I recently spent the weekend at one of Los Angeles’ most unique hotels – the Queen Mary, a former Cunard-White Star Line luxury liner that has been berthed at 1126 Queens Hwy in Long Beach for just short of five decades. This was my third stay aboard the massive vessel (fun fact – at 1,019.5-feet, she’s even longer than the Titanic, which measured 882.9 feet) and each visit has been exceptional. Walking through the ship’s doors is like stepping back in time to September 26th, 1934, the day she was first launched. Yep, the grande dame will be turning 80 tomorrow. Thankfully, she is as glorious today as she was then.
The 81,237-gross-ton ship was built in Scotland and named in honor of Queen Mary, the wife of King George V, mother of King George VI (famously portrayed by Colin Firth in The King’s Speech) and grandmother of the reigning Queen Elizabeth II. The Art Deco-style liner’s maiden voyage, from Southampton, England to New York City, took place in 1936.
The Queen Mary was recognized as one of the most upscale cruising ships of her day and countless luminaries crossed the ocean upon her, including Elizabeth Taylor, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Cole Porter, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Bob Hope, Clark Gable, Audrey Hepburn, Winston Churchill, and Greta Garbo.
During World War II, the vessel was recommissioned by the Allied Forces as a troopship, painted a dark grey and dubbed “The Grey Ghost.” She transported over 750,000 soldiers during the war years, most often between America and Scotland. In 1947, following the end of the war and a 10-month restoration process, the Queen resumed her original career as a luxury liner and enjoyed two more decades crossing the Atlantic. Her popularity began to decline in the 1960s due to the advance of air travel, though, and she was eventually put up for sale and purchased in 1967 for $3.4 million by the City of Long Beach. The Queen Mary made her final ocean crossing that same year and has been moored at the Port of Long Beach ever since.
After a lengthy renovation process during which many of her original Art Deco elements were revitalized, the berthed Queen Mary was opened as a hotel in 1971. She currently boasts 338 staterooms, 8 suites, 4 restaurants, a Starbucks, 14 meeting rooms comprising 80,000 square feet of space, a Grand Salon, a spa, a fitness center, a shopping promenade, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
Thanks to her gorgeous ornamentation and retro aesthetic, the Queen has been featured in more than 300 productions since being berthed in 1967, including in one of my favorite movies of all time, He’s Just Not That into You. While the flick was set in Baltimore, Maryland and several exterior scenes were shot in Charm City, all interiors were lensed right here in L.A. It was in the ship’s Observation Bar and Art Deco Lounge that Scarlett Johansson is shown singing at the end of the 2009 rom-com. The gorgeously ornamented watering hole initially served as the Queen Mary’s First-Class Lounge and is still embellished with much of the room’s original artwork and décor. It is easily one of the prettiest places I have ever enjoyed a cocktail.
Lindsay Blake is an actress, writer, celebrity admirer and Los Angeles enthusiast who contributes to CityThink each Thursday. Her true love is filming locations, and she founded the Web site IAMNOTASTALKER in 2007 to document her vast findings on the subject. For more “stalking” fun, you can follow Lindsay on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.