and all the stories of Marlene Dietrich and her liaisons with Ernest Hemingway.
I did the aptly named “Glory Days” tour with our host James (pictured below left). It was informative and fun and the best part was viewing the old Ballroom in the middle of the ship. It was so beautiful, imagining the swing bands and the old dears waltzing away in their furs.
The observation bar is still in original condition, along with a lovely ghost story about a 1940s woman in a green dress, hat and gloves being spotted smoking in the bar when all mortal customers were long gone. In fact, all the ghost stories are of glamorous specters and I am not suprised! This is one classy ship and if I were an upper class ghost I would certainly choose this as my haunt.
Speaking of ghosts, I would give the eponymous tour a miss. I could imagine the spirits holding their heads in shame at the loud, badly decorated decidedly unscary experience. I was gutted that it goes into the old swimming pool, so you can’t see it in its glory, but even in the dark it’s gorgeous, I would have loved to see it up close.
The whole ship is one big art deco wonder, the peaceful long corridors, the staircase, the beautiful lifts. I couldn’t get enough of walking around, breathing in the smell of it, caressing the walls. In fact, I am sure people thought I was a little crazy, whispering “I love you” to her a bit too often.
It’s not expensive to stay on board, so why wouldn’t you jump at the chance to stay in a proper piece of history when in LA.? Each year there is an Art Deco festival held on board, it’s definitely on my to do list. Unfortunately, I just missed out this year, but I can only imagine how much fun it would be to really pretend it was 1937 and you are bunking next to Marlene.
To find out about how you can stay on board the Queen Mary, visit their website for all the decolicious details!