Nakheel, the new owner of the QE2, may open the ship to visitors later this year before work starts on transforming the 40-year-old vessel into a 200-room luxury floating hotel. The cruise liner, named after Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, arrived in Dubai in November and has since been docked at Port Rashid while Nakheel performs a detailed survey. "In the light of huge popular interest and in response to a number of requests, Nakheel is also investigating the possibility of opening QE2 to visitors in her current condition for a short period of time before her refurbishment begins," said the construction company. A final decision will be made in about a month, it said.
Nakheel, a subsidiary of government-owned Dubai World, has been hard hit by the economic crisis. It has delayed work on several major property projects including the Waterfront,; Trump International Tower and Hotel on Palm Jumeirah; Palm Jebel Ali; and The Universe, a proposed series of reclaimed islands. In December Nakheel laid off 500 staff, or 15 per cent of its workforce. Refurbishment of the QE2, expected to last two to three years, is due to start at the end of the summer and cost about Dh400m (US$108.9)
In 2007 Istithmar, the investment arm of the Dubai World, bought the ship from Britain's Cunard Line for $100 million. Over the past 40 years, the cruise liner had carried 2.5 million guests across the Atlantic. Nakheel hope to more than double that number over the next 40 years. The floating hotel, which has yet to be named, will be based in The Palm Jumeirah and is expected to cruise around The World, a series of man-made islands off Dubai's coast reclaimed by Nakheel.