New home for Queen Elizabeth 2
Like many aging celebrities, the MS Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) cruise liner has had a rough time adjusting to retirement.
Following years of uncertainty, Dubai officials have announced the famed vessel will be refurbished and sent to Asia, where it will be moored as a five-star, 500-room hotel.
No actual destination has been announced and officials aren’t talking, though the landing page of the QE2 hotel website shows a panoramic shot of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, fueling speculation the ship will eventually end up there.
“A number of Asian cities have expressed interest in securing this historic attraction,” according to a statement from Drydocks World Dubai, part of a consortium handling the refurbishment.
“We have firmed up with an international tourist city in the Far East as her first destination," said the statement. "The chosen city shares the passion of the partnership for preserving the history and reputation of this great ship that holds a special place in the collective memory of the many a million passengers that have sailed on her during nearly 40 years of service."
According to government-owned Drydocks, Oceanic Group -- which has offices in Singapore, Hong Kong and China -- will manage refurbishment of the 294-meter ship.
"The renovations and upgrades planned will respect and safeguard the immense heritage embodied in her fine lines and luxurious fittings," the group added.
It will be interesting to see how that heritage is respected given the new ship is set to include a luxury shopping mall, three Michelin-starred restaurants and convention and meeting facilities. In addition, there will be an onboard maritime museum displaying QE2 memorabilia.
Prior to the QE2's retirement in November 2008, the former Cunard luxury liner serviced the trans-Atlantic route between Southampton, UK, and New York.
The ship carried 2.5 million passengers and completed 806 trans-Atlantic crossings during 39 years of service for Cunard.
In 1982, the ship was put to use in the Falklands War, refitted with dorms, helicopter pads and fuel pads to transport 3,000 troops to the south Atlantic.
It wasn't until the ship's retirement that sailing really got rough. Thursday’s luxury hotel announcement follows several years of uncertainty for the QE2, which was bought by Dubai World from Cunard in 2007 for close to US$100 million.
At the time, Dubai’s economy was booming and officials there announced that the QE2 would be docked at the Palm Jumeirah man-made island as a luxury floating hotel.
Then came the financial crisis and those ideas were shelved, leading to a series of rumors that the ship would be re-sold (which never happened.)
A 2009 bid to send the historic ship to Cape Town to be used as a hotel during the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa fizzled. Cape Town refused the ship permission to berth.
After a stream of other reports, including failed bids to send her back to England, comes this week’s confirmation that the QE2 will be headed for Asia, much to the relief of maritime history buffs who feared it would end up in the scrap yard.
No opening date has been announced, though Drydocks said the 500-room luxury accommodation would be managed by an international hotel brand.