Long Beach, CA in Mary
A night on a cruise ship may not be worthy of a Notable Night entry, but sleeping on a floating hotel is different.
Our Floating Hotel
For 30 years this historic ship has been docked in Long Beach. You can pay for a ghost tour or dine in one of the restaurants, or you can bring your suitcases on board and stay the night!
It was a gorgeous Thursday afternoon when Don and I boarded the ship. We were on day 11 of our 4-week road trip, so we were a little worn. It was a treat not going through the security lines and passport checks.
After dropping luggage in our room it was time to explore, which is what I do when I get to any hotel. But hotels don't usually have decks with masts or smokestacks...
...Or Old Red Lifeboats!
The view across Long Beach Harbor was more impressive than I expected. We could gaze out at the pavilion and Ferris wheel for as long as we liked...since the ship wasn't going anywhere. I felt like I had to sort of remind myself that the scenery wasn't going to change. If we wanted a change we just had to keep ourselves moving.
There was an entertaining view on the portside as well. Hearing the bells and announcements coming from a nearby Carnival Cruise Ship made us feel like we were actually getting ready to set sail. And having a nice view of the curious geodesic dome that housed Howard Hughes' immense Spruce Goose, was an added perk. Evidently the dome is now used by Carnival to check passengers in and out...when it's not being used as a Roller Derby arena!
Exploring inside was extra entertaining since we seemed to have the ship practically to ourselves.
Rarely did we see another guest. Maybe people are too scared to stay on board. After all Time magazine named the ship in their list of "Top 10 Most Haunted Places in America".
Here I am lounging for about 3 seconds. The bed felt luxurious and I could have stayed forever, but we had more wandering to do.
Art Deco Decor
There are 346 first class staterooms that range from about $79. to $250. You pay more for one of the 9 suites. We paid a little more for a Deluxe so we could enjoy the original wood paneling and art deco built-ins. I loved it that we could open our portholes to let in the fresh air. We also had some funny vents that blew the air around. I'm not sure where that air was coming from.
To enter the bathroom we had to step over some kind of room divider. That was odd. The tub was a bonus that I didn't expect on a ship. The black and white tile and art deco light fixture looked original. But the most amusing feature (besides the funny push handle for flushing) was the set of 4 faucet handles. Hot sea water, cold sea water, hot fresh water, cold fresh water. Sadly, we didn't have the sea water option. No salt water soaks for me.
The grand looking shopping area made me feel like I was traveling first class, back in the day. I enjoyed a little browsing in a tiny book store until I began to think I was on Candid Camera. The soft spoken shopkeeper began a non-stop ramble the moment I entered. I kept looking around to see if she was talking to someone else because she never looked at me and I could barely understand what she was saying. She became a little bolder with her chatter and she seemed to have a lot she wanted to tell me about the merchandise. She wanted to demonstrate to me how the key chains won't break when you drop them. I broke free about 15 minutes later with a few postcards, feeling perplexed and somewhat tortured.
This 3-story ballroom just reeked of wealth and elegance. This was once the first class dining room. Now it's the largest of 14 salons that can be rented for events. Maybe when it's my turn to host Book Club, I'll have it here.
To me, the grandest part of the Grand Salon was the wood. On board the ship you can find over 50 different kinds of wood in the walls, floors and carvings. The QM has a lot of nicknames and "Ship of Woods" is one of them!
Art With Purpose!
You have to love a mural that tells you important things. Not only did this gigantic piece of art in the Grand Salon look impressive, it announced current information. The clock presented the time and the transcontinental map showed the ship's two routes. There used to be a crystal model of the Queen Mary that actually moved on the map, so you could follow the ship's progress.
Such Grand Doors!
I would love to make a dramatic entrance through the polished brass doors beneath this festive hunting mural! It would take me a long time to decide what to wear for that entrance.
Door to the Telephone
I would love to step into this polished phone booth along with a martini, perhaps. I could sit and sip and chat with my dear friend while the ship sailed the Atlantic. That's such a crazy thought, because I never even felt like it was possible to make a phone call when I was on a Princess cruise, just a year ago!
I'm assuming this was a revolving door at one time. I do love a revolving door and I would have enjoyed a few revolutions in this oldie!
