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For the past 5 years, I have been to Dubai at the end of November for the Rugby Sevens and this year was no difference. It has become a routine to check on QE2 during the stay.

QE2 was moved a couple of times, from the cruise terminal to a berth in the customs area in Port Rashid, then into dry docks from January 17 to February 3, 2013. Her present location is Berth 8 alongside the dry docks pretty much in cold lay-up.

QE2 in Berth 8 alongside the dry docks

QE2 in Berth 8 alongside the dry docks

Throughout the year the media fed news of big plans and great changes which turned cold as soon as they were published. As has been the case since her arrival in Dubai, the owners are stalling on information as to how and when QE2 will be transformed into a hotel, and where her final destination will be.

End of October, Costco was named as the ship yard that will transform her into a hotel.

The verdict on the winner of the design contest is still out and will hopefully be announced, as advised on the QE2 Heritage Hotel website, mid-December.

Dubai Drydocks World have a full order book. While I was visiting DW made an announcement that they signed a letter of intend to build a series of the world’s largest jack-up rigs between 2014 and 2016. The docks are full and there was an abundance of oil tankers, ships, rigs and platforms in and outside the docks. Such was the situation when I was visiting. Views were obstructed from every corner of the docks and security guards pretty much interfered every time I took out the camera. Luck wasn’t on my side this year as I couldn’t take a good clear shot.

Photography in the entire area is forbidden, security guards do not respond overly friendly to the sight of photo cameras or video equipment. I found a few photo spots which would have been perfect if it hadn’t been for an oil tanker that was in the way. Weather conditions were hazy which is the normal condition in Dubai.

We first drove to the Southern side where the guards spotted us and asked us to leave immediately. I thought it was wise to retreat and just snapped one blurry shot taken from the car ….

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The next couple of photos are taken from North Beach Road still under construction. We were the only people who clearly didn’t belong into the construction area so it was only a matter of time until security asked us to move on.DSC_6784

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Looking at the close-ups you can see that some of the staterooms are occupied by crew: Doors are open and there is laundry and security vests hanging on the balcony. There is no smoke coming out of the stack.

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I left Dubai on an early morning flight when it was still very dark. The plane made a long turn and we got a good view of the dry docks which were lit up. QE2 however was completely dark and there were no lights visible. She looked very much abandoned. I wonder if the current maintenance crew will put up a little Christmas tree, a nice gesture from the old crew in the past years. Somehow, I don’t think so.

Posts on previous visits to Dubai. Check out the photos, they show how well she looked when she was properly maintained, compared to her current state.

Dubai Visit 2009
Dubai Visit 2010
Dubai Visit 2011

QM2 HAM-001Today, 23 May 2013, Queen Mary 2 arrived in Hamburg at lunch time (13.30 CET to be precise) which was a good opportunity for me to grab some of the live webcam footage. The journey from Cuxhafen to Hamburg at the leisurely pace of approximately 10 knots is a beautiful passage along small towns, ports, greens, marinas and islands in the stream. Sailing up the River Elbe, the ship requires two tugs, one at the stern and the other at the bow.

I will talk about the passage from Cuxhaven to Hamburg in more detail in a separate post, here I am uploading 3 short video clips I grabbed from 3 webcams in Hamburg which provide a superb view of Hamburg’s port.

Webcam AET Partners
L
ocated at Van-der-Smissen-Strasse 1, Altona Cruise Center
QM2 is passing Altona Cruise Center, Altona Fish Market and Blohm & Voss Docks.

Webcam Empire Riverside Hotel
Overlooking the stretch from Blohm & Voss Dry Docks to Landungsbruecken.

Webcam St Michaelis Kirche (Church)
Distance approximately 1km, takes a few seconds to start.
The footage gives a great impression of the size of the ship compared to her environment. Museum ship Cap San Diego looks like a dwarf against the black hull of QM2.

Long Beach Rendezvous: Queen Mary meets Queen Elizabeth

Cunarders and ship lovers will gather in Long Beach, California tomorrow, 12 March 2013 for another “Cunard Royal Rendezvous”.  

Queen_Mary_Long_Beach

After Queen Mary 2 (26 Feb 2006) and Queen Victoria 3 Mar 2011), the youngest ship of the Cunard fleet, Queen Elizabeth, and the legendary Queen Mary will make history when they meet for the first time  in Long Beach Harbour.  This is a rare event which will feature traditional whistle salutes between the ships and conclude with a fireworks display. Best viewing will be at the aft of the ship. The public is invited to join the rendezvous and watch the spectacle from aboard Queen Mary.

Adding to the significance of this event, this encounter will be Queen Mary’s first encounter with a Queen Elizabeth since 1967 when Queen Mary, during her final Transatlantic Crossing in Cunard service, passed by the original Queen Elizabeth on the morning of 25 September.

