The RMS Queen Mary undergoing maintenance. Credit: Shutterstock

Long Beach prepares RMS Queen Mary for final renovation works

Author: Calum Brown

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Spring is almost here, and that can mean only one thing. Forget about the nicer weather, delicious seasonal produce or freedom from the stagnation of winter - RMS Queen Mary's resurrection awaits us

It's been a long time coming, and I know we keep saying it, but RMS Queen Mary is oh-so-close to her public re-opening. Hurrah!

That's not sarcasm, either; we love everything heritage. The renovation of RMS Queen Mary has kept us on tenterhooks since the ex-Cunard ship's dangerous condition became public knowledge.

After years of mismanagement and neglect courtesy of inept private operators, California's floating icon was only weeks away from total destruction before the city of Long Beach finally stepped in.

Remaining faithful to their word, city officials ensured our grand ol' lady received a desperate financial injection totalling $23 million. And that's just the initial commitment, with an estimated $450 million required to restore RMS Queen Mary's glory.

That monetary allegiance instigated a multi-phase salvation project. The project, which began extensive work in late January, recently organised the demolition of the ship's existing heat exchangers, boilers, piping and electrical pneumatics - part of the final round of critical repairs necessary to re-open the celebrated ship's onboard amenities.

Heat exchangers and boilers. Wow.

No, seriously – that's a big deal. Furthermore, removing the ship's existing, out-of-commission equipment is not a task for the faint-hearted. It is dangerous and claustrophobic work.

The original layout of RMS Queen Mary's boiler controls. Credit: Cunard Archive

Hot stuff: Bring on the boilers!

With demolition efforts expected to wrap up over the next month, the new boilers and supportive equipment can therefore be installed to supply hot water for cooking, showering, cleaning, sanitising and other hospitality amenities.

Once everything is in place, staff at Evolution Hospitality will begin preparations to re-open sections of RMS Queen Mary's hotel, shops, bars and restaurants.

Suddenly, those heat exchangers and boilers feel somewhat important, eh? This progress certainly gets us steamy under the collar.

Mayor Rex Richardson said: "The amount of critical work put into our icon, the Queen Mary, over the last year has been incredible to watch.

"We are almost there for our targeted re-opening later this spring. I look forward to welcoming more visitors back onboard this historic landmark soon."

You heard it from the man himself. With the ship slated for public use this spring, Mayor Richardson claims the seasonal deadline will be met. Double hurrah!

The RMS Queen Mary has been in desperate need of attention for years. Credit: Shutterstock

RMS Queen Mary: What happens next?

Once the boilers and heat exchangers are installed, more pivotal work must be undertaken.

The remainder of critical repairs includes fitting an emergency generator (to keep essential components powered during calamities and difficulties) and completing the bilge pump system - designed to protect the ship from excess water pooling inside the structure.

"We've worked so hard to preserve and uphold this community treasure and we are so excited to share our progress with our community soon," claimed First District Councilwoman Mary Zendejas.

While these works will go largely unseen by the public eye, other efforts are primarily aesthetic and structural. The ship's famous main boarding entrance is finally receiving some love, alongside repairs to the Wharf and Promenade Deck gangways.

The elevators are also being repaired and modernised to prevent accidental homages to The Shining. In contrast, corridors and restrooms are receiving a fresh lick of paint and flooring improvements that even Jack Nicholson would approve of.

The Promenade Deck's main hall remains set for refurbishment, as are the windows in the Observation Bar. In addition, kitchen facilities are in line for vast improvements.

At the same time, the ship's structure will undergo a new round of inspection following ground-breaking renovation efforts in 2022.

The RMS Queen Mary will offer an exclusive membership package. Credit: Shutterstock

A new membership programme

As plans for a celebratory re-opening are determined, member-exclusive opportunities are in the pipeline for those who join the Queen Mary Membership Program.

Besides VIP treatment and a direct connection from your bank account to the heritage liner, the programme promises to enhance and surpass the current membership hierarchy and tier system. Yet more opportunity to bellow 'hurrah'!

First announced in December, the program was born from limited test runs of public tours late last year.

Besides thanking the community for their support and patience throughout the ship's closure, initially instigated by the COVID-19 pandemic, these tours were set to gauge potential popularity and demand for the ship's offerings, while building excitement for the large-scale re-opening this spring.

The tours sold out in a matter of hours, creating the confidence to push forward with these final rounds of eye-wateringly expensive repairs.

More information regarding the membership program can be found on the Queen Mary Heritage Foundation website.

To keep tabs on the new opening date, the City has lovingly crafted a Queen Mary Updates webpage.

Although the final opening date may ultimately change depending on progress, one thing is certain; we'll be feverishly reaching for the smelling salts once the grand re-opening date becomes official.

Watch this space.

RMS Queen Mary will soon open to the public after three years of inspection and renovation work. Credit: Shutterstock
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About Calum Brown

Calum holds a deep interest in all things heritage and remains one of Britain’s most enthusiastic historians.

As a seasoned journalist, he has spent considerable time abroad and relishes all forms of transport. Shipping is in the blood, with a family connection to Stena Line embedded in his DNA. He also refuses to admit that 21st Century music exists.

Calum has developed a skill for bringing history alive, and always insists on making heritage accessible for everyone.