Cruising with an Inspiration Named Julia

On a recent Panama Canal cruise on the Holland America ms Amsterdam we met a most extraordinary passenger with a remarkable past. Her name is Julia.

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We do not usually write about fellow travelers, but Julia is exceptional for several reasons that stirred our interest and imagination. Julia’s most noteworthy characteristic is that she belongs to a growing number of active seniors who demonstrate the ability to live long and travel – disregarding statistical realities along the way.

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Julia was born in 1919, and she easily makes the case that 95 is the new 75 as she nimbly navigates cruise ship passageways without the help of cane or walker. If you have aspirations of travelling long after retirement, Julia’s story is great encouragement.

A memorable life

Born just after WWI, Julia grew up and lived in London where she married in December, 1939 – just after the start of WWII in Europe. Her husband was a medical doctor involved in the war effort, and Julia – although untrained at the time – became a medical assistant who did suturing and wound control during the dark days of the London Blitz.

Like the survivors of the infamous European camps, Julia is one of the remaining few that can give firsthand adult testimony of the horror of the Nazi bombardment of London for 57 consecutive nights in 1940 and 1941. She still gets teary-eyed when relating poignant tales of the human tragedy and loss of life – which she tells in a crisp British accent and with the riveting clarity of a youthful reporter.

After the war

London was devastated by WWII and many British professionals immigrated to other countries to make a living. Julia and her husband planned to seek their fortune in the United States. Unfortunately, there was a long waiting list to enter the US immediately following the war, so they accepted a medical position in Manitoba, Canada while they waited for approval to enter the United States.

Julia on the Queen Mary

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Their journey to North America began in 1948 when they boarded the original ms Queen Mary in Southampton, England for a voyage to New York City.

After clearing US Customs and Immigration on Ellis Island, Julia and her husband – with two children and a nanny in tow – drove to Canada from New York. They spent eight years in Manitoba before being invited to take up a medical post in the state of Idaho in 1956. They loved living in Idaho.

Julia was widowed in the 1990s, but her and her second husband Don live part of the year in Idaho to this very day.

A love for cruising

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Julia has amassed an amazing 3,000 days (yes, that’s over 8-years) and over 250,000 miles at sea over the last 30-years, many of those days on around the world cruises on Holland America – several on the Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

In her global travels she has visited a remarkable 291 countries, and showed us the documentation to prove it.

Because of her extensive travel, Julia has acquired a keen understanding of the struggles of ordinary people and the less fortunate on our planet. She told us several engrossing stories about meeting strangers that subsequently had an influence on her life.

Back home in California and Idaho, Julia helps those in need, and has been the president of her local American Heart Association, and founder of a non-profit organization dedicated to the comfort of the victims of heart disease.

Looking to the future

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Because their annual world cruise is a predictable event, Julia and Don have created some routine pastimes as they circle the globe on ships. One particular pleasure is their reserved seating at the Sydney Opera House.

As soon as they learn the date their annual ship will arrive in Sydney, they immediately go online to book reservations for the opera. Because of the early status of their cruise bookings (they are already signed-on for the 2015 world cruise on Holland America) they have been able to reserve the same seats at the Sydney opera for the past 20 years.

Cruise Champions

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Julia and Don are extremely outgoing, and great ambassadors for the cruise lines. Julia has lunched with Micky Arison, the past CEO of Carnival Corporation – the parent of many popular cruise companies. She also knows many of the service crews and officers on their ships.

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When we interviewed Captain Fred Everson on the Amsterdam for a future story about our Canal cruise, we mentioned meeting Julia, to which he immediately responded, “Isn’t she the very best?” Indeed she is.

Ships location

We left Julia and Don in Ft Lauderdale at the end of our wonderful 17-day Panama Canal cruise – our two new friends were continuing on.

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The ms Amsterdam started its 114-day 2014 Grand World Voyage the next afternoon – with our favorite couple securely on board and looking forward to their adventures. Click on the link to view their itinerary.

Bon Voyage Julia

Happy travels Julia and Don!

Click *here* to read Wayne and Judy’s story about the adventures of the historic Queen Mary now a famous hotel/museum permanently docked in Long Beach, California. 

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

A Dockside Voyage Aboard the Historic Queen Mary

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The great ship Queen Mary has been part of Southern California’s treasures since the City of Long Beach acquired her in 1967. Long Beach then spent several million dollars to prepare her for the waiting public. Her grand California debut was on May 8, 1971.

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The Queen Mary is a remarkable floating hotel, complete with 314 comfortable guestrooms and suites – all of which were first class cabins when the mighty Queen sailed the seven seas.

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There are also six fine restaurants and a splendid gallery of shops and boutiques.

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During cold days on the North Atlantic, passengers could enjoy a plunge in the indoor pool.

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Shipboard activities now include several interesting tours, and top-notch museum attractions.

Your journey begins

Opening the door to a Queen Mary guestroom is like taking an imaginary step back in time. Some of the original metal fans that cooled passengers before the advent of air-conditioning are still affixed to cabin bulkheads. The old salt-water bath fixtures are still present and decorate the seafaring bathrooms.

