One-Year Return of Queen Mary Observed

Submitted by City of Long Beach Department of Economic Development

To commemorate the recent, one-year return of the RMS Queen Mary, the City of Long Beach recently shared a comprehensive update about the ship, including its increasingly positive financial forecast, expanded operations and attractions, upcoming preservation and refurbishment projects, and plans for future development. The ship welcomed visitors back on board in a limited capacity in December 2022, and celebrated a broader grand reopening in June 2023. Since October 2023, over 118,000 guests have come onboard to enjoy the grandeur of this historic vessel.

“The iconic Queen Mary continues to capture the hearts of so many people from around the world,” said Mayor Rex Richardson. “We’re thrilled to share the remarkable achievements made since its reopening. 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.”

Since regaining full control of the Queen Mary in 2021 for the first time in over 40 years, the City, alongside its operating partner Evolution Hospitality, has worked diligently to bring the ship back to its former glory. The city has undertaken numerous projects to improve the structural stability and safety of the ship and elevate the guest experience. To date, the city has overseen the completion of more than 25 major projects and other improvements, with many more underway.

“The return of the Queen Mary has been a tremendous success, and we are delighted to see the overwhelming support from visitors near and far,” said First District Councilwoman Mary Zendejas. “This iconic landmark holds a special place in the hearts of Long Beach residents and visitors alike, and we are committed to ensuring its continued success and preservation.”

“The Queen Mary is thriving once again. We are humbled that guests from all over the world are visiting the Ship daily. 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,” said Steve Caloca, general manager for Evolution Hospitality. “Our goal is to create an experience that you cannot receive anywhere else. Our historic overnight stateroom cabins are comfortable and unique, and makes you feel as if you were relaxing on your way across the Atlantic from Southampton to New York. Our tour-guides are super friendly and really create the experience through their knowledge of the history of the ship. It goes without saying, The Queen Mary’s brightest days are ahead of Her!”

Financial Forecast

Prior to the city regaining full control, between 2007 and 2019, private operators reported losses totaling over $31 million. With increased visitor numbers post pandemic and a renewed interest in maritime history, the ship’s financial outlook has improved significantly. The Queen Mary’s financial outlook for the 2024 fiscal year is optimistic, with an anticipated end of year earnings of approximately $3.6 million from hotel, attractions, and special events activities and approximately $4 million generated from the Carnival Dome and associated parking garage revenues. This forecast takes into consideration continued expenses that support the phased reopening and expansion of the ship, and projects even stronger earnings in the subsequent years ahead.

While there was little to no revenue for much of the City’s 2023 fiscal year (October 2022 – September 2023), as a result of the significant expenses associated with the ship’s reopening, towards the end of the 2023 fiscal year, revenue quickly increased and has resulted in net positive monthly earnings since, averaging $300,000 per month. From an operating perspective, the Queen Mary can now support operating expenses with regular operating revenue; all generated revenue is being invested back into the ship and vicinity.

Approximately $45 million was utilized for reopening costs to ensure the ship’s structural safety and integrity, onboard preservation and restoration projects, and guest amenities and attractions, among other projects. Most of the $45 million was supported by revenue generated from the Queen Mary or its related subleases, which are also now under direct city control, or from the creation of new revenue opportunities. The $23 million made available in 2017 came from an existing Queen Mary reserve fund and a bond issue that was supported by the Queen Mary’s Carnival sublease which is funded primarily by passenger fee charges.

Another critical backbone supporting reopening expenses was the city’s 2023 partnership with the Port of Long Beach, announced last spring, which provided a $12 million advance to help fund reopening efforts while also enhancing port services. Funding also came from Tidelands Funds.

Expanded and Upcoming Operations, Attractions, Amenities

City and Evolution Hospitality staff continue to identify ways to expand and enhance the Queen Mary guest experience. Since the June 2023 reopening, hotel capacity has expanded from 100 to 200 guestrooms, and has undergone several operational improvements such as plumbing, electrical and fire life safety systems. The Queen Mary Hotel now includes a new pricing model that offers lower off-peak pricing, and the addition of community days for Long Beach residents offers the opportunity for locals to board the ship free of charge. These efforts are to increase equitable accessibility for all interested in visiting the ship.

Onboard activities humbly returned last June with just three offerings and has since grown to 22 guest tours and experiences, including a newly launched Adian Sinclair experience and seance room to meet the demand of paranormal experiences and the return of Sunday Brunch. Tours, exhibits and other experiential offerings continue with the newly opened Observation Bar Game Room, the addition of the Piccadilly Candy Shoppe and the forthcoming return of popular venues and activities like Sir Winston’s Restaurant and Lounge and activating additional tours and experiences.

Upcoming Preservation, Refurbishment, Expansion Projects

The city continues to identify projects that address the ship’s preservation, refurbishment, maintenance and expansion. There are several projects planned for 2024, including hotel room renovations and repairs, elevator upgrades, HVAC controls, and repair/repainting of the third smokestack. An expansive section of the Sun Deck, a popular location for special events and weddings, will be extensively renovated and repaired and renovated this year, which is expected to increase revenue generation immediately upon completion.

There are also plans to renovate areas of the ship to support the return of the “Ghosts and Legends” tour, including the guest queuing and entry areas and areas within the tour. City staff will also collaborate with nonprofit partners to identify and fund art and historic restorations projects onboard. The Queen Mary’s role as a historic and cultural resource will be further promoted by identifying ways to integrate art, music and culture into ship programming.

Plans for Future Development

The City Council has provided structure and resources to best position the Queen Mary for long term success and to leverage the adjacent property, totaling approximately 43 acres of undeveloped and open recreation space, 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. 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.

Automated parking improvements were recently installed, which are already paying dividends and will enhance the guest experience for Queen Mary and Carnival guests. Also to be conducted this year is the demolishment and paving of the vacant and dilapidated English village and other unused structures on the site.

City staff are in the process of developing plans for a temporary amphitheater with the goal of providing a temporary, unique waterfront concert venue to meet the current demand of concert promoters in the region, stimulate the tourist economy and provide additional revenue generation. A cross-department team will initiate a formal study of the area to explore a variety of potential development opportunities for the site, including a permanent amphitheater, marina and improved cruise terminal. This study will take into account previous community and stakeholder input from the Queen Mary Land Development Task Force and consider changes to the post-pandemic development environment.

More information about the Queen Mary and Evolution Hospitality is available at queenmary.com.

 

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