Wealthy author Beatrice Muller enjoyed cruises aboard the QE2 with her husband so much she radically revised the course of her twilight years.
On becoming a widow, she sold her home and belongings and became a permanent resident on the prestigious ship, sailing the world’s oceans until the pride of the Cunard Line was decommissioned nine years later.
These days, the Queen Elizabeth 2 – to give her full name – is neither circling the globe nor prompting guests to sell worldly possessions to enjoy time beneath her bright red funnel.
The classically sleek vessel – 20m longer than the Titanic – is permanently moored in Dubai’s Port Rashid.
In 2008, the QE2 was rescued from a likely final journey to salvage a yard when UAE developer Nakheel stepped in and invested millions to give her a new lease of life as a floating hotel 10 years later.
Deemed at one time to be the ultimate luxury on the waves, the QE2 has undergone passionate restoration to incorporate modern comforts and facilities, without smothering the nautical stardust that made her the must-do cruise experience of wealthy travelers.
She was launched by HM Queen Elizabeth II in September 1967.
Then, the lowest-priced ticket from Southampton to New York – the QE2’s route 812 times before competitive trans-Atlantic flights forced Cunard to refit her as a global voyager – cost the equivalent of three months average wage.
Today, there are 447 rooms and suites available, from surprisingly affordable entry level cabins, rising to a surprisingly reasonable AED2,700 if you aspire to the Royal Suite surroundings that famous guests Joan Collins or Nelson Mandela indulged.
Our affable guide for one of the ship’s thrice-daily heritage tours, recites a who’s who of presidents and celebrities from former US president Jimmy Carter to David Bowie and Elton John as frequenters of the decadent Queen’s Grill. And the chic Chart Bar, where an elaborate wall map detailed progress of the QE2 as she crossed the Atlantic in the fastest, most luxurious manner available.
The tour follows in the cushioned footsteps of 25 captains, including a fascinating stop on the bridge with the helm and others instruments fixed in original operating state behind perspex. Several other areas remain time-frozen, enchanting, yet to be updated.
While British affiliation with the QE2 remains strong, the demographic of guests during our recent stay suggested the iconic ship’s worldwide appeal persists.
During 39 years of service the liner clocked up 6m nautical miles – about 25 circuits of the planet – hosting 2.5m-plus passengers on 1,419 voyages.
Certainly, Brits either visiting or resident in Dubai, as well as other tourists seeking an alternative to a beach-only vacation/staycation have taken the QE2 to their hearts.
Many packed tables for the recent coronation of King Charles III.
And that palpable royal connection was present in more sombre fashion following the passing of the late monarch when a book of condolence brought thousands flocking to pay their respects.
Shows in the ship’s theatre have introduced numerous other residents to the QE2, but there’s something special, even timeless, about staying overnight and observing the waves through a porthole or from the generous balcony attached to accommodation options such as our stylish Captain’s Room.
Step in from the wood-decking and subtle modern art deco vibes curate the space; from cool leaning marble lamps to colour-blocking carpet that syncs well with dark wood furniture and teal-coloured walls and soft furnishings. Cool marble extends to table tops and the bathroom.
Rooms face either Bur Dubai and Downtown Dubai or towards the sea, taking in Maritime City, adjacent superyachts and the Gulf waters beyond.
Ferghal Purcell joined the current ‘crew’ as General Manager in December 2021, embracing the specific challenges of positioning the city’s only floating hotel in the global eye, at a time when tourism was emerging from the pandemic.
“The hotel had recently reopened to guests after a prolonged period of closure and, as a result, had to adapt to a new operating environment,” he recalls.
“My role was to help reposition the hotel in the marketplace…I arrived with a very specific agenda which was to share the uniqueness of this historic and iconic vessel.”
Ferghal confirms his objectives have evolved as he has developed better understanding of the ship, recognising a “complex entity and the role of showcasing its history and heritage is as important as developing new F&B initiatives”.
Guests and visitors can indulge in elegant afternoon tea in The Queen’s Grill, international buffets in the modern Lido restaurant, dine on the deck of The Pavilion, or order English favourites in The Golden Lion, the oldest hostelry in Dubai.
There’s also a gym and an indoor pool available on a lower deck in which to work it all off again.
The GM says during the last year the QE2 has undergone ‘significant changes”, since hotel group Accor took over, not least with the address now accessible through various booking platforms and channels to a wider range of travelers.
That includes former crew and passengers seeking to “relive their memories of the ship”.
“The QE2 has a rich history and strong emotional connection for many people who have sailed on her, so it’s not surprising they would want to return and experience the ship once again,” adds Ferghal.
“It absolutely maintains the link with the royal family (and) now that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has passed there is an even greater desire to experience her association with the QE2.
“It has become a moral responsibility to preserve the history and heritage of this iconic vessel for generations to come, and we are working hard and continuing to showcase her life’’ journey.”