The RMS Queen Mary Didn’t Sink – Here’s What Happened to Her


The Queen Mary has had an incredibly busy and exciting life. She was built in 1937 and sailed for 30 years before retiring in 1967. I stayed on board the ship in 2011 and have always found the history of the ship to be fascinating.

She was built for the Cunard-White Star line and designed to sail across the Atlantic. Her sister was the RMS Queen Elizabeth.

In this article, we will explore what happened to the Queen Mary and if she did indeed sink at any point during her career.

Did the RMS Queen Mary Sink?

The Queen Mary did not sink at any point during her career. She was responsible for the sinking of the HMS Curacoa in 1942 but the Queen Mary survived the war without sinking. The RMS Queen Mary is now a floating hotel located in Long Beach, California.

Between 1936 and 1939 the Queen Mary sailed across the Atlantic. She was designed for long voyages and this is what she did for the majority of her time in operation.

In the summer of 1936, she won the Blue Riband, an award given to the ship that could cross the Atlantic in the least amount of time.

The Queen Mary did lose her Blue Riband to the SS Normandie in 1937 but she got it back in 1938.

RMS Queen Mary at Long Beach
Photo: David Lofink from Anaheimderivative work: Altair78, CC BY 2.0

The RMS Queen Mary Played a BIG Role In World War Two

In the second world war, the Queen Mary was converted and repainted grey, she was given the nickname ‘Grey Ghost’.

The Queen Mary and her sister the Queen Elizabeth became the fastest troopships in the war and could carry up to 16,000 troops per voyage. The Queen Mary was only built to accommodate a little over 2000 passengers!

Expected Passenger NumberMaximum Passengers During Wartime% Capacity
Queen Mary210016,000760%

In 1942 The Queen Mary Sank The HMS Curacoa

The HMS Curacoa was built for the Royal Navy during the first world war. She was acting as an escort for the RMS Queen Mary in 1942 when the Queen Mary accidentally cut through the HMS Curacoa.

At the time of the accident, the Queen Mary was carrying 10,000 troops and was sailing in a zig-zag pattern to evade submarine attacks.

HMS Curacoa
HMS Curacoa

Both the Queen Mary and the HMS Curacoa thought that they had the right of way.

I said to my mate “You know she’s zig-zagging all over the place in front of us, I’m sure we’re going to hit her.”

And sure enough, the Queen Mary sliced the cruiser in two like a piece of butter, straight through the six-inch armored plating. 

Alfred Johnson (Onboard the Queen Mary) source.

The Queen Mary was sailing at considerable speed (around 25 knots) and she had to carry on after hitting the HMS Curacoa. It was the policy at the time that for safety reasons, the ship could not stop to pick up survivors as the threat of U-Boats was present.

Accounts differ as to whether the ship did stop to help survivors or not.

The case did go to court a few years later and the Queen Mary was cleared of any blame. It estimated that over 300 people died in the accident.

What Happened to The Queen Mary After World War Two?

In took almost a year for the Queen Mary to be refitted for passenger service.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the Queen Mary sailed with her sister the Queen Elizabeth. The two ships completed transatlantic voyages twice per week.

It was around this time that the Queen Mary completed her fastest transatlantic voyage at 3 days and 22 hours.

The Queen Mary was an ocean liner, not a cruise ship and ocean liners are designed to be fast.

Ocean liners have a number of big differences when compared to modern-day cruise ships. To learn about the noticeable differences, including why ocean liners aren’t built anymore, check out this post: Cruise Ships vs Ocean Liners – The Truth About How They Compare.

Queen Mary Hallway
Photo: Russ Allison Loar, CC BY-SA 4.0

In 1967 the Queen Mary was retired. By this point transatlantic flight was becoming a popular option and transatlantic voyages becoming less desirable.

The Queen Mary sailed across the Atlantic 1000 times during her life.

Is The Queen Mary Sinking Now?

The Queen Mary opened as a tourist attraction in 1971. I was lucky enough to stay on board the ship in 2011 and it wasn’t an experience I’ll ever forget.

Below is a photo of me in front of the Queen Mary.

Queen Mary Ship Long Beach Emma Cruises
Me and my brother in front of the Queen Mary

In 2016 the city of long beach invested 23 million dollars into the most vital repairs of the Queen Mary but additional funding is still needed.

A report created in 2017 suggested that the Queen Mary is currently sinking and visibly leaking. Repairs are expected to cost 300 million dollars. – source.

Edward Pribonic who has been inspecting the Queen Mary for 25 years stated in 2019 that:

“Without an immediate and very significant infusion of manpower and money, the condition of the ship will likely soon be unsalvageable.”

– source.

Despite the current condition of the Queen Mary she is not ‘sinking’. When she was converted to be a hotel a lot of her parts were removed such as the engine rooms and boiler rooms. The ship really is just a floating hotel.

2021 Bankruptcy Protection

Eagle Hospitality Trust (the company that operates the Queen Mary filed for a chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2021.

The Queen Mary was forced to close to the public in May of 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Prior to this, it was estimated that the Queen Mary attracted 1.5 million visitors per year.

If Eagle Hospitality are unable to sort out their financial situation the Queen Mary may find herself for sale, again!

The Queen Mary vs The Titanic

The Queen Mary and The Titanic both set sail within 30 years of each other, despite this there are some considerable differences between the two ships.

To learn more about this, including why one ship was 4x as powerful as the other, check out this post:

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Emma Le Teace

Hey, I'm Emma, an award-winning cruise blogger, and YouTuber. I share cruise tips, tours, and videos on this website to help you master cruising on a budget. You can learn more here: About Me.

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