The Queen Mary and Churchill’s Finest Hours Exhibit Long Beach, CA

Queen Mary

I had the pleasure of attending the 50th-anniversary celebration of the RMS Queen Mary’s arrival in Long Beach Harbor in December 2017.  The ship was bought by the City of Long Beach, CA in 1967 and was opened to tourists in May 1971.

50th anniversary of the arrival of the Queen Mary in Long Beach

It stands now as a museum, hotel, and a wedding venue and a testament to history.

The anniversary coincided with the opening for Churchill’s Finest Hours Exhibit and on the heels of the release of the Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill.

Jeanne Churchill and Laurence Geller open the Finest Hours exhibit
Their Finest Hours

This exhibit is similar to the Churchill war rooms in London, which provides a look inside the government rooms that were used in London during World War II.  Jeanne Churchill, the great-granddaughter of Churchill cut the ribbon to open the exhibit.


International Churchill Society held its annual meeting on the day of the opening.  Churchill made six voyages on the Queen Mary and he always occupied the stateroom M-119, now known as the Churchill Suite.

One of Winston’s favorite spot’s on board the Queen Mary

The Queen Mary sailed from 1936-1967 for the Cunard Line until she passed the flagship status in 1946 to RMS Queen Elizabeth. The Cunard line dominated transatlantic service until the 1950s when airplanes could make the transatlantic flight.

The ship played an important role in World War II for Britain. She was taken out of passenger service in 1940 to become a troop ship and was called the Grey Ghost due to her new paint job and her speed at crossing the Atlantic.  Hitler had a bounty on the ship due to her speed, clocked at 23 ½ knots. She was the fastest ship at sea until 1952 when beaten by the USS United States.  Some 800,000 troops sailed on her during WW2, of course, it was not in the luxury accommodation her previous guests knew.  In 1947, she was restored to luxury passenger service.

In the late 1940s and ’50s, the Queen Mary was the height of luxury travel for the movers and shakers of Hollywood and politics.  She had a crew of 500 and 347 passenger cabins.  Both Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth attended the children’s nursery.  There were three smoking lounges, two pools, and an exercise room. Onboard entertainment was also first class as many entertainers performed while onboard. Liberace performed for the passengers and the performances were broadcast throughout the ship for all to enjoy.

The Promenade
The Observation Bar

The City of Long Beach paid three and a half million in 1967 for the ship and some seventy million was spent to convert the ship to a museum and then hotel by Long Beach. A large majority of the money was spent on the removal of engines and boilers.  Today, the ship serves as a museum, hotel with 346 hotel rooms with nine suites and a wedding venue.  The Great Lady attracts some 1.5 million visitors annually to honor this significant floating piece of history.

Exceptional onboard tours are available daily and you will have an enjoyable day aboard the Great Lady. We were given an excellent historical tour of the ship by our tour guide, Kelly.

Kelly, our tour guide explaining the wood used on the Queen Mary

She was well versed and provided us with an in-depth overview of the ship.

Downtown Long Beach

There are also several restaurants available in all price ranges or you can enjoy a stay at the hotel for a true taste of history.

50th Anniversary ice sculpture





That evening we attended the invitation-only Queen Mary 50th Anniversary Celebration for the Churchill Society Party and opening of the Churchill exhibit on the fantail of the ship.

Laurence S. Geller is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the International Churchill Society with Jeanne Churchill

The City of Long Beach purchased The Queen Mary ocean liner in 1967 and it came to its berth in Long Beach Harbor on December 9, 1967. The liner’s final voyage crossed the world to reach its new home. A flotilla of commercial and private boats welcomed the Great Lady to her new home.

Commodore Everette Hoarde toasts the Queen

If you are in Southern California take time to visit this iconic piece of history.  It will be a treat you will never forget.

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