Observation Bar, RMS Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA

The Jameson’s whiskey was as comforting as an Irish lullaby. Streams of brilliant sun made the pewter balustrades, the polished maple burr and cedar wood paneling shimmer in stately grandeur. The Observation Bar, restored to  its original 1936 Art Deco style, radiated elegance in its position of prominence, more than ten stories above the water line on Promenade Deck.

The lunch crowd was thinning out, so we had time for an art history lesson from Bartender Michael McMullen. Michael knew all about the original 24-foot wide mural above the bar.  “The Royal Jubilee Week, 1935”, was painted by Alfred R. Thomson.  It is a whimsical depiction of the mingling of classes celebrating the 25th anniversary of the reign of King George V and Queen Mary. In a scene that would never happen in reality,

aristocrats and barmaids, dowagers and cooks, socially joined with hands clasped together, created a communal whirling dervish beneath fluttering pennants. Michael pointed out  that the artist painted himself into the scene – the stylish dandy with emerald  trousers and white hat, at the extreme right of the scene.   

Switching to a robust Laphroaig single malt Scotch, I continued my education of the fabled ship as Michael hit the highlights. After 1001 North Atlantic crossings, the RMS Queen Mary was retired from service in 1967, sailed under her own power to Long Beach, and was retrofitted into a luxury hotel, convention venue and tourist attraction, opening in 1971. For trivia buffs, the Queen Mary is a treasure trove: over 2000 portholes, 10 million rivets, 160,000 horsepower, 27 boilers and a 140 ton rudder.

Befitting her ties with Scotland (having been constructed by John Brown & Company, Ltd in Clydebank, Scotland), the Queen Mary hosts a Scottish Festival each year in mid-February. This year’s dates are February 18, 19, and 20. Bagpiping, Highland dance, and athletic competitions, gathering of clans and genealogy exploration, food and merchandise vendors and live Scottish-themed entertainment overflow the ship and adjacent park. Also included are whisky events, including seminars and tastings in the hollow chamber that was once Boiler Room #26, about 50 feet below water level, a Friday night whisky reception in the Art Deco Verandah Grill (Sun Deck, aft of ship), and a paired whisky dinner on Saturday night in the Royal Salon. Visit http://www.queenmary.com for more details.

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