Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Page last updated at 16:49 GMT, Tuesday, 10 November 2009
QE2 - one year on from departure
By Paul Clifton
BBC South transport correspondent

QE2 crossed the Atlantic over 800 times

When QE2 said farewell to its home port of 39 years, tens of thousands of people turned out to wave goodbye.

It was an enormous, unforgettable event.

In fact, wherever the ship had called during her last year of service, the same thing had happened - an outpouring of affection unique among modern ships.

QE2, like Concorde, was a 20th Century icon. Its appeal outstripped every other passenger ship.

End of era

As cruising changed from being the preserve of the rich and famous, and evolved into a holiday as popular as a fortnight in Ibiza, QE2 remained aloof.

Even when the Clydebank-built ship grew dated and tired, her clientele remained loyal.

For her owners, Cunard, that was a problem - the passengers were growing old with the ship.

Fireworks farewell to the QE2

And the next generation were choosing to travel in white-sided floating holiday camps - twice the size and boasting facilities QE2 could never match.

Dubai dreams

Two weeks after the departure from Southampton on 11 November 2008, I was on the bridge in Dubai when the flags were lowered.

The familiar foghorn sounded one last deafening 39-second blast. As the ship fell silent the officers and crew were openly weeping.

Sold for £50m, QE2 was off to a bold new future as a static hotel.

A property developer, Nakheel, planned a dramatic refurbishment: slicing off the funnel to replace it with a glass-walled penthouse, removing the engines to create a new entertainment space, and ripping out every cabin to make way for larger, top-of-the-range suites.

It did not happen. Nakheel still intends, one day, to transform the liner and give it pride of place on Palm Jumeirah, the remarkable palm-tree shaped man-made resort on the Dubai waterfront.

But the recession has taken its toll in Dubai and nothing has been done to the ship.


Although it remains unchanged from a year ago, it has been looked after. The engines are turned over regularly to keep everything working.

However the name of the home port of Southampton, proudly worn on the stern around the world since the day it was launched by the Queen in 1967, has gone.

In its place, painted over the top, is Port Vila (in Vanuatu, in case you were wondering).

South Africa

The change was made ready for QE2 to sail under her own power to Cape Town.

Sitting on an empty Dubai dockside away from public view, QE2 was simply sinking money. So while it waited for the economy to improve, Nakheel found some work for the ship.

It was planned to send the ship to South Africa for two years, to help with a shortage of tourist accommodation for the 2010 football World Cup.

According to newspaper reports in Cape Town, local hoteliers were not happy at the prospect of an extra 1,800 beds suddenly turning up in the harbour and competing for business. So after five months of negotiations a deal has still not been done.

And that has upset her global fan club. There are networks of people dedicated to keeping the ship's memory alive. Some were passengers, others served on board as crew.

When QE2 left Southampton under a stunning explosion of fireworks, everyone lining the shore and aboard a vast flotilla of boats thought they knew exactly where QE2 was going and what would become of it.

A year later, the liner's future is still uncertain.

QE2's funnel 'to be sliced off'
10 Oct 08 |  Hampshire
Southampton name removed from QE2
27 Aug 09 |  Hampshire

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific