The historic ocean liner, the Queen Elizabeth II (QE2) will soon depart Dubai to be converted into a 500-room floating hotel in Asia after five years of uncertainty about its final destination, the chairman of Dubai’s Drydocks World said yesterday.
The ship was yesterday moved to the drydocks to undergo technical and operational checks before leaving for renovation in Asia, said the Drydocks chairman Khamis Buamim, but a precise final destination has yet to be determined. Oceanic Group, an adviser to cruise operators in Asia, is to manage the project, said Drydocks.
“By January 2014 we will have the celebration of the first moored hotel, called the QE2,” Mr Buamim told Dow Jones.
Istithmar World, the private equity unit of the government-owned conglomerate Dubai World, paid US$100 million (Dh367.3m) for the more than 43-year-old ship during Dubai's property boom in 2007. Drydocks, another Dubai World subsidiary, is now handling the ship.
Drydocks said in a statement that a “large consortium” had been created to convert the QE2 into a hotel, and it would “lavish many millions of dollars on this magnificent ship”. The joint venture had “a lot of financial resources”, said Mr Buamim.
Istithmar’s original plan was to dock the ship at a special pier on the trunk of the Palm Jumeirah and make it a hotel, museum and shopping centre as part of a broader development of the area.
However, Asia's gain is definitely Dubai's loss no matter what the financial terms of the deal might be, according to analysts.
"Dubai wanted to have something for people to come and visit with a bit of history attached to it and the QE2 … would have done that," said Mario Volpi, the head of sales and leasing at Cluttons.
“It’s a fantastic-looking ship and you can just imagine seeing that as a tourist as you fly into Dubai, it would have been great. People will definitely visit it. If you think how many people visit the Cutty Sark in Greenwich or HMS Victory in Portsmouth, Dubai could have been part of that.
“This way Istithmar World may well get back some of the money it spent on it but it won’t benefit Dubai,” added Mr Volpi.
The original plans were scrapped as the financial crisis hit in 2008 and property prices fell by more than half in some areas of Dubai.
One of the most recognisable and well-travelled cruise ships in the world, the 294-metre QE2 was built in the late 1960s and had been operated by Cunard before its sale to Istithmar.
* with Dow Jones Newswires