Dubai is to relaunch the iconic QE2 cruise liner as a 300-room luxury floating hotel, as part of plans to transform its current home at Port Rashid into the emirate’s newest tourist attraction.
The 293-metre long vessel was bought from Cunard in June 2007 for around US$100 million by Istithmar, an investment company owned by the government of Dubai.
Originally set to be refurbished as the central attraction in a maritime-themed development on Palm Jumeirah, this plan was dropped as a result of the downturn in Dubai’s property market. The cruise terminal at Dubai’s Port Rashid is now to become the permanent home of the liner, which will be converted into a 300-room luxury hotel, with the terminal developed to include a maritime museum. The refurbishment work is expected to take 18 months to complete.
Matthew Green, Head of Research & Consultancy UAE, CBRE Middle East, said: “Dubai continues to diversify its tourism offer and the spectacle that is the QE2 will be another important draw for visitors to the emirate. To be positioned in the new cruise liner terminal at Port Rashid, the new luxury floating property will aptly sit alongside the proposed maritime museum.
“With tourism numbers already estimated to be up around 10% again this year, it is likely that further hospitality projects will be launched as parties look to exploit the favourable conditions, with demand for now seemingly unabated.”
“The vessel is truly iconic and has a huge following around the world,” said HE Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of Istithmar 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.”
“Together with the planned Maritime Museum, the QE2 reinforces Port Rashid and Dubai’s status as a leading cruise and maritime tourism destination,” added Mohammed Al Muallem, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of DP World for the UAE Region. “We are excited about the potential for Port Rashid to further develop as a tourist destination in its own right.”
The 44-year-old QE2 was retired in 2008, making her last commercial voyage from Southampton to Dubai, and has remained moored at Port Rashid since October 2011. The vessel was resurrected as a hospitality venue last year when she played host to a red carpet New Year’s Eve party with celebrities, fireworks and entertainment.
Dubai’s Port Rashid has seen a rapid rise in business from the cruise industry and hosted 108 ships with 396,554 passengers in 2011. In the first six months of 2012, 71 vessels with 275,000 tourists moored in Dubai, with this set to rise to 145 cruise ships and 500,000 passengers by 2015, according to Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing.