Two QUEENs For A Day: QUEEN VICTORIA’s Maiden Visit to Los Angeles QUEEN MARY’s 40th Year in Long Beach

Cunard Line

All text and photographs copyright Peter Knego 2008.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008:

Following a fortnight of intermittent rain and unusual gloom in Southern California, it was nice to awaken this morning to a spectacular day under crystal blue skies, rarely seen green hillsides and distant mountains capped in snow. The 90 minute drive from Moorpark to San Pedro/Los Angeles Harbor to visit Cunard’s QUEEN VICTORIA on her maiden Los Angeles call passed with ease.

QUEEN VICTORIA at Pier 93 on her maiden visit to Los Angeles, 30 January 2008.

I looked forward to a return to the ship I saw just over a month prior during her gala naming ceremony in Southampton. Due to the packed inaugural schedule, I never managed to get outside of the terminal for some exterior views, and, despite spending two days on board, could always use a few more photos for the archives and a forthcoming tour on MaritimeMatters.

A “Mikado” view of the QV during her L.A. maiden visit.

At a quarter past 11:00 AM, from the fast lane of the southbound 110 Freeway, the silhouette of QUEEN VICTORIA’s funnel appeared behind the guy wires and cables of the Vincent-Thomas suspension bridge. Moments later, I arrived at the Catalina terminal/SS LANE VICTORY parking lot across from Pier 93 and set up the tripod for some video of the new VICTORIA in the not-so-conducive morning back light. Shortly thereafter, I was joined by Martin Cox, master of MaritimeMatters and transplanted Southamptonian, eager to make his first visit to the much-heralded ship. We shuffled off to the terminal, stopping at various vantage points to document QV, a vessel with a businesslike and powerful exterior presence. While subject to some of the aesthetic shortcomings of modern ship architecture (rows of balconies, foreshortened fo’c’sle, built up superstructure, transom stern), her designers nonetheless gave her many pleasing traits, including a terraced forward superstructure, a radio mast reminiscent of QE2’s and a nicely rounded crown of midships decks (that in an abstract way conjure up Orient Line’s exquisite ORIANA of 1960). Add to that the charcoal gray Cunard hull livery and that brilliant orange/red and black funnel and the QUEEN VICTORIA is one of the better looking newbuilds to come along in quite some time.

Bronze and glass mural in the Grand Lobby.

Grand Lobby detail.

Our small media group entered on the Deck 3 level of the Grand Lobby, a space that lives up to its name with a towering metal and glass frieze of the QUEEN VICTORIA set in a marquetry panel on the rear bulkhead.

Captain Paul Wright, a socially gifted man with seemingly boundless energy, was on hand to receive a $60,000 check on behalf of the Cunard-sponsored charity, Friends Of The Prince’s Trust, Inc. from Stars For A Cause.

I enjoyed watching fellow media people form their first impressions of the VICTORIA as I reaffirmed and reappraised my own. I did note that with bright sunlight filtering in from her many public room windows, she seemed far less monochromatic than she did in the gloomy backdrop of Southampton.

The Royal Arcade, facing aft from Deck 3.

The Queen’s Lounge, facing forward from Deck 2.

The 6,000 volume Library, facing port from Deck 2.

My own personal feelings toward VICTORIA have gelled from admiration to genuine enthusiasm. To accept that any major cruise line will most likely only build “common platform” vessels from now on is a somewhat distressing thought for a lover of ships. But, for all intents and purposes, this particular platform has been devised with many functional and aesthetic plusses.

QUEEN VICTORIA is comfortable, has a great passenger flow and a certain aura of elegance that both emanates from and transcends her decor. The scale of some of her public areas (Theater, Royal Arcade, Library, Grand Lobby and Queens Room) is far more sweeping than their equivalents on her HAL Vista cousins. Some of the wood veneers, stained glass and marble are reminiscent of the Princess ships (which share the same design team, Teresa Anderson and Giacomo Mortola) but on QV, these elements are rendered and coordinated in their own unique style. The spaces on Decks 2 and 3 have a cohesive palette and style (successfully combining two erstwhile divergent periods: Victorian and Deco) that is lacking on many new ships.

Collector’s item? The oft-discussed QUEEN VICTORIA 2 rugs in the Spa area with the “2” painted over.

Hemispheres, facing aft/port.

Our tour included visits to most of the public rooms on Deck 2, then continued up in the lifts to Deck 9 for a walk through the blue and gold hued Lido and the wicker furnishings of the Winter Garden, around the lovely midships Pavilion Pool to the Spa, where a short fencing demonstration was held. Next, it was up to the Commodore’s Club, a space that nearly everyone in our group especially liked for its sweeping views and Edwardian decorative influences. From there, it was aft to Hemispheres, a dynamic, circular room overlooking the Pavilion Pool, serving as a lounge by day and the disco at night.

