Welcome to our introduction to Alternative Visions. The purpose of this article is to give readers a general overview of how the different concepts of AV all blend together.
In order to lead into our recommendations for restoration of the Queen Mary, it's important to note that these recommendations are based on careful analysis of the ship "as built" and the reality of the ship "as is". During the late 1960s, when being transformed from ocean greyhound to dockside hotel and tourist attraction, much of the ship's original structure was removed. This period is generally referred to as "the conversion". We believe that by reversing some of the crucial mistakes of the conversion that created the logistic challenges the ship faces today, the ship can be restored in a way that creates not only a higher caliber of service, but new business initiatives as a result.
As the above cut away of the ship illustrates, the ship is very chopped up in its assignment as functions:
- The hotel is simply three decks of cabins sandwiched between a catering venue and tourist attraction
- Catering is done by using the surviving public rooms scattered all through the ship as stripped down, multi purpose, banqueting ballrooms
- The self guided tour has visitors wandering aimlessly throughout the ship
- A large portion of the ship along with some of it's most interesting features are "off limits”, being trashed as storage areas or used all year in anticipation of the annual Halloween Carnival called "Shipwreck"
- The ship museum (designed to be easily converted into a Halloween maze for "Shipwreck”) is tucked down on D and E decks in the back of the ship where it is very poorly accessible to elderly or handicapped guests
The use of the ship's surviving public rooms as multi purpose "banqueting ballrooms" is the precise reason for so much damage to the ship's delicate wood veneered interiors. This is also the approach used at budget hotels. We believe that by running the Queen Mary as an upscale hotel and assigning functions to rooms, much of the ship can be restored and used for purposes as it was originally designed. This business model has been successfully applied to other historic hotels by building a modern hotel tower with modern conference facilities. In other words, conference functions are held in the modern tower with state of the art facilities while hospitality, entertainment, and banqueting functions are held in the historic venue, in this case, the Queen Mary.
The above cut away shows the Queen Mary as we propose to restore her. As the color-coding indicates, very little of the ship is "off limits”.
The descriptions below illustrate a brief overview of the functions proposed in Alternative Visions. We invite you to read the detailed articles which are linked next to each deck below.
The Upper Decks (Sports and Sun Deck)
During the conversion of the Queen Mary from sea going ship to dockside tourist attraction, Sun Deck was conceived as the prime retail space on the ship. The two deck houses on Sun Deck were gutted and turned into shopping malls. Within a few years they had failed and were replaced with exhibits and administrative offices. Even the Verandah Grill, once the most exclusive spot on the North Atlantic, was gutted and turned into a fast food outlet of all things. A new restaurant was created above it on Sports Deck in the engineer's top quarters called "Sir Winston's".
So why did these shops fail? Retail certainly has its place in any tourist attraction and the exposed nature of Sun Deck makes it natural for visitors to frequent. The answer could be that you wouldn't go to the Kennedy Space Center to see talking animals and you wouldn't go to a carnival because it's educational. If the same logic were applied to the Queen Mary, it would be a logical conclusion that people come to the Queen Mary to experience a pre world war ocean liner, not a bunch of standard tourist trap shops that happen to be on the ship. We believe that Sun Deck should be partially restored to resurrect the most interesting features of this deck for the self guided tour while at the same time creating dining venues for visitors.
The forward deck house had some of the most interesting features such as the 1st Class Gymnasium, Squash Court, and Wireless Room (a ham radio club labeled ‘the wireless room' is located on Sports deck in the upper level of the squash court). The remainder of the space that was originally 1st class single and crew cabins would become the tourist cafe, replacing the current Promenade Cafe that blocks the starboard promenade. The aft deck house would become the new upper deck kitchens serving the hospitality needs of the restored lounges directly below on Promenade Deck as well as the restored Verandah Grill directly aft which we see as a replacement for the Chelsea Restaurant, another one of the rooms that blocks the starboard promenade.
Promenade Deck (The Hospitality and Entertainment Venue)
When Diners Club abruptly left the ship before it opened in 1971, Specialty Restaurants took over as master lessee. The new lessee abandoned the Diners Club plan of using the original dining rooms on R Deck as the banqueting center for the ship. They shifted the focus for banqueting service to the upper deck lounges, with the exception of the first class dining room. (It was put into banqueting service subdivided as the Windsor Room and the Grand Salon.) The upper deck lounges were all stripped of their custom designed furnishings and pressed into service as multi purpose "banqueting ballrooms”. The upper deck lounges of the Queen Mary were not designed for this use. The constant furniture movement and makeshift pantries scattered all over the upper decks have caused a great deal of damage to the delicate wood veneered interiors of the ship. We believe that the full atmosphere of the Queen Mary is recoverable by using the public rooms for purposes close to what they were designed and built for.
For example, the dining rooms on R Deck would be used for the full meals of sit down dining and the lounges on Promenade Deck would be used for entertainment and hospitality functions where drinks and tray foods are served. This would not only virtually eliminate most of the damage caused by the current use, but would also restore the elegant atmosphere of these rooms to what they were intended, resulting in a much more upscale venue and higher asking rental fees as a result.
