Dubai: Preserving QE2’s storied history signals great promise for Dubai tourism if the restored Queen Mary cruise liner now serving as a refurbished permanent hotel in Long Beach, California, is any indication.
Queen Mary Commodore Everette Hoard told Gulf News in an exclusive interview that acquiring the original Queen Mary from Cunard —- the same former owners of QE2 — and establishing her as a hotel in the 1970s with a living history has helped rejuvenate tourism in the vibrant American seaside community.
“The Queen Mary’s arrival in 1967 was simply ‘the event’ of the latter part of the decade to Southern Californians and in particular the citizens of Long Beach,” Hoard said. “Her opening to the public in May 1971 was a great milestone in the City of Long Beach’s effort to chart a new course in tourism. She has become the centrepiece as well as the focal point of billions of dollars’ worth of ocean front property across the harbour.”
On the strategy of Dubai’s QE2 becoming a major tourist destination, Queen Mary caretakers said the idea of a cruise-ship hotel has proved to be a golden blueprint for the local and state economy.
“This development has caused Long Beach to become more of a resort destination than ever before as well as a leading cruise terminal for the Carnival Group. Thousands of local jobs have spawned from this cultural boom especially in our hospitality industry. The Queen Mary is also a teacher to local students in our educational outreach programmes offered to Southern California School Districts. In short, the Queen Mary gave Long Beach a global notoriety. With the addition of the historic vessel, Long Beach really has become the “International City.”
From a humble idea, the Queen Mary’s lure now attracts up to 1.8 million tourists a year, said Hoard.
Staff and supporters who protect and maintain Queen Mary are excited to see Dubai’s QE2 refurbishment and have high hopes for her as a new landmark such as a hotel, said Hoard.
“QE2 is the Queen Mary’s granddaughter. QE2 was built with a duality that made her strong enough for crossing the North Atlantic but economic and shallow drafted enough for cruising the world. The original Queens were built strictly for the Atlantic shuttle service. Cunard was wise to continue the “Queen” branding though and their second Queen Elizabeth would serve 40 years at sea and sail more miles than any other merchant ship in history,” Hoard said.
“Where the Queen Mary carried the wealth of her day, QE2 was the standard of the oceanic travel during her reign in the latter part of the 20th century. QE2 has been an annual visitor to Southern California on more than 20 occasions since her first world cruise in 1977. So it is with pleasure that we see her poised to follow in her grandmother’s wake as a floating hotel and place for special events. Both QE2 and Queen Mary have this in common: They were ships of state built to reflect maritime supremacy of the British Merchant Navy. While ships may get larger and more elaborate, I don’t think that any new build will ever have the charm and soul of these two great historic ships. They are unique in the annals of seafaring. It is fitting that they were spared the ship-breaker’s hammer,” Hoard said.