In keeping with tradition, the newest Cunard ocean liner -- Queen Elizabeth -- will sail by Long Beach Harbor on Tuesday night to pay homage to her predecessor the Queen Mary, once the undisputed grand dame of the North Atlantic.
This is the third “royal rendezvous” in four decades between one of Cunard’s modern vessels and the Queen Mary. Organizers have scheduled a whistle salute, fireworks display and free admission to Long Beach’s iconic flagship for the “once in a generation meeting.”
Over the past decades Cunard Line, which use to own the Long Beach ship, has sent vessels to pay tribute to the first queen. In the early 1980s, Cunard Princess made a stop to say “hello,” according to the Queen Mary website. In 2006, it was the Queen Mary 2 and in 2011 it was Queen Victoria. The latest will be the 2,068-passenger Queen Elizabeth, which went into service in October 2010.
Organizers and cruise ship officials say Tuesday's meeting between the two ships will be the most poignant of all because the original Queen Elizabeth -- whom the current ship is named for -- and the Queen Mary crossed the North Atlantic regularly from 1946 to 1967. Both ships were owned by Cunard Line at the time.
“Every Wednesday one queen would leave New York and the other queen would leave England,” said Everett Hoard, commodore of the Queen Mary. “And in mid-transatlantic, they would cross each other.”
Adding additional historical significance to the meeting is the Goodyear Blimp, based in nearby Carson. Goodyear built hundreds of blimps for the U.S. Navy in World War II to serve as coastal patrols and to escort convoy and troop ships such as the Queen Mary and the original Queen Elizabeth.
“We’re very proud of these contributions, and that not a single ship was ever lost when one of our blimps stood guard overhead,” said Elizabeth Flynn, spokeswoman for the Spirit of America. “We are honored to provide escort to Queen Elizabeth as she meets up with her sister the Queen Mary.”
Tuesday’s event is organized by the Queen Mary and Cunard Lines. The Queen Mary is managed by Evolution Hospitality.
Free admission to the Queen Mary will be offered from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Organizers say the best public viewing location will be on the ship's Promenade Deck. The Queen Elizabeth will sail into the harbor about 6:30 p.m., followed by whistle salutes. The fireworks display will begin at 7:30 p.m.
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-- Ruben Vives
Photo: The Queen Mary at its permanent dock in Long Beach Harbor in a 2011 file photo. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times