Tomorrow will see the official announcement of the name of the yard chosen to convert the iconic QE2 into a floating hotel. These are the words of Daniel Chui, a gentleman described as chief executive of the Oceanic Group, the company that now holds the deeds to the famous former Cunard flagship.
After five years of humiliating lay ups, stop start attempts at conversion and enforced idleness, the QE2 is finally being readied for an October 18th departure from Dubai for the shipyard in question.
Chui has described the conversion of the ship into a 450 room hotel in terms such as ‘historic’. Room sizes will range from sixty to one hundred and fifty square metres, with the emphasis being mainly on British, Classic, Continental and neo- modern designs, whatever that is supposed to mean. Sounds like a pretty uninspired mish mash, to be quite honest.
What is surprising is the news that the 1969 built cruise liner will embark on a ninety day tour of ‘various Asian ports’ next year to showcase her new look. It is not clear whether the company envisages carrying guests in transit or not, but this part of the announcement- a kind of ‘greatest hits’ tour of the region by the long dormant liner- is really fascinating.
Something like $100 million has been set aside for the conversion project; roughly the same amount as it cost to convert the QE2 from steam to diesel electric propulsion during her epic, six month 1986-87 rebuild. Chui says that the cost of undertaking the same work in a European shipyard would probably have been around fifty per cent more expensive.
Some seven different designers were invited to tender for the conversion project, and Oceanic says that all of these proposals will be put online for public viewing, following the official announcement in Shanghai tomorrow.
The QE2 was retired to Dubai, with ambitious plans for conversion into a hotel, in November 2008. The economic slump that followed led to the project stalling almost at the first fence. An attempt to sail the ship to Cape Town for use as a floating hotel for the 2010 FIFA World Cup was nixed at almost the last minute, ostensibly by South African hoteliers.
What followed was a smoke screen of clumsy PR and an almost cavalier lack of consideration in keeping interested parties informed as to the situation of the ship. This was compounded by apparent in flighting and political machinations among the Dubai based bigwigs holding the ship hostage. As a result, rumours spread like forest fires and, when press releases were grudgingly put out, they were often read with disbelief and sometimes even outright disdain.
An announcement tomorrow will at least put an end to the speculation, if not the foreboding that exists in the minds of many. While the smart money still has the QE2 eventually being permanently homeported in either Hong Kong or Singapore, there are still questions that need answering. Chief among which is the status of the refurbished ship; will she be a hotel or a still active ship?
As with many other things in the long, drawn out saga of the QE2 and her afterlife, the actual answers are anything but clear. I’m hoping that tomorrow’s announcement will lift some of the fog surrounding this iconic, still much loved, legendary ship.
As ever, stay tuned. And fingers crossed, please.
OCTOBER 15TH, 2013 UPDATE:
Today, QE2 Holdings officially announced that the QE2 will be refurbished at the COSCO shipyard located in Zhoushan, in Southern China.
All seven submissions for new interior designs should be online, and will remain so until November 15th, when the one that secures most votes will be the winner.
QE2 is still at the moment scheduled for an October 18th departure from her five year lay up in Dubai.
Stay tuned for further -hopefully happy- developments.