TRAVELS: On board the Queen Mary

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By Noel Bravo

LONG BEACH – For years, it has been a dream of mine to walk the decks of one of the most famous ships in history: the Queen Mary. That dream recently came true, and let me tell you, it was an amazing experience!

Since I was a kid in the third grade, I’ve always had a love for the Titanic. Well, we all know the story of what happened to that ship. Some years after my fascination with the ill-fated liner began, I learned of another ship that was not only bigger, but also still afloat. That ship is the Queen Mary, and her permanent home was not under the sea, but in beautiful Long Beach.

I think it’s safe to say that my love for all things Titanic made me want to go to the Queen Mary since they look similar in ways. In other words, it would be the closest I would ever get to boarding the Titanic.

Before I talk about my trip, here’s some history about the Queen Mary:

Built in the early 1930s in Clydebank, Scotland, the Queen Mary was the pride of the Cunard White Star Line and a symbol of luxury and the epitome of transatlantic passage. Measuring 1,019.5 feet long, with a displacement of 81,237 gross tons, she was one of the largest vessels of her day. The Queen Mary also was capable of reaching a speed of up to 30.63 knots and even held the coveted Blue Riband, an unofficial accolade for the ship crossing the Atlantic with the record highest speed, twice in her career.

During the outbreak of World War II, she was converted into a troop carrier and transported allied soldiers and even prisoners of war. Because of the large amount of allied troops she carried, Adolf Hitler offered a large sum of money to anyone who could sink her. Crazy, right? After the war ended, she returned to her former glory as a passenger liner until her retirement in 1966. The following year, she was sold and purchased by the United States, and eventually transformed into a hotel and museum in 1971.

And now the fun part: the trip itself. It began back in May. My employers, the Desert Review, won first place for Advertising Excellence by the California Newspaper Publishers Association (CNPA) at their 2017 Press Summit in Santa Monica. My name, along with a former co-worker’s, was attached to that award since we designed the ad that won first place. This was a very important occasion for me personally. My friend Sarah and I had planned to be in attendance at the summit, but had to cancel at the last minute due to changes in schedule. Being a very special occasion for me, and not getting to celebrate was problematic, therefore, we had to look into an alternative.

Since I’ve wanted to visit the Queen Mary for so long, it was my idea that we take a trip to board her as our way of celebrating. Unfortunately, we had to wait two months before we could actually make the trip. As days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, all I could do was wait in anticipation.

I arrived in Murrieta July 7 and we planned to be on the ship at 6 p.m. the next day since it’s free admission after 6, which is great as it saves a lot of money. The moment of truth finally arrived the next day. We were in Long Beach, and I could see the enormous hulk of steel in the distance with her giant red funnels standing high in the air. As we approached, my excitement grew as the silhouette of the ship loomed larger and larger every second. Once we were standing in front of her, I was in awe. Until that time, I had only seen the Queen Mary in pictures and on television. The ship is much more beautiful in person.

As we headed inside, I told Sarah, “I HAVE to touch her [the ship].” The first thing I just had to do before going on board was to lay my hand flat against the steel hull of the ship. It was breathtaking! I would imagine that touching the side of the Titanic would be similar, after all, they were both built in similar fashion. Thousands of steel plates and millions of rivets — it was unbelievable that I was face to face with this majestic behemoth. I once saw an actual section of the hull of Titanic in person, but obviously, I couldn’t touch it since it was barricaded. Touching the Queen Mary was probably as close as I was going to get.

As we stepped inside, I was amazed by the sight of the ship’s lavish interiors. There are some modern parts, of course, but for the most part, everything seemed original from the time she was built. The Art Deco paintings and architecture were definitely a joy to my eyes being a visual arts guy.

The ship is so large that I could definitely see why it’s easy to get lost. Walking the decks of the Queen Mary felt like going through a labyrinth at times. Occasionally, Sarah and I found ourselves going back to the same place a few times, especially when we were trying to find our way to the bow of the ship. Luckily, there are maps at every set of stairs.

The more we walked around, the more I seemed to forget that we were even on a ship in the first place. To me, it seemed as if we’re just walking around inside some big fancy hotel.

Just to be clear on something, the ship is allegedly haunted and there are famous ghost stories surrounding it. I did not see any ghosts, nor did I hear or experience anything out of the ordinary.

Unfortunately, there were parts that were blocked off, either because they were restricted to the public, or there was a private event taking place. We ran into those a few times.

My favorite part of the ship has to be the forecastle deck on the bow. Standing at the very front was spectacular with the great view of the front of the ship looking aft, and the Long Beach skyline in the midst of a beautiful sunset. Too bad the very tip of the bow was restricted, which meant I could not recreate the “I’m the King of the World” scene from the Titanic movie.

Since the ship is so big, we weren’t able to see every section. We may have missed some spots here and there, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered to me was that I was on the ship, and that what counts.

As the sun began to go down and night approached, Sarah and I retreated to our last stop inside the ship’s Observation Bar for some refreshing drinks. We sat at the starboard side right next to a window that overlooked the city of Long Beach. At our table, we conversed about everything from life to politics while listening to the excellent choices of music that played through the speakers.  After we finished, it was time to say goodnight and goodbye to the Queen.

This trip is definitely something that will always have special place in my heart. I’m grateful for the time I had on board this magnificent ship, and I hope to one day return. If you live in Southern California, I highly recommend a trip to the Queen Mary yourself. It’s worth it!