The Hotel Decks (Upgrading the Queen Mary Hotel and creating the Club Queen Mary)
When the Queen Mary was brought to Long Beach, a first class hotel was conceived as part of the operation. As it is today, the hotel is simply three decks of former 1st and 2nd class cabins. There are no significant passenger amenities in operation on these decks. By these we mean lounges, bars, smoking rooms, and writing rooms. This is a gross oversight that should be corrected to give hotel guests the one of a kind experience that they should get by staying on the Queen Mary. The 2nd Class Public Rooms located at the back of the ship are perfectly sited for the private enjoyment of hotel guests, creating a private shipboard experience. We also see these restored facilities shared with a new business initiative; a social, athletic, and business club that we call, "The Club Queen Mary”. These include the 2nd Class Smoking Room, Lounge, Library and Writing Room, Overflow Lounge (currently called the ‘Capstan Room'), and Swimming Pool.
If the negative reviews on travel websites are anything to go by, the hotel would greatly benefit by this reassignment in functions. In addition, the 2nd and 3rd Class public rooms on the hotels decks (M, A, and B) make poor catering venues. They aren't readily accessible by the boarding towers like the 1st Class lounges on Promenade Deck and the dining rooms on R Deck that are waiting to be restored. They also have no direct kitchen access (The main kitchens are on Promenade and R Decks). This logistical problem is the very reason why there are makeshift pantries scattered all over the ship that have not only damaged the rooms themselves, but also the surrounding areas as illustrated on the web site.
We see the 2nd class lounge being a quiet place for conversation, a great venue for showing first run movies to hotel guests, as well as live entertainment. The library and writing room might be a quiet place to read as well as a business center furnished with computers, the playroom might be adapted to serve today's modern kids, and the Capstan Room serving as a gym for hotel guests which would work nicely with the open deck behind it. This restoration and reuse would give hotel guests authentic shipboard facilities all around a grand staircase and elevators in this very private part of the ship away from the intrusion of daytime tourists.
R Deck (The Banqueting Venue)
When Diners Club was announced as the initial lessee for the ship, their plan was to use all three of the original dining rooms on R Deck as the banqueting venue on the ship. Wharf side access allowed for direct entrances to all three dining rooms and internal corridors were created to allow all the rooms to be used in tandem. When Diners Club left the ship and Specialty Restaurants took over, the renovation of "R" deck as the primary meeting/banqueting center on the Queen Mary was incomplete. As a cost cutting measure to finishing the renovation, the incoming lessee shifted the focus for banqueting service to the upper deck lounges, with the exception of the first class dining room (It was put into banqueting service and subdivided as the Windsor Room and the Grand Salon). The second class dining room was assigned use informally as a cold storage facility for the adjacent main kitchens and the third class dining room commandeered for table and chair storage.
As noted in the section above on Promenade Deck, the upper deck lounges were not designed to be dining or conference rooms and have suffered a lot of damage through misuse. The restoration of all three dining rooms as the banqueting center for the ship has great logistical advantages. The corridors created by Diners Club to link all three rooms still exist and each dining room has direct wharf side access. The 1st and 2nd second class dining rooms are positioned to be served directly from the main kitchen and the third class dining room would have the perfect pantry space in the now dormant 1st funnel hatch. This restoration and reassignment of functions presents the opportunity to let visitors experience the Queen Mary's public rooms for what they were designed while greatly reducing and even eliminating the damage suffered through inappropriate use. With the dining rooms all linked by the corridors created by Diners Club, the capacity for an event on R Deck would increase from 800 to 1500!
The Lower Decks (C through G)
After the Queen Mary was purchased by the city of Long Beach in 1967, the five lower decks of the ship were to be gutted at great expense to create a maritime museum. It only occurred to a very few at the time that they were destroying one in the process. To create a two deck high entrance to this museum, C Deck was removed from the stern to approximately the middle of the ship, destroying the crucial Working Alleyway in the process. The power train of the ship was almost totally gutted at great expense to create the majority of the space for this museum. Only the aft engine room was spared from the cutters torch which, ironically, is one of the two most popular spots on the ship (the other is the pool). The Cousteau "Museum of the Sea" had failed by the 1980s and was turned into an exhibit hall. The remainder of the power train space forward of this area remains in virtually the same state as it was after the rip out phase (other than natural deterioration due to inaction).
As mentioned above, the removal of half of C Deck resulted in the destruction of the Working Alley which allowed all of the passenger decks to be serviced with little intrusion. We recommend that the remainder of the original Working Alley on C Deck be restored as part of a new tour on crew life aboard the Queen Mary. This fascinating element of the ship's history is simply not in place on the ship today. There are partially existing crew quarters in the bow area that could be integrated into this tour as well. D Deck survives along the entire length of the ship and with its existing service entrances, could provide the perfect modern Working Alley for the ship, allowing for all service and supply needs to be met via this deck and two new sets of service elevators. D Deck was originally mostly 3rd Class and crew accommodations. As we recommend the restoration of small sections of each on C Deck for a new tour, their restoration on D Deck would be redundant.
Mr. Robin Jacobs of Fogbank Industrial Arts, has developed a plan to restore a boiler room with mock ups of the original machinery that was removed during the conversion. This plan is known as "The Yarrow Project”. If his plan were slightly expanded to include the forward turbo generator room, then one of each of the major components that made up the power train would be available for visitors to view. The Exhibit Hall space that once housed the Cousteau Museum of the Sea would be the perfect space to house a maritime museum honoring the history of the Trans Atlantic Ocean Liner. There would be no better venue for this in the world than on board the last pre-world war ocean liner afloat.