QE2 crew in dark over liner's final voyage

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The Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2), the iconic cruise liner currently moored in Dubai’s Port Rashid, will leave the Gulf emirate in about two months, although the ship's crew say they themselves do not even know where the prestigious vessel is headed.

The 46-year old cruise liner, which was bought by Dubai in 2007 for a reported US$100m, is set to be relaunched as a 500-room floating hotel in an unnamed Far East city, owner Drydocks World (DDW) said last month.

A senior ship source told Arabian Business that a week-and-a-half’s worth of engine repair work has been completed on the QE2, but the 30-man crew are still in the dark as to where in the Far East the ship will be sailing.

The maintenance work to prepare the ship for its voyage to the Far East includes a major overhaul of the engines and cleaning of the ballast system.

DDW, which has taken over management of the vessel from Dubai World's investment arm Istithmar, said the ship would be relocated to an Asian city with "a rich maritime heritage" and "prominent waterfront", prompting a wave of speculation that the QE2 was headed to Singapore, Hong Kong, or possibly Shanghai.

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, operator of the iconic Burj al Arab hotel.

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, which 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.

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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