We ventured further aft to the grills on midships Deck 11, each with a panorama of full length windows jutting outwards from underneath the funnel casing. In between the (starboard) Princess Grill and (port) Queens Grill, was the al-fresco Grill Terrace and access to the topmost observation platform on Deck 12, surrounding the funnel. The Grill Lounge is housed forward of the grills and has an imposing domed glass skylight as well as a view over the Pavilion Pool area.

The Britannia Restaurant, facing aft from the Deck 3 level.

Lido (aft) Pool, facing forward.

Facing history: QUEEN MARY in Long Beach from QUEEN VICTORIA in Los Angeles.

Adjacent history: SS LANE VICTORY at Los Angeles, as seen from QUEEN VICTORIA.

Your blogger in a moment of repose on aft/port Deck 9. Photo and copyright Martin Cox 2008.

Facing forward from aft/port Deck 10.

Port Deck 12, facing aft.

Pavilion Pool, facing aft from Deck 11.

Chess set on forward Deck 11 platform atop Hemispheres.

Our guided tour concluded with a walk through the Britannia Restaurant and return via the Deck 2 public spaces to the Grand Lobby. We were invited to the plaque ceremony in the Commodore Club at 3:00 PM and enjoyed a little extra time on our own to explore the open decks.

Los Angeles plaque exchange on board QUEEN VICTORIA.

At the ceremony, Captain Wright was on hand to exchange plaques with representatives from the Harbor Commission and the Stevedores’ Union. Bruce Vancil from the QUEEN MARY’s RMS Foundation presented a special plaque from Cunard’s first QUEEN, ironically, according to oft repeated maritime legend, to have originally been intended to bear the name QUEEN VICTORIA.

Port promenade, facing aft.

MaritimeMatters’ Martin Cox under a bit of Southampton.

After the ceremony, we meandered down the forward stair tower, stopping to admire some fantastic paintings by Robert Lloyd, Bauwens, and Stephen Card (extra props on his FRANCONIA in white!) to explore the Deck 3 promenade with its lovely, cushioned wooden deck chairs. Curiously, the promenade does not fully encircle the ship like it does on the other members of the Vista/SPIRIT platform. This and the
lack of teak decking are the only two real issues I have with the otherwise extremely appealing and worthy QUEEN VICTORIA.

QUEEN VICTORIA in the afternoon light.

Ocean Liner Twilight. The QUEEN departs L.A. for the first time.

And so it was. A second visit to the QUEEN VICTORIA to celebrate her first ever call to my own “home” waters. Martin and I wandered about the adjacent Los Angeles harbor promenade to get a few more views of the ship in the afternoon light before heading to Ports O’ Call to witness the sail away. Fortunately, the QV left on time at 5:00 PM, thrusting into the channel, passing by in twilight to give a very hearty three long blasts and one short toot before podding out to sea en route to her next destination, Honolulu.

Queen of the night: RMS QUEEN MARY at Long Beach, 30 January 2008.

Another QUEEN beckoned, so it was off to Long Beach to the QUEEN MARY and the company of good friends in the glorious burled wood, nickel, and etched glass splendor of the Queens Salon for a celebration of the venerable ship’s fortieth year in California. The new lease holders, Save The Queen, gathered to welcome us and introduce ideas they have for the QUEEN MARY’s continued preservation. Their first year of activity will see some $6 million spent on repairing parts of the MARY’s infrastructure (and already has seen the repair of a number of leaks on Boat Deck and the restoration of the original ceiling woodwork in the Queen’s Salon and Royal Salon — ex first class Lounge and Smoking Room) and hotel facility. Future plans call for painting the ship’s exterior, and, further down the road, the proposals include building a number of facilities alongside (deluxe hotel, casino, stadium, mall).

QUEEN MARY’s new “team” assembled.

To be in the Queen’s Salon, returned to form as a proper lounge with restored Art Deco settees and cocktail tables with a jazz vocalist and band (as opposed to its usual function as an auditorium with stackable seating) was a slice of heaven!

Thus ended a long but wonderful day, venturing from the newest in a line of celebrated QUEENs to the great dowager original, herself. All in Southern California on a perfect winter afternoon/evening, and without planes, Heathrow, Visas and anti-malarials!

Special thanks: Maria Andriano, Jackie Chase, Michelle Colligan, Martin Cox, Brian O’Connor, Chris Hodek, Caroline Klein, Bruce Vancil

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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