Dubai unveils more modest plans for QE2 hotel
DUBAI (Reuters) - Dubai on Monday scaled back plans to turn the Queen Elizabeth 2 ship into a luxury hotel at the tip of the emirate's famous palm-shaped island, saying she would be moored in an unglamorous part of town instead with many of her original fittings.
Unveiling a more modest version of a project that was scuppered by Dubai's 2008 debt crunch, the ship's operator - the investment arm of indebted conglomerate Dubai World - said the ship would still become a luxury hotel, but that just 300 of the original 1,000 rooms would now be developed.
Nor, as originally envisaged, would she be moored at Palm Jumeirah, a dramatic man-made island off Dubai hewn in the shape of a palm tree.
"Unfortunately we had many ambitious plans but they didn't work," said Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman of Istithmar - the unit that bought the vessel for $100 million in 2007 - and the chairman of port operator DP World.
"What we are doing now we should have done when we got it," he said.
The common areas, like the restaurants and entertainment areas, would be largely left as they are, he added.
The QE2 ocean liner is currently moored in Port Rashid in Dubai - a gritty commercial port a long way from the tourist-friendly neighborhood of Palm Jumeirah - and will stay where she is, said Sulayem.
"There have been many grand ideas. There were plans of renovating it in such a way that it becomes something totally different than what it used to be. But we realized soon that a lot of people like the ship as it was," he said.
Launched by Britain's Queen Elizabeth more than 40 years ago, the ship was used as a venue for a star-studded New Year's eve bash last year, but has otherwise largely been left unused, with some media reports suggesting she had been abandoned.
Talks were ongoing with three hotel operators, including Dubai Holding-owned Jumeirah Group, to run the new hotel, said Sulayem.
Though more modest, he said the new plan would see Port Rashid transformed into a tourist hub - replete with a maritime museum - to host the new hotel.
The conversion work is due to be completed in 18 months.
"Wait 18 months, you will not recognize this place," said Sulayem.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Andrew Osborn)