Queen Elizabeth 2: At Last A Plan

In Sierra Leone, there is a quay known as QE2. In Ontario, there is a park called QE2. In Great Britain, there is a thoroughbred stakes race that goes by the QE2. And just down the roadway from there in Buckingham Palace is the real QE2…Queen Elizabeth herself.

But for cruisers, there can only be one QE2, and this month she was a newsmaker once again.

The former Cunard ocean liner is in Port Rashid, Dubai. She's been there for almost four years, moored in the harbor awaiting her fate. She was purchased from Cunard to become a floating hotel, museum and entertainment center in Dubai, and then along came a recession that even eroded the wealth of people like Sheikh Mohammed.

On New Year's Eve 2011, the Queen Elizabeth 2 was the site of a party. It was her first event since arriving in the United Arab Emirates in 2008, and a preview of what was to come. Events on the ship were being booked for 2012 and 2013. Then this month, the owners announced the QE2 will indeed become the floating hotel she was scheduled to be, following a modest refurbishment over the next 18 months.

She's not getting the facelift-lapband-botox treatment, just a little cosmetic caring. The characteristics that made her special — in other words, most of her original features — will be retained. Renovations will be minor in the creation of the 3-room hotel.

QE2's time in Dubai has been almost as interesting as her history. In 2009, she was advertised for sale on a cruise ship version of ebay. That same year there were rumors QE2 would return to Cunard's ancestral home, Liverpool. Then she was to sail to South Africa to be a floating hotel at the World Cup, another plan that was aborted. Then she was going to be re-located to London, or Singapore, or Japan, or Australia. Once she was adrift, breaking her moorings like an aging senior trying to escape the old folks home where she'd been sent by her family. There were fears that in the end she would just become scrap iron.

It's true that her sisters came to visit — Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and even the one who took her place, the Queen Elizabeth — but it was never going to be like the old days. She was the eldest Queen, launched by Cunard in 1967, and had been in service for 40 years so her odometer was worn the most. The QE2 sailed an estimated six million miles, carrying 2.5 million passengers and crossing the Atlantic more than 800 times, went around the world more than 25 times.

Her Godmother — or at least the woman who christened her — was Queen Elizabeth 2.

That's right, the other one.

Norwegian Jewel
7 nights
September 15, 2012
Seattle, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Victoria, Vancouver
Inside: $599
Cost per day: $85


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