SAD END FOR THE QUEEN OF THE SEAS

Daily Express - - NEWS - By Chris Roy­croft-Davis

SHE is the great­est ship the world has ever known. The QE2 – the long­est, widest, tallest, fastest and most ex­pen­sive pas­sen­ger liner ever built – made 26 cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tions of the globe and took more than three mil­lion pas­sen­gers a stag­ger­ing 5,875,264 nau­ti­cal miles in glit­ter­ing sur­round­ings that were the epit­ome of lux­ury.

Every year nearly 20 tons of lob­ster and a ton of caviar were eaten on board, washed down with 70,000 bot­tles of the finest cham­pagne. For those with still more money to spend, the ship’s shop­ping ar­cade had 11 de­signer la­bel bou­tiques and a branch of Har­rods.

To­day, how­ever, 50 years af­ter she was launched, the once mag­nif­i­cent QE2 is a dis­carded shell tak­ing on rain­wa­ter and slowly gath­er­ing rust along­side a spar­tan dock­side in Dubai’s com­mer­cial har­bour, Port Rashid.

At a dis­tance – and that’s how the se­cu­rity guards like to keep in­quis­i­tive tourists – the for­mer Cunard flag­ship looks as if she is ready to cast off at any mo­ment, full steam ahead on what would be her 1,375th voy­age. But close up the re­al­ity is trag­i­cally dif­fer­ent.

Gone are the glo­ri­ous days of pre-din­ner cock­tails in the Chart Room bar, for­mal meals at the cap­tain’s ta­ble or late nights over liqueurs in the Yacht Club. No longer do bronzed cou­ples on 80-day world cruises spend lazy hours on sunbeds or en­joy un­hur­ried moon­lit strolls around the teak deck.

As the Mid­dle East­ern sun beats down on her, the QE2 is silent. Four years ago the last of her nine en­gines – the largest ma­rine units ever built, each the size of a dou­ble decker bus and con­sum­ing 18 tons of fuel an hour – was turned off. No more wisps of smoke curl from her iconic black and red fun­nel.

With­out power for light­ing and air con­di­tion­ing, the queen of the seas was con­demned to a sad and lin­ger­ing death. The most re­cent pic­tures taken on board show black mould grow­ing across the ceil­ings of once lux­u­ri­ous state­rooms.

A drum kit is all that re­mains on a band­stand where mu­si­cians once ser­e­naded pas­sen­gers and on one of the ship’s many stages sits a now-silent grand pi­ano. In the for­mer casino, slot ma­chines stand with their lights out. Keep­ing watch over the de­serted cor­ri­dors is a por­trait of the Queen, who launched the QE2 on Cly­de­side on Septem­ber 20, 1967, and atop one of the stair­wells is the ship’s colour­ful fig­ure­head, Bri­tan­nia.

Af­ter an il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer in which she rep­re­sented all that is finest about Bri­tain, played host to some of the world’s most fa­mous names in­clud­ing Princess Diana, Nel­son Man­dela, David Bowie, Elizabeth Tay­lor and Peter Sell­ers, and even car­ried troops to the Falk­lands War, the QE2 in­evitably reached the end.

She had sailed fur­ther than any ship in his­tory – the equiv­a­lent of 14 re­turn trips to the moon. The old lady had more than earned a rest­ful re­tire­ment and there was joy when Cunard sold her to the UAE govern­ment con­glom­er­ate Dubai World for £64mil­lion in 2008. The ship was des­tined to be­come a lux­ury ho­tel.

But the sale came just as the world bank­ing cri­sis ex­ploded and Dubai was forced to put its plans on hold. In 2011 ren­o­va­tionn work was halted and the crew of con­struc­tion work­ers was cut to 36. Two years later the last en­gine was turned off and the crew was paid off. Since then there has been no of­fi­cial word on the ship’s fu­ture al­though many fear in­creas­ingly that she has been doomed to the scrap­yard.

