Celebrating 4th of July with Two Queens in Long Beach and the Cunard Story

California, Los Angeles, USA
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I was spending the 4th of July in Long Beach, as I was there for business anyway the days before. Instead of flying out to another project where I had to stay in another hotel, I decided to stay in Long Beach for the holidays.

As usual, I stayed at my favorite hotel in Long Beach – the Hyatt Regency. I think there is no better hotel in the city of Long Beach. From my room, I had a great view of the harbor, Queensway Bay and the Los Angeles River.

A bartender at the Hyatt Centric The Pike Long Beach rooftop bar told me about the firework at the Queen Mary and that there is another firework across from the port in San Pedro. Both can be seen from the rooftop of the Hyatt Centric or any higher spot in town, like the waterfront parking garages. My original plan was to photograph the firework from the rooftop of the Hyatt Regency. Unfortunately, the General Manager of the property denied my request. So I decided to shoot from the stairwell of the hotel building instead because they are out in the open and no obstructions like a glass window. Otherwise, I could have stayed in my room.

But before the firework started, Southern California had another surprise in stock for everyone. A 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook Southern California. I just finished breakfast and was back in my room laying in bed as the hotel started to sway, heavily. I think people on the ground floor and outside didn’t really felt it that intense as me being up on the 14th floor of the building.

That was an unexpected surprise and the number one news all day on TV and everywhere else. The firework was scheduled to kick off at 9 p.m. from the dock of the cruise port right behind the stern of the Queen Mary.

Queen Mary

The maiden voyage of the Queen Mary was on May 27, 1936, and the ocean liner departed from Southampton, England. Even three years after the maiden voyage the Queen Mary was the grandest ocean liner in the world. As financial issues arose, the whole Cunard fleet was operating at a loss and they decided to sell off the ocean liner. The Queen Mary had its last journey in 1967 and arrived in Long Beach on December 9, 1967.

The ship doesn’t carry passengers anymore across the sea, but you still can stay aboard as it is now a one of a kind hotel, exhibit, wedding and event venue, and tourist attraction. The vessel also houses three world-class restaurants and is now an icon in Southern California. Some people confuse this ship with another well-known cruise liner, which looks quite similar, the Titanic. The Queen Mary is actually larger than the Titanic but an easy way to distinguish the two from each other is the funnels or also commonly referred to as stacks. These are the big “chimneys” on top of the ship to expel boiler steam and smoke. The Queen Mary has three funnels while the Titanic has four funnels.

Cunard Line

The Cunard Line is a British-American cruise line based at Southampton, England. The Queen Mary which now sits in the Port of Long Beach was part of the Cunard fleet.

To make the 4th of July even more special, another Cunard ship would come into the Port of Long Beach to visit its sister ship. Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth showed up behind the craned of the container terminal and made its way to anchor just behind its sister ship the Queen Mary for Queen Mary’s All-American 4th of July celebration.

Queen Elizabeth

Actually, Cunard’s current Queen Elizabeth is actually the third ship carrying this name after Queen Elizabeth (1946–1968) and Queen Elizabeth 2 (1969–2008). Queen Elizabeth 2 has a similar faith as Queen Mary. Queen Elizabeth 2 is a floating hotel and is moored at the Port Rashid Marina in Dubai. Therefore Queen Mary is more like Queen Elizabeth 3’s great aunt.

Before arriving in Long Beach, Queen Elizabeth left San Francisco on its voyage down the California Coast. Just before that she went on an Alaska Cruise. As she arrived in the Port of Long Beach, she anchored in the bay just behind Queen Mary for the Royal Randeveouz and firework show. Passengers and Guests of both ships were able to enjoy the firework show which was set of between the two ships.

After the firework show, Queen Elizabeth made its way to the cruise port in San Pedro, which is on the other side of the harbor area. If you are not familiar with the port areas here, it seems complicated. If you look on the map you will see one gigantic port, but actually, it’s two ports. The Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles, which is located in the city of San Pedro. Both ports are competing with each other.

This is the third time in history that these two impressive ocean liners meet here in Long Beach.

All-American 4th of July Celebration

The celebration started aboard the Queen Mary at 3 p.m. on Thursday the 4th of July. The Queen offered activities for the whole family from little to big. I thought about going to the event, but on the other side it would be pretty packed and therefore I spent the afternoon exploring the port areas and taking pictures of buildings, ships, trains and more. As I planned on photographing the firework from the hotel, to get both ships in the frame of my camera, it was better doing this than being aboard the Queen Mary. Maybe one of the coming years if I am back in the area. People started flooding the area and set up all along the waterfront. I don’t get why some people think, they can drive in 5 minutes before the show starts and get a parking spot right at the front line. As I had a great view of the street below, it was insane how stupid some people are. People even parked right on the road and got out of their cars to take pictures of the firework. Really?

The firework started a few minutes late, while the firework in San Pedro was right on time. Unfortunately, the San Pedro firework was too far away to get good pictures from my location. The firework in San Pedro also lasted a few minutes longer and had a better finale than the one at Queen Mary. The firework itself was a little disappointing. I expected it to be bigger and more intense than it actually was.

Grand Opening Cunard Story aboard the Queen Mary

On Friday, July 5th, the Queen Mary opened its newest exhibit to the public. The Cunard Story! It tells the story of the early cruise ships of the Cunard Line all the way up to it’s newest ship which will launch in 2020. The exhibit shows the difference between how you used to travel back then and now and what role the Queen Mary played during its operational time and especially during World War II. One of the interesting features is, to see if your ancestors arrived in the United States on a Cunard liner. Use one of the computers to search by passenger name, date, ship name, and more. Many guests were invited for the grand opening of the Cunard Story exhibit including Inger Klein Thorhauge, the Captain of the Queen Elizabeth and first-ever female captain of a Cunard liner. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, she signed her name in the logbook of the Queen Mary.

This is another great exhibit, joining all the other countless exponents and exhibits aboard the ship. If you are in the area, it’s well worth visiting the Queen Mary, maybe even stay aboard. Staying aboard the ship is still on my to-do list.

Photoshoot with Queen Elizabeth

After the opening ceremony aboard Queen Mary, I and a friend went to the cruise port in San Pedro to take pictures of the docked Queen Elizabeth. She is a majestic ship and it’s super easy to get pictures from the cruise ships in San Pedro. Unfortunately, the nearby Vincent Thomas bridge has no sidewalk and therefore closed for pedestrians. From there you would have a great view of the ship. Now you probably think, I could just use my drone, but if you did your homework, you know that both ports are a no-fly zone.

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