The Wine Cellars

The wine cellars of the Queen Mary were located between the after engine room and the second class swimming pool on what was originally labeled F deck. Second class passengers using their main staircase (or one of the twin elevators which the staircase wrapped around) and descending to F deck to use the pool had their backs to the wine cellar as they exited the elevators and headed towards the pool. Only a thin bulkhead separated them from the wine cellars as they stood in the F deck elevator lobby.


Original arrangement.

Most wine needs could be met by the stock available in the wine storage room located in the more immediate proximity of the central kitchens on C deck (now called R (for Restaurants) deck). But a series of corridors and lifts were used by the table steward intent on meeting the fastidious requirements of a well tipping passenger to reach the full wine cellars on F deck.

The wine collection was extensive, consisting of many thousands of bottles, stored by type - red wines and spirits were stored in one area, champagnes and white wines in another, mineral waters and lager-beer in other areas. Nearby was the chocolate storage area and spaces for tobacco and cigarettes.

History of Use

1936-1939 - The wine cellar was used as described above.

1940-1947 - The Queen Mary was used as a troopship.

1947-1967 - The wine cellars returned to their original use through the remaining commercial life of the Queen Mary.

1968 to present - When the Queen Mary arrived in Long Beach on December 9, 1967 an extensive collection of fine wines remained in the wine cellars. In the conversion that followed the space that housed the wine cellars was gutted of its fittings (bulkheads, wine racks) and was incorporated into a museum area focusing on the history of the Cunard Line and famous ocean liners and ship wrecks. Today the area is the lower portion of the lower deck museum display area. In 1998 it was the area where the artifacts from the Titanic were exhibited. Those who saw the porthole and other objects raised from the Titanic were standing in the original wine cellars of the Queen Mary.

The wine collection itself was removed from the ship and sold at public auction in the early 1970s.

Potential for restoration and re-use

What purposes could the wine cellar, reconstructed in its original setting, serve?

In the context of the current operational plan it would serve little if any purpose. It would be a curiosity isolated from the central kitchens on current "R" deck. Many of the service elevators and stairs that linked the wine cellar with the central kitchens are gone. And the upper deck restaurants such as the Chelsea on Promenade Deck and Sir Winston's on Sports Deck are remote locations.

However, if the current operational plan imposed by the 1967-71 conversion is reconsidered then there are intriguing possibilities to consider.

One of the concepts we have presented in several articles in the Lost Glories and Hidden Treasures sections is that of "a ship within a ship." By this we mean creating a full ocean liner environment on the Queen Mary - isolated from the tourist attraction. This "ship within a ship" would permit hotel guests to experience the full range of services and amenities that existed on the Queen Mary in her prime sea-going days.

To a limited extent the beginnings for this ship within a ship are already in place. The current hotel decks (Main, A and B decks) are essentially isolated from the lower deck museum areas and the upper decks' tourist attraction and catering facilities. At the present time, however, the hotel decks are simply three decks of cabins. There are no significant passenger amenities in operation on these decks. By these we mean lounges, bars, smoking rooms, writing rooms etc.

The grandest public rooms were the first class public rooms that were primarily on Promenade deck. What remains of these amenities are today devoted to banqueting and catering. Promenade deck is also a prime retail area for the tourist attraction. The first class passenger amenities on C deck (now called R deck), i.e. the dining room and swimming pool are also problematic:

Fortunately another complete set of passenger amenities existed on the ship. These were the second class public rooms. The scale and caliber of their design was one of the distinguishing features of the Queen Mary -- one that placed her ahead of her rival the French liner "Normandie". These rooms were arranged around the second class main staircase and elevators in the after portion of the Queen Mary. They included the second class smoking room on Promenade deck, the second class main lounge, library and writing room on Main deck, an overflow lounge on A deck, the second class dining room on C deck (now called R deck), and terminated with the second class swimming pool and gymnasium on original F deck (now called E deck).

Class barriers separated the second class aft portion of Promenade deck from the first class forward section. By reinstalling these barrier the entire back end of the ship could be isolated from the tourist ship and reserved for modern hotel guest use. There would be little or no loss to the tourist attraction, particularly if minor first class public rooms are restored as recommended and the third class suite of public rooms in the forward portion of the ship were integrated into the tourist attraction. (They can be isolated from the hotel/first class area simply by replacing a few doors.)

The second class lounge area on Main deck and the former overflow lounge on A deck amenities are already integrated with the hotel cabin areas on Main and A deck.

Would there be any loss to the operation by this reorganization?

Cost and Revenue Generating Potential

The cost to reconstruct the physical setting of the wine cellars would not be great. The deck space remains, although gutted and used as a general exhibit area. The storage racks were probably sturdily made but not fine cabinetry. Detailed deck plans exist, and detailed photographs were taken of most gutted features of the Queen Mary before the conversion process started. Replacing the bulkheads and the racks might be accomplished for under $30,000.

Reconstructing portions of the wine collection itself could be more of a challenge. Some like wines might be bought for display purposes, and a new collection at least partly in the spirit of the old one assembled. This historic wine collection would be kept for display and curatorial purposes, but the new additions might be sold. Wine tasting events might even take place in a portion of the reconstructed area.

These historic wine cellars could become the core of a new business initiative, particularly as the Queen Mary is now located in California, one of the major wine growing centers of the world.

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