Christmas at the Queen Mary is a great place for a family to chill. That said, if you're looking for Chill with a capital C, the ship's hitherto popular holiday extravaganza, well, that is just so last year. This year, the vintage ocean liner debuts an all-new Christmas event, based entirely on board The Queen Mary. While in previous years the entertainment was spread out on the adjacent tarmac, featured against the backdrop of the photogenic floating monument at the heart of Long Beach, this year all the festive action is located right on the art deco decks of the beloved ship.
You're never too old to love Santa!
The new signature event, which runs daily from Black Friday to Epiphany, fits several festive photos ops and holiday experiences into the many enchanting corners of the old cruise ship. While on the one hand, this cuts back the ice rink from last year's impressive 38,000 square feet to a petite square on the top deck, on the other hand, the views in any direction are a breathtaking treat, as are the winding passageways that connect the event's various attractions.
This year's activities include gingerbread house building, stocking decorating, and of course visits with Santa (whose authenticity I can personally vouch for). Carolers pop up on decks throughout the ship, especially on the main deck stage, at the heart of all the action. The Promenade Deck is festooned with colorful ceiling lights and Christmas trees, and the bow of the ship is the site of the nightly giant tree lighting hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
The ice skating takes place in 45-minute sessions on the True North Ice Rink on the Sports Deck, with a view of downtown Long Beach and the harbor. Seasonal ice rinks may be common, but this is the only one on the deck of a vintage ocean liner. Penguin-shaped walkers make it even more fun for little skaters to get their sea and/or ice legs.
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The rink is one big photo op.
Different levels of admission include some or all of this entertainment, as well as the freedom to wander the holiday-bedecked decks, engine room, and model ship gallery, storytime with Mrs. Claus, and holiday crafts. A 4D Theater screening of Polar Express is also on offer, accessible via a long hall of dancing light displays that our kids loved.
Visitors can upgrade tickets still more to access the year-round Queen Mary exhibits, including the Princess Diana and Churchill Exhibits, history tours, and ghost tours.
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One big difference is food options. In previous years, Chill included a variety of food to eat on the go while exploring the event grounds. On board ship, there are no fast food stands, though the Queen Mary always has its two sit-down restaurants, Sunday brunch, and a coffee shop.
The old Spruce Goose pavilion next to the ship is no longer part of the Queen Mary event area, so the ice sculpture displays of previous seasons are no more. In general, this year's holiday event is much more a part of the fabric of the ship, with specific activities dotted around the hotel, and in some instances requiring some exploring to find. Staying over on board would be a delightful way to experience all the fun, but a day or evening's visit is also well worth the time. Just be prepared for the fact that getting from one activity to the next can take a little orienteering, and not every elf you pass will know the way.
Figure in parking ($20), or plan ahead to look for parking farther away (Long Beach has a free bus service that can help with creative parking).
The dancing light tunnel is irresistible.
Queen Mary Christmas takes place daily, including Christmas Eve and Day, and New Year's Eve and Day.
Hours vary, but the event is available every day throughout the season, with different schedules for skating, movies, and stage performances.
Originally published November 22, 2012, with updates each season
All photos by author unless otherwise noted