Peep inside the deserted QE2 … and fear for the future of this classic liner

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grandexcelsior.jpgIn a city of amazing modern architecture, where hotel standards are measured in more stars than you can count on the fingers of one hand, the latest development is newsworthy partly because of its design, and partly because it does not live up to expectations of quality.
The Grand Excelsior Hotel (above) in Dubai is a striking building; it looks like the stern of a modern cruise ship stranded on dry land. It claims to be uber hip, and boasts pan-Asian restaurants and a “classical” English pub among its facilities. The hotel cost about £70 million and is on a prime site close to Palm Jumeirah and the Mall of the Emirates – that’s the shopping centre with its own ski slope.
Just one problem for the 230-room property – it has failed to meet the stringent requirements of Dubai’s hotel classification authorities and has been denied a five-star rating.
Chief reason, would you believe, is that there are no bedside switches to control the lighting in the bathrooms.
Rather than delay its opening, the owners chose to accept a temporary four-star ranking while they spend the next four weeks fitting those vital switches.
The news seems to make it all the more unlikely that the Cunard liner QE2, sitting forlornly about five miles away in Dubai’s Port Rashid, will ever be converted into the luxury hotel promised when it was bought by Dubai World in 2008 for . . . wait for it, about £70 million.
The worldwide economic slump has so far put paid to work starting on that project, and nothing has yet come of the grand plans which included removing the ship’s funnel and replacing it with a glass penthouse.
The ship still sits quietly awaiting developments. And as a remarkable new film shows, it’s still looking in excellent condition. Especially considering she was launched from the John Brown yard on Clydeside 44 years ago today.
Rob Lightbody, of, visited the ship earlier this year and has compiled hundreds of photographs and all his videos onto a DVD he has called Sleeping Beauty. As far as I know he is the first visitor allowed on board in three years, and looking through the images is an eerie experience. Most of the public rooms remain exactly as they were on the ship’s final voyage into retirement in November 2008 and you almost expect it to burst into life with passengers clamouring for a drink at the Chart Room bar or in the Yacht Club.
At other times it looks forlorn – the shops stand empty; teak steamer chairs are stacked like lumber in a timber yard, and occasional empty display cases hint at the few historic items which were eventually recovered and removed to Cunard’s new Queen Elizabeth.
The library shelves still groan with books but those in the bookshop gather dust. Tables in the restaurants are ready to be laid with white linen, cutlery and plates to serve a banquet, but the only meals being prepared in the galley are for the skeleton maintenance crew on board.
It’s a remarkable production by a devoted fan – and you can buy a copy for £15 from Rob’s pictures are far more revealing than mine, like the one below which I took in February from on board Brilliance of the Seas.
But the Grand Excelsior’s problems do make me wonder whether the QE2 will ever live again, or if it will sit, slowly decaying, until it’s too late to be rescued. Even without any conversion work, it has already cost as much as a brand new hotel. To turn the 40-year-old vessel into a luxury property meeting today’s exacting standards would cost how many millions more?
And would it have bedside switches to control the bathroom lights? Actually, that might be easier than you think – in some of the smaller cabins, you could probably reach across to the bathroom without having to get out of bed.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:01+00:00 20 September 2011|Cruise Destinations, Cruise News, Cruise Ships|2 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.


  1. Costa Marcos 28 September 2011 at 9:05 am - Reply

    Looks as though plans to move the QE2 to the Palm have been cancelled in favour of leaving it near the cruise terminal – probably a good thing – see for the full story.

  2. kenneth vard 3 April 2017 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    Two months ago, I was on board AURORA on part of her world cruise, we docked for 2 days in Dubai, opposite The once great & glorious QE2, she looks diminished now,in the bright sun with her faded paintwork, & now only dimly lit at night
    she is a faded Queen, a sad sight,& one I shall never forget,
    having sailed on her in her hay-day into & out of Manhattan,
    I never thought I would ever see her so ignored & forgotten as she is now.
    she looks like a dear friend trying to cry sitting helpless on a sidewalk in skid-row,
    & there was nothing I could do to save her from this indignity.except to silently doff my hat in a vain attempt to greet her as one should always greet a monarch with the respect which is her due,
    God save the Queen.

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