Last week I asked: What British ship was called “The Grey Ghost?”
The Queen Mary.
Most people know that the Queen Mary was a luxury ocean liner, but forget the important role she played during World War II.
The grand ship was converted to a war ship and painted navy grey.
The stateroom furniture and decorations were removed and refitted with triple-tiered bunks.
The crystal, paintings, and other valuables were put in storage and the fancy woodwork was covered in leather.
The Queen Mary became the largest and fastest troopship involved in the war carrying as many as 16,000 men in a single voyage.
Her high-speed and zigzag course made it impossible for U-Boats to catch her.
Hitler offered $250,000 and the Iron Cross to any U-boat captain who sunk her.
It never happened, she could outrun a torpedo.
Many famous people sailed the Queen plus the D-Day Declaration was signed by Winston Churchill on board.
He said that she was “Built for the arts of peace and to link the old world with the new, the Queen Mary challenged the fury of Hitlerism in the battle of the Atlantic. Without their aid, the day of final victory must unquestionable have been postponed.”
I was surprised to see that the suites did not appear sumptuous by today’s standards.
It is said that she is haunted by ghosts of some of her passengers, crew, and soldiers.
And, yes, they now offer a haunted tour.
While in Long Beach, Calif., John and I booked a tour of the “Queen.”
The tour included a tour of the main areas and a 4-D attraction, “The Queen Mary Story” that included getting sprayed by a wave.
The ship was built in Scotland at the height of the depression providing work for hundreds.
The Queen, named for the consort of King George V, set sail on May 27, 1936, setting a new standard in transAtlantic travel.
In 1967, she retired from sea and is now an iconic Southern California attraction and hotel.
During her sailing life she carried 2.2 million passengers during peacetime and 810,000 military personal during the Second World War.
Interestingly, on the day she was launched a well-known English psychic predicted, “The Queen Mary will know her greatest fame and popularity when she never sails another mile or carries another fare-paying passenger.”
The popularity of air travel spelled the end of luxury ocean travel.
On her last voyage she left Southhampton filled with passengers who wanted to say they had made her last voyage.
Not all of them made it to Long Beach at the end of the cruise December 9, 1967.
According to our guide, Dennis, the ship had no air conditioning and as the ship sailed south it got hotter and hotter.
It was too hot for some passengers, so they disembarked at various ports along the way.
The tour was interesting and the 4-D somewhat interesting.
But, I learned that after 6 p.m. one can board the vessel and wander around without paying.
There are several dining venues.
We lunched at the Chelsea Chowder House with a great view of the harbor.
The Carnival Cruise ships moor adjacent to the Queen Mary and a Russian sub, The Scorpion.
It patrolled the Pacific for 22 years.
It is now a museum vessel.
After leaving the Queen Mary we boarded the free Passport bus that connects most of Long Beach’s attractions: The Queen Mary, the Aquarium of the Pacific, Shoreline Village, downtown, shopping and dining areas.
Travel Trivia Tease™: What is the fun way to get to Ensenada?
Look for the answer next week.
Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. We have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to our life — stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Let the fun continue!