The year after I visited the Fairsea at the Port of Las Angeles I had the chance to visit the legendary Queen Mary at her home in Long Beach. The ship was ordered in 1929, served as a troop ship during World War II and eventually was retired and became a hotel in 1967. My trip was part of a YMCA field trip to see her and the Spruce Goose, the mammoth plane built and flown once by Howard Hughes. The Goose was housed in a large dome next to the Queen Mary and after touring it the group walked over to the massive ship looming in the air at the pier. I had seen the Queen Mary used as a set for numerous movies and TV shows. Usually my mother or father would point out that it was the Queen Mary being used again. After awhile it was easy to pick out that it was her, be it the dining room, the bridge or promenade decks.
Actually boarding her lead to a tour of the onboard museum and a space which was actually a pool which looked over one of the ships propellers. Seeing a huge propeller, green and dark under water, while actually on ship was a unique experience. Walking around the top promenade lead to the chance to climb into a WWII quad 44 mm anti-aircraft gun. The same sort as armed ships all through WWII, including some ships my grandfather had served on. However the highlight was spending time on the bridge, with the classic brass ships telegraphs, ships wheel and the wooden deck and décor. It was legitimately awe inspiring looking back. The visit became a favorite story of mine. For years afterward I would collect old editions of Sea Classics and read about the time the ship rammed a British cruiser, sinking it and the famous people who had traveled on her. The ghost stories would be highlighted on TV. The ship would come up when people spoke about cruising. Every time I was able to proudly say I had been there and knew the ship.
Heaped on top of the still fresh memories from the Fairsea I almost felt as if I had been on a cruise or a trip across the ocean. From that point forward I always felt like I was simply burning time until my “next” cruise, even though it would be over ten years as an adult before it finally happened.