The construction and launch of the Queen Mary was nothing short of extraordinary, and the whole story of this ship is rich with heritage, grandeur and elegance. From the beginning of her construction in Clydebank, Scotland in 1930, the Queen Mary was in a class of her own. In spite of setbacks caused by the Great Depression, when construction had to be stopped for a number of years, Cunard Line did not pinch pennies when building the Queen Mary, which they originally called Job Number 534.
The Story Behind the Name
According to legend, Cunard’s board of directors had originally chosen to call it the Queen Victoria, which would have been in line with their usual tradition of using the ‘ia’ ending for all of their ship names, for example with the Aquitania, the Berengeria and the Mauretania. As was the protocol at the time, the directors asked for King George’s blessing for the proposed name, telling him that they had decided to name the ship after England’s greatest queen. They had, of course, meant Queen Victoria, his grandmother. Much to their shock, the king replied that his wife (Queen Mary) would be thrilled to have the ship named after her!
First Voyage of the Queen Mary
The Queen Mary left Southampton for her maiden voyage on May 27th 1936. She had five lounges and dining areas, two swimming pools and cocktail bars, an extremely grand ballroom, one squash court and a small hospital as well. The ship set a new standard for transatlantic voyages, which were considered the only way to travel for the rich and famous. She quickly won the hearts of people from both America and Europe and was the hallmark of an era famous for its style, class and elegance.
The Queen Mary was retired from liner service in 1967, and she is now an extremely popular attraction in Southern California, acting as a hotel and special events venue. During peacetime she carried 2.2 million people, and also saw service in the Second World War, carrying 810,000 soldiers. However, since coming to Long Beach, it’s estimated that she has seen 50 million visitors. On the day of her launch back in 1934, Lady Mable Fortiscue-Harrison, a famous psychic from England, rightly predicted that the Queen Mary would see her greatest popularity and fame once she stopped sailing, which turned out to be correct!
The Queen Mary came to the end of her era when air travel gained popularity. Cunard was running a financial loss by 1965 and it was then that they decided to retire and liquidate the Queen Mary. She set sail on her final cruise on October 31st 1967 and reached Long Beach on December 9th. Ever since then, Southern California has been her home. She is now a floating wedding and event venue and hotel, and she has three top-class restaurants on board. She is now an icon of Southern California.