Despite not operating at full capacity, the Queen Mary will close out the year operating in the black, according to financial records from the ship’s contracted operator, Evolution Hospitality.

A more stable financial outlook for the iconic vessel comes after at least 17 years of operational deficits. From 2007 to 2019, operators reported nearly $31.4 million in combined losses, according to the ship’s financial records, which the Business Journal obtained through a public records request.

Older records are not available, according to the city.

After the ship was closed for three years due to the pandemic and ongoing maintenance struggles, it began a slow reopening process in April, but this time, under the city’s leadership rather than a third-party leaseholder, which has been the norm since the ship arrived in 1967. The reopening started with some tours, followed by a small number of hotel rooms in June.

“But July is when we really opened,” said Steve Caloca, managing director of the ship for Evolution, which the city contracts to handle day-to-day management. Since July, 200 of the ship’s 347 staterooms have been available for stays.

From July through October, the ship generated nearly $10.66 million in revenue, financial records show. After expenses, Evolution recorded nearly $2.25 million in gross operating profit.

Those profits don’t make up for the $20 million or more the city has spent or pledged for repairs on the ship in recent years. A full accounting of what the city has spent wasn’t available as of press time.

Caloca said crews have completed mechanical and structural repairs including the removal of decaying lifeboats, upgrades to electrical and fire suppression systems and HVAC as well as installation of new boilers, a bilge pump system, generator, heat exchangers, but they will help cover future costs.

The new profits are now being rolled right back into funding more neverending maintenance, repairs and upgrades that come with operating a 91-year-old, 80,000-ton historical vessel that sits in salt water, Caloca said.

One glaring cosmetic repair — a shoddy paint job on the smokestack nearest the ship’s stern — is set to get underway in January, Caloca added.

Caloca said the ship is turning an operating profit because of a number of factors, including pent-up demand due to the extended closure as well as a renewed interest in the historic ocean liner and its history, Caloca said.

“People love the ship,” Caloca said. “They want to get back onto it.”

Despite its limited room availability as well as the fact that multiple restaurant spaces remain closed, revenue is being driven in large part by tours, Caloca explained, which are up 43% over 2019. The most recent tour addition, a paranormal experience dubbed the “Grey Ghost Project,” sells out almost every night, according to Caloca.

Additionally, the average daily room rate is up 36% from July through October over the same period in 2019, which is making up for the limited availability, Caloca said. The rooms that are available are selling out most weekends, even Sundays, thanks to Carnival Cruise Lines bringing people to town, he said.

The ship also is hosting more meetings and conferences, Caloca added.

In January, another 100 rooms are expected to come online.

“We put a lot of work into these rooms, to make sure that the rooms are period true, that they look beautiful, that they are worthy of our guests,” Caloca said.

Earlier this month, the ship welcomed guests back to Royal Sunday Brunch, which was a favorite before the closure. Sometime in the first quarter of next year, the fine dining experience that is Sir Winstons is slated to reopen after it gets spruced up.

While the popular Observation Bar reopened in May, it is also slated for renovations, Caloca said. The minor overhaul of the space will include replacing the carpet, furniture and installing new lighting to make it more true to the period it opened. A timeline has not been set for the bar’s renovation.

But reopening old favorites is not the only path forward for the ship, Caloca said.

“We’re constantly looking at things we can do to create content for guests,” he explained, noting the recent opening of candy shop Piccadilly Delights as well as a new game room, which is a small sports bar-like area next door to the Observation Bar.

Benches were recently added to the Sun Deck facing Downtown Long Beach, giving visitors a place to relax and take in the views. Next up for outside deck spaces are lounge chairs and cabanas, Caloca said. The cabanas will be able to be reserved by guests, he added.

An archive museum that will showcase bits of the ship’s history, such as original furniture, artwork and other items that were on the ship originally in the 1930s, also is slated to be constructed on the Promenade Deck, Caloca said.

“The key is to get more people onto the ship,” Caloca said. “To have them not only enjoy the ship but spend money here to make a profit and create something that is sustainable for years to come.”