Queen Mary


Along with RMS Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mary was built in response to German and French superliners that were constructed in the 1920s and 1930s. In this “golden age” of ocean liners, there was international competition to build faster, larger and more comfortable ships, to keep up with a European demand for emigration to the United States.

However, only a few years later, following the outbreak of World War II, the Queen Mary sailed to Sydney, Australia to be converted into a troop ship. Part of this conversion – painting her hull, superstructure and funnels grey – earned her the nickname the “Grey Ghost”. The Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, also converted for war, often carried up to 15,000 troops in a single voyage. Because of their speed, U-boats were unable to catch them so they often travelled without escort. British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was a passenger on the Queen Mary on several occasions, when he crossed the Atlantic for meetings with fellow Allied Forces officials.

RMS Queen Mary survived the war, and in the years following was refitted – and refurbished – for passenger service. Amongst other things, the fantastic Art Deco interior was retained, and she boasted two indoor swimming pools, two cocktail bars, a grand ballroom, a worldwide telephone connection, libraries, beauty salons, a music studio and lecture hall, a small hospital and a three-storey first-class dining room.

Throughout the second half of the 1940s, and to the end of the 1950s, the Queen Mary and her sister ship the Queen Elizabeth were Cunard’s stars of the sea, dominating transatlantic passenger travel as the highly profitable two-ship weekly service. But the war had accelerated the need for large, long-distance aircraft, and in 1952 the first commercial jet airliner flight was made by the De Havilland Comet, from London to Johannesburg. Members of the British Royal Family, including Queen Elizabeth herself, were guests on a special flight in 1953, and over the next decade air travel’s popularity grew, at the expense of a decline in ocean travel.

Many ocean liners began to provide a service in cruising – a trip solely for pleasure. The Queen Mary continued in the passenger service, and averaged 1,000 passengers per crossing, although sometimes she would arrive with more crew than passengers. By 1965 Cunard was operating at a loss, and the Queen Mary was retired in 1967. On 31st October, 1967, the Queen Mary left Southampton for the last time. She rounded Cape Horn and arrived in Long Beach on 9th December, where she remains to this day.

Today the Queen Mary is a hotel, a tourist attraction, a museum, and an event facility. The management team work hard to preserve, or emulate in renovation, her original features – like the Art Deco bars, the retro gymnasium, and the ship’s original clocks. The Queen Mary boasts 346 original first-class staterooms and suites, an array of shops, services and amenities, attractive dining options, and can play host to meetings, banquets and weddings.

Official website: The Queen Mary

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