It's a dangerous game brandishing the power of "celebrity appearances" to help promote your party, as the organisers of the New Year's Eve bash on the QE2, Global Events Management, can no doubt confirm. For all the racket about Lindsay Lohan and Pamela Anderson, both supposedly "confirmed" for the exclusive black-tie event aboard the famous ocean liner that has been docked in Dubai's Port Rashid for the past three years, star spotters were instead left with a few, let's just say less-established names from the international famous list.
Among the confirmed sightings on Saturday night were singer Nadine Coyle (of Girls Aloud and, of late, a less-than-enthusiastic solo career), actor Liam Cunningham (recently seen in 3D swords-and-sandals fest Clash of the Titans), Vanessa Feltz (broadcaster and, according to a 2003 list, "93rd Worst Briton") and, er, Lady Victoria Hervey, a name that might whirr up the memory banks of only those who were partial to British reality shows in the mid-noughties. Rumours of Shah Rukh Khan's waltz down the increasingly unnecessary red carpet came to nothing and British cricketer Allan Lamb could well have been there, but he's hardly a face most are likely instantly to recognise.
As for Anderson and Lohan, well, Pam was also supposed to be attending an event in Vegas (hardly a taxi ride away), while LiLo's representatives issued a "cease and desist" letter to the party planners on December 29 requesting they stop using her name. In the letter, Lohan's attorney, Stephanie Ovadia, states that the actress "will suffer harm and damage" if the company continues to use her name without permission, and that she's not afraid to sue. Oh dear.
But celebrities don't maketh the party, and New Year's Eve still went ahead uninterrupted on-board the RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 without the presence of Baywatch's finest or the Betty Ford Clinic regular. And it's probably best that they weren't there because for a while it seemed like the shindig was vying to be the most British event in Dubai history. Aside from the obvious, the cruise liner itself (which interestingly, isn't named after the British monarch, but her mum, with the "2" signifying it as the second vessel with the name) and the Brit-tilted celeb count, a sound-and-light show screened on the side of the vessel before embarkation provided a medley of England's musical history, featuring The Beatles, Queen, Spandau Ballet, Coldplay and The Verve. The accompanying video highlighted the QE2's illustrious 43-year career carting some 2.5 million holidaymakers some six million miles (not all at the same time), but gleaned over the three years the liner has spent docked in Port Rashid.
Once finally on deck (the first two hours were spent chomping on canapés on the dock), the Britishness continued, with a performance from the genuinely awesome Bootleg Beatles, a covers band that have been doing Fab Four impressions for longer than the real deal ever managed. But Union Jacks came crashing to the ground afterwards with the distinctly unBritish yodelling of Bamboleo. Now, the line-up of cheery guitar strummers on stage were billed as The Gypsies, leaving most to assume they were a tribute act for the original Kings. But with the top-deck dance floor abuzz, it mattered not, despite organisers having brandished the actual "Gypsy Kings" as a confirmed act on the night. Still, it was The Gypsies who welcomed in 2012, with an impressive firework display off the starboard (or was it port?) side topped only by the epic show going on over at the Burj Khalifa in the distance.
Unfortunately, the party was almost solely confined to the outdoors, with security guards strategically placed by lift doors on each floor inside to prevent curious revellers from having a nose around. Even the original bathroom areas were off limits, with guests having to use Portaloos placed on deck. But with spirits high and New Year cheekiness turned up a notch, some did manage to have a quick explore around this once proud vessel while backs were turned, revealing a cruise ship that seems bizarrely - and quite unsettlingly - untouched since its days on the ocean, with seats scattered around various halls and function rooms left as though only recently vacated. Should any millionaire fancy hosting a rather unique murder mystery night, this would be a spectacular setting.
While the QE2's first major event since landing in Dubai wasn't the ultra-exclusive, star-strewn affair as touted, it was still a marvellous knees-up nonetheless - and could be the first of many. As the night proved, although its sea legs may have gone, the legendary boat itself is a far bigger celebrity than any of the names that may or may not have been on-board.
* Alex Ritman