DUBAI // The QE2 is to leave Dubai in October and, after a gala send-off, will sail to China where she will be converted into a luxury floating hotel.
The retired liner was first docked in Dubai in 2008 when a division of Dubai World bought her from the Cunard Line for US$100 million. Plans to use her as a luxury hotel docked at the Palm Jumeirah fell by the wayside after the economic crash.
Proposals to convert her into a luxury floating hotel berthed at an Asian city were announced in January. Khamis Juma Buamim, chairman of QE2 Shipping, a new Dubai-based company that has taken over ownership of the vessel, today revealed further details of the project, which has been named The QE2 – New Life.
“A great piece of maritime history will once again be able to actually steam out and become an iconic global ambassador for the UAE,” he said.
“We will deliver an iconic project for the world to romance and talk about for years to come.
“The QE2 – New Life is a very complicated and challenging project. But as proud owners of this magnificent vessel, we have taken good care to ensure that the vessel has been well looked after with ongoing repairs and transformation.”
The liner is being prepared for the voyage at Drydocks World and a captain and crew of 32 have been recruited. Seven of the nine engines are being overhauled and Mr Buamim said these would provide more than enough power for the trip to China.
Wide-ranging checks and repairs are being carried out to ensure the ship is seaworthy.
A gala party will see the QE2 on her way on October 18, and she will stop at Singapore and Hong Kong before docking at Shanghai on November 15. From there she will sail to a Chinese shipyard for refurbishment.
Several yards have expressed interest in carrying out the work and the successful bidder will be announced next month.
The conversion of the vessel into a 400-suite hotel will cost US$90 million (Dh330m) and is to be completed by the end of 2014.
Suite sizes will range from 60 square metres to 150 square metres, with some of the larger ones intended for long-stay residents. International design houses have been invited to submit plans for the interiors.
Their proposals will be showcased online and the QE2’s fans around the world will be invited to give their views. Some of the people to provide feedback will be invited to the sail-out party in Dubai.
Mr Buamim said several cities in Asia were interested in hosting the vessel and the hotel would be managed by an international chain.
The QE2, which sailed the world for almost 40 years, contains a treasure trove of memorabilia from her many voyages.
This material will be removed from the vessel and shipped to Singapore, where it will be stored in a secure warehouse. It will be returned to the vessel and displayed once the refurbishment is completed.
Legal obstacles have had to be overcome, as the 2007 sale agreement had a clause that said the vessel could not be sold on within 10 years without the payment of a US$100 million penalty, but QE2 Shipping and Cunard were able to reach agreement on the change of ownership.
The transfer was also approved by the authorities in Vanuatu, the Pacific island nation where the QE2 is registered.
“Over the last few months we have put a lot of effort and work into this project in planning and negotiation and our overall plans for the QE2 are well on track,” said Mr Buamim. “A lot of work has been done in preparing the vessel for the next stage.”