South Africa's Business Day newspaper and several other news outlets are reporting that QE2's current owner, Nakheel, has applied to South Africa's National Port Authority to berth the ship at the V&A Waterfront -- a scenic Cape Town spot that features hotels, shops and entertainment venues -- with the ship in its current, unaltered state. According to a report from The National, an Abu Dhabi-based English language publication, a South Africa tourism ministry spokeswoman confirmed that the application had been filed, and that a decision would be made by July 17.
In response to the swirling rumors, Nakheel -- a government-owned developer -- announced that it is exploring options for the 40-year-old ship, which it purchased from Cunard for £50 million.
A recent company statement said the following: "Nakheel has been investigating opening QE2 to visitors as a stationary hotel before work on her refurbishment begins. In addition to alternative locations in Dubai, other ports in the Middle East and Africa have also expressed an interest in hosting this impressive maritime icon. Nakheel is currently evaluating these alternatives in order to ensure opportunities to experience QE2 in her current condition are maximised whilst ensuring her important heritage is at all times protected."
Nakheel would not respond to further questioning.
In November 2008, the ocean liner arrived in Dubai, where Nakheel was to it into a luxurious floating hotel, adding spaces like a massive spa and a West End-style theater, and replacing the iconic funnel with a funnel-shaped penthouse complex made of glass. But Nakheel has struggled in the current economic climate, cutting 500 jobs in November 2008. A recent AFP piece reported that the company has shed 400 more in the wake of deteriorating economic conditions in Dubai.
Cruise Critic had heard the South Africa rumor before, as far back as March's Cruise Shipping Miami conference. At a press dinner, a major cruise line executive from Carnival Corp. mentioned that the ship might be transferred to South Africa, where it could serve as a floating hotel in time for football's World Cup 2010. Of course, the rumors are still unconfirmed.
--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor
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