The last word of luxury from Clydebank who transported troops and ended up in the Emirates
Pack your bags, we’re leaving – and we’re going to live like Queens.
If we leave now, we can book a three day stay in a Royal Suite aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) for the princely sum of around Â£ 1050 in between. We will first have to take the plane to Dubai, because this is where the Palace of the Sailors, which has become a hotel and an attraction, has been docked since 2008. Once there, we can admire the period furniture, paintings and memorabilia preserved by its current owners, attend its 500-seat theater, enjoy its restaurants and nightlife, or relax in its spa.
Port Rashid is a long way from Scottish waters where the ship was launched on September 20, 1967. So how did this ocean liner Clydebuilt land in the United Arab Emirates?
Tens of thousands of people witnessed the ship’s launch at John Brown’s Clydebank Shipyard, where the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were also built. When Cunard commissioned the ship, shipbuilding on the Clyde was in decline and more and more people were turning to air travel rather than ocean travel. But the QE2 was designed to do things that Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth could not, enter the ports that were beyond them and travel the Panama Canal to allow cruise around the world and it there was a sense of optimism and enthusiasm as to what that would mean. .
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The QE2 also launched a new style of sea travel, offering a single class on a world cruise and boasting a modern and contemporary interior using last minute materials like plastic laminate and aluminum that separated it from the Art style. decoration of its predecessors. Investments were also made in on-board leisure facilities, including four swimming pools and a retail offering to allow flush passengers to lighten their wallets while on the move.
âThe only thing QE2 has in common with other ships is that it floats,â according to advertisements at the time. The ship has become synonymous with luxury and style.
John Brown’s won the construction contract after a bidding process pitted them against Harland and Wolff in Belfast. The two sites were renowned, the quality of the production of the Bankies being respected throughout the world. But the victory was lost – the Â£ 30million offer was not a source of income for the yard, which had merged with four other local businesses – Fairfields in Govan, Alexander Stephen in Linthouse and Charles Connell and Yarrows in Scotstoun – to form Upper Clyde Shipbuilders within one year of launch.
In contrast to this rapid pace of change, the QE2 would become a mainstay of Cunard, carrying millions of passengers including Nelson Mandela, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as the company’s oldest ship.
His maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City lasted four days, 16 hours and 35 minutes, and he completed his 20th world cruise in 1996 – when the ship’s eventual withdrawal was a point on the horizon. This happened in 2008, nearly 30 years after QE2’s most notable period – its requisition as a troop transporter for the Falklands War. No less than 3,000 soldiers boarded the liner for transport to the South Atlantic territory in May 1982, including battalions of Scots Guards, Welsh Guards and Gurkhas. They were taken care of by an army of Cunard employees, including cooks and waiters who volunteered for the service.
The 70,000-ton ship was transformed for duty, losing its grand pianos, casino tables, and upholstery as its passengers changed. The plush interior carpet was covered with wooden planks to protect it from soldiers’ boots, and a quarter of its length was reinforced with steel veneer. Meanwhile, the flight offices now overlooked the pools and an antimagnetic coil was added for mine protection. When he returned to Southampton Sound a month later, it took crews nine weeks to restore the craft for return to passenger service.
Another makeover followed after Carnival Corporation‘s purchase of Cunard Line in 1998, with the QE2’s luxury boutiques on the Royal Promenade replaced with more generic fares and the cabins refurbished. She became the first merchant ship to sail more than five million nautical miles at sea in 2002, but her sailing days were numbered and she was due to retire in November 2008.
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The move was in part the result of new health and safety regulations that would have required significant changes in order to keep the vessel in open water.
The new owners behind the floating hotel project were Dubai-owned Istithmar, and large crowds flocked to the famous ship again on her 2008 farewell tour that brought her back to Scotland, but not at Clydebank, the Erskine Bridge making this impossible.
Dubai leader Sheikh Mohammad sent his private yacht to lead the flotilla accompanying the QE2 to Port Rashid in 2008, when the plan was to keep it at the famous Palm Jumeirah. But the financial crash caused that to fail and it was later expected to be sent to Cape Town in South Africa instead, which ultimately turned out to be false, as was the suggestion that he might return. in Liverpool or be scrapped in China. An offer backed by Boris Johnson for his return to London proved unsuccessful, as did a call from Inverclyde Council chief Steven McCabe for the Scottish and UK governments to buy him.
The 13-story QE2 finally opened as a floating hotel in April 2018 with 224 rooms and 10 different restaurants.
Guests are guaranteed sun and warm temperatures all year round – so it truly is a world away from the banks of the Clyde. Despite this, it remains a beacon of excellence in Scottish shipbuilding.