Cunard Line’s cruise ship QE2 is now a hotel. Cruise history ends for luxury liner, another begins in Dubai as a floating resort moored off an artificial palm-shaped island.

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Dubai World’s Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem at the QE2 handover ceremony November 27th.

At 2pm yesterday (Nov 27th) a glorious era came to a close in cruise line history and another began as developer Nakheel officially took delivery of the QE2.

That was the moment when the contract to transfer ownership from UK shipping company Cunard was signed as the world’s best-loved liner lay moored at Dubai’s Mina Rashid.

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As the QE2 steamed into Dubai, where she will be converted into a luxury hotel and entertainment complex, the third A380 to join the fleet of Emirates put on a little flypast.

For nearly 40 years, the QE2 has crisscrossed the globe, the last word in seaborne glamour, speed and style. Now she is to be transformed into a floating hotel offering the ultimate in luxury at The Palm Jumeirah.  The engine rooms will be dismantled.  She will share the distinction of another  Cunard liner, RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, Ca., of being a floating hotel.

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Where will Beatrice Muller live?  She’s lived aboard the QE2 since 2000!

One of the passengers who came ashore yesterday was Beatrice Muller, an 89-year-old American who has lived full-time on the QE2 since 2000 and is now looking for a new home. Nakheel has yet to announce all the details of the conversion, but she might be interested to know that there will be 130 apartments on board.

Dubai’s dry climate will help preserve the liner.

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Baroness Margaret Thatcher (L) and her daughter Carol Thatcher depart the QE2  at Southhampton Docks on  for a trans-Atlantic crossing to New York.

Over its 40-year career, the QE2′s passengers have included most of the crowned heads of Europe, politicians such as Baroness Thatcher and Nelson Mandela, the astronaut Buzz Aldrin and the explorer Sir John Blashford-Snell. British stars have included the singer Vera Lynn, most of the Beatles, individually, Mick Jagger and David Bowie. The Hollywood actors Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Hope and Paul Newman have also sailed on the QE2.

Later, at a ceremony on a small deck next to the bridge, the handover was marked by the lowering of Cunard’s flags and their replacement with those of the UAE and Dubai-based Nakheel.

“We are very proud to acquire this ship. It’s a piece of history,” said Sultan bin Sulayem, Chairman of Nakheel’s parent company, Dubai World. “The life of the ship will continue, it will serve people who can come to Dubai and stay on this vessel. QE2 has come to a home that will cherish and protect her. Her future has been assured.”

Cunard President Carol Marlow was momentarily overcome by emotion as she spoke. “The time has come for Cunard to bid farewell to its longest serving vessel,” she said. “We’re delighted that Dubai will become the future home of QE2, this is a wonderful place with its own rich maritime history,” she said.

At the end of the flag ceremony Captain Ian McNaught, the QE2′s last skipper, sounded its mighty whistle on behalf of Cunard for the last time, the low bellow rolling across the waters.

One of the flags lowered was the ship’s paying-off pennant measuring 39ft – one foot for each year she had been at sea. During those years she sailed 5.5 million nautical miles, more than any other ship in history. The QE2 arrived in Dubai on Wednesday at the end of her final cruise from her home port of Southampton. The passengers disembarked yesterday morning.

The mood on board on her final night as a cruise ship was reportedly subdued as many passengers busied themselves with their packing.

Nakheel last year agreed to pay £50 million (then worth Dh368m) for the ship. Now, having taken possession, the company will send its engineers to assess the vessel and finalise plans for her conversion. The work, to be carried out at Dubai Drydocks, will take up to three years and the vessel will then take pride of place at a specially built precinct at the Palm.

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