QE2 Leaves Home Port for Last Time

SOUTHAMPTON ~ One of the world’s most famous cruise ships, the Queen Elizabeth 2, left its home port for the last time on Tuesday as it headed for a new life as a floating hotel in Dubai.

Thousands of spectators gathered on the shore here to send the 70,000-ton vessel on its way against a backdrop of fireworks, after a day of goodbyes marred only slightly by the ship running aground.

The QE2 ran onto a sandbank as it approached Southampton on England’s south coast at about 5:30am, but was freed about 40 minutes later.

Two tugs helped by the rising tide managed to re-float it, and the ship eventually arrived in port 15 minutes behind schedule but still in time to take part in commemorations for the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I.

“She touched a sandbank called Brambles but with the tide rising she was able to get away,” said Eric Flounders, a spokesman for QE2 owners Cunard.

He said he was “not aware at this stage of any damage to the vessel,” adding: “We don’t know exactly what happened for the vessel to get stuck.”

“She didn’t want to come in,” said pensioner Shirley Newcombe, who was on her 10th voyage aboard the QE2.

“That’s the opinion of quite a few of us on board. She doesn’t want to go to Dubai and we don’t want her to go.”

When the vessel eventually arrived in Southampton, one million poppies were dropped on it to mark the 90th anniversary of Armistice Day, and the ship’s final day docked at the port.

The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip, joined invited guests and crew members on board to observe a two-minute silence at 11:00 am (GMT) to mark the Armistice anniversary.

US cruise operator Carnival sold the QE2 for about £50 million (US$99 million) in November last year to Istithmar, the investment arm of state-owned tourism company Dubai World.

The vessel is set to arrive in Dubai on November 26 and after being refurbished, will be turned into a five-star hotel at a specially constructed pier on the world’s largest man-made island, The Palm Jumeirah.

Launched by her namesake in September 1967, the QE2 is Cunard’s longest-serving ship. The 294-metre-long ship can carry up to 1,778 passengers and more than 1,000 crew.

She has travelled 5.5 million nautical miles – the equivalent of travelling to the moon and back 13 times – undertaken 25 world cruises, crossed the Atlantic more than 800 times and carried more than two million passengers.

Filed under: Travel & Culture

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