Dubai: Sitting idle for nearly a decade at Port Rashid, history’s most famous ocean liner Queen Elizabeth 2 is primed and ready for a new life as an upscale tourist destination permanently berthed in the heart of Dubai’s maritime centre.
Reno crews have been seen all over the ship since last year giving the 293-metre leviathan’s hull and decks a massive new facelift and the ship has been reportedly towed from drydocks and brought alongside the passenger liner terminal as a world-renowned landmark to beckon travellers.
A new website www.qe2.com has gone live online in recent weeks promising “Coming Soon” and teasing would-be visitors with an invitation to experience “a new taste on hospitality” strongly suggesting the cruise liner’s golden years will serve as a hotel and accommodation landmark.
The website says the new QE2 venture is now hiring and lists Cruise Terminal 1, Port Rashid Marinas as QE2’s new address where signs at the welcome centre tout QE2 as the next big thing.
Officials contacted by Gulf News declined to share details about an opening date but did say that the ship’s fate is in the hands of Port, Customs and Free Zone Corporation (PCFC), the Government of Dubai corporation responsible for Dubai Customs, Port Rashid and Jebel Ali port as well as PCFC Investments and Hotels.
The buzz surrounding QE2 and her next mission seem a lifetime since she steamed into Gulf waters on November 26, 2008 and was welcomed by an armada of bobbing yachts in light seas as an overhead fly-past by an Emirates A-380 aircraft announced her arrival.
Christened by the Queen in 1967, the QE2’s arrival marked the end of her final voyage capping a logbook of 40 years that recorded 5.6 million nautical miles, including 25 world cruises, 801 Atlantic crossings and 1,408 individual voyages.
The QE2 was purchased by Dubai World for $100 million (Dh367 million) and the original plan was to convert the 70,000-tonne ship — the weight of 14,000 elephants — into a floating hotel and residence at a specially built pier at Palm Jumeirah.
Forrest Cassidy, veteran Gulf News stone editor, enjoyed 15 trips on the QE2, his last in July 2008 shortly before the ship sailed to her new home in Dubai.
Cassidy said he hoped that any new venture will maintain the glamour and refined living he expected every time he stepped aboard the magnificent liner.
“The legacy of British seamanship was evident everywhere, but best of all, it provided the ultimate in refined living,” recounted Cassidy of his grand annual vacations aboard QE2.
“For many people, an Atlantic crossing on the QE2 was the dream of a lifetime, but for a growing number of us the ship was almost like a second home. Many of the passengers were seasoned travellers who simply enjoyed the sea; others were lured back year after year by a certain indefinable quality that set the vessel apart from all others.”
Maritime historian Chris Frame, who writes about the QE2, said on his website: “Fast, smart and sleek, QE2 sailed over 5.6 million miles and carried more than 2.5 million passengers during a magnificent 39 1/2-year career. Put simply, she carried more people further than any ship before her and remains the longest-serving express liner in history.”
While QE2 was visited by Queen Elizabeth and major movie stars such as Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor during her heyday, the ship also saw action during the Falklands War in 1982 as a troop carrier, transporting 3,000 soldiers and more than 600 volunteers.
Highlights of the Queen Elizabeth 2
• Gross Tonnage: 70,327 (originally 69,053)
• Length: 963 feet (293.52m)
• Breadth: 105 feet (32.07m)
• Draft: 32 feet
• 9 MAN B&W Diesel Engines — 10,625kW at 400rpm
• 2 propellers — 22-foot diameter, 42 tonnes
• 2 bow thrusters — 1,000hp, variable pitch
• 4 Brown Brothers stabilisers — 12 feet in length, 70 sq ft area each
• Rudder — 75 tonnes
• Passengers: 1,900