Dubai: The Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) cruise ship is preparing to host a series of extravagant parties in the coming months after being inundated with requests from international celebrities, a spokesperson for the ship told Gulf News.
The QE2, which has sat idle at Dubai's Port Rashid since arriving amid much fanfare in November 2008, threw open its doors for a glitzy event on New Year's Eve.
Istithmar World, the current owners of the QE2, originally planned to turn the vessel into a floating hotel, but those plans were soon postponed amid a difficult economic climate worldwide.
In the short term the world's most famous cruise ship is set to become a unique events destination, with requests flooding in from across the world from people looking to book birthday parties, weddings and corporate functions.
"We have received so many enquiries from across the globe since the New Year's Eve party, with people asking if they could use the QE2 as a venue for their event," Leili Gerami, spokesperson for the QE2, said.
"She will continue to do what she has been doing best, and that is functioning as a glamorous hostess to the great and the good. The QE2 has hosted a host of famous names, including politicians, celebrities, musicians, writers and royal family members from 1969 until 2008.
"We have received a request from a major British-based celebrity for his upcoming birthday. We have also had a lot of wedding requests as well as interest from people looking to hold political functions, corporate events and private parties," she added.
Gerami also says the QE2 will never sail again, adding that the ship's journey from Southampton to Dubai in 2008 will remain her final voyage.
Structure to stay
There are also no plans to alter or remove any aspects of the ship's current structure, including the iconic red funnel.
"The QE2 will not sail again; it will remain floating on the water. The ship will stay exactly as it was over the last 40 years. It is in great condition and it can be used for functions as it is today," Gerami said.
"Nothing is changing; the funnel will not be removed, nothing will be removed. Basically, the QE2 is going to offer visitors and tourists an opportunity to step back into history and see the QE2 as it was over the last 40 years.
Levels of exclusivity
"It will have the same levels of exclusivity, prestige and glamour. It is a very unique destination in its own right along with being one of the most important ships in maritime history; people still resonate with and hold strong feelings for the ship," she added.
The QE2's future has been the subject of intense speculation since its arrival in Dubai. At various points over the last few years, it has been rumoured the QE2 would be turned into an offshore casino, chartered as a floating hotel, or sold to another location.
Plans to sail the QE2 to Cape Town for the 2010 Fifa World Cup were scrapped after local auth-orities in South Africa said they could not accommodate the ship for the required length of time at the city's port.
"We are considering a lot of different plans, which are very exciting and surprising. They are also very much on par with the heritage of the QE2 and what she deserves to be. The plans are a great success for this ship. Times have been changing a lot around the world, including Dubai," she added.
Tardy progress not linked to financial issues
Financial difficulties are not the reason behind a lack of progress on the QE2's future, a spokesperson for the ship told Gulf News.
Istithmar World, the investment arm of government-owned conglomerate Dubai World, bought the QE2 from its original owner — the British-American owned shipping company Cunard Line — for $100 million (Dh367.3 million) in June 2007. However, in November 2009, Dubai World announced it was unable to pay $24.9 billion worth of debt and underwent a massive restructuring process, which was finalised last year.
Despite Dubai World's financial problems, a QE2 spokesperson said they had not affected future plans for the QE2. "It is not true, and it is not relevant, to say that financial problems [at Dubai World] have been the cause of the prolongment. It is definitely not financial related," Leili Gerami, spokesperson for the QE2, said.
"It is not that things have not come to fruition for three years; it is just that [plans] have been prolonged due to circumstances, all kinds of circumstances, that have been present during that period," she added.
Gerami says it "is pure coincidence" that a New Year's Eve party on board the ship only came after a final agreement was reached on Dubai World's debt restructuring.
"It rises from the fact that we have received so many requests from people wanting to tour the ship or hold a function on board," she said.
"There have been a variety of reasons [for the delays] but they have not stopped the plans for the ship; they have simply been prolonged and the wait we have incurred over the last three years has enabled us to finetune our plans for its final turnover. The details are very confidential, but we now have confirmed plans that will be released soon," she added.
Gerami also admitted Istithmar had shouldered a considerable cost burden maintaining the vessel over the last few years. "The ship has been maintained to its full capacity for the last three years. In order to do that, there is a cost involved but there has been no problem taking care of that."