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Each guestroom has updated curtains, beds, and linens to complement original portholes, light fixtures, and paneling. All cabin/guestrooms have been meticulously restored to earlier times.

Some of the interior cabin hardware and wooden furnishings confirm their age – and to nostalgia buffs – that adds to the ambiance. Every piece of furniture has a thousand stories hidden in its historic facing – if only it could talk.

Enjoy the tours and museums

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A walk around the ship is testament that the Queen Mary is the world’s largest art deco museum. Her chambers and passageways are lined with examples of 1930’s art and exotic woods – some no longer available on the world market. Best of all, she exudes the unmistakable aura of the historic times in which she lived — when the abundantly rich, and calamitously poor, worked together to forge a new world.

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Our sojourn on the Queen Mary was inspirational, and Mr. Will Kayne, the Queen’s acting Captain and resident historian brought each period of the ship’s history to life as we toured her well preserved interior.

Mr. Kayne is a genuine student of the Queen and remembers so many interesting historical details that he could fill captivating volumes. It was a privilege to have him guide us through time aboard the great ship.

The Queen at war

We were fortunate that the Winston Churchill Suite was available for our visit. Sir Winston made three crossings on the Queen during World War II. A reliable source confirmed that Mr. Churchill used his suite’s bathtub – partially filled with sand – as a scaled replica to help plan the D-Day landings with members of the Allied staff. To spend time in the very place where such epic discussions took place is a rare honor indeed.

We asked Mr. Kayne why Winston Churchill did not choose a war ship to cross the Atlantic in those troubled times. “The answer is quite simple.” He went on to explain, “At the time, the Queen Mary was nicknamed the ‘Gray Ghost’ because she was painted completely gray and hard to see, and at 28.5 knots (32.8 mph), she was the fastest ship on the seas.

IMG_3761She was so fast, that she frequently sailed without an escort and out of convoy.”

In general, the Queen played a large part in the outcome of the Second World War. She carried nearly 800,000 troops to the European Theater, and so demoralized the German high command that Adolf Hitler put a price on her head. He would pay the equivalent of $250,000 and award the Iron Cross to the U-boat captain that could find and sink her. Miraculously, she made 72 wartime crossings without an enemy engagement.

After the war, it was business as usual

Cary Grant aboard the Queen Mary

The Queen Mary was the favorite mode of transportation across the Atlantic for the famous, and the rich and powerful for 30 years. She had three levels of service. First, Second, and Third class. Each level of service had distinct amenities and separate gathering rooms. First-class passengers were accorded the most space and luxury.

The largest room on the ship was the first-class grand salon, which was three decks high. Ship’s passengers enjoyed a variety of shops, a two level indoor swimming pool, salon, nursery, library, kennel, and several outdoor deck sports.

A little known story about a great celebrity

One of our favorite post-war stories aboard the Queen involved one lovable and flamboyant Wladziu Valentino Liberace. Liberace was already a famous entertainer in 1956. In that year, he was ticketed in first class and sailed during a difficult New York to Southampton crossing. All on board that particular voyage learned what his friends already knew – Liberace was a warm and generous human being.

The maestro, who was one of the highest paid entertainers in the world during the ’50s, offered to play a free engagement aboard the Queen. The beneficiaries of his kindness were to be the least affluent of his shipmates. He would entertain and play one night, but only for the third-class passengers.

The ship’s crew was ordered to move the grand piano from its prominent position in the first-class parlor to the relatively small and stuffy third-class sitting room.

Lee, as he was known to his friends, pulled out all the stops. Everyone present said Liberace’s exalted performance was the highlight of his or her voyage on the Queen Mary. It is reported that all had a grand time – but no one as much as the gracious Liberace himself.

Additional interesting facts and trivia:

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She is 182 feet tall, which is about seven feet higher than Niagara Falls.

The Queen Mary has a 118-foot beam, and that is too wide for the Panama Canal.

The Queen is almost twice the tonnage and 136 feet longer than the ill-fated Titanic.

Her full name is RMS Queen Mary – the RMS stands for Royal Mail Ship.

In July 1943, she carried 15,740 troops – a standing world record for most passengers on a ship’s voyage.

The headline entertainer on the Queen’s final passenger voyage in September 1967 was Johnny Mathis.

The last Master of the Queen Mary was Captain J. Treasure Jones. He eloquently summed up her existence when he said, “She breathed, she had character, she had personality. She was above all else the closest ship ever to be a living being.”

When you are in Southern California be sure to go to see this fascinating attraction. Make reservations and spend the night if you can. Who knows what famous persons may have slept in that very cabin? There are also reputed to be over 600 ghosts that haunt the ship. Perhaps one is awaiting your visit?

If you liked the Queen Mary you will also like Catalina Island.

If you go

The Queen Mary is located at 1126 Queen’s Highway, in Long Beach, CA. 90802.The toll free phone number is (877) 342-0738. Check here for more information about visiting the ship.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy 

Photos © Judy Bayliff. Old B&W photos courtesy of Queen Mary