Being a Long Beach native myself, the Queen Mary has always been a familiar site. I've been going there as long as I can remember, but as I've gotten older, I've realized that I've taken the Scottish landmark for granted. Spending special occasions at the Queen Mary has been somewhat of a tradition in my family, especially amongst the women on my mom's side. This past Mother's Day was no different, but I found myself approaching the outing with a set of fresh eyes.
I took it upon myself to read about the ship before I set foot in her presence once again. Before I proceed with the retelling of my experience this weekend, here's a quick history and some interesting information that might make your trip to the Queen Mary a more special one.
According to the Queen Mary website, the Queen Mary got her name after quite a miscommunication between King George and the ship's construction's directors:
"Legend has it that the board of directors at Cunard had decided to name the ship the Queen Victoria, which would have been in keeping with the tradition of Cunard ships having the "ia" suffix (Mauretania, Aquitania and Berengeria). As per protocol, legend states that the Cunard directors went to ask King George his blessing of the ship's proposed name saying, "We have decided to name our new ship after England's greatest Queen," meaning Queen Victoria, the King's Grandmother. Upon which the King is reported to have stated, "My wife (Queen Mary) will be delighted that you are naming the ship after her."
In a nutshell, the Queen Mary was built as a luxury ocean liner, setting speed records and carrying important names such as Clark Gable, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and even Winston Churchill. However, WWII changed the Queen Mary from a luxury liner into a troopship known as the "Grey Ghost." She not only transported troops across the Atlantic but also participated in many Allied Campaigns, the D-Day invasion, and set the record for carrying the most people on a floating vessel ever (16,683).
After the war, she was refurbished and resumed her cruises from Europe to America. Due to the rising popularity of air travel, her cruises became less and less popular, so on December 9, 1967, she made her final journey to Long Beach.
For Mother's Day this year, my mom made reservations for the champagne brunch in the Grand Salon, a large banquet room aboard the Queen Mary. Even though our reservation was at 1:30, we arrived closer to 1:00 but were still seated. We checked in at the main entrance of the ship, confirmed our reservation and took the elevators up to the second floor. We walked across a bridge, leaving solid ground behind for the vintage charm of the Queen Mary.
The Grand Salon was as busy as a marketplace, full of beaming mothers and their dressed-up children. There was a certain kind of joy in the room, seeing families celebrating the women who gave them life, the ones who raised them, the ones who gave themselves to be family even without a blood relation. There was quite a buzz in the air - I don't recommend this brunch if you're looking for something quiet and peaceful.
The Grand Salon is quite ornate, but many of its details can go unnoticed if one is not that observant. I found myself getting lost in the etchings on the walls, the shapes of the light fixtures, and even the rich tones of the wood all around us. It became very easy to forget I was indeed in modern-day Long Beach, CA.
We were seated after check-in, then served drinks before we explored the buffet. After maneuvering through a labyrinth of tables, shouting children and eager guests balancing plates of food in each hand, I made it to the buffet. There was no shortage of food - the selection was broad, and it would be hard for me to believe that someone couldn't find something they liked. There were traditional breakfast favorites, an omelette station, fresh crepes, fruit, a salad bar, chartecurie, oysters, seafood, and even some sushi.
In the center of the feast there was not only an ice sculpture that read "Happy Mother's Day," but there was a live harpist as well. She played beautifully, and I noticed she played both classically recognized ballads and even more current tunes, like "All of Me" by John Legend.
As for my plate - I opted not to over-stuff myself; I know often times the biggest mistake people make at a buffet is going for the food items that are considered the cheaper, filler items. I tried not to load up on carbs, no matter how cute the mini-bagels looked. Ok, I DID have one. Where else was I supposed to pile my lox?
I went for the seafood, eggs benedict, gouda, lox and some chartecurie. I definitely had to leave room for dessert - the small chocolate eclair was one of my favorite bites, along with the mini chocolate mousse cup. Last but not least, I discovered there was ice cream too! I was very excited to see (what I assume to be) homemade ice cream with an assortment of toppings. It was a bit hidden, but the girl serving up the fresh crepes was also scooping ice cream. I adore ice cream, so I couldn't leave without a cone. Although I thought it was vanilla, it tasted like cake batter flavored ice cream. It was great, and I think it was the first time I had encountered this at a buffet.
After our meal, we wandered around some of my favorite parts of the ship - the deck. For me, few things top the view from the sun deck of the Queen Mary. There is a perfect, unobstructed view of Long Beach's humble skyline. Sure, it's no Los Angeles, but that's why I love it. There's a kind of serenity that comes from standing on the deck gazing out onto the coast. On a clear day (which we so gratefully experienced this particular time), you can see every detail of Rainbow Harbor, the ferris wheel at the Pike, the Wyland Whaling Wall. To me, Long Beach is still a hidden gem that hasn't fully been discovered by the general public yet. We're all so fixated on Los Angeles that we forget the enchanting spot by the sea, nestled in between a large, industrious port and glamorous Orange County.
We finished off our day with more walking around the ship and ended our adventure in a couple of the gift shops. I try my best to avoid tourist traps, especially in my own city, but I was completely taken by some of the items we saw in a gift shop window. I ended up purchasing a cake server, vintage travel stickers and some travel notebooks. If I'm being honest, the items were surely overpriced, but there were many unique gifts in the shop that took me by surprise. If you're ever visiting the Queen Mary, don't overlook the shops!
So there you have it, Mother's Day 2017 in Long Beach!
Until next time,
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