A Queen Mary Christmas

Photos by Charly SHELTON


It’s that time of year for gingerbread everything, holiday lights and the gentle hiss of a “snoap” machine giving SoCal a white Christmas. That’s right; it’s time for the holidays at the local theme parks.

From Universal Studios Hollywood to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, and everywhere in between, the holiday decorations and events are in full swing for family and friend get-togethers over the season. So far, we’ve taken a deeper look at Knott’s Merry Farm and Universal Studios Hollywood’s Grinchmas and Wizarding World Christmas. Now, with the big day fast approaching, let’s take one last trip to see what the Queen Mary has to offer in holiday cheer.

The promotional art states Queen Mary Christmas is “where holidays set sail,” though there’s nothing to make guests seasick. This is a very land-based event, with the area surrounding the ship’s entrance taken over by all sorts of winter activities. An ice skating rink circles around a 26-foot Christmas tree (extra charge to skate), a giant rocking horse offers rides to guests young and old, and a kiddie ride gives tours in a circuitous route of the whole festival from the back of a trackless “train.” Aboard the ship, Santa poses for pictures with kids and a 4D theater show whisks guests off to the North Pole on “The Polar Express 4D Experience.” And, in a new space this year, the Winter Wharf brings together gingerbread house decorating and stocking decorating (both for an extra charge), as well the new Insta-Wrap room, an entire room full of specially printed giftwrapped walls to make for some fun holiday Instagram photos.

Overall, the event is fun though it still feels like a work-in-progress or half thought-out. Many of the food and drink vendors don’t have menus or printed prices, and the attendant doesn’t know exactly what they are. There are a lot of photo ops that are intricately designed, but the activity areas for the gingerbread houses and stockings, where guests pay extra to get into, are relatively mundane. The food is all basic county-fair-style fare, and a $13 hot dog, $6 fried Twinkie or $15 bread bowl of clam chowder are nothing to write home about in terms of flavor or fun theming.

There are missed opportunities at every turn here. Having an appropriately priced and themed food program, like what is featured in the incredible restaurants on the ship, would do wonders for making this a must-do event. Epcot in Florida and Disney California Adventure in Anaheim subsist on food festivals each year, and it makes no sense why any venue like the Queen Mary would not do the same, especially with the resources already available on the ship. For me, there’s no excuse to serve bad cocktails at the outdoor event 500 yards from The Revenant Room aboard the ship, which serves some of the best cocktails in LA.

Another aspect that pulls from this event’s impact is the lack of permanence. This is an event that changes drastically every year. At one point, it was a frozen festival of ice sculptures with an ice bar upstairs in the sub-freezing temps. A couple of years ago, there was an event-wide track of ice skating to loop around and between several lounges, eateries and bars. Last year the festival was almost entirely on the ship, with ice skating up at the top near the smoke stack. This year’s festivities are decidedly smaller, with a small circular ice rink in the out-front area and more rental carnival amusements like the kiddie ride and a rock climbing wall. When guests have a good time and want to come back next year with their friends, the event has changed completely. Rather than reinventing each year, small changes over time can build to a great event if given the chance. I just don’t feel like they will here.


Queen Mary puts on some fun events. The New Year’s Eve party is cool, the Scots Festival is genuinely a lot of fun, and the St. Patrick’s Day Eve Pub Stroll is great for the green beer crowd to hear some Celtic music played as loud as possible. Maybe they’re a little disorganized at each event and the cocktails are always sub-par, but the events provide a good time nonetheless. This year’s Christmas event just isn’t one of their brightest. It’s not a huge letdown, because we know it will be very different next year.

So, for those in the mood to ice skate or take Instagram photos, this is the place for you. Other than that, I recommend waiting to see what the Queen Mary offers next year.

To see a festival tour from on the kiddie ride Queen Mary Express, scan the QR code or visit online.