Thursday, April 28, 2016

USA 2015 - Day 8: Queen Mary and Santa Monica Pier

with the RMS Queen Mary - a retired ocean liner which was the grandest ever built during her time
The Queen Mary made her first voyage in 1936, a little over two decades after the disastrous maiden voyage of RMS Titanic. From being the benchmark in elegance, class and style (the grandest ocean liner in the world) for transatlantic travel on her first transatlantic voyage, to being a troopship in camouflage color during WWII, RMS Queen Mary has made quite a name in history.
We included a visit to the Queen Mary to our itinerary because we wanted to venture outside of the central LA district and go to other places we had not been to in our previous LA trip.

In the morning of Day 8 we met up with Mark’s aunt - Tita Nora. The last time we saw her was when Kelvin was 3 years old. She was so surprised to see how he had grown taller than his dad. And, of course, it was the first time she met Ira - the new grandson to spoil. From her place we headed straight to Long Beach which was about 30 minutes drive away.

Address: 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach, CA 90802
Telephone Number: 800-437-2934
Entrance fees and tours: There are several options to choose from.

  • First Class Passport - get to see the most popular attractions on-board; includes ticket to board the ship, 4-D theater screening, audio tour, access to Alcatraz exhibits, access to ship model gallery, access to Queen Mary museum and historic exhibits, option of 2 tours (The Glory Days Historical Tour or Haunted Encounters). Cost if purchased online (which is cheaper) USD34 for adults and USD24.50 children (4-11).
  • Grand Voyage Passport - the best value tour; the ultimate Queen Mary experience; includes ticket to board the ship, Diana: legacy of a Princess exhibit, The Glory Days historical tour, Haunted Encounters, Self-guided audio tour, 4-D theater screening, access to Alcatraz exhibits, access to ship model gallery, access to Queen Mary museum and historic exhibits. Tickets available only at the box office: USD48 for adults and USD38.50 for child (4-11).
  • Queen Mary Passport - an introduction to Queen Mary; includes ticket to board the ship, choice of tours (The Glory Days historical tour, Haunted Encounters, or Alcatraz: Life on the Rock), audio tour, 4-D theater screening, access to ship model gallery, access to Queen Mary museum and historic exhibits. Cost of tickets purchased online: USD27 adults and USD17.50 child (4-11)
  • Royal Passport - a tour of Queen Mary with a dash of royalty; includes ticket to board the ship, Diana: legacy of a Princess exhibit, audio tour, 4-D theater screening, access to Alcatraz exhibits, access to ship model gallery, access to Queen Mary museum and historic exhibits. Cost of tickets online: USD32 for adults and USD22.50 for child (4-11).

Our tour of historical Queen Mary:
We opted for general admission tickets (USD18 for adults and USD12 for child; available on-site only) because we wanted to have a more free&easy approach to exploring of Queen Mary. Since we did not plan to be there the whole day, we want our limited time to freely walk around the ship. 

Looking at Queen Mary from the parking lot gave us an idea of how massive the ship was. We knew there was going to be a lot of walking. Based on the map, we would be walking through seven decks in just a few hours. The hotel and tour entrance was at the "D" Deck then we headed up to the Promenade Deck (level 4) to begin our free exploration of the ship.
First thing we saw was Weddings by Queen Mary. Well, what do you know? Felt like the time when we were on a cruise and made our renewal of vows (a surprise one for hubby). This time though we were just in there for the visit.
We stopped by this bronze bell - the largest of the 3 bells on board the ship. Then we walked along hallway which was decorated with Christmas trees. Every tree was decorated differently. It was fascinating to stop by each tree and scrutinize the colorful decors.
We made our way to the end of the hallway while being enticed by the smell of food (there is a snack bar and the Chelsea Chowder House & Bar) then headed up the stairs to the Sun Deck. 
Ira found this interesting and insisted on going inside, closed the door and pretended he was calling someone.
Life boat demonstration area.
From this side of the ship we had a clear view of the marina.
With the sea breeze blowing towards us, it made for a relaxing late morning walk around the ship.
clear blue skies and the marina - our view from the Queen Mary

We found a bench and sat while admiring the view
Ira checking out what this scope could reach
this was taken inside the ship museum exhibit where miniature models of the different ships in the earlier days are on display. Some of them even shows the inside of the ship complete with very detailed representation of the luxurious features of the ocean liners. 
A little after 12 noon and we were ready to have lunch. We initially thought of having lunch on our way back to LA or somewhere within the vicinity but since there were still cabins/exhibit rooms we have not gone to, we decided to dine on-board Queen Mary.

