Japan beckons the `Queen Mary'

Deborah Prussel speaks of the Queen Mary with a sense of patriotic ownership in a vessel that was once the pride of British shipping.

It is bad enough that the 61-year-old liner is now the back drop for dockside bungee-jumping. "Queen Mary must be turning in her grave at that one," she said. But worse, far worse, is the notion of floating the one- time Second World War troopship to Tokyo Bay, 30 years after her final voyage, for use as a gambling den.

Mrs Prussel and other residents of Long Beach are up in arms. An acrimonious meeting is promised tonight when the Long Beach city council meets to consider the proposal of a local businessman Joseph Prevratil to send the Queen Mary to Japan.

Mr Prevratil operates the ship as a floating hotel under lease from the city, and says the trip would raise cash for urgent repairs. But residents fear the Queen Mary, gutted of her engines when Long Beach bought her as a tourist attraction in 1967, could sink.

Towing the Queen Mary across the Pacific would take about six weeks, assuming any needed repairs to the hull were carried out in dry dock. Even if Mr Prevratil could pull off his scheme, they are worried she will never come back. "We don't want her going to Japan, pure and simple," said Mrs Prussel, a board member of the Long Beach Historical Society. "There are serious concerns about whether she would make it."

The Queen Mary was launched in 1936 by the Cunard-White Star line, and soon established the world record for the fastest Atlantic crossing. She boasted excellent food and celebrity passengers well into the Sixties, but by the end of the decade she was losing money. She has swallowed up $100m (pounds 62.5m) in private and public money.

Mr Prevratil, 59, announced his plans at a news conference in the ship's grand ballroom late last month. Sending her to Japan for just three to five years would raise an urgently needed $40m, he said. The ship was so seaworthy, he insisted, that Lloyd's of London was prepared to insure it.

Under Mr Prevratil's stewardship the Queen Mary last year turned a profit for the first time.

All of the ship's 365 rooms are now open, at prices frompounds 50 to several hundred dollars, with two award-winning restaurants.

But the ship has also become part of the landscape in Long Beach. It is host to many functions, and it is part of social and official life. Sitting at the mouth of the Los Angeles River, it is virtually impossible for a visitor to miss.

Many are reluctant to see it go, including city councillor Mike Donelon. "It would leave a black hole if it was gone," he said.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Corporate Tax Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

£15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home