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Posts Tagged ‘Queen Elizabeth 2’

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

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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

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One of the most famous call signs in maritime history ceased to exist today:

Call sign GBTT.

Following Cunard’s announcement to re-flag their fleet and re-register the three Queens in Bermuda, QUEEN ELIZABETH was the first to change registry and subsequently call sign and flag: The new call sign is ZCEF2. Eventually the port of registry on the stern will change from Southampton to Hamilton.

Call sign GBTT is firmly associated with Cunard’s longstanding tradition to register their ships in England. No less than 3 Cunard Queens carried the call sign. GBTT was originally used for RMS Queen Mary. After her withdrawal the call sign was transferred to QE2, and following the liner’s demise in 2008 it was ‘bestowed’ on Cunard’s most recent ship, Queen Elizabeth who only got to carry it for one year.

  • Queen Mary: 1936 – 1967
  • Queen Elizabeth 2: 1967 – 2009
  • Queen Elizabeth: 2010 – 2011 

 

Queen Elizabeth leaving Southampton 23 October 2011 – displaying Southampton on her stern. This will soon be replaced by Hamilton. Photo courtesy Christian Reay, Southampton

GBTT has been in Cunard history for 75 years. Today is marking the end of an era, as her 2 sister ships will follow suit over the next few weeks:  QUEEN VICTORIA on October 27, 2011 and QUEEN MARY 2 on December 1st, 2011.

You can track the ship on Vesseltracker.

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Liveboat.it published a new video of QE2 on YouTube. The video was shot in Dubai February 9, 2011. Some very good close up. Looking at her bow along the waterline it is obvious she is cleaned regularly, and any salty residue and marine growth is scrubbed off.  My photos from December 2010 show more marine growth.

For those not fluent in Italian, the short description says: “Video shot in Dubai February 9, 2011. Queen Elizabeth 2 has been given a new life with a repainting of the hull.”

Thank you, Liveboat.it for bringing this video to us. If you are interested in other ship videos, check out Liveboat.it on YouTube.

 

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On October 10, 2008, the QM2 and QE2 left Southampton for a Tandem Atlantic Crossing which was going to be the Final Westbound Crossing for the QE2 before her departure from the Cunard fleet. 

The liners left together with the Ventura who was on her way to the Mediterranean. I can’t help it but she’s an ugly container ship with balconies, and her whistle does not compare at all to the wonderful sounds of liners’ fine whistles. Someone in the whistle concert was clearly out of tune! 

While we were travelling on QE2 and admiring the QM2, another acquaintance, Dr Nelson Arnstein took hours of film footage on the QM” including wonderful shots of the QE2 . He kindly allowed us to use the footage from this historical crossing which is largely unedited. We are very grateful for his generosity in sharing his memories with us. 

The first film of several from the tandem voyage is now on Flagship Video, it is about 35 minutes and shows the departure from Southampton. There will be more footage coming soon, including some exciting views of QE2. 

To view this excellent footage, click on the Cunard Queens logo and select QM2 10/10/2008 Tandem with QE2.

 

On a side note, the footage starts with the safety exercise which is routine practice on the ship prior to leaving port. We have another example of the safety drill on the Cunard Queens website, which is the Life Boat Drill Announcement from the 80s. Click >> here << to read the post and listen to the announcement.

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Archives can be real treasure troves, especially when you’ve forgotten all about it. And then, one day, an encounter with a blast from the past, a trip down memory lane, and it is all back in the flash.  Thanks to the diligent archiving efforts of a former crew member who recently unearthed many of the 1/2″ tape decks containing old QE2 films from the 80s, Cunard Queens was able to restore and convert some of them for Flagship Video. Those tapes usually didn’t hold up well over the years and some of them may not be of very good quality but we pleased to say that the King Neptune’s Court Ceremony filmed on March 9, 1984 during the World Cruise has survived in remarkably good quality. It has now been converted and added to the Flagship Video collection.