yes, we were realized we were actually starving and happy we decided to eat here instead of waiting till we finish exploring Queen Mary
Happy tummies and ready for more walking in the ship.
it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas as we get closer to the end of November
I think the most fun part of the our visit was in the cabin with the Queen Mary Lego structure. How patient and meticulous were the people who painstakingly built this Lego ship replica brick by brick? Such an amazing feat. But there was more to that room than admiring the Lego replica. There was a challenge for visitors who want some action - find the white Lego cat. It was quite tricky trying to locate such a small figure in the intricately built ship but the person assisting was very helpful and gave us clues.

Cold. Colder. Hot. Hotter. 
We checked every tiny window and peeped through every visible hole in the Lego ship. It looked like it would take us the whole day looking for the cat. We had almost gavin up but we were encouraged by the friendly lady. So we continued our search. Ira didn't want to just give up and leave. He encouraged us to go through every nook and cranny of the Lego ship. We even used our smartphones to flash a light on the inner darker parts of the ship and to magnify certain areas using the camera.

Minutes had passed and we kept searching and searching. Then we finally found it. Hidden in one of the lifeboats was this very small white cat. 
can you see it???
Of course, it's OK for me to say that in my blog because the person in charge moves the cat's hiding place every now and then.
smiles on our faces say it all.
We found it and that's quite an achievement because not everyone who visits get to find the white cat.
We headed back out to the Promenade Deck for the other parts and features of the ship. It was such a big ship that you wouldn't run out of places to go to!

we climbed yet another staircase and we found ourselves 
It was so windy at the bridge of the ship
does this still work? Let's try! 

at the ship's bow
They were the kings of the world!... at least for that day :)

someone was enjoying the cool breeze
This WWII gun served as a play ground for our adventurous Ira.
He climbed over and around it with ease.

When we were finally able to get Ira down from the gunship, we ventured into the lower deck of the ship. There were sort of warning signs of possible ghost sightings. The semi darkness and quietness in the lower deck gave an even eerier feeling. Now that kept us on our feet! Little movements cause a lot of panic.
looking from the inside out via a port hole
looking into the empty hallway we wondered if suddenly a ghost would come out.
I wonder what they see on the Hunted Encounters tour?
Saying our farewell to Queen Mary and this bear bellhop which was standing just outside
the souvenir shop. Ira couldn't pass up the chance of "befriending" this cuddly bear while
I browsed through Queen Mary souvenir items with Tita Nora. 
Before leaving Queen Mary, we made one more stop - the engine room. 

There was no access from inside the ship. We had to go out to the street and follow the man-made pathway that led visitors down to the engine room.
ready to go down to the engine room
An audio recording of the actual sound of the ship's engine was being played which gave visitors an idea of how loud it was for the crew to work down there.

So that was our few hours at Queen Mary. A dash of history, engineering feat, and then there's the Lego white cat hunting. A little something for everyone to enjoy. We spent more than the time we allotted for Queen Mary. If you have more than enough time I suggest a full day tour or even an overnight. Yes, the ship cabins have been operating as hotel rooms. A different experience you may be interested to try.

Address: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica CA 90401

We have been to Santa Monica pier in 2002. During that time though, we walked along the beach closer to the sea than to the pier.

We wanted to revisit Santa Monica Pier mainly for one reason - to see the Route 66 marker.
And here it is! A tribute to the Robert Waldmire - known for his artwork of Route 66 - and the end of the Mother Road. 2448 miles of road from Chicago, Illinois ending at Santa Monica Pier California. Now that's another road trip in our bucket list! 

Braving the cold breeze at Santa Monica Pier before we head to the arcades.

Santa Monica Pier is not only famous for the beach and the pier itself but also for the attractions and entertainment options available - the arcades. We decided to let the boys try some games while we pass time.

After playing some games and running out of quarters (that's more than $10's worth of them), we decided to call it a night and drove to our favorite Filipino restaurant.

Max's Restaurant
313 W Broadway, Glendale, CA 91204, USA
waiting for our delicious, sumptuous Filipino dishes.
That I'd say was a great way to end our visit to L.A. 

Oh, and yes, Tita Nora wouldn't let us leave L.A. without bringing the kids to Toys R' Us!

Thanks, Tita Nora, for a wonderful time yet again. We hope to be able to visit you again soon.

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