Now comes a floating hotel in Dubai


Previously dubbed the grandest vessel ever, and once the largest, longest, widest and tallest ocean liner in the world following the 828.8 foot-long Titanic, QE2 now docked in Dubai may soon relocate. Legendary vessel, Queen Elizabeth II, all of 963 feet may soon be a permanent fixture of Dubai’s posh QE2 precinct on the Palm Jumeirah. The new site may include a dry area complete with yacht club, residential units (perhaps a 200-room hotel featuring luxury serviced residences on The Palm Jumeirah).

Master developer Nakheel may open the QE2 liner to visitors while it draws up plans for its transformation into a luxury hotel. Nakheel plans on doing some renovation while insisting there were no plans to sell-off the world famous liner amid the current global economic crisis, said a news wire source. “The ultimate goal is to renovate and refurbish QE2, and for her to be the focal point of a luxury precinct, dedicated to her, that will recreate an authentic luxury ocean liner ambiance and lifestyle. In the meantime there is no question of QE2 being operated as a cruise liner or of her being sold to any third party whatsoever,” Nakheel told the newswire source.

Nakheel was created in 1990 as part of HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s commitment to securing the emirate as an icon for world tourism and commerce under the umbrella of Dubai World. It is one of the biggest and busiest property developers famous for the large colony of man-made islands in Dubai. However, it too is showing cracks coming under the pressure of a difficult economy. Its Palm Islands has had growth stunted by the economic meltdown that has reached Dubai and the other neighboring emirates.

Where QE2 is set to open as a floating hotel is on the shores of the Palm Jumeirah which was built in 2006. Until recently, before the economic crisis, it was being groomed to be a hot bed for retail, accommodation and entertainment with the famous Golden Mile being the deluxe hotel strip of the Palm. Though it is the smallest development handled by Nakheel, in comparison with key projects such as The Palm Trilogy, the Waterfront and The World which boasted radical, iconic designs and proportions, the Palm Jumeirah paved the way for Nakheel’s entire coastal enterprise – reason for the QE 2 to make it its headquarters.

After completion in 2006, this Palm island site immediately hosted retail, accommodation and entertainment facilities. Golden Mile became a site of pure decadence expressed in the most lavish resorts ever built by the Movenpick, Fairmont, Radisson, Hilton, Metropolitan, Shangrila, One & Only, Altantis and the Trump International Hotel chains. Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, executive chairman of Nakheel once said, “With The Palm Jumeirah development, Nakheel is creating an icon for the 21st century, and it is entirely fitting that The Trump Organization is a key player and investor in realizing this vision.”

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever including mega investment flows to Dubai, the City of Gold. Nakheel may have had adequate funds for current projects but had no more plans to launch new developments as sales slowed down tremendously. Nakheel had not made any sales in the last months and the firm’s first sukuk, worth around $3.6 billion would come up for renewal in November 2009, said CEO Chris O’ Donnell.

Again unfortunately, huge funds mishandled during construction may have contributed to the end of Nakheel’s super construction. Earlier in April, the Khaleej Times reported that Nakheel was at the center of a crackdown on alleged corruption in the emirate. Two people were arraigned on suspicion of bribery days before a high-profile sales team led by its CEO, headed to the US to lure investors to Dubai’s $300 billion property boom.

Sans the misappropriated funds, Nakheel’s projected developments would have increased Dubai’s coastline by another 1000 kilometers by 2010 with the overall project spread set to exceed two billion square feet.

For now, at least, only one thing’s semi-confirmed. Nakheel is looking into the possibility of opening the QE2 to visitors in her current condition for a short period of time before refurbishment begins. Until decisions have been made final and money is on the table, QE2 floats quietly by Jebel Ali, while docked at Port Rashid where she has been awaiting her fate from Nahkeel since November of last year.