Have you ever crossed the Equator on a vessel or cruise ship? Then you most likely know about the ‘Crossing the Line Ceremony’, or ‘King Neptune’s Court Ceremony’ as it is called on the Cunard ships. If you’ve attended a King Neptune’s Court ceremony our latest Flagship Video may bring back fond (or messy) memories, and if you’ve never witnessed the ceremony, then watch and you will be enlightened… It’s not for the faint hearted for sure. I have seen some rendition executed in the later years onboard QE2 which sadly were so sanitary and politically correct and gentle, that it makes one realise what a great show the earlier ceremonies were.  

The  Crossing the Line Ceremony is traditional for all vessels when they cross the equator. It refers to a belief in the god Neptune or Poseidon and his willingness to let (or not) a ship continue on it’s journey: A ceremony takes place whereby King Neptune is asked to grant safe passage of the ship and her crew. The tradition actually goes back to the 13th century and was originally created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates were capable of handling long rough times at sea.  All members of the crew regardless of age or rank who have not crossed the equator before must take part in the initiation ritual. The ritual has taken on many forms which evolved over the years.

The crossing of the equator involves elaborate preparation by the “shellbacks” (those who have crossed the equator before, sometimes also referred to as Sons of Neptune) to ensure the “pollywogs” (those who are about to cross the equator for the first time) are properly indoctrinated. All pollywogs, even the Commanding Officer if he has not crossed before, must participate. They are required to go before the Court of Neptune, where their sins are read out, and the punishments bestowed.

In the old times, these rituals were quite brutal and sometimes fatal. On ocean liners and cruise ships these are being carried out for the passengers’ entertainment. Indeed the sailing from the Northern into the Southern part of the world (or vice-versa) became a very special event.  

On Cunard ships, no World Cruise would be complete without a King Neptune’s Court Ceremony,  commemorated in a play involving some quirky characters: King Neptune, the Judge, the executioners , policemen (dressed in British Bobby uniforms) and nixes. During the ceremonial process the prisoners would be brought forward  to the swimming pool where the Captain and senior officers are waiting to greet King Neptune and his Consorts. On QE2, passengers who are Pollywogs are invited to kiss the fish ( a large salmon ) and then step into the swimming pool. They are then Shellbacks. Staff are dealt with differently, involving spaghetti and coloured sauces, as well as kissing the fish. It is a very messy affair, much to the delight of the onlookers. I don’t envy the crew who had to clean up afterwards! Everyone is awarded a certificate for crossing the line.

But back to the video: The King Neptune’s Ceremony  is filmed during the 1984 World Cruise, en route to Mahe, Seychelles. Cruise Director Bob Haines is King Neptune, DJ Stuart Barton is the Judge, Bob Dougherty and Steve Green as well as a couple of others whose names I don’t know are the executioners.

To watch the video, click on the Cunard Queens Logo below and select the video.

Below, to complement the video, are some photos from the 1985 and 1986 ceremonies, courtesy of Stuart Barton:

King Neptune’s Court 1985

Cruise Director Bob Haines taking an unexpected bath.

The ‘before’ photos

 

 

A soon to be Shellywag is looking forward to a dip into the pool

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November 27, 2009, 10am, Dubai Cruise Terminal, Port Rashid:

It is the 1st  Anniversary of the QE2’s arrival in Dubai, and what a stark contrast it is to last year:  No welcome flotilla, no arrival celebrations, no champagne corks popping, no red carpets rolled out for the dignitaries anxiously awaiting her arrival, no media waiting to buzz the photos of her docking around the world, no curious locals hoping for a glimpse of the famous ocean liner that had been making front page headlines for the past weeks, no bagpipes playing, no cheering passengers standing on the decks and waving flags – nothing. Just the humming of the generators. The QE2 was scheduled to arrive at 6am on Nov 27th, 2009 but eventually she arrived ahead of schedule in the afternoon of the 26th so that the locals could arrange for a welcome flotilla to greet her into the port. The handover ceremony between Cunard and Nakheel took place on the ship in the early afternoon of Nov 27th.

