A Floating Piece of Hollywood HistoryThe Queen Mary remains an appealing escape for locals seeking a break from the Hollywood hubbub and for tourists interested in a unique perspective of the city.
In the golden age of Hollywood, from the late 1920s to the early 1960s, one of the most glamorous escapes a movie star could take was a cruise aboard a luxury ocean liner. This was the heyday of grand ships, and the Queen Mary, a British vessel that took its maiden trans-Atlantic voyage in 1936, was one of the most plush and celebrated. Boasting elaborate art deco interiors, a majestic ballroom and every creature comfort imaginable, from cocktail bars to swimming pools, it was a magnet for celebrities like Bob Hope, Fred Astaire and Elizabeth Taylor. In 1948, Clark Gable famously delayed the departure of the Queen Mary by 18 minutes, the result of an extended goodbye to his sweetheart.
In a way, the Queen Mary itself has been saying an extended goodbye for more than four decades. When the ship took its last passenger cruise voyage in 1967, it wasn't at all ready for its curtain call. So it sailed to the port of Long Beach — a harbor city 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles — threw its anchor, and opened as a public attraction and floating hotel soon after. Though its regular cruise route had been back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean, the ship's ties to Hollywood made the arrival in Southern California a kind of homecoming.
Today, the Queen Mary remains an appealing escape for locals seeking a break from the Hollywood hubbub and for tourists interested in a unique perspective of the city. Stepping onto the decks in the refreshing ocean air offers an unparalleled vista of the harbor, the city of Long Beach and, on clear days, the Los Angeles basin beyond.
Going below deck winds back the clock to various points in the Queen Mary's history. Themed tours cover different slices of the ship's historical narrative, from its years as a World War II troopship to the "Glory Days" of ferrying celebrities and dignitaries in style to "Ghosts & Legends," an exploration of the eerie happenings onboard that earned it a reputation as a haunted vessel.
For a different vantage point of the Queen Mary, Shoreline Village, directly across the harbor, boasts stunning views of the liner. Shoreline Village also features novelty shops, a pedestrian path that passes by a picturesque marina filled with smaller boats, a carousel and arcade, and restaurants like Parkers' Lighthouse, perfect for a waterside seafood meal. To gain a deeper understanding of sea life, check out the marine habitats and informative exhibits at the nearby Aquarium of the Pacific.
Long Beach has plenty of charms to be discovered away from the shoreline as well. The insider enclave of Fourth Street has been dubbed "Retro Row" for its quirky-cool collection of antique and collectibles shops and vintage clothing boutiques. It's also home to the Art Theatre, a restored art deco movie house from the 1920s that, like the Queen Mary, harks back to the halcyon days of old Hollywood. From the ship to the silver screen, you'll be truly transported.