Royal Rendezvous: Queen Mary 2 meets namesake Queen Mary

Royal Rendezvous: Queen Mary 2 meets namesake Queen Mary
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The royal get-together in Long Beach harbour
The royal get-together in Long Beach harbour
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February 25, 2006 Maritime history was made Thursday as two legendary ocean liners, the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Mary, met for the first time in Long Beach harbour for a royal rendezvous. The commemorative festivities were part of the Cunard Lines' Queen Mary 2's highly anticipated maiden call to Los Angeles on Wednesday, where more than 25,000 spectators turned out. As she entered Long Beach harbour on February 23, the Queen Mary 2 was met by a flotilla of 800 boats, 14 helicopters, and three blimps, as well as 6000 spectators lining the shore to view the festivities.

A first-time whistle salutation between the famed ocean liners had even more meaning as the QM2 carries one of her namesake's original whistles, the tone of whose deep bass "A" can be heard ten miles away. When the original Queen Mary was built, it was the world’s largest ever ship, being significantly larger than the Titanic. It still holds the record for the most people carried aboard a floating vessel. The Queen Mary 2 is longer, taller and nearly twice as large as the Queen Mary.

Since Queen Mary 2's dazzling debut in 2004, Cunard enthusiasts have wondered if the grand ocean liner would ever meet her legendary predecessor, the Queen Mary. Retired from maritime service for nearly 40 years, the Queen Mary, which sailed from 1937 through 1967, is now permanently berthed in Long Beach and is one of the city's most well-known attractions.

"Since the debut of the Queen Mary 2 in 2004, Cunard Line has dreamed of the day these two sister ships would meet," said Captain David Christy, vice president Marine, for Cunard Line. "We are delighted that it is here at last and that we have had the opportunity to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience in Long Beach, home of the Queen Mary."

Though longer, taller and nearly twice as large as the Queen Mary, Queen Mary 2 shares a number of venerable "family" traditions with her namesake, including worldwide fame, royal launching ceremonies, spectacular maiden calls and a lineage of hosting noted society figures, celebrities and other luminaries of the day.

The Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2 is the grandest ocean liner ever built. There are 1,310 suites and cabins available in degrees of style and comfort ranging from pampered elegance to almost unimaginable luxury in the ship's famed Grill-level accommodations. Queen Mary 2 brings together like-minded travelers who relish the Cunard hallmarks of impeccable White Star ServiceSM, fine dining, sophisticated adventure and legacy of historic voyages and transatlantic travel.

The Queen Mary

The Queen Mary first set sail in May 1936, and was named for and launched by Her Majesty Queen Mary amidst great fanfare and celebration. During her more than 30 years at sea, the most celebrated liner of its time hosted A-list celebrities and society figures, sailed more than 1,000 transatlantic crossings and played a pivotal military role between 1940-1946, when she was commissioned to transport military troops during World War II. After carrying more than 765,000 service personnel throughout the conflict, Prime Minister Winston Churchill credited Queen Mary (as well as sister ship Queen Elizabeth) with ending the war one year earlier than estimated. Today, the Queen Mary is one of Southern California's most recognizable icons and continues to educate and entertain visitors from all around the world, offering tours, exceptional exhibitions, a calendar of festivals and numerous social and special events year-round.

Both considered the very finest ocean liners of their day, the two ships offer a range of fascinating similarities and differences. For example, length-wise Queen Mary 2 is just 113 feet longer than the Queen Mary, but in terms of gross tonnage, she is nearly twice the size of her predecessor. In days gone by, salt cod and kippers were menu highlights -- today, caviar and lobster top the bill of fare. In addition, the Queen Mary has a dozen decks, but QM2 has 17. Finally, Queen Mary 2 can carry nearly 600 more passengers than her namesake.

Some things never change, however. Champagne, for example, remains the beverage of choice for generations of travelers, impeccable White Star ServiceSM remains a Cunard hallmark, renowned enrichment programs and leisure offerings are still the primary onboard pursuits and, whatever the decade, Cunard ocean liners attract the world's most famous celebrities, including entertainers ranging from Duke Ellington to Carly Simon.

During the Golden Age of Ocean Travel, the Queen Mary welcomed such famous personalities as Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich, Cary Grant, Bing Crosby, and Clark Gable. Continuing Cunard's illustrious heritage of hosting royalty, society luminaries and famed entertainers, Queen Mary 2 has hosted a variety of notable guests such as Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, John Cleese, Tina Brown and Sir Harold Evans, Donald Trump, and Dame Shirley Bassey. Eminent visitors have included Her Majesty The Queen, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent, Former President George Bush, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Hillary Clinton.

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