This article was published on March 8th, 2015
If you imagine, over a century ago, one of the most prestigious and magical ways to travel was aboard a luxury ocean liner. For decades, it was the way for thousands of people to get from Europe to North America. During that time there were many ships constructed to take advantage of the lucrative business.
Some of those ships would become famous for many reasons. The most famous was the Titanic, known for being virtually unsinkable, but would founder to the ocean floor on its maiden voyage after hitting an iceberg. Other ships including the Lusitania, Britannia, and Olympic liners would be build and serve both as luxury liners and even at times be repurposed during wartime as service ships.
Today, ocean travel is still popular, but aboard modern cruise ships, travelling up and down the coastlines of popular tourist destinations, including the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
While some of the big ocean lines from history lay in watery graves at the bottom of the ocean or were sold for scrap, one very special ship lives on. The Queen Mary.
Ordered on April 3, 1929 and laid down on December 1, 1930 in yard 534 in Scotland, the grand ship would take five and a half years to build and outfit. The Queen Mary proudly sailed the North Atlantic from May 27, 1936 until she was retired on December 9, 1967.
During her over 30 years of service, The Queen Mary spend most of her time at sea, shuttling passengers, cargo and mail between Southampton and New York. During World War II, The Queen Mary was converted into a troopship. Her entire hull, superstructure and funnels were painted a dull grey and the interior first, second and third class areas were turned into soldiers quarters. The Queen Mary would become known during this time as “The Grey Ghost”, as she evaded enemy U-boats as the ship sailed back-and-forth between the United States and Europe, delivering thousands of men to fight the raging battles.
After the war, The Queen Mary would undergo a complete transformation and return to her original splendor, as a luxury liner, to complete her time as a trans-Atlantic ship.
The Queen Mary was well known and respected for having amenities including pools, restaurants, promenade decks, shopping, and beauty salons and libraries aboard, to entertain passengers during the trans-Atlantic cruises. Like most ships of its time, passengers were separated into first, second and third class.
After the liner was retired in 1967, the ship was put up for auction. The City of Long Beach, California, purchased the ship for $3.5M US, and on September 27, she made her 1,000th and final sailing across the Atlantic, around the Cape of Horn, and arrived in California where she would be retrofitted into a permanent tourist attraction.
Throughout her service, The Queen Mary sailed over 3,792,227 miles (6,102,998 km), and carried 2,112,000 passengers.
As The Queen Mary was converted from a passenger liner to a permanent attraction in Long Beach, much of the mechanical of the ship was removed. The ship would be converted into a floating hotel with restaurants, retail shopping, museum, and banquet space. Much of the ship below the original “C Deck” has been gutted and is no longer in use.
Today, guests are invited to take a step back in time and are welcome aboard, to come learn about the history of this impressive and historically significant ship. There are a number of guided tours throughout the day to learn about its history. For the adventurous, there’s even a ghost tour.
It’s important to remember history and pay tribute to our past. The Queen Mary is certainly an important part of the golden age of ocean travel and a standing memory of the soldiers it once carried to the front lines of battle.
To learn more about The Queen Mary, the tours, accommodations, restaurants and hours of operations, visit the official website, www.queenmary.com.