Retired Cunard ship finally set to open as floating hotel
The aftermath of World War 2 saw the cost of passenger air travel drop significantly which, unfortunately, marked what seemed to be the beginning of the end for the cruise industry. Ships that once dominated the seas and represented an era of expansive discovery and trade were on the way out – but Cunard had other ideas.
In the 1960’s, many ships that once operated passenger services were being converted solely for cargo purposes. Cunard had two ships at the time – Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary – both of which were relics of what they once were. The line decided to take a gamble on a new $80million new build, which would smaller than her sister ships currently in operation but would be slightly smaller and operate on half the amount of fuel. She would be known as Queen Elizabeth 2 and would become the first Cunard vessel to be entirely dedicated to “cruising”.
After a number of problems with her construction, she was finally ready to operate her first passenger service in 1969. The ship operated traditional passenger services across the Atlantic from Southampton to New York. She was warmly received in the US, arriving to huge fanfare as the ship went down in the history books and Cunard’s newest flagship.
In 1982, like many of her sister ships before her, Queen Elizabeth 2 operated a short stint in service as a troop transport vessel. Her size made her ideal for carrying 4,000 troops, which were required for the conflict in the Falkland Islands. She operated just one return voyage from the UK to the Falkland Islands, covering a total distance of more than 16,000 miles.
The ship returned to the Cunard fleet and would continue to operate passenger services up until 2008 when she was finally sold to Istithmar Dubai for the purpose of being converted into a hotel. She had spent a total of 40 years in operation as a passenger ship and reignited the cruise industry as a whole – showcasing the beauty of spending time at sea.
Since 2012, despite an announcement confirming the vessel would be converted into a hotel, the fate of the iconic Queen Elizabeth 2 had been the subject of much debate. Development had stagnated and it was even suggested that she may have been sold to China for scrapping. However, just this week, it has been confirmed that the vessel is due to open as a hotel on 18th April 2018.
The event will be a soft launch, with invitees having the opportunity to have a look around the vessel and admire her new makeover and this would be followed by a more formal launch later in the year. She has reportedly been equipped with 224 refurbished rooms and suites, 13 restaurants and nightlife venues, a shopping arcade and 25 meeting and conference rooms. The terminal, which guests will use to climb aboard, has been decorated as a maritime museum that will feature artworks and artefacts from the ship during her time in operation.
Although she will become Dubai’s first floating hotel, based in Port Rashid, she is not the first former Cunard vessel to be converted into a hotel. That honour goes to Queen Mary 2, which was retired from services with Cunard in 1967, shortly before the maiden voyage of Queen Elizabeth 2. She is based just off the coast of Long Beach California and has operated as a tourist attraction, hotel, museum, and event facility.
Today, the cruising industry is more popular than ever before and this is partially as a result of the popularity of Queen Elizabeth 2. On the dawn of cheaper passenger aircraft travel, and while other lines were ceasing all passenger services, Cunard made a daring move that revolutionised the perception of sailing across the seas and helped create a new era of cruise travel.
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