Curious Rooms of the Past
I enjoyed this display that offered a glimpse of what you might have found in the first class nursery. They had separate nurseries for second and third class passengers and it's a little sad to think those kids probably didn't have elephant chairs. Maybe they didn't have eerie artwork either...and that would be a good thing. There are so many rooms that are now gone that I wish I could have seen. I would love to have peeked into the dog kennels or looked at the squash courts. There was even a Jewish prayer room, a small hospital and a music studio.
Floors and Columns
There wasn't time to count floors, but I wonder how many different kinds they have. From old parquet, to big fat linoleum tiles, to carpet with floral or geometric patterns. If I'd been an employee back in the cruising days, I would have avoided the job of floor cleaner. When you see the columns with their railings, you're reminded of woozy travelers and upset stomachs. Don was happy to put on a sickly expression and demonstrate how to grasp hold. I guess the railings might still come in handy for "passengers" who have had one too many.
It's always fun staying in a hotel where celebrities have slept. The Queen Mary has carried some of the best from the old Hollywood days. I like to imagine that I was leaning up against the same railing that Spencer Tracy and his wife leaned on. Clark Gable and Charlie Chaplin also cruised on the QM in the late 1930's, before World War II. By 1939 the ship no longer carried the rich and famous. After just 3 years of luxury cruising, the QM was transformed into a troopship.
Remembering the Ship in New York
I have the faintest memory of being 6 years old and seeing the Queen Mary, docked in the Hudson Bay. That was in 1963, just a few years before the ship departed on its final voyage. What I also remember is spotting a photo of the ship a month or so later in Life Magazine. The image was of 2 young girls peering out at the ship docked in Hudson Bay. I cut it out and kept it, since I wanted to believe the photo was of my sister and me.
A Different Image
But this photo of the QM in Hudson Bay is very different. She was stripped of her colors and nicknamed the "Grey Ghost", so she could transport troops across the Atlantic at record speeds during WWII. I was excited to read some of the history displays and take some photos for my friend Ken back in Texas. Ken served during WWII and he has shared stories with me about traveling with the troops on the QM. Seeing images of the Grey Ghost reminded me of Ken's description of seeing the Statue of Liberty when they returned home after the war... and spotting the Manhattan office building, where he knew his father was working that day.
Wining and Dining
Don and I worked up an appetite and thirst after absorbing over 70 years of history. Just before sunset we headed towards the bow of the boat for drinks in the Observation Bar. There were no bad seats. We could gaze out at the same Art Deco features that Leo DiCaprio enjoyed when they filming a scene from "The Aviator" here.
Or... we could stare out the window at the bow of the boat and the lowering sun.
Then we decided it was silly to be looking out the window when we could wander on deck to watch the sunset. It was nice not having to share the picturesque setting with other tourists. We could be as goofy or as romantic as we liked. I guess I'm showing my age, because I didn't once think about doing the Titanic Pose at the bow of the boat. I'm picturing that now and I've concluded that would have been goofy, not romantic.
There were 5 dining areas to choose from on the ship. We picked the Chelsea Chowder House, with the shiny tile floors, decorative tin ceiling and windows overlooking the harbor. If we'd brought some crayons we could have drawn colorful ship scenes, since there was butcher paper on top of the white table cloth. I guess that's a British Chowder House thing. I didn't order chowder, which is their specialty, but the scampi with fettuccini was excellent. Don's glazed salmon was mouthwatering and just the right amount of sweet!
I'm not sure what time we got back to the cabin, but we both slept well. There was no rocking to lull us to sleep, but there was a pleasant hum from those little air- circulation-vent-things. In the morning I did have visions of the movie Poseidon Adventure, when I stepped over the raised threshold into the bathroom. (Many of the movie scenes were filmed on QM) The bathroom floor appeared to be slightly flooded. It was more comical than annoying, so I won't go into that.
We only had about 8 waking hours on board the Queen Mary, but that was just about right. If we'd stayed longer I would have had time for a ghost tour or another good meal, but the day tourists were starting to board and I didn't want them to taint my memory. So I must say, the most memorable part of our stay was... exploring. The QM was once the grandest ocean liner in the world and we sort of had it to ourselves. I felt like Don and I were 2 little kids with big imaginations, just playing ship. As we wandered I imagined the passengers in their 1930's clothing and the scenery they viewed from the deck. But I didn't have to imagine all the colors and textures of the grand old ship because those things were still there. I'm just so grateful that Long Beach bought the ship in 1967 and numerous organizations and companies have taken on the leases and renovations over the years. It's an amazing historical landmark and I'm glad to be able to say I was a passenger.
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!