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After $100m facelift, Dubai unveils QE2 in her 1969 glory

Seven floors and 224 restored passenger state rooms of the 13-deck ship opened on Wednesday

Gulf News

Dubai: Forever fancied going on an ocean cruise but don’t relish the idea of getting seasick?

Newly restored cruise liner Queen Elizabeth 2 — Dubai’s permanently moored museum and hotel — may just be your ticket to that next land-lover holiday with a maritime twist.

Unveiled in a soft opening on Wednesday morning, the 293-metre-long leviathan will remain permanently berthed in a golden retirement of sorts at Mina Rashid Port in Dubai as a floating ship, museum and hotel for generations to come.


 


Seven floors and 224 restored passenger state rooms of the 13-deck ship were opened during the QE2 hotel launch hosted by Hamza Mustafa, chief executive officer of new QE2 owner Ports, Customs & Free Zone Corporation (PCFC) Hotels.

Mustafa told a press conference that no effort was spared over the three-year, $100-million retrofit to restore the grandeur and opulence of one of the world’s most famous ocean vessels to prepare for its role as Dubai’s newest hotel.

NAT QE 2_PIC44 The QE2’s Grand Lounge. There will be no entry fee for day visitors to the ship’s eateries and bars.

More than 2.7 million man hours were required to restore every wooden panel, flooring and her steel-and-aluminium hull to retain her original charm, he said.

13decks
across seven floors of 293-metre QE2

“We are very proud of what we have done, the main theme is what she was like in 1969,” said Mustafa referring to May 2 of the same year when the Cunard line ship left Southhampton on her maiden transatlantic voyage which took five days to reach New York harbour.

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“The QE2 will be a major tourist destination in Dubai. We have worked very hard to make sure the QE2 is the same ship as in 1969,” he said.

224
restored passenger state rooms

Images of the maiden voyage and other artefacts from the ship have been attractively housed in the new QE2 Heritage Exhibition in the renovated Mina Rashid Terminal which will greet guests.

For now, there will be no entry fee for day visitors taking in the ship’s 13 food and beverage eateries and bars.

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Mustafa assured the public that the QE2 hotel is in Dubai to stay “and will never sail again” although he said she will remain a ship in harbour that moves 2.1 metres during daily tides.

$15,000
cost of booking one of QE2’s two Royal Suites for a night

Adnan Al Abbar, CEO of the Department of Planning and Development, Trakhees, helped manage the massive renovation project and said, “We faced a lot of challenges, all overcome. To restore a major ship, that was a major challenge.”

Al Abbar noted that the QE2 has been gingerly been brought back to her original state, “all is restored, there is nothing new”.

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With great attention to detail, Mustafa said the QE2 ballroom — once the pride of any ship on the ocean and could host 650 guests — has been completely refitted and is ready for gala affairs.

2.7m
man hours went into restoring the ship

Refitted state rooms will be available for all budgets, he said, ranging from $200 a night to $15,000 for the two Royal Suites belonging to Queen Elizabeth’s mother and grandmother. The suites are to be booked by invitation only, Mustafa said.

He said the renovation also ensured that the QE2’s interior design and appointments remain, items such as the ship’s original period furnishings, memorabilia as well as her famous paintings.

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Remodelled rooms still feature the original ship portholes, he said, while many of the ship’s original restaurants still boast the same names and decor of the ship’s heyday.

Christened by the Queen in 1967, the QE2’s arrival in Dubai in November 2008 marked the end of her final voyage capping a logbook of 40 years that recorded 5.6 million nautical miles, including 25 world cruises, 801 Atlantic crossings and 1,408 individual voyages.

The QE2 was purchased by Dubai World for $100 million (Dh367 million) and the original plan was to convert the 70,000-tonne ship into a floating hotel and residence at a specially built pier at Palm Jumeirah.

Sister ships meet

Two historical timelines crossed briefly on Wednesday morning as two royal Queens of the seas met in Port Rashid.

Dubai witnessed an extremely unique moment in maritime and royal affairs down through the aeons when Queen Mary 2 steamed into port at the precise moment the new owners of Queen Elizabeth 2 cruiseliner were unveiling the newly restored ship as a new museum and hotel venture.

Queen Mary 2 at Port Rashid. Queen Mary 2 at Port Rashid.

The port entry by Queen Mary 2 interrupted a press conference and journalists rushed to the port side of QE2 to watch her sister ship gracefully glide into safe harbour.

Queen Mary 2 is still in operation as a passenger ship and travels the world as did QE2 before she was purchased by Dubai 10 years ago and brought to the emirate to serve in her new hotel role.

Booking is easy

Booking a hotel room with a porthole looking out into the Gulf or on to Dubai’s skyline aboard QE2 is routine, said Hamza Mustafa, Chief Executive Officer of PCFC Hotels.

Mustafa said rooms for the QE2 hotel so far are booked solid for the first two months and can be had by interested tourists by visiting the hotel’s website.

For details, visit www.qe2.com/hotel/guestrooms.

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