QE2 Anew!

Finally, could this be the real deal that seals the fate of the QE2?

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2013 Passenger Ships Desk Calendar by Peter Knego

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2008.

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Final outbound for QE2 in Los Angeles, 2008.

These past few years have been a bumpy ride for fans of the once-Mod, chic 1968-built QE2, successor to Cunard’s QUEEN MARY and QUEEN ELIZABETH on the Atlantic run.

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Embarking QE2.
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QE2 Lobby.

First, the ship’s active life was cut short by several years when Cunard’s parent company, Carnival Corp. received an irresistible $100 million offer from Dubai’s Isthimar to convert the ship into a ghoulish mockery of her former self at Palm Jumierah in Dubai. The liner, which was anticipated to sail at least through 2014, quickly wrapped up her forty year career at premium rates many of her longtime fans could not pony out in November 2008, then settled in at a berth at Dubai awaiting a refurbishment that was never to come. The economy subsequently crashed, sparing the ship from being cut in half, extended by 100 feet, having all of her public spaces and accommodation gutted and rebuilt into “stylish” new venues and worst of all, being crowned with a glass funnel penthouse suite complex, all for the sake of capitalizing on her celebrated name.

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Reflections of a liner.

Instead, QE2 lingered. A crew reportedly kept her in prime cosmetic condition at considerable cost to her disgruntled owners. She was “spotted” by world cruise travelers berthing within sight of the ship and the subject of a constant swirl of rumors. Many presumed that she would sit for a few years, wither away and quietly sail off to Alang to be broken up like the BLUE LADY (ex FRANCE, NORWAY).

There were reports she would become a casino at Macau and, more recently a well-conceived plan was hatched to bring the ship to London for preservation. Funding on that was not quick enough to appease the ship’s owners and in recent weeks, reports illogically implied that she had been purchased by Asian interests to be drydocked and then proceed to a Chinese scrapyard. And, then, most recently, there were completely unconfirmed rumors that she would be heading to Alang, although no one we reached at Alang had any notion such a transaction was in the works.

It would appear that QE2’s current owners, QE2 Dubai, have finally unleashed some potentially encouraging plans for the old girl. The ship will proceed today to Drydocks World Dubai to be inspected and prepared for classification to undertake a voyage to the Far East to become a floating hotel.

Their press release states: “QE2 Dubai has created a large consortium to convert the QE2 into a five-star hotel with 500 rooms managed by a prestigious international hotel as an operator. The Oceanic Group, a group of deeply-experienced advisers to cruise operators and managers in Asia, will take the lead in managing this project while Drydocks World Dubai will carry out extensive technical and operational checks prior to her move into Asia.

The vision for the QE2 is for her to become a landmark cultural and tourist attraction-a beacon of luxury, glamor, quality and tradition in the heart of a leading Asian city that shares her rich maritime heritage and is prepared to give this very special ship the prominent waterfront home she so richly deserves. The consortium will lavish many millions of dollars on this magnificent ship to restore her to the splendor of her glory days as an icon of the very best the world has to offer. Plans for the upgrading of the QE2 also include a shopping mall with the finest world leading brands, a QE2 Café offering meals similar to those served during cruises, three Michelin-starred restaurants, convention and meeting facilities. There will also be an on board maritime museum displaying QE2 memorabilia and her rich history, along with a collection of treasures of Dubai.”

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Tea time in the Queen’s Lounge.
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Totally random QE2 carpet shot.
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Bronze relief from the QUEEN ELIZABETH, last sighted aboard QE2.
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QE2 Lido.

So, now, QE2 fans can debate not so much her preservation from the scrappers, but what will become of her remaining originality and the Heritage Trail filled with priceless Cunard artifacts that should never have left Cunard’s ownership. Will these new changes alter what we have all come to love about QE2 or could they somehow preserve the best of her while converting spaces and accommodation that would not be sorely missed. And then there is this statement from Khamis Juma Buamin, Chairman of Drydocks World and Martime World:

“A number of Asian cities have expressed interest in securing this historic attraction. We have firmed up with an international tourist city in the Far East as her first destination.  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. The renovations and upgrades planned will respect and safeguard the immense heritage embodied in her fine lines and luxurious fittings.”

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QE2 departs Los Angeles for the final time in 2008.

All indications are that her destiny will be Hong Kong, a city in need of hotel berths and the ironic final setting for QE2’s namesake, the QUEEN ELIZABETH of 1940, which burned and capsized while undergoing conversion to the SEAWISE UNIVERSITY in 1972.

Mr Daniel Chui, Managing Director, Oceanic Group, adds:

“The QE2 is starting the next exciting journey of her long and illustrious career. We feel truly privileged to be part of the consortium that will take responsibility of this incredibly important piece of maritime history. We are honored that we have been chosen to manage this project to restore a truly historical icon to the days of her former glory. We promise to give the world a truly spectacular attraction.”

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Stern view of QE2 departing Los Angeles on her final visit in 2008.

For further information about the future of the QE2, please visit www.qe2hotels.com.

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego
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