The Queen Elizabeth 2, docked in Dubai, opens to the public for a glamorous New Year's celebration from Saturday evening to the early hours of Sunday morning. Image Credit: Asghar Khan/Gulf News

Dubai: In a city filled with extravagant year-enders, Dubai witnessed a first on the last day of 2011.

As the world ushered in 2012, the doors of the Queen Elizabeth 2, one of the most elegant vessels ever built, opened for the celebration that started on New Year’s Eve.

A royal welcome such as this garnered the interests of the city’s social pack, paving the way for their decision to ditch the other invites and, instead, attend this momentous event of the year.

Did they ring in the New Year in a luxurious and stylish way? Was it really one of the most exclusive events in the metro? tabloid! was there to experience the happenings.

Exceptional venue

Queen Elizabeth 2, often referred to simply as the QE2, was launched in 1969, and ran the transatlantic service from her home port of Southampton, UK, to New York, USA, breaking many records. Countless members of royal families, aristocracy, politicians, stars, musicians and celebrities from around the globe have featured on her passenger list.

Following her retirement from service in 2008, she made a final journey to her new home in Dubai. Now settled at the heart of Port Rashid Cruise Terminal, QE2 made a perfect location for ushering in the New Year in luxury and style.

The party was the first time she opened to the public for such an event, and allowed them to experience her retained regal splendour, while providing a venue for world-class events and celebrations with a “wow” factor.

Although she was whisked quite far from the main gates of the port — without disappointing the anticipating patrons — this old beauty turned into a posh modern party venue with the chic minimalist decor of the welcome lounge and decks in a black-and-white palette, providing an elegant ambiance, despite the industrial feel of the surrounding.

Leili Gerami, QE2 spokesperson said guests would experience an extraordinary slice of maritime history with this event. “New Year’s Eve on the QE2 will be the most exciting and unique ending to 2011 and welcome to 2012 in the world,” she said.

Initial reception

The invite-only (with the exception of limited tickets that went on general public sale, of which a percentage of proceeds went to a local charity) black-tie event officially began with the walk-through of royalties, international stars, sports personalities and other dignitaries as well as socialites and select media for the welcome reception. Ushers clad in cute sailor outfits took the guests into the dimly-lit lounge for an opportunity to mix and mingle.

Whilst being served with canapes, cocktails and bubbly, the guests were entertained by the renowned Drury Lane swing show from London’s West End and jazz performers at the welcome lounge before boarding the vessel, which is now a floating hotel.

After almost two hours at the welcome reception, the guests were treated to a spectacular light, laser and projection show. The guests then stepped aboard after a walk on the red carpet.

Dressed to the nines, the women were in elegant evening gowns and sky-high heels — which despite the chilly weather proved that being en vogue was much better cause than comfort — while men were gorgeously clad in tailored suits and tux.

Among a wealth of names from the world of sport, music, film and television, as well as a number of royals, dignitaries, and VIPs were former England cricketer Allan Lamb, English model, socialite and aristocrat Lady Victoria Hervey who was riveting in a purple gown, one of the voices of the British group Steps Lisa Scott Lee, Girls Aloud member Nadine Coyle, and member of Hear’Say, a British pop group, Johnny Schentall.

Celebs stay away

Some of the confirmed guests that were expected to jet into Dubai for this soiree were missing, including Lindsay Lohan, who was said to be headlining the personalities to party on the QE2.

Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson, footballer Cristiano Rinaldo and film star Shah Rukh Khan were also absent. Tennis champs Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who were in Abu Dhabi for a match, also failed to appear.

In spite of a rather toned-down mood on the red carpet, a number of cheerful patrons gamely posed for the paparazby the photo wall.

The soiree continued onboard with dazzling performances by Lovely Laura, The Bootleg Beatles, Gypsies and DJ Ben Santiago. The jazz music provided an enchanting background to the panoramic sight of Dubai from the uppermost decks, while the sound of Beatles hyped up the British roots of this iconic vessel.

Guests filled three outdoor decks of the ship where they were served a sumptuous buffet catered by the Dubai World Trade Centre. With the delay in boarding, guests were a bit famished when dinner was served.

The buffet consisted of a huge selection of international dishes, which was quite cold disappointingly because of the weather. Unlimited redrinks and cocktails made up for the unfortunate condition of the food.

After dinner, it was not long before the countdown to 2012 began. Everyone began counting one to ten and as the clock’s hands touched 12, the ship’s thunderous signature sound was heard. Guests hugged and greeted each other, while the traditional Auld Lang Syne played in the background.

This was followed by about five minutes of fireworks and laser display. The spectacular fireworks by the Burj Khalifa also added to the wonderful experience.

The party closed at 3am, with guests happy at the unforgettable way in which they had welcomed the New Year.