Although the ‘official’ opening is not until this coming October, an April 18th ‘soft opening’ of the former Cunard liner as a hotel is in the offing.
For now, only five of the liner’s thirteen dining and drinks venues will be open, and refurbished cabins- described by the owners as ‘small, but beautifully designed’ will be on offer at an initial rate of £133 per night, inclusive of breakfast.
Residents and visitors alike will be able to dine and drink in both the lustrous Queen’s Grill and the famous Golden Lion pub.
Long neglected since her decade long abdication to Dubai, the QE2 is now owned by PCFC Hotels, a company under the direct control of the Dubai government.
After so many false starts, busted schemes and often downright evasiveness from official quarters, it is heartening to see the cherished ocean liner finally getting a new start. And, while many will bemoan her presence in Dubai as opposed to, say, New York or Southampton, the fact is that we are where we are, both figuratively and literally.
It is damned nigh impossible to embellish the credentials of a ship for whom the word ‘legendary’ seems barely adequate. The QE2 crossed the Atlantic more than eight hundred times during her career. She completed a staggering twenty five full world cruises. The ship suffered groundings, fires, and more than one botched refit, and all while becoming a war heroine almost as an afterthought. She became an international superstar; a true prima donna that caused heads to turn and jaws to drop wherever she happened to sail. More than anything, she was true style in an age of relentless, encroaching hype.
Naturally, those of us who know and love her would still prefer to have her in her natural element; the sea. But that is not an option and, truth be told, we should be grateful that she is still with us at all.
There will be naysayers, purists, and sometimes outright snobs who will pour disdain on this entire project. Fair enough; everyone has ‘their’ own truth on what is appropriate and right for this very much larger than life ship. She affected a great many of us very deeply, and such feelings are no less real, valid or heartfelt than mine. I respect them, while respectfully disagreeing with them.
Because QE2 in Dubai is better than QE2 on the beach at Alang, waiting for the breaker’s torches. Doubt it? Remember those heartbreaking photos of poor, proud Norway being butchered on that beach. Look at the dingy, echoing, still dignified carcass of the SS. United States as she sits rusting away in her Philadelphia cocoon.
We can also be grateful that the original, crackpot schemes envisaged by Nakheel never came to pass. The glass funnel that would contain a penthouse; the plan to lengthen the ship by cutting her in half and inserting a midsection. Though frozen in place, QE2 and her marvellous, mesmerising contours remain the ultimate, elegant expression of classic ocean liner architecture.
Surely, all of us can be at least thankful for that. And yes, I will be visiting her, too.