The retired ocean liner RMS Queen Mary — at right in this New Year's Eve photo — spends its days and nights at Long Beach, Calif. But its past is as colorful as the lights that shine around it here. Built in Scotland and launched in 1934, it was the most lavish cruise vessel of its time and one of the largest. It featured two indoor swimming pools, multiple libraries, a lecture hall, tennis courts and dog kennels. Trips across the Atlantic Ocean took a mere two weeks.
During World War II, the Royal Navy transformed the vessel and its sister, the Queen Elizabeth, into the world’s largest troopships and used them to ferry soldiers from Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. to Europe. With its hull painted a dull gray, the speedy Queen Mary was nicknamed the "Grey Ghost." On one voyage, it was broadsided by a 90-foot wave and nearly capsized — an event that inspired the “The Poseidon Adventure” (the Queen Mary herself acted as the ship in the film).
The Queen Mary returned to its former glory, and popularity, as a cruise ship until 1967, when competition from air travel helped lead to its retirement. But the old girl wasn’t finished: One last epic journey around Cape Horn brought it to its final home in Long Beach. After an extensive retrofit, the permanently grounded vessel opened in its current role as a hotel and tourist attraction.
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