The RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) has been destined to become a floating accommodation venue in Dubai since its departing from British waters. However, now it won’t be transformed into a luxury hotel as first planned. The cruise ship was sold to Dubai state firm Istithmar World in 2007 for £64 million and has remained mostly unused since it arrived in the Middle East in November 2008. Now the company says it will become a small hotel at the centre of a blueprint to rejuvenate a rundown commercial port.
After being reluctant to address questions about the future of the QE2, officials have reveals that the ship will stay moored in Port Rashid in Dubai. This is a rather rundown cargo harbor, and officials say they are adopting more modest plans to use the vessel as a tourist magnet.
The operator admits that plans to transform the cruise liner into a five-star floating hotel at the tip of the Palm Jumeirah, the emirate’s famous man-made island, became unforeseeable following the debt crunch that hit Dubai in 2008. The renovation would have seen the QE2 turned into a lavish 1,000 room hotel. However, instead of getting such a large renovation, now the vessel will get just 300 rooms and many of its original fittings will stay, he added.
Istithmar World, which is part of state conglomerate Dubai World (which was at the centre of the 2009 financial meltdown in Dubai), recently lost control of Barneys New York, an upscale retailer, as part of a deal with its lenders. Istithmar World and port operator DP World chairman Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem says that they unfortunately had many ambitions that didn’t work. He insists that visitors want to see the QE2 as it originally was, and they have had many big ideas. There were plans to renovate it so that it became something totally different than what it was. However, they soon realised that many people liked the cruise liner as it was, he added.
The QE2 was launched over 40 years ago in 1967 by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and made over 20 round-the-world trips during its 30 years of operation by Cunard Line. During the Falklands War, it was used to carry troops to the south Atlantic. Last year, it was used as a venue for a New Year’s Eve party, but other than that, it hasn’t really been used for anything.
Bin Sulayem says talks are ongoing with three hotel operators, including Jumeirah Group, to operate the new hotel. Common areas in the ship – like its entertainment zones and restaurants – will be mostly left as they are. Although the renovation is more modest, the new plan will see Port Rashid transformed into a tourist attraction. The place won’t be recognisable in 18 months, he added.
Officials say that, when the work is finished in 18 months, the QE2 will re-open alongside a maritime museum. There will also be an expanded cruise ship terminal complex. QE2 project director Leili Gerami says one of their ideas is to transform the casino into a game centre with machines that give out prize tickets instead of cash.
Author's Google+ page