DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 26:  The QE2 ship arrives in Dubai from the UK on November 26, 2008.  (Randi Sokoloff / The National) *** Local Caption ***  RS016-1126-QE2crop.jpgna27no-boatspread2.jpg
The QE2 ship arrives in Dubai from the UK on November 26, 2008. Randi Sokoloff / The National

QE2 website launch suggests famous ocean liner will soon reopen as a Dubai hotel

The opening of the Queen Elizabeth 2 as a luxury floating hotel and museum has apparently moved a step closer.

"Coming soon," runs the tagline on a new website – – that went live earlier this month. It ambitiously promises a "new take" on hospitality and a "royal experience" for Dubai.

There’s no official launch date yet or definite mention of a hotel on the website, but work on the famous ocean liner is at an advanced stage at Port Rashid where it has been docked since 2008.

The QE2 celebrated the 50th anniversary of its launch last September and a story by The National then revealed the former Cunard Line flagship had undergone a major facelift.

Signs stating "Queen Elizabeth 2, hotel main entrance" had been erected. An army of workers had cleaned the vessel, while the outdoor swimming pool was decked over so it could be potentially used to host events. The lifeboats were removed and placed around the complex as a type of advertising.

The work has continued since then. Staff are now being recruited, cruise terminal 1 has been turned into a maritime museum featuring old artworks from the ship, while a new gangway to access the vessel has been constructed. It's thought guests will first visit the museum before heading across to the ship.

Rob Lightbody runs The QE2 Story website, which looks to preserve memories of the ship.

"With the decks fully lit at night, the new website appearing last week, and new signage at the ship, it does look like there might finally be an end in sight to our long 10-year wait for QE2 to open," he told The National via email.

“However, we will wait for her to actually open before we believe it.”

It is still unclear how much a night will cost. But an announcement is expected in the next few months. According to the new website, the ship is the responsibility of the Port, Customs and Free Zone Corporation, which is a Government of Dubai entity. Port Rashid is operated by DP World and a transformation of the port complex with a new marina, shops, restaurants and the cruise terminals is under way. It's expected that the QE2 will be the centrepiece of this development.

Dubai is a city renowned for its luxury hotel offerings, so what will the QE2 bring? As an ocean liner, it was the epitome of class – its name conjures up images of a golden era of travel. Built in the shipyards of John Brown in Clydebank, Scotland, it was launched on September 20, 1967, by Queen Elizabeth II. It completed more than 800 Atlantic crossings and had carried 2.5 million passengers when it was sold to Dubai in 2007. The recession scuppered plans at that time to turn her into a hotel on Palm Jumeirah.

Onboard facilities included five restaurants, three swimming pools and a 481-seat cinema. The QE2 is arguably only eclipsed in fame by the Titanic and it attracted celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Buzz Aldrin.

John Podaras, a hospitality expert in Dubai, believes a QE2 hotel can offer a different experience, but there are many challenges.

"It's not enough to anchor a ship and turn it into a hotel. It needs something that is a great deal more compelling," he said.

"The obvious value of the QE2 has to be its real estate value – selling off units that can then either be used as second homes, or put back into a leasing pool acting as a hotel (sale and leaseback),"  said Mr Podaras, who is partner at Hotel Development Resources in Dubai.


Read more: 

Abandoned ships: what happens to the great ocean liners once they've completed their final voyage?

QE2: an icon of the seas looks set for its next journey

In pictures: Take a tour of the QE2


“It cost a lot of money to buy and cost a lot of money to refurbish. Selling off real estate may achieve better returns in the short term, but if you’re saying I’ll write off all my investments to date, then of course your return profile is different and a hotel might make sense. But you’re opening yet another hotel in a saturated market … and competing with Bulgari and the Four Seasons.”

One concept that Mr Podaras points to is "The World", a high-end community cruise shop that sails the high seas. Apartment owners have shares in the company rather than title deeds. Could the QE2 become something similar, sailing to events such as the Rio Carnival and the Olympics?

"This is probably not for the QE2," said Mr Podaras. "The costs to refurbish and upgrade her propulsion systems, let alone the operational costs ... would be prohibitive," he said.

For now, everyone is waiting for a firm announcement from the QE2's operators. DP World or PCFC did not respond in time to requests for comment, but there's no question that a reborn ship is eagerly anticipated.

"It's great to have a (mostly) intact QE2 still with us over 50 years after her launch, and for that we thank Dubai and wish them luck with her," said Mr Lightbody.

“Many of our members are very keen to step aboard once more, and stay a few nights, and many will visit Dubai who otherwise wouldn't.”


July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone


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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

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Sadio Mane 90


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Rating: 3/5

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