May 6, 2005


There is a strong story going round that the QM2 will be doing a world cruise in 2007, and this seems to (of course) be increasing speculation about the QE2 - as that year the new "Queen Victoria" comes on stream.
This article, therefore, caught my attention - the history of ships trying to be turned into hotels is not a good one... and yet..
Old queen of the seas sailing into uncertain sunset

SHE is the grande dame of the seas, a vessel synonymous with old-world British style and tradition, but the final destination of the QE2 is in doubt as she sails towards retirement.

Southampton, the QE2’s home port, wants to turn her into a floating hotel and museum. The city fears, however, it will be outbid by groups in Japan or America and may even be unable to match the £50 million that scrap merchants would be expected to pay for the 70,000-tonne ship.

Carnival, the giant American cruise company which owns the two Cunard queens, the QE2 and her bigger sister the Queen Mary 2, is likely to sell to the highest bidder. Cunard insiders admit that that could mean the QE2, which marks her 36th birthday on Monday, ending her days being driven on to a beach in Pakistan to be stripped and dismembered.

The businessmen and enthusiasts behind the Southampton bid believe that Carnival could retire the QE2, the last big liner built in Britain, in less than three years. Few in the cruise industry expect her still to be sailing beyond her 40th year.

After 1,374 voyages covering six million miles, further than any other vessel, the QE2 is beginning to show her age. Complaints from loyal passengers about tatty upholstery and carpets have forced Cunard to carry out running repairs this month while passengers sleep.

Cunard is building the 85,000-tonne Queen Victoria, due to be launched at the end of 2007, and the company is uncertain whether the cruise market will be big enough for three queens.

Even if the QE2’s profits remain healthy, she could fall foul of fire safety regulations coming into force in 2010 that prohibit wood on ships. The acres of oak, cedar and cherry panelling in her corridors and cabins are part of her sepia-tinted character and distinguish her from her younger, glossier rivals.

Peter Ratcliffe, Cunard’s president, said: “We will continue to deploy her for as long as she is making money. The costs of maintaining her have gone up and will continue to rise. But commercially, she is doing better now than for several years. She appeals to an older, more traditional passenger who is attracted to a bygone era and feels the journey is as important as the destination.”

Mr Ratcliffe said Cunard would co-operate with attempts to preserve the QE2, which had a spell as a troopship during the Falklands conflict. “I anticipate we would be able to find a home where she would be as respected as she is today.”

Peter Wakeford, Southampton City Council’s cabinet member for culture and tourism, said the council had completed a preliminary study of the options for granting a permanent berth to the QE2. One is to make her the centrepiece of a new waterfront development on land reclaimed from the sea beside Town Quay, the docks closest to the city centre.”

Associated British Ports, which owns Southampton docks, said it would lend its expertise to the bidding team and try to find a permanent berth.

Doug Morrison, the port director, said: “It would be a wonderful opportunity to include the QE2 in the development plans. She could do for Southampton what the Britannia has done for Leith in Edinburgh.”

Terry Yarwood, a maritime historian who has been on more than a dozen voyages on the QE2, is co-ordinating plans to keep her in Southampton.


  • Queen Mary. Launched 1934; retired 1967. Purchased by Long Beach, California, and became hotel and tourist attraction. Latest owners filed for bankruptcy protection last month

  • Queen Elizabeth. 1938-68. Became hotel in Port Everglades, Florida. Business collapsed after two years. Bought by Taiwanese company for use as university. Arsonist struck during conversion; scrapped

  • America. 1939-94. Wrecked in 1994 off Fuerteventura, Canaries, on way to becoming hotel in Thailand

  • Oriana. 1959-86. Became hotel, museum and restaurant in Japan. Venture failed and vessel sold as tourist attraction to China in 1996. Partially capsized in gales last year

  • Canberra: 1960-97. Sent to Pakistan to be scrapped but became firmly stuck on sandbar just off breakers’ yard

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