New rooms, tours, activities: Queen Mary is royal again, Long Beach says. But at a whopping cost

Amid cool weather, people fish from a kayaks with a view of the historic RMS Queen Mary ocean liner.
The historic Queen Mary in Long Beach.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Repairs for the Queen Mary have cost the city of Long Beach more than $45 million over the last eight years, according to city records obtained by The Times, a hefty bill as the city looks to keep the historic ship on a fledgling path toward profitability.

Repairs have included more than $3 million for rust and hull repairs, and $3.35 million for bulkhead repairs and removing lifeboats.

More repairs — both essential and costly — to keep the 90-year-old ship operational are still expected, but city officials are optimistic that the financial head winds the ship has battled are easing. Last year, the Queen Mary generated more than $12.6 million in revenue, including more than $3 million in profits between June and October.


Years after running a deficit and being forced to shut down because of the COVID pandemic, the Queen Mary is now making a profit.

Jan. 4, 2024

For the end of fiscal year 2024 — the first year the ship has been fully operational since it was shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic — city officials expect the aging ocean liner to bring in a “modest profit” of $3.6 million.

“From an operating perspective, the Queen Mary can now support operating expenses with regular operating revenue,” city officials said in a statement. “All revenue generated is being invested directly back to the ship and vicinity.”

But the records from the city, first reported by the Long Beach Business Journal, have offered a glimpse into the significant costs that have come with the city’s effort to keep and preserve the historic vessel.

At one time, the Queen Mary was dubbed the world’s fastest and most luxurious cruise ship. Among its celebrity and royal guests were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Bob Hope and Elizabeth Taylor, who paid extra for her poodle. It also transported soldiers to the European front during World War II.

After Long Beach bought the Queen Mary from the Cunard Line shipping company in 1967, various firms were brought in to manage the vessel and develop adjacent property.

In 2021, the city took over the Queen Mary amid worries that it was not being maintained. City officials at the time were aware that the ocean liner was in dire need of repairs.


One study in 2017 estimated that it could need up to $289 million in repairs and renovations, and court documents showed about $23 million in repairs were needed to keep the once majestic ship from capsizing.

In addition to the needed repairs, city officials point out that from 2007 to 2019, before Long Beach took over, private operators had reported more than $31 million in losses.

Since 2021, city officials said they’d completed at least 25 major projects on the ship.

Most of the $45 million that has been spent on the work, city officials said, has come from revenue from the Queen Mary or related subleases.

In 2017, about $23 million came from a Queen Mary reserve fund and bond issue from the Queen Mary’s Carnival sublease.

A $12-million agreement with the Port of Long Beach, which transferred control of about 14 acres of city property to the port to lease the space to third parties and split revenue with the city, has also helped pay for some of the repairs.

Since the Queen Mary reported seeing a profit last year, city officials have touted the ship and what they say has been an economic success.


Since October, city officials say more than 118,000 people have visited the vessel, and the ship is once again becoming the center of the city’s plans.

“The Queen Mary is thriving once again,” Steve Caloca, general manager for the contracted operator, Evolution Hospitality, said in a statement. “From new Art Deco floors and staircases in the Main Hall, to the restored Observation Bar overlooking our beautiful city of Long Beach, there is so much to do when visiting the Queen.”

Hotel capacity on the ship has been expanded to 200 rooms, and onboard activities have expanded to 22 guest tours, exhibits and other activities.

This year, city officials said, hotel room renovations, elevator upgrades, repair of the ship’s third smokestack and an expansion of the Sun Deck, which is used for special events such as weddings, are planned.

The Queen Mary also is meant to play a crucial role in plans the city has for the nearby area.

Millions of dollars have been poured into repairing the Queen Mary, which was closed due to the pandemic in 2020 and is expected to reopen this year.

Nov. 2, 2022

Officials are looking to develop 43 acres of space next to the ship into “a world-class entertainment and mixed-use development venue.”


“The return of live music, special events and music festivals at the Queen Mary and adjacent Harry Bridges Memorial Park has further highlighted the importance of live music and entertainment to the future success of the ship,” city officials said in a statement. “This waterfront space, with expansive views of the Long Beach shoreline and downtown, collectively represents one of the city’s most unique future development opportunities.”

And although the ship continues to need repairs, city officials said its condition might not be as dire as was once believed.

The study that estimated up to $289 million in needed repairs included $215 million to $261 million for hull repairs, city officials said in a statement. A more recent hull and tank study suggested the cost could be “considerably less.”

“We envision an even brighter future for the Queen Mary and adjacent land with plans for future development that will further elevate its status as a premier tourist destination,” Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson said in a statement.