Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Independence Day aboard the Queen Mary

  Well, here we are, five days past the 4th of July, and I’m just now getting around to posting about what a great holiday it was! My girl and I were lucky enough this year to get to spend the day in Long Beach, aboard the famed RMS Queen Mary, which is permanently moored there.
  I read up on the ship the night before, and I’m glad I did. It really made me appreciate the history, and gave me even more of a feeling of stepping into the past than I already would have had. I won’t go into the complete history here (that’s what Wikipedia is for, folks), but suffice it to say, the Queen Mary has quite an interesting past. I had also heard about some of the “ghost stories” making the rounds, but I found all that to just be tourist rubbish meant to drum up more ticket sales. I got no kind of creepy vibe from the ship whatsoever. (Click any pic for fullsize)

The Grand Lady

  It was a beautiful day in Long Beach, temps in the mid 70’s, with a nice breeze coming off the water. Our first stop was the self-guided tour of the innards of the ship, beginning with the engine room. Because there’s no air conditioning, or even air movement per se, I found the temps inside fairly uncomfortable, and began to sweat profusely. It didn’t rob me of enjoying the experience, though, and it was amazing to see all the controls, dials and levers still in place next to the massive engines. I imagine it was MUCH hotter down here when the ship was operational, for those unfortunate men tasked with keeping things running.

Engine Room gauges

More Engine Room

Hard to port!

Makes me hungry for Cap'n Crunch

  After working our way through all the pipes and rivets of the engine room and its supporting components, we entered a room where the deck had been cut away, offering a glimpse of the last remaining propeller. It was an eerie sight, for some reason, and kind of reminded me of underwater wrecks. The installation had a couple small lights aimed at the prop, casting a murky sort of green hue on it.

Creepy propeller

  Next, we walked through a few rooms showcasing ship’s amenities. There were items from wartime, when the ship was refitted to ferry troops, photographs of some of the ship’s more famous passengers, dining sets, equipment from the hair salon, and much more.

Typical dining room setup

  After we concluded our tour, we decided to go exploring the currently inhabited parts of the ship. Besides being a museum, the Queen Mary also functions as a hotel. The lobby and promenade were fairly fancy, and I would like to have seen what the cabins look like. I’m told that some of them contain original furnishings, and that you can even see where some passengers have scrawled their names in the bottoms of dresser drawers over the years.
  There were several events going on throughout the day, and various decks were themed according to different decades. One particular ballroom we stepped into was in the midst of a concert by a really decent Beatles cover band.

Beatles ballroom

  We strolled the deck after that, going as far topside as we could. The very highest deck was reserved for VIP access (class wars never change, am I right?) and we didn’t feel it was worth $20 more per person to see one more deck.

Looking toward the bow

  We walked about a quarter-mile away and arrived early for our dinner reservations at a restaurant called “The Reef,” which was pretty good. Nice atmosphere, right next to the waterfront, good drinks. Out in the harbor, we could see people boarding their boats with coolers and supplies, getting ready to watch the big fireworks display later in the evening.
After our lovely meal, we headed back to the Queen Mary and boarded the Scorpion, a cold-war era Soviet sub, moored next to the ocean liner. It was pretty fascinating, and it was our first time aboard a submarine.

The Scorpion

  I expected the sub to be cramped, but that is an understatement. I could barely stand fully upright in most of the vessel, and my shoulders were practically rubbing the bulkheads as we made our way along the inside, passing through several hatches. If you ever go, be sure to wear loose-fitting pants, as crawling through the circular watertight doors can be a bit tricky if you’re not very bendy.

Torpedo launch bay

A torpedo tube

Sub stuff

  We staked out a place to watch the fireworks on the upper deck of the ship pretty early, but almost not early enough. A full two hours ahead of time, most of the deck was already covered with people.
  As the sun went down, the entire harbor filled with boats for the big show, and the deck became ever more crowded.

The harbor

Across the harbor

  Then, finally, it was time for the big show! With various patriotic tunes blasting, the fireworks cut loose directly in front of the ship. It was an amazing display, and the closest I’ve ever been to a big fireworks show (Disneyland excluded).


  As the finale roared and filled the sky with thunderous colors, the crowd cheered, and then it was time to call it a night.
  We were in no hurry, knowing that there would be massive delays debarking, and also a mess of traffic in the parking lots and on the highway. We ended up sneaking on to the topmost deck of the ship, since security was very lax by this point, and saw how “the other half” lived. It was mostly just big ol' drunken dance party.
  All the exhibited areas of the ship were closed, but we were still able to peek into the bridge and the radio room, which was pretty interesting. After poking around for a while, we made our way off the ship and started back for home.
  Although traffic was indeed an absolute NIGHTMARE, we were able to get around it eventually, and it did nothing to spoil an otherwise amazing day in Long Beach.

  Hope everybody had a happy fourth!

No comments:

Post a Comment