RMS Queen Mary arriving 1936 in Southampton, England. Painting from the British Maritime Museum.
Journalist Kyle Kreiger uses his stay at the Queen Mary Hotel in Long Beach to show the comparison between experiencing trans-Atlantic passenger travel from the 1930s to 1960s and contemporary cruising. The former Cunard Line RMS Queen Mary is a destination in itself but a great place to stay before leaving form Long Beach or San Pedro on a cruise out of the Los Angeles area.
But some corrections are in order.
Kreiger comments that passengers were divided into First, Second and Third Classes. This needs clarifying. As built, the ship was divided into Cabin (First), Tourist (Second) and Third (Third) class. All the lines had adopted more acceptable terms for what could have been called upper, middle and lower classes. After the war the classes were called: First, Cabin and Tourist. A detailed background on the Queen Mary can be found on Maritime Matters.
Ironically, the new Queen Mary has a definite “caste system” when it comes to services and dining. There are different dining rooms and the only ones close to true first class are the Queen’s Grill and the Princess Grill. That is the only place you will see Beluga Caviar. This expensive delicacy was common place to all first class passengers on Cunard and most major steamship companies in the past until the 1960s.
Famous film star CLARK GABLE seen aboard the RMS QUEEN MARY in the 1950s.
As for buying a cruise — the class system is the rule. And I’m not talking about choice of accommodations. Its the lines. Carnival Corporation owns Seaborne and Carnival Cruises. Which could be facetiously called running the gamete from First (upper class) to Tourist (lower class). But food on even the mass market companies is far better then a trans-Atlantic liner tourist class menu (up until the 1960s) which was very limited in choice. The best “tourist class” food would have been found on the French Line.
As for Tea on Cunard Lines, it was served in all classes and was not limited to First Class. The pastries might have been more elaborate in First Class but full tea (with pastries and sandwiches) was served in Cabin and Tourist Class. This was true on most steamship lines until the 1960s.
All class barriers were down when the RMS QUEEN MARY sailed from New York to Long Beach on its final cruise. There was only “First Class” and mainly the First and Cabin Class accommodations were used. But press were flown in for the final leg from Acapulco to Long Beach and accommodated in former Tourist Class accommodations.
Also, the ship’s pools were drained continuously on ships. No matter what class was using the pools. They used sea water in the pools and not fresh water. Passengers could arrange to have salt water baths.
RMS QUEEN MARY (HOTEL) in Long Beach with Cunard Line’s new QUEEN MARY seen arriving last year in harbor.
A JOURNEY IN TIME
By Kyle Kreiger, St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer
Published Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Long Beach, Calif. – Worn down after a cross-country flight and a 90-minute battle through rush hour in Los Angeles, we trudged into the concrete elevator building alongside the Queen Mary Hotel. When the doors opened and we strolled onto A deck we were in another era, one defined by royalty, wealth and fame.
We had booked a hotel, but we found history.
“I thought I was walking onto a movie set from the Roaring ’20s,” Jerry Hoehn of Lake of the Woods, Va., said. “I tried to imagine the people who had crossed that threshold before us.”
Actor BURT LANCASTER seen in the first class smoking room of the QUEEN MARY.
The 74-year-old Queen Mary hasn’t sailed since 1967. But the still-posh ocean liner continues to pamper passengers as a hotel in Long Beach.
Spending one night aboard the Queen Mary before leaving on a cruise from the Port of Los Angeles started as a joke: stay on a cruise ship before taking a cruise.
But the Queen Mary is no ordinary hotel.
There are no rock-climbing walls, ice skating rinks, surfing simulators or bowling alleys on the Queen Mary. This ship served as transportation, not a destination — a high-class way to get from England to the United States.
Compared with the megaliners sailing the seas today, the rooms are spacious — almost suite-sized — with polished wood-paneled walls. Guests can chose comfortable king-, queen- or twin-sized beds, with plush comforters, light blankets and plenty of pillows.
Three restaurants offer classic dining daily for guests. The breakfast at Promenade Cafe, which was part of our room package, included a cooked-to-order menu or a well-stocked buffet that could meet any taste.
Add the Queen’s history and it is easy to feel like royalty aboard this beauty.