(7:35 a.m. EDT) -- After 40 years spent sailing as a luxury liner and more than three years languishing in Dubai's Port Rashid, Queen Elizabeth 2's future has finally been set.
According to a statement issued this morning by Dubai Ports (DP) World and the ship's current owners, Istithmar World, the 70,327-ton, 1,791-passenger ship will be turned into a 300-room floating hotel, and is scheduled to open in 18 months.
"The vessel will be moored next to the original cruise terminal at Port Rashid ... while the terminal itself will be developed into a maritime museum," said the statement. "DP World has been expanding Port Rashid's capacity to cater for the growing demand for cruise tourism."
QE2 served as part of Cunard's fleet from 1969 until its retirement in 2008, and was sold in 2007 for $100 million to Istithmar World, the investment arm of state-run Dubai World.
Speculation has surrounded the storied ship's fate after plans to turn it into a luxury hotel and plans to dock the ship in South Africa during 2010's FIFA World Cup were both abandoned following a downturn in Dubai's economy that left Dubai World saddled with debt. Expectations for the ship's future were renewed in January, when Global Event Management, an Emirati party-planning firm, threw a New Year's Eve bash onboard. And as recently as March, a Macau-based events firm, Universal Events Management, created an Internet stir in a press release stating that it had received the rights to represent QE2 in other locales, including Macau and Atlantic City.
The statement concerning QE2 specified that Istithmar World Chairman Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem intends to keep the ship in Port Rashid permanently and said the ship's original furnishings will remain intact, including the ship's collection of art and historical objects. A quote from the Sultan made it clear that the company realized visitors want to see the QE2 in its original state.
"The vessel is truly iconic and has a huge following around the world. Our vision is to enhance the facilities on board but retain the very strong sense of history that is a fundamental part of her attraction."
--by Jamey Bergman, U.K. Content Editor