After sailing the seas for 40 years and spending three years docked at Port Rashid in Dubai, the legendary luxury cruise liner the Queen Elizabeth 2 is to be transformed into a floating hotel.
The QE2 was bought by a company chaired by Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem for £64 million in 2007 and after retiring from service in 2008, she will be operational again – this time, though, as a luxury hotel-on-water.
The 300-room floating hotel is scheduled to open at Port Rashid in 18 months’ time. Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem says he believes visitors would rather see the QE2 as she originally looked, so the plan is to convert the interiors without too many major changes, to retain as much history and authenticity on board as possible.
The QE2 story began when the Queen launched the spectacular Cunard ship in 1967. In 1969 the cruise liner officially entered service after preliminary trials in the Irish Sea in 1968. The following year she embarked on a mini cruise to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands and later that year made her maiden voyage to New York. Since then the world famous ship has sailed around the world 26 times.
The QE2 has welcomed some of the world’s most prominent politicians and celebrities on board, including Nelson Mandela, US astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Beatle George Harrison and actress Elizabeth Taylor. But the person who made the most voyages is American Beatrice Muller. She lived on the QE2 for nine years after her husband died on board in 1999. After his death, she moved in permanently (until the ship was sold a few years ago) claiming that living on board was cheaper than a retirement home. For more fascinating facts about the Cunard liner’s colourful history, see http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/reviews/review.cfm?ShipID=247
In her heyday, the QE2 would welcome up to approximately 1,800 passengers on board, however when she opens as a hotel guest rooms onboard will be limited to 300. She is to remain at her original base at Port Rashid where the terminal itself will be transformed “beyond recognition” into a maritime museum.
The QE2 sailed for the last time in 2008 after being sold for $100 million in 2007 to Istithmar World, the investment division of Dubai World.
The first time the cruise liner has welcomed guests on board since then was in January this year when an Emirati company hosted a lavish New Year’s celebration party.
Istithmar World Chairman Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem has said in an official statement that he intends to keep the ship in Port Rashid from now on. The original furnishings, art and historical objects on board will be preserved to give guests a feel of the grandeur of voyages-gone-by.
"The vessel is truly iconic and has a huge following around the world. Our vision is to enhance the facilities on board but retain the very strong sense of history that is a fundamental part of her attraction," said the statement.
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