DUBAI (REUTERS) - The Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) ocean liner has been given a new lease of life as a floating hotel in Dubai, 10 years after the Gulf Arab emirate bought it for US$100 million (S$130 million).
State-owned Dubai World bought the QE2 from Cunard Line in 2007, but the 2008 financial crisis delayed any plans for the 40-year-old vessel, one of the world's most famous ships.
Now the QE2, permanently moored at Mina Rashid port, has been refurbished based on the original design, from its carpets to the theatre and even restaurant menus featuring dishes served in the liner's heyday.
A reception housed in a boat-shaped structure at the quay welcomed guests to Wednesday's official opening.
Large portraits of United Arab Emirates rulers hang opposite portraits of a young Queen Elizabeth II and Samuel Cunard, founder of the company that built the ship.
"There is a huge following around the world for the QE2 because of how famous she is and what she stands for," said Hamza Mustafa, chief executive of PCFC Hotels, the Dubai World subsidiary that owns the ship.
The QE2 first entered service in 1969 and has sailed around the world 25 times, carrying more than 2.5 million passengers, the company said.
In its new incarnation, it has 1,300 rooms, with rates ranging from less than US$200 to as much as US$15,000 for a suite. It also has a musueum and 13 restaurants and bars.
Dubai hopes the QE2 will boost tourism in the most visited city in the Middle East, which welcomed over 15 million tourists in 2017. Officials say they are targeting 20 million by 2020.
PCFC Hotels spent an additional US$100 million renovating the liner and has plans to convert Mina Rashid into a complex of luxury residences and a yachting marina.
"Although we kept everything as it was in 1969, you also have the most advanced technology in the tourism industry in Dubai," said Kenneth Todd, director of sales at PCFC Hotels.
"For example, you can control everything with your phone, including check-in, room key, lights and TV," he said while showing reporters a duplex suite.
Cunard's Queen Mary 2, the world's largest ocean liner, was also docked at Mina Rashid on Wednesday and sounded its horns to mark the occasion.