Dubai’s QE2 to become floating hotel in Far East

Singapore's Oceanic Group will manage renovation and promotion of iconic ship
QE2 ocean liner.
By Shane McGinley
Thu 17 Jan 2013 03:34 PM

The Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2), the iconic cruise liner bought by Dubai for US$100m in 2007, is to be relaunched as a 500-room floating hotel in an unnamed Far East city, new owners Drydocks World (DDW) said on Thursday.

DDW, which has taken over management of the 45-year old vessel from Dubai World's investment arm Istithmar, said it will undertake classification checks prior to the ship’s renovation as a five-star hotel.

The project will be managed by Singapore-based Oceanic Group, with the ship relocated from Dubai’s Port Rashid to an Asian city with "a rich maritime heritage" and "prominent waterfront".

The renovation plans will include a shopping mall, a QE2 Café offering meals similar to those served during cruises, three Michelin-starred restaurants, convention and meeting facilities and an onboard maritime museum displaying QE2 and Dubai memorabilia.

An operator will soon be appointed to manage the hospitality elements. In July 2012 Bloomberg reported Istithmar was in talks with three hoteliers, including Dubai’s Jumeirah Group, operators of the iconic Burj al Arab hotel.

“We are greatly privileged to be part of this move to create history with this project, which is perhaps one of the most defining moments in maritime travel,” said Khamis Juma Buamim, chairman of DDW.

"We promise to give the world a truly spectacular attraction,” added Daniel Chui, managing director of Oceanic Group.

It was revealed earlier this month Dubai had canceled plans to host over 160 events aboard the ocean liner as the emirate debated how best to utilise the asset.

After many failed attempts, the QE2’s relaunch began in late 2011 when the ship hosted a New Year’s Eve party with over a 1,000 guests, fireworks and music.

“Dubai was going to relaunch the QE2 and we did a marketing campaign that went out to the world… I reached out to everyone I knew,” said James Magee, co-founder of Dubai-based Global Event Management who organised the 2011 party and was asked to launch the ship as a global venue for events.

“It was a huge success. We had everything from weddings to billionaires in India and Russia, through to gala dinners and product launches and after parties,” Magee added, before reporting that the plans began to change towards the end of 2012.

Magee said the ship became involved in what he described as “the most ludicrous battle” between various Dubai entities over how best to take advantage of the ship and finance the US$1m monthly repair and maintenance bills needed to make it operational.

“The business plan we had more than paid for the maintenance and upkeep of the ship and it was probably going to contribute probably somewhere in the region of about US$20m a year plus,” Magee said.

It had been rumoured the ship was to be sold to a Chinese scrap yard, but this was rejected by a Dubai World source.

The new Far East plan also puts an end to hopes the ship was to be returned to the UK as part of a Thames-based hospitality attraction.

A spokesperson for the UK investors claimed they were still in talks to secure a deal with Dubai World and up until this week were hopeful of dealing a deal to return the ship to its original home.

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