After running a deficit for years, the Queen Mary has turned a profit for the city of Long Beach.

The Queen Mary has been a landmark in the city of Long Beach for years, an iconic ocean liner that serves as a majestic sentinel in the harbor and a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.

But the aging ship has become more of a white elephant in recent years, needing millions of dollars in repairs to stay afloat.

Years of mounting financial problems, a pandemic shutdown and the need for an overhaul left the Queen Mary facing an uncertain future. Financial audits showed the ship was in deficit, and at least one report warned it was in danger of sinking if crucial repair work was not carried out.

But now the 90-year-old ship appears to be on its way to smoother sails, and financial records show it's finally turning a profit for the city of Long Beach.

On the ocean liner-turned-hotel and tourist attraction, rooms are being booked, visitors are taking tours of the ship, and the operator of the Queen Mary said the number of visitors had surpassed pre-COVID pandemic figures, marking a was a new sign of a new crisis. A hopefully better era for the famous ship that docked in Long Beach harbor.

But the recent financial turnaround will do little in the short term to address the extensive repairs needed to keep the ship afloat and open to the public.

The Queen Mary has been closed for more than three years due to the pandemic, remaining closed for much-needed repairs. But when the ship reopened in April – this time under the management of the city rather than a tenant farmer – visitors began returning in greater numbers. Although the ship still needs significant repairs, new paint, new floors and other work have been completed to keep the ship safe for visitors. The ship has approximately 200 rooms and several large halls that can be booked for weddings and other gatherings.

“Although it has been here since 1967, it was a relaunch of sorts – a new Queen Mary if you will,” said Steve Caloca, managing director of the ship under contract operator Evolution.

It's been a slow reopening, with just over a dozen rooms booked at the Queen Mary throughout April. But financial data obtained by The Times shows that bookings quickly multiplied in the following weeks.

More than 4,300 room nights were booked on the Queen Mary in July, and since then the ship operator has received at least 3,730 bookings per month.

“We've reopened after a three-and-a-half-year hiatus, which is nice, and we're making money, which is nice,” Caloca said.

According to financial information provided by the city, the Queen Mary continued to operate at a deficit for the first two months after reopening. However, by June the ship's revenues began to exceed expenses.

The ship generated more than $12.6 million in revenue and more than $3 million in profits between June and October of last year, according to city records.

It's not just the rooms in the ship's hotel that bring in visitors and their money, Caloca said.

“We let it be known that there are things to do here,” he said. “It's not just a beautiful ship.”

The Queen Mary began offering old and new tours of the 1,000-foot-long ship and held events to attract locals, such as $10 admission fees on Tuesdays, he said.

A games room and a redesigned observation bar are available for night and day guests, and the ship has also rolled out the commodore's office, where officers are available to answer guests' questions about the ship.

“We asked: what can guests do while staying at the Queen Mary; What kind of content can we provide?” Caloca said. “We can create things for people to do here in Long Beach.”

For the city, this means that the Queen Mary has generated more revenue in recent months than it did in the entire year before the pandemic shut down the city.

“Because of these new investments and facilities, we witnessed more visitors within six months of opening than in a full year prior to the pandemic, and I am proud to report that the Queen's 2023 profits ended strongly by returning turn to the pandemic. black for the first time in years,” Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson said.

But the ship also needed and continues to need repairs and maintenance, Caloca said.

Much of the work done on the ship has focused on keeping the ship safe for visitors, as well as regular maintenance such as painting, new flooring and lighting, and replacing new boilers and electrical transformers on the ship .

For the Queen Mary, which has been in dire need of repairs and work for years, turning a profit in 2023 marks a major turnaround in recent history.

Financial audits of the ship obtained by The Times show that the Queen Mary suffered losses of more than $31 million between 2007 and 2019.

A win could mean the ship could get some much-needed TLC to keep it afloat financially and literally.

“If we get excited about the money, it's not that we've made a profit,” Caloca said. “It's that we've made money, but now we can put it back on the ship we love so much.”

The city of Long Beach took over the Queen Mary in 2021 after concerns that the aging ship was not being maintained. A 2017 study of the ship found it needed up to $289 million in upgrades and renovations, including work to prevent parts of it from flooding.

Court documents and inspection reports also showed that $23 million was needed to prevent it from capsizing.

Turning the ship into a profit center for the city has been a challenge for several leasing companies hired to operate the ship in recent decades, including Walt Disney Co.

In 2005, Queen's Seaport Development Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and Long Beach found it owed $3.4 million in back rent. In 2009 the hotel also had an occupancy rate of approximately 50%.

Now, the incoming profits can also be focused on new activities and entertainment to continue to attract guests to the Queen Mary, Caloca said.

This summer, operators hope to reopen a movie theater on the ship that could function as a lecture hall and host other events, Caloca said. Another 100 rooms are expected to open in April.

“It's not just, 'Let's fix it so it doesn't break,'” Caloca said. “It's also, 'Let's fix it and make people want to come.'”

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