If glamour mixed with a heavy dose of history whets the palate, the RMS Queen Mary is moored at Long Beach and is just a short drive from the convention center. Once the largest, fastest and among the most luxurious cruise ships to ply the Earth’s oceans, the Queen Mary maintains a majestic hold over smaller events and hosts about 1.5 million visitors each year.
Measuring 1,020 feet from stem to stern and with an internal volume of 81,237 gross tons, the Queen Mary is much larger and faster than the ill-fated Titanic, which famously failed to complete a single transatlantic crossing while the Queen Mary completed more than 1,000. The Queen Mary’s steam-turbine engines also deliver 160,000 horsepower capable of propelling the vessel at 28.5 knots compared to the Titanic’s 46,000-horsepower engines and 21-knot maximum speed.
The vessel also is one of the largest riveted structures on Earth.
“The ship has 10 million rivets,” said Everette Hoard, commodore, Queen Mary. “Riveted ships are more flexible than welded ships.” That flexibility means it is better suited to crossing the sometimes turbulent Atlantic Ocean.
The Queen Mary once was the flagship of the Cunard-White Star Line and plied the Atlantic Ocean from 1936 until 1967, connecting the United States and England. She also ferried troops during World War II and resumed passenger service afterward. Now moored in Long Beach, the Queen Mary has many unique meetings spaces and serves as a floating hotel.
Many spaces are available for small events and networking opportunities. The ship has 56 exotic and rare woods among its many walls and rails, such as the “cedarmah” wood in the ship’s elegant Observation Bar. The wood is a cross between cedar and mahogany and occurs naturally only once every 150 years or so. Visitors also can dine and drink in the same places the Royal Family once used and stay in the same suites Queen Elizabeth II and other dignitaries had graced.
Tours of the majestic ocean liner are available, and a current museum exhibit dedicated to Princess Diana is among its attractions. Moored alongside the Queen Mary is a former Soviet attack submarine, the Scorpion, which is available for public tours.
A short drive from the Queen Mary in nearby San Pedro is another esteemed vessel, the 887-foot USS Iowa, which once carried Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt and helped bring an end to World War II after being commissioned in 1943. Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt used the battleship to travel across the Atlantic in preparation for the historic Tehran Conference of 1943, during which Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin planned the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany and its allies. The battleship was modified with a bathtub, elevators and other enhancements to make it easier for the wheelchair-bound President to come and go. The bathtub remains, which made the Iowa the only ship in the U.S. Navy so equipped for many years, and FDR’s bed also is on display.
Each of the Iowa’s three large gun turrets weighs about the same as a modern destroyer, and a direct hit from a 6-inch Japanese artillery piece failed to do more than leave a slight imprint on the second turret, which still can be seen. The Iowa eventually served as the flagship for Admiral William “Bull” Halsey in the Pacific theatre, and her 16-inch guns saw service from World War II through the Cold War.
“During the Cold War, the Soviets were terrified of the Iowa,” said Craig Post, director of attractions, USS Iowa. “Their missiles could not penetrate its armor. They were afraid it would sail into its fleet and pick off ships one at a time.”
No longer in active service, the Iowa is a popular tourist attraction as well as special-events venue. Several deck areas, such as the rear fantail capable of holding groups of up to 800, are available for events. And the ship’s galley is available for food service.
“We are the only historical ship that can use its original galley,” said Post. He added that many events have been held aboard the Iowa since it became a floating museum about a year ago. “We’d love to have more.”
Another unique events venue is located within walking distance of the Long Beach Convention Center. The Aquarium of the Pacific regularly hosts special events, and several indoor areas are available for after-hours networking opportunities for tradeshows and other events.
Guests also can obtain tickets for whale-watching tours, which might be the most unique networking opportunity anywhere. Among common sights during the whale-watching tour are blue and gray whales, dolphins and various seals. An occasional shark also can be sighted.
An ideal location for after-hours events starting at about 6 p.m., some indoor areas can host hundreds of attendees, and outdoor spaces regularly host community events and other activities. Small booths can be placed in various indoor areas, and visitors can tour parts of the aquarium, which is home to more than 13,000 animals that represent nearly 500 species of marine life.
Interactive learning stations and an array of indoor exhibits can keep visitors enthralled for hours in one of the world’s largest aquariums. And outdoor areas include a new penguin exhibit and an open pool where people can pet stingrays, which is a popular attraction.
Regardless which type of event might be held in Long Beach, there are many unique venues to keep tradeshow attendees and others engaged from morning until well into the evening.