The Dubai Cruise Terminal, where QE2 is docked,  is located in this part of Port Rashid.

I am standing in front of my beloved ocean liner, and I am not embarrassed to admit it, I have knots in my throat and tears in my eyes.  It is my first reunion with the QE2 since I saw her last year coming into the port, finishing her final voyage from Southampton to Dubai. Seeing the Queen in her full splendour is simply breathtaking.

 The QE2 is docked about 500 metres from the Dubai Cruise Terminal, access to this area is very restricted.

 

The flag of Vanuatu is flying and the stern shows Port Vila as port of registration.
  
 
I am holding my very own anniversary celebrations: Walking her full length from bow to stern and back, scrutinizing the ship for signs of neglect and taking as many photos as I can. I won’t be getting any closer.  I am very happy to report that the ship is looking stunning as ever and that she appears to be well cared for. Her exteriors are in excellent condition as far as I can see. In my mind I am replaying onboard scenes and wonderful moments aboard: The formal dinners, afternoon tea, pre-dinner drinks in the Chart Room, late nights in the Yacht Club, lazy hours on the sun deck and gentle strolls around the deck – and getting lost…. The gangway to one of the three open doors on Five Deck is decorated with a golden tub that holds a green plant which is causing me to smile: It’s a very nice gesture!
  

 One of the gangways is decorated with a plant – I think it is a nice touch. However, the security guards inside the ship make sure no one is ‘welcome aboard’.
 
While I am taking a peak inside I can hear the Queen whispering: ‘Come, come on board, cut my ropes lose and take me on a World Cruise. Next stop Hong Kong….’ Oh, I wished!!!  I touch her to give her the love of my friends before I was shooed away by the security guards: ‘No intruders please’. Intruders! There was a time I was a welcome guest enjoying formal dinners and ballroom dancing… 
 
I am calling a friend on the US West Coast who stayed awake all night to hear from me, and I describe the atmosphere, the location and most important, the ship: She’s alive!!! A set of engines in running, smoke is billowing from her funnel and the lights in the restaurants are switched on. Many window blinds are pulled down to protect the interior from the relentless sun. The blue chairs on the sun deck are neatly stacked. She is well looked after. We both almost start crying.   Not a soul outside. It is quiet, almost tranquil. No scenes of a bustling and hustling cruise terminal.
 
 
Smoke is billowing from the famous black and red funnel and many windows are covered to protect the interior from the merciless sun.
Someone forgot to remove the Cunard logo on the tender!
  
  
 
The lights are switched on in the restaurants and other public areas.
  
 
 
The blue deck chairs are neatly stacked on the sun deck.
  
  
  
The Cunard logo is long gone.
  
  
  
The entire ship looks scrubbed and clean. No Nakheel flag flying.
  
  
 
Take a bow…
  
 
 
The imposing superstructure
  
  
  
The Dubai Cruise Terminal area is deserted during the Eid holiday. The port is expecting a cruise ship today and one on the 29th.  The season has not started yet. Behind the QE2, approximately 500 metres away, the AIDA Diva from Germany arrived in the early morning hours. 
 

The AIDA Diva docked earlier in the morning. Cruise ships calling on Dubai are docked behind the QE2. Their web cams usually get an excellent view of the QE2’s stern and funnel.
 
Most passengers have already disembarked and were carted off to their next or final destination. A fence prevents them from veering into the secured area of the QE2. I wanted to find out if they were interested in the ship and what they thought about her being here.  While waiting to pass the next security level I can speak to various passengers,  neither of them know who the QE2 is or cannot be bothered. One gentlemen thinks she is already in Capetown, another couple wants to know where I am going and wishes me bon voyage on the QE2.  
 
