On October 31st 1967, the venerable grand old lady of the Cunard fleet, the SS Queen Mary, departed Southampton on her final voyage. She arrived in Long Beach, California on December 9th 1967, where she remains to this day. For almost 50 years this grand old liner, has remained in Long Beach, as a functioning hotel, with multiple restaurants and attractions.
Considering the number of times we have visited SoCal, and my many trips into the adjacent San Pedro Cruise Terminal, it is surprising that neither Judi or I have previously visited the ship. Well, our first visit to this grand old lady was more than a stroll around the decks, as we enjoyed an exceptional Champagne Brunch.
All shipping companies are known by their ship’s livery, and Cunard, as one of the eminent British lines, was no exception, with their black hulls, white superstructure and especially the 3 red bands on the funnel. While the Queen Mary retired long before I left school, I could easily have worked on her much younger sisters, such as the QE2.
QE2 – I would have worked on her if I accepted the employment offer from Cunard
Way back in 1974/75, in addition to attending an interview with P&O, I also headed down to Liverpool for a Cunard interview. Receiving Deck Cadet employment offers from both top British shipping companies, I was faced with a huge decision. I opted for the white hulls and yellow funnels of P&O, so this was my first ever time aboard a Cunard vessel.
The Champagne Brunch is held every Sunday in the Grand Salon, which was the 1st Class dinning room. Being Superbowl Sunday, we figured this was an excellent opportunity to enjoy a quiet meal, as most locals would be glued to the telly.
Queen Mary from the shore
We parked in the hotel/restaurant parking lot and in the absence of any directional signage, just wandered down towards the ship, finding an entrance about midships. Entering the shore side lift, we headed up to Deck #3, entering the ship, where we were met by the ship’s photographer. After the obligatory photo, we were directed to the restaurant foyer.
Entrance foyer to the restaurant with Maitre’D & hostess
Confirming our reservation, the hostess escorted us to our table in the dinning room and introduced us to our waiter, who was armed with a bottle of champagne and jug of orange juice. Judi had the champagne, but as today’s designated driver, I had OJ and a pot of tea.
Enjoying the ambiance before checking out the buffet stations
The buffet is extensive with multiple stations located in the middle of the Grand Salon. They had the following stations:
- Breakfast station, including made to order omelet station,
- Seafood station,
- Carving station,
- Italian station,
- Mexican station,
- Asian station,
- Salad station,
- Dessert station
To check out the menu select here.
Seafood station in Grand Salon
We both started at the breakfast station, which included eggs benny, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, multiple types of bangers (sausages), corned beef hash, omelets and pancakes/waffles. Judi tried an omelet, which was made to order, with bacon and sausage. I tried the eggs benny, shredded hash browns, bacon & sausage. Everything was cooked to perfection and reasonably hot, for a buffet.
1/2 of the breakfast station
The above photograph shows only 1/2 of the breakfast station, with eggs benny & scrambled eggs in the domed dishes, a huge plate of steaming hot shredded hash browns, bacon and 2 trays of sausages. In the middle was the omelet station, with pancakes/waffles and all the trimmings on the other side.
Hash browns & bacon
After enjoying our first plate we sat, relaxed, chatted and generally enjoyed the surroundings. Judi’s relaxing got increasingly easier, since every time her champagne glass reached 1/2 full, the waiter immediately appeared with the bottle, topping off the glass.
On completion of a suitable break, we headed back to the buffet, Judi to the carving station and me the seafood station. The seafood station was undoubtedly my favourite. The poached salmon was simply spectacular and the smoked salmon was a very close second favourite dish. My selections were rounded out with California Roll, prawns and crab legs.
Selections from the seafood station
Poached salmon & smoked salmon
Poached salmon, with one side almost picked clean
Oysters, prawns, crab legs & ice carving
For my next trip to the buffet, I headed to the carving station, which had prime rib, ham and turkey, with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables.
My selections from the carving station
At the carving station I opted for some nice, rare prime rib, with mashed spuds and steamed carrots. To create surf & turf, I also grabbed a couple of prawns from the seafood station.
Carving station – ham, prime rib & turkey (r to l)
For the final trip back to the buffet, Judi visited the dessert station, while I avoided the sweets and tried the Asian station. The garlic jumbo prawns, orange chicken and pork ribs, just looked too inviting.
Asian station selections
As I arrived at the Asian station, one of the chefs had just renewed the garlic jumbo prawns, so they were fresh and piping hot. The pork rib was slow cooked to melt in your mouth tender. The orange chicken while great tasting, but unfortunately was rather cold.
Dessert station selections
Throughout brunch, we were serenaded with easy listening music played by a young lady on a Harp.
Harpist played easy listening music throughout brunch
Port side of grand Salon
Mural at aft end of Grand Salon
After almost 2 hours, Judi finished her champagne and I drained my final pot of tea, so we requested the bill from our waiter. Wow, an exceptional meal and service, in the luxurious dinning room of a ocean going liner built in the 1930’s.
Totally content after a brilliant lunch
If you are in Long Beach on a Sunday, we highly recommend trying the Queen Mary Champagne Brunch. Yes, it is costly, but in our experience the cost is commensurate with the quality.
After brunch we went for a stroll around the deck. Watch for that post in the next few days.