QE2 liner may return to Hong Kong as a floating hotel…

A Merry Queens Grill Christmas to one and all. Filmed onboard QE2, 15-17th December 2006. Views of ship. Gregory Dorothy, Assistant Waiter in Queens Grill restaurant, demonstrates how to prepare Crepes Suzette.

From Keith Wallis at South China Morning Post… The iconic luxury passenger liner Queen Elizabeth 2 is set to return to Hong Kong this summer on its way to a mainland shipyard, where it will be refitted to become a floating hotel.

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The QE2 in its heyday, docked at the Ocean Terminal in Hong Kong in 1994. Its maiden voyage, from Southampton to New York in May 1969, took five days. Photo: SCMP

The former Cunard flagship, which visited Hong Kong several times before being retired in 2008 and sold to the Dubai investment company Istithmar World, is likely to stay in Hong Kong for several days in July or August.

Daniel Chui, managing director of Singapore’s Oceanic Group, said talks are continuing to bring the ship back to Hong Kong once the conversion work has been completed.

Hong Kong and Singapore are the two cities being considered for the ship’s initial base as a floating hotel.

“The perfect location is definitely Hong Kong or Singapore,” Chui said: both cities have a shortage of hotel rooms and a large number of tourist arrivals. The ship could itself become a tourist attraction.

A longer-term plan also being considered is for the QE2, which served as a troop ship during the 1982 Falklands war, to make a circuit, spending “X years in Hong Kong, Y years in Japan and Z years in South Korea”, Chui said.

He remained confident the QE2 would be a financial success, saying it offered a better internal rate of return than a conventional land-based hotel. The refitting, including work by shipyards in Dubai and on the mainland, will cost US$100 million.

Chui would not be drawn on whether Hong Kong or Singapore was preferred initially, saying there were many stakeholders involved and “we have already started discussions” in both cities. He said Oceanic still had about 15 months to decide, given the time it would take to complete the refurbishment.

The talks involve Hong Kong’s Tourism Commission and Tourism Board, together with their counterparts in Singapore.

Worldwide Flight Services, one of the members of the consortium which will operate and manage the Kai Tak cruise terminal, has been helping Oceanic.

Oceanic heads a group of investors which is leasing the QE2 from its Dubai owners for about US$1 million a year. The firm has an option to buy the ship for about US$35 million at the end of this decade, when a “no onward sale” clause contained in the ship sale contact between Cunard and Istithmar expires.

Chui said the ship, which sailed nearly 9.6 million kilometres and carried 2.5 million passengers during its 39-year career, is at Drydocks World in Dubai, where seven of its nine diesel engines are being overhauled, along with other equipment. He said it will take a further three to four months before the work is completed and the QE2 can sail for China.

Oceanic, which has experience refurbishing and upgrading passenger ships in China, has shortlisted “a few shipyards” to bid for the refurbishment of the liner to a floating hotel. These are thought to include Guangzhou Wenchong, part of the state-owned CSSC group, as well as shipyards around Shanghai.

The work is expected to take about 15 months.

Chui, who speaks passionately about what was once the fastest liner afloat, said the QE2 originally had 950 cabins, which were home to royalty, heads of state and film and pop stars.

Once the refurbishment is completed, there will be 400 deluxe rooms of 40 to 100 square metres and 100 suites of 100 to 150 sq metres. There will 4,600 to 9,200 sq metres of retail space, featuring “luxury brands of European heritage”, in addition to the ship’s seven restaurants, two ballrooms and cinema, Chui said.

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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.

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