Joined by a flotilla of yachts, QE2 sailed into Dubai today to disembark a full load of some 1,700 cruise passengers for the last time.
Here now in the United Arab Emirates, the classic ocean liner will move into phase two of its 40-plus-year life (or phase three if you count a stint as a troop transport vessel during the Falklands War). QE2 will be transformed into a floating luxury hotel and entertainment complex situated on the right trunk of the manmade Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, an enormous multi-branched island shaped like a tree.
The official handover from Cunard to the new owners, Dubai World, will take place tomorrow. Then the process, dreaded by so many QE2 aficionados, will begin: officially determining the new design of the iconic now-former ocean liner. Nakheel, the subsidiary of Dubai World that's running the transformation project, will have the responsibility of examining each part of the ship, and placing a checkmark next to either "restoration" or "removal." It is widely held that they will spend more on the restoration than they did on purchasing the ship (£50 million).
Various rumors have surfaced -- many involving large amounts of glass. QE2's iconic funnel will be replaced with a glass "funnel" housing enormous penthouse suites; a glass dome housing a garden will be placed on the bow.
Better corroborated efforts, from the Times Online, Emirates Business 24-7, the Telegraph and Nakheel itself, indicate that the Southampton painted on QE2's hull will be scrawled out, the new homeland of Dubai painted in its place. Many of the cabins are to be ripped out and replaced with much larger rooms, suitable for a luxury hotel in a city often considered one of the world's most extravagant. The new version will also feature a 5,000 square meter spa complex (or 54,000 square ft., nearly twice the size of that found on any cruise ship) and a 500-seat Broadway-style theater.
And of course, as gambling is illegal in Dubai, QE2 will be stripped of its casino.
So what about that funnel, the potential removal of which has drawn such pointed criticism (there's even petition to save the funnel circulating on the social networking Web site Facebook)?
Manfred Ursprunger, CEO of Nakheel, was quoted in Emirates Business 24/7 as saying, "All original parts of the ship will be restored, and the funnel is not part of the original ship." That first funnel was replaced in 1987 during a massive overhaul that required a larger funnel capable of functioning with the new engine that was added to the ship.
As for restoration, Ursprunger told Emirates Business that QE2 "will be run like an ocean liner with a ship host and hostess, a ballroom and even ballroom dancing classes ... We are creating a very authentic experience. The Queen's Room, Queen's Grill, Prince's Room, Captain's Cabin, Ward Room and Bridge will be restored to their original designs. It will take people back to the grand old days of ocean liners." Likewise, QE2's overall color scheme will remain unchanged.
Not all believe the new QE2 will provide an "authentic" experience. And no matter what the final plans reveal -- and it bears mentioning that engineers will first conduct a detailed inspection taking up to three months to determine what's feasible -- it would be an understatement to suggest that everyone is pleased with the potential fate of the ship.
Member The Real PM posts on the Cunard Forum: "She will no longer be a ship! That is very, very sad. She will be nothing more than a carnival side show -- just amusing the rich and famous long enough for them to get bored -- then she'll be cut up by razor blades!"
RAL72 goes on: "It's not going to be possible to stroll through QE2 and imagine her as she was in her heyday. She's going to be something different."
Sea-sea concurs, saying "Each story that is leaked just really makes me wish she was beached [refers to a ship ending up at a ship scrapping graveyard, the most famous being in Alang, India]. There is no preservation of her heritage. It is a real desecration, equal to if we were to ship the statue of liberty off to Dubai and letting them paint her gold with a water spout coming out of her torch and mini-suite with a pool on her crown."
But others, such as member AbOvo, have a different opinion: "On the 16 October last-time-from-New York crossing I listened to what said several officers on the ship. Their feelings completely turned me around in mind. Her new life will be just different, and NOT horrible, for QE2. As Nancy Brookes said in the [New York Times], it beats being cut up into razor blades ... NOW I hope to visit QE2 in future. QE2 may be different by a bit; she may not have the same soul, but she will be there, for all to see. Evermore. This 'ripped up' angle being posited doesn't work for me, and is just not so."
Still others are sad but accepting. YorksLady summed up that sentiment: "Each and every one of us have our own memories of Queen Elizabeth 2. Whatever is going to happen to her in Dubai will not please us who love her. My memories go way back to 1971, her glory days. I have said this before, and I will say again, Dubai will indeed rip her apart, that has become quite obvious. We have to let go. Difficult I know, but one cannot change anything."
Stay tuned as we'll be covering the official plans when they're revealed.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor
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