Dubai: Dubai investment firm Istithmar has bought the legendary Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) cruise ship, the world's fastest merchant vessel, from Britain's Cunard Line for $100 million and will turn it into a floating luxury hotel at the Palm Jumeirah.
The 38-year-old QE2 will cease being an ocean-going passenger vessel when it is delivered to Dubai in November 2008.
"From 2009, the vessel will be berthed at a specially-constructed pier at the Palm Jumeirah to create a luxury floating hotel, retail and entertainment destination," Istithmar said yesterday.
Cunard, part of US-based Carnival Corporation, said the deal has secured the vessel's future "for others to see."
"Dubai World has come to us with a proposal that is very attractive. QE2 is an older vessel and we have to remember at some point she will have to leave the fleet," Carol Marlow, managing director of Cunard, told Gulf News.
The 70,327-tonne ship is 963 feet long and has a top speed of 32.5 knots, making it the fastest cruise ship.
"She can go backwards faster than most ships can go forward," Marlow said.
It is the second time in less than two years that a Dubai-based company has acquired an iconic British maritime asset. In March last year, Istithmar's sister company DP World, part of Dubai World, bought 163-year-old P&O for $6.8 billion. Istithmar is also the owner of London-based firm Inchcape Shipping Services, for which it paid $285 million in January 2006.
"Dubai is a maritime nation and we understand the rich heritage of the QE2," Dubai World chairman Sultan Ahmad Bin Sulayem. He said the ship will become "one of the must-see experiences of Dubai."
Nakheel spokesman Charlie Taylor said the Palm Jumeirah hopes to receive an estimated 20,000 visitors per day and the ship hotel will be a special addition to the 32 hotels planned hotels on the Palm.
According to information on the Cunard website, it was built at a cost of Â£29 million (Dh211.8 million). Cunard said since the ship's launch by Queen Elizabeth II in September 1967, it has spent "15 times that amount in refitting."
Istithmar said its refurbishment programme will aim to recreate the ship's original interior decor and fittings.
I am sad to see her retire but what a wonderful new home she will have! Truly the end of an era and I pray Dubai will treasure her for generations!
That is great news for me because I have never been in a ship, so it is indeed a great chance for me to travel through the QE2.
I also cruised on QE2 to Norway last summer and it was obvious she was not going to remain in service after 2009. I love this vessel and I am very glad she will be preserved like her sister QM and not allowed to rot like QE. Leaving her in the UK would be no guarantee of her survival - book me in for 2009!
My wife and I cruised on the QE2 last year and visited Norway. This was our first ever cruise. I feel saddened that she has been sold. She should stay in the UK and be an attraction for those who cannot afford a holiday on board. Very sad day for the UK!