The approximate schedule has been announced as follows:

  • 6.30pm: Queen Elizabeth will sail into Long Beach Harbor
  • 7.30pm: Fireworks display

More information about the event can be found on Queen Mary Hotel’s website.

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Everette Hoard, maritime historian on Queen Mary is excited about the opportunity to hold the welcome speech on board Queen Elizabeth which will be broadcasted aboard Queen Mary:

What a fantastic time this fusion of voyages past and present will be for the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Cunard. Those that witness this splendid day in history will undoubtedly carry the Queens in their hearts forever.

Everette was interviewed by KTLA5 ahead of the encounter. To watch the interview click on the photo:

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Hopefully there will be more footage following the event. Some of my friends are going to be there for the encounter
and they have been tasked to take photos and videos. For those of us who live too far away to attend, there is a Long Beach webcam for a glimpse of the two ships
.

BringQE2home

Image courtesy Marc-Antoine Bombail

In the recent weeks, new speculations about QE2’s future arose, triggered by an article in the Daily Mail about the alleged sale to a Chinese investor and the possibility of her being scrapped in China. The rumour was further fuelled by the departure of V-Ship’s crew who maintained the ship since her arrival in Dubai 4 years ago and their replacement by a smaller Chinese crew.  The Daily Mail article spread quickly as other newspapers copied the article and various ship lover online discussion boards became busy with enthusiasts bemoaning the possibility that the liner could be scrapped and saying the ship should be returned to the UK.

In a rather unusual move for Cunard, the company issued a dementi on their Facebook site whereas  Istithmar, the owner of QE2 was unavailable for comments as usual.

Cunard Facebook Post 24 December 2012:

We have noted the messages of understandable concern with regards to the recent article in the Daily Mail with reference to QE2. We remain in close contact with Dubai and can reassure you that to the very best of our knowledge this story is pure speculation – one of a number of stories and rumours as we have seen over recent months. Our best advice would be to ignore the story.

Best regards,

Cunard Line

In the meantime a British Consortium presented Dubai with plans to bring the QE2 to London. Apparently the bid has been rejected by the owners, however, the campaign to bring her home to the UK has gathered momentum in form of a petition to the UK Government to support the efforts to save the QE2.

If you are a UK resident and wish to support the petition, you can do so by going to the e-petition website and completing the form. The e-petition will close on 07/04/2013 at 10:15 UK time.  Click here for the e-petition. Only UK residents can sign, however, any support to spread the word is highly welcome.  Note added 12 Jan 2013: The e-petition this post was originally referring to was taken down because it didn’t meet requirements apparently. I updated this post with the link to another e-petition.

For more information on the current situation of the QE2 in Dubai and the plans for bringing her to London, I recommend the following two sites:

The QE2 Story Forum: Click here for the most recent updates and discussion on QE2 London
Maritime Matters: QE2 in London 2013

Happy Birthday to my favourite ocean liner!

QE2 on one of her rare visits in Hamburg

45 years ago, on Wednesday, September 20, 1967, QE2 was christened by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II at John Brown & Company, Clydebank, Scotland.

The BBC Website has a feature called ‘On this Day 1950 – 2005′ which covers major headlines during those 55 years. On September 20, 1967 the launch of the new Cunard ocean liner was front page news.  Click here for article and video clip.

Published a while ago on this blog, a documentary shown on STV Scotland abou t memories of those who attended the launch or were involved in the ship’s construction, click here to view.

45 years later, QE2 is leading a not so exciting retirement life: Since her arrival in Dubai on November 27, 2008 she’s been sitting idle in Port Rashid; however earlier this summer her Dubai owners finally announced plans to convert her into a hotel which hopefully will make her again accessible to old and new fans and inject new life into her. More details on the plans in the  Huffington Post Article July 2, 2012. I am looking forward to hear her whistle and step aboard again.

Today, July 2, 2012 QE2′s owner Ishtishmar World, DP World and the QE2 management today (July 2) announced that the QE2 will become a luxury hotel to be permantently berthed in Port Rashid, Dubai.

Click here to read official announcement…

From reactions throughout the liner community, this is obviously long awaited news that is met with great excitement. It’s good to hear that original plans have been scrapped for more sensible restoration work and hopefully the ship will be accessible to visitors soon.  I share the view of friend though: I believe it when I can book my first night!

A longer article appeared today, July 2, 2012  in Wall Street Journal:

DUBAI—Dubai said Monday it has decided the fate of the Queen Elizabeth 2, the 45-year-old ocean liner it bought at the height of the economic boom five years ago and which has been lying idle in the emirate’s Port Rashid ever since.

The ship’s owner Istithmar World, which reportedly considered selling the QE2 on several occasions to raise money during the financial crisis, announced plans to renovate and convert the ship into a 300-room hotel. The state-owned company said work will take 18 months, after which the QE2 floating hotel will be permanently docked in Dubai.

