Two Royal Ships to Say Hello

Rare ship visit: The Queen Elizabeth is set to sail by Queen Mary.

WATERY CONFAB: The old saying "two ships passing in the night" is often trotted out for all kinds of situations. It's unfortunate, though, that there isn't a saying that goes "two ships passing in the night, only one ship is permanently docked and they're both royal boats with a Cunard affiliation, and it is a rather big moment that will be marked with fireworks and celebration." Okay, that's a mouthful, but it more accurately describes the meeting set to happen on the evening of Tuesday, March 12. The Queen Elizabeth, the newest ocean-liner in Cunard service, will pay that Cunard icon Queen Mary a visit in Long Beach. It's an interesting visit on several points, and especially for lovers of history and the ocean; it isn't often that two major ships -- the Queen Elizabeth is 90,000 tons -- make the grand gesture of bidding each other hello.

ALSO OF NOTE? This is only the third time in over three decades that a Cunard vessel has stopped by to say "pip pip" to the Queen Mary. (We're not sure if ships actually speak, but we're pretty sure that "pip pip" is what the queenly ships say to each other.) Interestingly, the first Queen Elizabeth ship frequently passed the Queen Mary as they crisscrossed the Atlantic more than a half-century ago. In fact, the first Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary passed each other, mid-Atlantic, as the Queen Mary made her way to Long Beach in 1967; it was, of course, her last voyage. The whistles sounded from both ships as they passed and the captains doffed their hats for the occasion.

HOW SHIPS SAY HELLO: The evening of March 12 will have some of that grandness. A "traditional whistle salute" will sound from both the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth; if you've ever heard the Queen Mary's Tyfon ship horn, you know you can almost feel it inside your chest. It's impressive. Fireworks will also mark the Royal Rendezvous, and music aboard the Queen Mary. Some dining and stay-over packages are available, too. The Queen Elizabeth is set to reach Long Beach Harbor at 6:30 on March 12, so plan to arrive a little early to get your spot. If you wish we still lived in the golden age when so many people traveled by ocean, the evening will hearken back to that. You'll want to make for the Promenade Deck -- aft, for you ship buffs -- to watch the rather out-sized hello.

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