The area around the QE2 is clean, tidy, no clutter lying around, and no equipment that indicates any activities. My two colleagues and I are the only visitors today to mark the 1st anniversary of her arrival. It feels like she is almost forgotten in Dubai.  She is certainly not forgotten in the books of  Dubai World who own Nakheel; but it is quite obvious she is no longer on the minds of the local people: None of whom I spoke to take any interest in the ship or admit they are not informed about her current situation. It’s exactly as I predicted in my post    Dubai – End of a Voyage’    a year ago: She will briefly make headlines but soon will end up on the last page of the news papers like an actress whose celebrity status dropped from A to C.  
 
We are spending as much time as possible in the area and make the most of it. There was a lot of red tape cutting required to get here. The QE2 area is a secured area; one can’t just walk or drive in to take photos. I owe big thanks to my colleagues in Dubai whose excellent connections with the Dubai Port Authorities and the Dubai Cruise Terminal Management enabled me to pass all pre-clearances in order to receive approval for access. DTCM provided us with two possible dates for a visit, the 27th or the 29th and I didn’t have to consider twice which date I wanted. It had to be the 27th, the anniversary date! The approval was given a couple of days before my visit, yet I have to pass 3 security levels:  First the call at gate security to get into the cruise terminal area, then the check in with port security to obtain a pass for which they withheld my passport, and only after the last hurdle, ship security is taken, I am free to walk dockside and take photos.  
My dear colleagues, thank you all for making this special day possible, you know who you are!!!  
 
As we are leaving the cruise terminal, I am catching a final glimpse of the QE2, bathing in the sun and wondering about her future fate.
  
 
Just shortly after we leave the terminal I receive an email from a friend with a link to an article in The Telegraph which announces the possibility of the QE2 being sold by Nakheel in an effort to pay off some of the mounting debt. I quickly grab some of the local newspapers: Khaleej Times, Gulf Post, 7 Days – they all talk about Dubai World’s request to suspend its debt payments for six months while it undergoes fundamental restructuring.  The group has an overall debt of $59 billion dollars, which comprises three-quarters of the Emirate’s total debt of $80 billion. The QE2 is considered a none-core asset like many other DP property investments and may be sold. What a royal tragedy: The high-profile “trophy asset’ has turned into a severe liability with an uncertain future…  
 
At the moment, I just wonder about potential buyers who are prepared to invest millions into an acquisition of the ocean liner. Who would want her? Probably many. Who can afford her? Probably only few. Whilst I am not a pessimist by nature, I have these images of Alang ‘beach’ in my mind –  a heart breaking thought.  
 
The signs of bankruptcy have been there for a while – now the wake up call has come! In my opinion, Nakheel was already feeling the results of the credit crunch by the time the QE2 arrived in Dubai last year. The Trump Tower on Jumeirah Palm had just been put on hold, a day after the arrival newspapers announced that Nakheel was going to make 500 employees redundant. Many of my friends lost their work. I didn’t believe at the time that Nakheel had the financial means to pursue the ambitious plans that leaked to the press before her arrival. Throughout the year the company played their cards close to the chest. Their policy to communicate as little as necessary about future plans resulted in a flurry of gossips and rumours which kept the ocean liner forums busy debating possible scenarios. In a nutshell: Speculations were rife and in abundance, newspapers were citing ‘from reliable sources close to the decision makers’ which later turned out to be hot air.  Remember those absurd plans to sail the ship back to Bremerhaven and have her cut up in 2 parts to insert an extension and tug her back to the UK? The plans to replace the red and black funnel with a glass penthouse which so infuriated the liner community? The online auctions where ship models of future designs were offered, stories of a possible investor in the UK who wanted to bring her back to Southampton? The recent announcement to transfer the QE2 to Cape Town as a floating hotel during the World Soccer Games 2010. This was possibly a last attempt to turn the idle ship into a money maker and to recoup some of the investment. Apart from the Cape Town move, most of the news was speculation. As of today, the future has become even more uncertain, if not even worse. One thing is for sure: The gossip kitchen will remain busy.   

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to see the ship one more time as I want to remember her: As the grandest and finest ocean liner in the world.

I’ve taken a lot more photos and posted them in the Cunard Queens Galleries . 

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