“The ship is in immaculate condition,” Istithmar World chairman Sultan bin Sulayem said at a news conference to announce the plans for the ship. “It’s going to enhance the tourism sector in Dubai.”

Istithmar refused to comment on how the project will be financed or how much it will cost. Mr. bin Sulayem would only say that funds “will be there” to pay for the conversion and for a broader redevelopment of Port Rashid, which is the destination for cruise ships docking in Dubai.

The plan follows years of speculation about the future of the QE2, which Istithmar bought in 2007 for $100 million from Cunard, a subsidiary of cruise giant Carnival Corp.  CCL +0.38% Istithmar originally intended to make it into a floating hotel stationed at a berth on the trunk of the Palm Jumeirah, one of Dubai’s palm-shaped artificial islands.

The financial crisis intervened, however, and Istithmar was reported numerous times to be considering a sale to raise cash. One reported plan that failed to materialize was moving it to South Africa to serve as a floating hotel for the 2010 World Cup. Last year, Istithmar was said to be considering a plan to make the QE2 into temporary housing for Japanese tsunami victims and then send it to Macau for conversion into a floating casino.

On Monday, Mr. bin Sulayem denied that the QE2 was ever offered for sale, although he said Istithmar had been approached with several proposals.

“We never offered it for sale,” he said. “There were people coming to us with numbers, [saying] let’s sell it, let’s do that.”

Istithmar is a subsidiary of Dubai World, the government-owned company which completed a $25 billion debt restructuring last year that included provisions for asset sales to pay off debt. The new plans for the QE2 “will not affect financial commitments to the banks,” Mr. bin Sulayem said.

Despite the scant details about the financing of the new hotel project, Mr. bin Sulayem expressed confidence that the QE2 hotel would be successful.

“It costs money for Istithmar to keep it sitting, so what we’re doing is reducing the cost for Istithmar and eventually Istithmar will make money out of it,” he said.

The ship’s historic character is to be preserved as it undergoes the conversion, Mr. bin Sulayem said. The 300 rooms are to be spruced up but not significantly changed; the renovation work principally involves fixing corroded and leaking pipes and connecting the boat to land-based water and electricity supplies.

“There were many grand ideas of renovating it in such a way that it was totally different from what it used to be, but we realized that a lot of people liked the ship as it was,” he said.

Mr. bin Sulayem dismissed suggestions that the corrosion, or the presence of asbestos in parts of the ship, would affect the hotel project. Consultants have been hired to certify the boat’s safety and ensure that any remaining asbestos is harmless, he said.

The initiative comes as Dubai enjoys a rebound in trade and tourism. Room occupancy rates at Dubai hotels averaged 74.4% last year, according to Dubai Statistics Center data, up from 70% in 2010.

The QE2 has been docked at Port Rashid since it arrived in Dubai. The 70,000-ton behemoth first floated in 1967 and was a cruise ship and ocean liner operated by former owner Cunard until its sale to Istithmar in 2007.

A rescue operation interrupted Queen Mary 2’s voyage from New York to Southampton ahead of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Southampton.

On the eve of the Jubilee Celebrations in Southampton, I was kind of glued to MarineTraffic to check for the ships progress, as I planned to get up and out early for their arrival at Hythe Marina. I certainly was surprised when the ship map indicated she stopped at Start Bay off Dartmoor. I quickly checked with my liner friends, last thing we wanted to happen was a technical failure preventing her to arrive together with her sister ships but when the map showed an RNLI boat close to Queen Mary 2 it became evident that a medical evacuation took place.

AIS indicated that an RNLI boat pulled up to QM2 –  Thanks Tee Adams for getting this shot when my internet went down.

It was the second medevac Torbay RNLI has carried out from Queen Mary 2. The first was on her Maiden Voyage in January 2004.

The facts gathered from the RNLI website:

Torbay lifeboat crew were launched to rendezvous with the passenger vessel Queen Mary 2 on the evening of 4 June as she was on her way to Southampton for a historic meeting of the three Queens (Queen Mary IIQueen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria) to mark the Diamond Jubilee.

The crew carried out a medical evacuation and the casualty was transferred from Queen Mary 2 to the all-weather lifeboat and was then met at Kingswear by an awaiting ambulance.
The launch instruct was given at 19:49 BST, launch time 20:01, ready for service time 22:33. All Weather Lifeboat (ALB) 2012 Shout #23. Coxswain Mark Criddle, Mechanic Simon James.

Despite the rescue op, Queen Mary 2 arrived in Southampton on time, leading the three Cunard ships into port.

The evacuation was filmed by RNLI crew member Nigel Millard, a great video showing the evacuation. I also found a video on YouTube by a passenger, so here we have 2 different views of the operation:

Slideshow with excellent photos by Nigel Millard:

A passenger on board Queen Mary 2 was in the perfect spot for the onboard view of the operation:

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