QE2 owners scale back plans for Dubai hotel conversion

Ocean liner to have just 300 of 1,000 rooms developed and be moored at Port Rashid, not Palm Jumeirah, say owners

Dubai has scaled back plans to turn the QE2 ocean liner into a luxury hotel at the tip of the emirate’s famous palm-shaped island, announcing on Monday that the ship would be moored in an unglamorous part of town instead with many of her original fittings.

Unveiling a more modest version of a project that was scuppered by Dubai’s 2008 debt crisis, the ship’s operator – the investment arm of indebted conglomerate Dubai World – said the ship would still become a luxury hotel, but that just 300 of the original 1,000 rooms would now be developed. Nor, as originally envisaged, would the vessel be moored at Palm Jumeirah, the dramatic manmade island off Dubai built in the shape of a palm tree.

“Unfortunately we had many ambitious plans but they didn’t work,” said Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman of Istithmar – the unit that bought the QE2 for $100m (£64m) in 2007 – and chairman of port operator DP World.

“What we are doing now we should have done when we got it,” he said.

The public areas, such as the restaurants and entertainment halls, would be largely left as they are, he added.

The QE2 is currently moored in Port Rashid in Dubai – a gritty commercial port a long way from the tourist-friendly neighbourhood of Palm Jumeirah – and will remain there, said Sulayem.

“There have been many grand ideas. There were plans of renovating it in such a way that it becomes something totally different to what it used to be. But we realised soon that a lot of people like the ship as it was,” he said.

Launched by the Queen more than 40 years ago, the ship was used as a venue for a star-studded New Year’s eve bash last year, but has otherwise largely been left unused, with some media reports suggesting it had been abandoned.

Talks were ongoing with three hotel operators, including Dubai Holding-owned Jumeirah Group, to run the new hotel, said Sulayem.

Though more modest, he said the new plan would see Port Rashid transformed into a tourist hub – replete with a maritime museum – to host the new hotel.

The conversion work is due to be completed in 18 months.

“Wait 18 months, you will not recognise this place,” said Sulayem.

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