It’s been a nerve-wracking few years for admirers of the Queen Elizabeth 2, one of the world’s most storied ocean liners. In 2007, the QE2 was purchased for $100 million by one of Dubai’s state-owned investment companies, which moved it to the Persian Gulf with plans to transform the ship into a floating Jumeirah hotel. Then the financial crisis hit, stalling the project.
As recently as December, reports suggested that the venerable Cunard ship, which had ferried millions across the Atlantic in its proud 40-year history, was bound for the scrap yard.
Now comes a course correction. Last month, a company called QE2 Holdings — a new joint venture between Dubai World and Singapore-based cruise company Oceanic Group — announced plans to go ahead with the floating hotel project but to move the QE2 from the Dubai cargo port where it has been laid up to a city in East Asia, most likely Hong Kong or Singapore.
The company said it would invest $100 million in remaking the QE2 into a 400-room luxury hotel, with seven restaurants, 10 lounges, a cinema and shopping mall. After leaving Dubai in October and being overhauled at a shipyard in China, the floating hotel is scheduled to open as early as winter 2014. Nightly room rates will start around $400.
In a telephone interview from Singapore, Daniel Chui, the chief executive of QE2 Holdings, said that his company was exploring either mooring the ship permanently in an Asian port city or changing locations every few years, which means the QE2 would remain seaworthy and might even take on occasional cruise passengers.
“We might spend three years in Singapore, then three years in Taiwan or Hong Kong,” he said.
Chui said his company was studying the second lives of other historic ocean liners — notably Cunard’s Queen Mary, which is now a hotel and exhibition space moored off Long Beach, Calif. Unlike that project, which appeals to nautical enthusiasts as a kind of novelty hotel, the QE2 will target the “top end of the travel market,” Chui said. The company is soliciting proposals for the renovation from architecture firms. The goal is to preserve the soul of the QE2 — many of the original furnishings and much of the decor will be incorporated — while creating a modern five-star hotel.