Written by: Matt Cohn

Downtown Long Beach has been my spot for decades. One day last week I got the impulse to have some kind of new Downtown adventure. Thanks to the AquaBus, I did it in style.  

I have a long history with the Queen Mary, and after hearing about its recent reopening I’d been thinking about a visit. I knew I could get there on Long Beach Transit’s Downtown water taxi, the AquaBus, which just resumed seven-days-a-week service after a three-year pandemic break. 

The AquaBus and Aqualink, operated by Catalina Express for Long Beach Transit, add another dimension to the Downtown Waterfront experience and its plethora of shopping, dining, and drinking options. They are refreshing mini-cruises that give you a postcard look at the Downtown skyline, the Queen Mary, Shoreline Village, and the entire Waterfront scenario.  

The AquaBus, which can carry up to 35 first-come, first-serve passengers, stops first at Dock 4 near the Aquarium, then picks up more riders at Dock 9 in Shoreline Village before crossing Queensway Bay and berthing next to the Queen. Fare is a mere $1 each way. 

I’ve driven to the Queen Mary via the Queensway Bridge on countless occasions (including my high school prom), but, as I found out last week, approaching the legendary luxury liner from the water offers quite a different perspective.

I boarded the AquaBus in the early afternoon at Dock 4 along with a family of tourists from Sweden. With Captain Steven Fipp at the helm, we enjoyed perfect weather as we taxied over to Shoreline Village and picked up more passengers, including first-time Long Beach visitors Ray and Nicole from Las Vegas.

“What’s so special about the Queen Mary?” inquired Nicole. As we chatted about the ship’s illustrious history and its reputation as one of the finest repositories of Art Deco in the world, the tourists were listening. Then they chimed in, telling us how the Queen crossed the Atlantic 1001 times and could cruise at 35 mph.       

We all fell silent as our AquaBus traveled along the Queen’s starboard side. From the water, with nothing to accompany it but a soundtrack of seals, seagulls, and our boat’s humming engine, the Queen Mary looked monumental, beyond imposing. 

We disembarked and I checked the AquaBus schedule, making sure I could catch a late boat to the mainland after a thorough self-guided walking tour and a relaxing visit to the beautiful Observation Bar & Art Deco Lounge

I strolled the ship from stem to stern. Many memories were triggered as I stood on the bow and gazed across the bay at the Downtown skyline, which has changed so much since the first time I viewed it from that perch in 1967. I peeked into the Queen’s Salon and saw myself partying in a ’70s wide-lapeled tux with my Millikan High School classmates. As I roamed the Promenade Deck I had visions of taking that same walk with my family 55 years ago.  

After a visit to the intriguing and spooky engine room, I made my way to the Observation Bar (formerly the ship’s first class lounge) and sipped a locally brewed lager while conjuring images of such frequent and classy passengers as Cary Grant, Vivien Leigh, and Mae West. 

The ship looks great, and I got nothing but positive vibes from every staffer I encountered. It was an excellent little field trip. As I caught the AquaBus toward Downtown, I vowed to come back soon. 

You can ride the AquaBus and AquaLink (bigger boat, with snack bar, that ventures all the way to Alamitos Bay Landing in Belmont Shore) seven days a week, all summer long.   

For tourists, the AquaBus and Aqualink  are a super-convenient and scenic way to enjoy the coastline of Long Beach. For a local like me, the AquaBus is another reason to visit the Downtown Waterfront; it provides hassle-free access to the RMS Queen Mary, a piece of living history that continues to capture the imagination. If you need a quick reset, a refreshing ocean breeze, and a very evocative getaway setting, the AquaBus is just the ticket to get you there.

We’re always on the lookout for Downtown businesses, events, community members and more to highlight in our Downtown Scene newsletter, on our website, and social media channels! If you have an event coming up or know of any Downtown-based amazingness going on that people need to know about, give us a shout by emailing our Communications & Marketing Manager, Asia Morris, at asiam@dlba.org. You can also submit an upcoming Downtown event to our events calendar at downtownlongbeach.org/events.