Wait. Is It Really True That the Queen Mary Is Sinking?

The vintage cruise ship is visibly leaking

The Queen Mary has 12 decks, 2000 portholes, and 10 million rivets. The 80-year-old ship is massive—and deteriorating. A new report outlines a series of expensive repairs needed to bring the historic vessel back to ship shape and keep it floating in Long Beach harbor.
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The vintage cruise ship was acquired by the city in 1967 for a seaside hotel, but disputes with early partners slowed the effort and the attraction didn’t open until 1971. The master lease on the property has gone through many hands, including the Walt Disney Company, and was most recently acquired by Urban Commons. That company, seeking to develop the parking lot into additional hotel rooms and attractions, would be responsible for the estimated $300 million in repairs in partnership with the city. Long Beach recently approved $23 million for urgent maintenance. Fans in Scotland, where the ship was built, are also attempting to raise funds.
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“The survey looked at the structural integrity of the decks and hull,” said Victor Grgas, the longtime city liaison for the ship who retired in 2015. “There is rusting and scaling. You can see water leaking. It’s difficult but not impossible to address these issues.” Repairs would most likely be done in place by building a cofferdam around the ship’s lagoon.

The city and the Queen Mary Heritage Foundation have taken on a number of restoration projects in recent years including the replacement of teak decks, repairs to the lifeboats, and major upgrades to fire safety systems. Since city funding for repairs comes largely from rent paid by the ship’s tenants, restaurant kitchens were updated to enhance the economic viability of the hotel.
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According to Grgas the most serious deterioration is in an area of the ship that is rarely used. Below deck exhibition space that was once a Jacques Cousteau marine life theme park became a dance club in the 1970s and is built on a 10-foot tall elevated platform. The original interior hull surrounds a dance floor held up by damaged columns. “That needs immediate attention,” Grgas said. “It’s in pretty bad shape, but potential hazards could be closed off to the public until they can be addressed.” The foundation is raising funds to replace this danger zone with a new museum.
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For the moment, it’s business as usual onboard the Queen. They have a fancy new magic show, they’re planning a lovely Easter brunch, and that Princess Diana exhibition is a major hit. “I have no fear the ship is going to sink tomorrow,” said Grgas. “That ship has still got a lot of life in it.”


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