Reed Travel Features
LONG BEACH -- The venerable Queen Mary, once the pride of
Cunard-White Star Line's transatlantic fleet and a fixture in Long
Beach harbor for 29 years, is in the news again.
The ship, built in Scotland and launched in 1930, has been a
problematic project ever since it berthed here as a hotel and
tourist attraction in 1967.
Now, facing $40 million in essential repairs to the ship's
structure, electricity, air conditioning and plumbing, Joseph
Prevratil, president of the RMS Foundation, which operates the ship
for the city, has presented the city council with a novel approach
to raising the money.
He has asked to be allowed to tow the ship (it no longer has its
own power) to Tokyo, where a group of wealthy Japanese businessmen
will make the repairs.
In return, they want to be allowed to anchor the ship in Tokyo
Bay as a casino-hotel for up to five years, depending on how soon
-- or if -- they recoup their investment and make a reasonable
The city council, although admitting the necessity of an
upgrade, is reluctant to let the ship float away, even though no
public tax money is available for the property and private sources
are not rushing forward.
The council has postponed until early spring a decision on
The reason for their reluctance? Despite its failure to enrich
any of its major operators and even as it continues to decay, the
Queen Mary has become a striking city landmark.
Council member Jerry Shultz said that the Queen Mary was to Long
Beach "what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris."
The council will redouble its efforts to find alternative means
of funding repair work while not adding to the burden of taxpayers
already reeling from the loss of thousands of military and
Operators and license-holders have come and gone during the
Queen Mary's years in the harbor.
Involved at one time or another have been the likes of Diners
Club, Pacific Southwest Airlines, Hyatt Hotels, Specialty
Restaurants Corp., the Wrather Corp. and Walt Disney Co.
None has been able to generate a profit consistently, and, in
the fall of 1992, the hotel portion, followed soon after by the
walk-through tour portion of the ship, shut down.
Long Beach assumed responsibility for the Queen Mary and gave
operating rights to RMS Foundation Inc., a nonprofit, public
Pending a decision on the Tokyo proposal, the Queen Mary Hotel
and walking tour are doing business as usual.
For further information, call the Queen Mary at (800)