In Dubai, the new is easily coveted — from skyscrapers to sports cars. So it may come as a surprise that the latest luxury hotel is also its oldest. In April, the Queen Elizabeth II (QE2), the world’s most famous ocean liner from the 1960s, opened its gangways to guests once more. But its cruising days are over — this time around the QE2 is staying put in its new home, the city port of Mina Rashid.
The ship’s age gives it an edge in Dubai’s hotel market, says Hamza Mustafa, CEO of PCFC Hotels, the government-owned company operating the ship “It’s a new offering, it’s something with a lot of historic value,” he tells CNN. “Dubai is a new city and this is one of the oldest things here. In fact, the ocean liner, launched by the UK’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1967, is 4 years older than the formation of the UAE itself.
Preserving the ship’s history
The ship’s historic value is its selling point when you stay here. There will be no sky-high tennis courts, aquariums or ski slopes, as offered elsewhere in the city Instead, its main attractions are firmly grounded in the past: a museum mapping QE2’s 39 years of service, a chance to walk the same decks as Nelson Mandela and David Bowie, and for some very special guests — “by invitation only” — there is the opportunity to sleep in the royal suites where Queen Elizabeth II and her mother once rested their heads.
224 rooms are currently open for business — rising to at least 600 by the hotel’s grand opening in October — and prices start at $150 per night. The rooms have dark wooden paneling as they did in the sixties, and some still boast the original portholes The retro touches don’t stop there. Of the 13 restaurant and nightlife venues, the Chartroom Bar will still serve chicken liver mousse and Eton Mess, the Golden Lion pub has beer on tap, and the casino is lined with original slot machines (albeit now purely decorative).
“(The QE2 is) a very famous lady to us, she’s one of the most famous ocean liners ever to exist,” says Mustafa. “We have glorified her, we have brought her back to her might, we have focused on things that make her famous… For her to be a museum first, and then a hotel. “When you walk on board you feel like you’ve stepped into a time capsule — the time is 1969, her maiden voyage,” he adds. “You get a sense of the history, of what the ship was.”
Featured image: Courtesy of QE2