Page last updated at 19:01 GMT, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Legendary liner reaches final port

By Paul Clifton,
BBC South transport correspondent, Dubai

An Airbus A380 superjumbo flypast met the QE2 when she arrived in Dubai
An Airbus A380 superjumbo flypast met the QE2 when it arrived in Dubai

The Cunard liner QE2 is ending its life as an ocean going ship.

BBC South's transport correspondent Paul Clifton watched its 40-year journey come to an end on a Dubai dockside.

It is exactly 40 years to the day since QE2 started its first sea trials.

On Wednesday evening passengers lined the decks to mark the end of its last ever voyage.

After they leave the ship on Thursday, it will head for a new life as a floating hotel.

The welcome ceremony for the ship was substantial, though perhaps less dramatic than the farewell from its home port of Southampton just over a fortnight ago.

The liner was escorted in from the Arabian Gulf by a flotilla of ships.

Leading the way was the world's largest private yacht, owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates.

The Royal Navy Frigate, HMS Lancaster, was also part of the flotilla.

For QE2 we believe life really does begin at 40
Manfred Ursprunger, chief executive of QE2 Enterprises

A brand new double-decker Emirates Airbus A380 aircraft flew low overhead, emphasising that QE2 now belongs to a different era.

As the ship approached the dockside, the passengers could be heard from far away, cheering and chanting.

Then a single deafening blast from the famous, still-familiar foghorn. It will not be heard again.

The BBC has learned that the liner's refurbishment will be carried out here in Dubai and will take between two and three years.

It was also confirmed that the rumours about the work are true.

For the first time, QE2 Enterprises set out its vision of the liner's future.

The Palm, Dubai
QE2 will be the centrepiece of the luxury palm island

The company is part of a giant government-owned property developer, Nakheel, which is building a new home on the artificial palm-shaped urban resort of Palm Jumeirah - and money seems no object.

Manfred Ursprunger, its chief executive, promised that the ship's heritage would be respected.

But he also confirmed that the funnel would be removed.

The engines will be taken out and the space filled with a new theatre and every cabin will be stripped out, making way for 200 new suites fit for a seven-star hotel.

"The funnel is badly corroded," Mr Ursprunger said.

"And it is not original. The engines are not original either. They have no historical value.

"But the public rooms, like the Queens Room, we will restore to their original condition.

"For QE2 we believe life really does begin at 40."

After dark, fireworks marked the start of the last party on board.

On Thursday, there will be tears from many passengers as they say farewell.

Especially perhaps from Beatrice Muller, who has lived on board for the past 14 years.

And from crew members like hotel manager John Duffy, who has worked on board for almost all of the past 40 years.

On Thursday, Cpt Ian McNaught will hand his ship over to the new owners.

They, in turn, will offer to present the ship's anchor to the people of QE2's home port, Southampton.

After all, it won't be needed here in Dubai. QE2's days as an ocean going liner are finally over.


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