Whatever Happened to the QE2?


Between 1969 and 2008, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2 was perhaps the most iconic cruise ship in service – helping the cruise industry survive its lean years as air travel grew in popularity. The ship played a key role in introducing new generations to cruise holidays, combining the classic elegance of cruising with modern features and comforts.

Launched by her namesake, a 41-year-old Queen Elizabeth II, the ship’s first ever civilian passenger was in fact her son, Prince Charles. The ship then spent the next 13 years completing itineraries travelling the famous Southampton-New York route and specially-planned commemorative sailings.

In 1982, the ship was called into service, helping British troops in the Falklands War. More than 650 members of the ship’s crew volunteered for the war-time voyages – transporting thousands of troops to South Georgia. The ship underwent refitting in Southampton, including the repainting of the ship’s iconic hull.

But, despite her illustrious past, the Queen Elizabeth 2 has barely been seen since retiring from service with Cunard.

QE2 - Phillip Capper

Where is She Now?

Quite the fanfare was made for the QE2 when it was announced she was to retire in 2008. She was bought by a Dubai-based investment company, Istithmar, for $100m. To celebrate the service, she was met by the fellow members of the Cunard fleet, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2, adjacent to the Statue of Liberty. This was the first time the three ships were present in the same location.

On the 3 October 2008, she undertook her farewell tour of the British Isles, before being escorted by Royal Navy destroyer HMS Manchester to Southampton – where she was grounded. The ship was decommissioned and began her journey to Dubai.

Istithmar planned for the ship to become a permanently docked floating hotel, retail, museum and entertainment destination. However the global recession of 2008 seemed to put paid to that idea and the ship has remained in limbo ever since. Minimal work has been carried out upon the ship – with the only visible change being the painting over the Cunard logo on the ship’s superstructure.

The following year, plans were announced to relocate the ship to South Africa to serve as a floating hotel during the FIFA World Cup. Again these plans never came to fruition, with the ship remaining in Dubai. However, she did get a little chance to stretch her legs in 2011, when a heavy dust storm broke her moorings and she floated out into the Port Rashid Channel.

The next few years continued the trend of false dawns for the ship with plans to relocate to Liverpool and an unidentified Asian location falling through. A number of initiatives including the ‘QE2 London’ plan announced grandiose ideas for the ship, but very little happened.


The Future

Although history has taught us to be wary of any new plans for the QE2, Cunard’s 175th anniversary brought renewed interest in the ship. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, backed a plan to anchor the ship in the Thames, opposite the O2 Arena.

Additionally, Inverclyde Council leader, Stephen McCabe, has prompted the UK and Scottish Governments to help bring the ship back to her spiritual home – bringing her years of torment to an end.

He explained: “Bringing the QE2 home is a Herculean task, one that requires national support in Scotland and perhaps across the UK, if it has any chance of happening.”

Although we sadly no longer cruise holidays aboard the QE2; her spirit and legacy lives on through her sister ships; Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. Click here for our full range of Cunard Cruise Line holidays, or call our dedicated team on 0808 2746 777.

Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: easylocum, Phillip Capper, SPDP


About Author

Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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