Queen Elizabeth 2 to grace Seaport Village
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A ‘Seaport Village’ bustling with 500,000 cruise tourists will rise in 18 months from the sandy Port Rashid in Dubai. It will house a floating 300-room luxury hotel inside the majestic Queen Elizabeth 2 with top lifestyle facilities and a Maritime Museum.
Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Chairman, Istithmar World, and chairman of DP World board of directors, outlined this plan for Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) and the development in Port Rashid during a press conference on Monday, at the Port Rashid Cruise Terminal.
He said that Port Rashid will be QE2’s permanent home and will boast of a Maritime Museum highlighting the important maritime history of Dubai through a display of 25,000 collections. Once converted, the QE2 will display the ship’s collection of art works and other historical assets acquired during nearly four decades as one of the world’s leading ocean-going cruise liners.
World class facility
“Istithmar World and DP World have already had initial talks with Jumeirah and two other groups of hotels in the emirate to choose from them one to manage the QE2 hotel,” he said. Sulayem, however, did not identify the two other hotels or disclose the total cost of converting Port Rashid into a Seaport Village, which when opened, will be dotted with world-class bars and restaurants to cater to the cruise tourists expected to reach half a million upon full operation.
The target is based on the growth of cruise visitors to Port Rashid. In April alone, five cruise ships docked at the Dubai Cruise Terminal simultaneously, bringing with them over 19,000 tourists, the largest number of visitors handled at the Port Rashid facility on a single day. “DP World’s vision is for Port Rashid to eventually be able to serve as many as seven large cruise vessels at one time,” Sulayem said.
Dubai’s cruise tourism has been growing rapidly. The award-winning Dubai Cruise Terminal at Port Rashid hosted 108 cruise ships with 396,554 passengers in 2011 and 71 vessels with 275,000 tourists during the first half of this year. This figure is projected to touch 145 cruise ships and 500,000 passengers by 2015, according to Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), DP World’s strategic partner.
Sulayem said that the 293-metre long QE2, which in its heyday could accommodate more than 2,900 people, together with the connected maritime museum, will be a leading tourist attraction at Port Rashid and add further to the attractions it offers as the leading cruise destination in the Middle East. DP World has been expanding Port Rashid’s capacity to cater for the growing demand for cruise tourism.
“The QE2 will be at the heart of Dubai in its permanent position at Port Rashid and contribute to the growth of Dubai as the city continues to develop and expand as a top tourist destination. The vessel is truly iconic and has a huge following around the world. Our vision is to enhance the facilities on board but retain the very strong sense of history that is a fundamental part of her attraction. Having the QE2 moored as a floating, top class hotel, right on the waterfront in the centre of Dubai, will also add further life and activity to the surrounding area,” he added.
On funding for Port Rashid, Sulayem said there will be no bank loans, and DP World and Istithmar World will continue to honour their commitments. “It will not affect our financial commitment. Many corporate entities are interested to fund us.”
Not for sale
He also debunked rumours that QE2 would be sold. “We have never offered it for sale. This iconic ship is important to Dubai’s tourism and part of Dubai’s development. QE2 will continue to be berthed and receive people interested to visit it.
It is a great vessel and it will continue its journey.”
Leili Gerami, CEO of the project developer L.E.G.E Solutions and project director, QE2, said that even in its retirement, the QE2’s majestic profile continues to attract much attention and there is considerable interest and enthusiasm for the next phase of her long life.
“It is our desire to tap into the continued public fascination for the great passenger liner and its amazing history as a cruise ship with unrivalled luxury, style and prestige. We believe the hotel on board the QE2 will be one of the finest anywhere.”
Mohammed Al Muallem, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, DP World, UAE Region, said that DP World is delighted that the QE2 will be the centrepiece of Port Rashid.
“Together with the planned Maritime Museum, it reinforces Port Rashid and Dubai’s status as a leading cruise and maritime tourism destination. We are excited about the potential for Port Rashid to further develop as a tourist destination in its own right.”