Cruise Line History: Cunard Line’s legendary liner QE 2 docks for the last time at Dubai. End of an era in Trans-Atlantic travel. Joins RMS Queen Mary as hotel.

image4634859.jpg

The liner Queen Elizabeth 2 arrives in Dubai, escorted by the UAE Coast Guard, Nov. 26, 2008. More than 60 naval vessels and private boats have met the 70,000-ton ship in the Persian Gulf as it heads for its new home, moored next to an artificial island.

One by one they appeared on the horizon today in Dubai, circling and sounding their horns, white sails bobbing on the waves. More than 100 yachts, navy frigates and speedboats were giving chase, like paparazzi pestering an A-list starlet. In their midst, dwarfing all around, its size still enough to take your breath away, was the Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth II.

Belching black fumes, and gracefully cutting through the water, this great ocean liner was on the last leg of her final voyage, preparing to drop anchor in a new port and, after nearly 40 years of service, ready to enjoy an opulent retirement.

Some said it was reluctant to leave its native Britain, even running aground two weeks ago as it was due to embark for Dubai.

bilde.jpeg

But its welcome here could not have been warmer. Hundreds had gathered to watch as the liner regally glided to its final berth. Overhead, an Emirates Airline A380 flew past at 1,000ft to salute its arrival.

“I feel quite emotional,” said one British fan who sailed out to meet her. Another, a Canadian, sighed: “She is absolutely awesome.”

David Ross, 60, who was an apprentice at the Clydeside yard where the QE2 was built, joined the flotilla. As bagpipes played in honour of the ship’s Scottish birthplace, he said: “She really is quite something isn’t she? There is definitely a sense of pride today. I am sorry she is no longer a seafaring vessel but I am glad she is going to live on.”

Sinclair Liddell, 52, whose father James helped build the ship, added: “I am sure he will be shedding a tear.”

Mark Thomas, in Dubai on business, said: “This really is an amazing day. It is a historic moment and something to tell the grandchildren.”

arti_2008_11_26.jpg

The ship will be transformed into a luxury floating hotel permanently moored alongside the Palm Jumeirah.

Since it was officially launched in 1969, it has crossed the Atlantic more than 800 times, given 2.5 million passengers a

taste of an extravagantly glamorous lifestyle and travelled around the world 25 times.

Nakheel Hotels, its new owners, thought 60 yachts might sail out to greet the liner. In the event, twice that number took to the water.

“It is incredibly exciting,” said Johann Schumacher, director of the Palm Jumeirah. “It is amazing to think people have made the effort to take days off work and get in their boats to greet her, from the British to Australians and locals. It shows the level of excitement there is about her.

“The QE2 is an iconic, historic piece of British maritime history and she is now coming to a place also associated with a maritime past – plus, she is going to have a home alongside the Palm Jumeirah, which is iconic in itself.”

Leading the flotilla was Dubai, the supersized yacht owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Its decks were crammed with Emiratis keen for a glimpse of a legend. But even the 535ft Dubai looked small compared to the 963ft liner towering over it.

qe2dubai.jpg

As it sailed into dock, the QE2’s 1,000 passengers lined its decks, many waving the Union Flag. They were greeted by fireworks and traditional Arab dancers in Port Rashid.

Today, the British flag will still be flying from its mast alongside the UAE flag. But it will soon be taken down, along with the name of its former owners, Cunard, and its docking station in Southampton.

Its previous home will be honoured, however, by being presented with its anchor, said to weigh the equivalent of three elephants.

The ship’s refit could take up to three years and will involve its cabins being replaced with larger hotel rooms. The red funnel is to be dismantled and replaced with a hollow replica housing a deluxe suite. All the internal electrical and plumbing is to be completely overhauled.

Not everyone is thrilled with the changes to the 70,000-tonne liner. Residents of Southampton launched a campaign to have the funnel returned, while traditionalists say the ship should have stayed in Britain.

27_ae_memory3_4.jpgBy a serendipitous conincidence, yesterday, as the QE2 finished its final voyage, was 40 years to the day since the day since the ship had first taken to the water to begin sea trials.

More than 60 naval vessels and private boats, led by a mega-yacht owned by Dubai’s ruler, met the 70,000 ton ship in the Persian Gulf as it arrived.

Cunard, the cruise ship’s owner, sold it last year to a state-run conglomerate, Dubai World, for about $100 million. (£65 million)

The vessel has been around the world 25 times, crossed the Atlantic more than 800 times and carried more than 2.5 million passengers including kings and queens, prime ministers and presidents, astronauts and many international celebrities.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.