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An Alternative Vision

Many of the changes made to the Queen Mary since arriving in Long Beach were made with the intention of generating reliable revenue in an in port setting. The results have been less than fully satisfactory financially and truly problematic from a historic preservation perspective.

Perhaps the most significant decision was made in the early 1970's when banqueting was moved into the former lounges on the upper decks.  This was done by the lessee to avoid paying for the renovations needed in two of the three original dining rooms on R deck.  And it was also done to take advantage of the higher ceiling heights of the lounges on Promenade and Main Deck.  The result is a series of stripped "ballrooms" on the upper decks that double as multi-purpose banqueting/catering/meeting rooms. Kitchens, pantry spaces and chair storage spaces that did not exist have proliferated all over the ship as a result, severely damaging once elegant  adjacent facilities.  The flow of the ship that was once part of its intrinsic beauty was severely undermined.

But there is still the tantilizing alternative of using the facility as originally designed.    Consider the alternative: Receptions in original grand lounges on the upper decks followed by a banquet in an original and restored dining room on R deck.

How do other ships accommodate dining?  See the following illustration of how it is done on the restored SS Rotterdam and the former royal yacht Britannia.




Clearly, enormous ceiling heights aren't a requirement for luxurious dining.

With banqueting restricted to R deck, the original upper deck lounges might be partially refurnished with some of their furniture long gathering dust in storage to serve as hospitality and entertainment spaces that reflect their original glory.

Note how a famous club in downtown Los Angeles, Cicada,  handles itself.  The cleared center of the room is accompanied by a furnished perimeter.  The same strategy is quite possible in the former lounges on the Queen Mary.





I believe that these lounge could do more food and beverage sales using this approach which is similar to that used on the former royal yacht Britannia.  It's main lounge, called the state drawing room, fully furnished, is routinely the site for very elegant corporate receptions serving wine, cocktails and hors d'oevres.  The royal yacht restricts sit down banqueting to the two original dining rooms on the yacht and a large recently partially enclosed top deck area. 


The royal deck on the Britannia, was enclosed for large receptions.  This deck was used for entertaining while the yacht was in royal service in fine weather.





 A wine and hors d'ouevre reception in the state drawing room, the main lounge of the former Royal Yacht Britannia.


The state drawing room of the former royal yacht.





The State Dining Room


The State Dining Room on the Royal Yacht Britannia set up for a dinner.












The Officers Dining Room.


The yacht's officer's dining room is also used for sit down dinners.  The state drawing room is definitely not stripped and used for this purpose.


When the QE2 was used in a stationary mode off Japan in the late 1980's, a very similar approach was followed. Lounges were not stripped and used as "multi-purpose" banqueting/ballrooms. "That would have ruined the atmoshere and the ship", a Cunard employee explained to me.   Indeed he was correct, as Long Beach's misuse of the Queen Mary proves.


Why not sell two part receptions and dinners?  A reception in an upper deck lounge followed by a banqueting on R deck?  An objection might be that this is impractical because it involves monopolizing two rooms and shuttling guest down several flights of stairs during an event.

But some may recall the famous dining room entrance scene in the 1997 movie "Titanic".  A similar situation is being portrayed.  Passengers are descending from an upper deck lounge to dinner in a dining room on a deck at the waterline.



This scene captivated movie goers and indeed influenced the design of modern cruise ships in the past decade.

On the RMS Queen Mary the staircase(s) were further supplemented by elevators.  Bellboys stood at the dining room entrances and opened the doors for arriving passengers for all three classes.



Looking forward from inside  the dining room towards the elevators.

Below in a 1956 BBC newsreel we see a bellboy holding one of a pair of doors open for first class passengers arriving for mealtime.





Yet in Long Beach, for a variety of reasons, this drama has been lost.  Several of the elevators leading from the lounges on promenade and main deck down to the R deck dining room were disabled.   The link between the lounges on upper decks to the dining room below them is not understood.  The original grand entrances to the first class dining room exist but are not properly used.


Even worse, the aft entrance to the former first class dining room is in shambles.  Sadly, the same can be said of the second and third class dining rooms themselves.


The aft grand entrance with its staircase is located just behind the gleaming double doors that Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal and Mr. John Thomas use as a backdrop for their art deco event.  Photographs of its current condition follow.



Photos courtesy of the RMSQueenMary Facebook page.








Now a rushed, rather ordinary, (but not inexpensive) reception is usually crammed into a corner of the banqueting "ballroom" followed by a hastily served dinner in the same room.

Objections?  Some may say "receptions and banqueting aren't all that we do in these rooms.  We also do theater style presentations and business meetings.  We need to keep all options open to maximize our revenue generating potential from this facilty.  This is essential for our survival".

This argument has kept the Queen Mary in shambles and on the verge of bankruptcy for more than four decades.  It is the argument of a person who can't think outside their self created box.

How often are the "Queen's Salon", the "Britannia Room", or the "Royal Salon" actually used?  Between these uses, how useful is a stripped main lounge?  What is the cost of constant set up and take down between events?

This is not a business strategy that maximizes food and beverage sales or brings back repeat business to a legend.  It is the sign of a set in its ways banqueting sales force without a full understanding of the potential of their facility.  What is required is a banqueting sales manager with a full understanding of what the Queen Mary was and could once again be that is reporting to a general manager with the desire to preserve and protect the historic Queen Mary.




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