CAM­PAIGNER Rob Light­body, of the on­line group The QE2 Story, be­lieves she could be saved if she could be bought back from the Dubai govern­ment. “Its scrap value is de­creas­ing and weighted against the cost of de­con­tam­i­nat­ing the ship of as­bestos it could prob­a­bly be bought for £3mil­lion,” he said.

“The op­tions now are to scrap it – but clear­ing it out would cost mil­lions and mil­lions – or just leave it some­where. It’s just sit­ting in Dubai. Noth­ing has hap­pened to it in the past two and a half years. There’s no power. There’s no air. She’s filthy.”

He said he would love to see the liner at rest some­where as­so­ci­ated with its transat­lantic his­tory (she made 806 cross­ings) such as Southamp­ton, Liverpool, Lon­don or New York.

“For all of her ser­vice life she ex­uded taste, class and lux­ury more than any other liner. She was un­der­stated and com­fort­able in a truly Bri­tish way. Her restau­rants were equiv­a­lent to the very best ho­tels in the world and glo­ri­ous food was served through­out the day and night. Her 1,800 pas­sen­gers had more than 1,000 staff at their beck and call.”

The QE2 has had 25 dif­fer­ent cap­tains – mas­ters as they are known – but the one with the strong­est con­nec­tion to the ship was Com­modore Ron Watkins, Cunard’s most se­nior of­fi­cer. Ron’s fa­ther Bill was the QE2’s first mas­ter, sail­ing her from her Clyde ship­builders, and Ron was in com­mand for her last jour­ney from Southamp­ton to Dubai. “My fa­ther put the QE2 to­gether,” he said that day, “and I’m go­ing to take her apart.”

Now re­tired, Ron speaks nos­tal­gi­cally of his fam­ily’s links to QE2. “First time I went aboard this whop­ping great ship I thought, well if you’ve got to go to sea this is

CRUIS­ING INTO THE RECORD BOOKS

The QE2 weighs 70,327 tonnes, is 963ft long, cost £29mil­lion to build in 1967 and car­ried 1,892 pas­sen­gers and 1,040 crew. the one to go on. I loved the grandeur of it all. We were in the business of mak­ing peo­ple happy.”

He smiles as he re­calls his first day in com­mand in 1990. “As we en­tered the So­lent the Queen and Duke of Ed­in­burgh boarded from the Royal Yacht Bri­tan­nia. Af­ter tour­ing the ship, the Queen came to the bridge to wit­ness my first dock­ing.”

He was also in com­mand for QE2’s last voy­age to Dubai and on board were two for­mer crew mem­bers, Mau­reen Ryan and Thomas Quinones. Mau­reen had worked as a stew­ardess on the maiden voy­age in 1969 and said: “I just had to be here. QE2 has been my life.” Thomas worked on board for 25 years and said: “I have tried to keep back the tears, to be pro­fes­sional but this will never hap­pen again. It is the end­ing of an era.”

Now the world’s most fa­mous liner is an empty hulk. Work­ers near her berth say she is haunted by for­mer pas­sen­gers. Some claim that at night they hear chil­dren’s voices and there is an el­derly white-haired lady who roams the car­peted hall­ways. The ghosts of a glo­ri­ous past, no doubt.

SHIP’S COM­PANY: The liner played host to many celebri­ties in­clud­ing, from left, ac­tor Peter Sell­ers and Bea­tle Ringo Starr; David Bowie on his way to tour the US; and Princess Diana at a chil­dren’s party to mark the ship’s re­turn to ser­vice in 1987

She had five restau­rants, two cafes, three swim­ming pools, a 531-seat cin­ema, a hos­pi­tal and a casino.

She used 433 tons of fuel a day, with one gal­lon of fuel mov­ing the ship about 20ft.

The rud­der alone weighs 80 tons – around the same as 10 dou­ble-decker buses.

The ship could sail back­wards at more than 20mph, faster than most cruise ships sail for­wards.

The QE2 was not named af­ter the cur­rent Queen but af­ter the wife of King Ge­orge VI. This is why a num­ber is used – Queen Elizabeth 2 – rather than the Ro­man nu­mer­als of Queen Elizabeth II.

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