QE2 will secede her saltwater throne
By Mary K. Nolan
The Hamilton Spectator
More articles by this columnist
(Jun 30, 2007)
By now you've likely heard that the QE2, perhaps the world's most
celebrated ocean liner, has been sold.
She's been purchased for more than $100 million US by a state-owned
investment holding company in Dubai known as Istithmar (which sounds
uncomfortably similar to Ishtar, one of the most spectacular movie bombs
of all time.)
The plan is to turn her into a floating hotel that will be berthed at a
specially constructed quay at The Palm Jumeirah development in the
Persian Gulf. Frankly, there'd be a classier future for the grand old
lady in a scrapyard or at the bottom of the sea. This place makes Vegas
look like Huntsville.
The Palm is an undertaking so ostentatious and overwrought, so
extravagant and decadent that it is an affront to the rest of the
With self-important flatulence, this manufactured mecca bills itself as
the eighth wonder of the world, using a thesaurus of over-the-top
adjectives such as deluxe, magnificent, exclusive, luxury, five-star,
lush, sumptuous, world-class, unprecedented, premier, ad vulgarium.
They are not the sort of descriptives that have been applied to the
Cunard flagship for nearly 40 years -- gracious, elegant, sleek,
sophisticated, dignified, royal.
It was a royal who concocted the idea of The Palm. His Highness Sheikh
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president of the United Arab
Emirates, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, considered it the answer to
the growing hotspot's increasing shortage of beachfront.
Well then, we'll make some, His Royal Superlativeness must have mused.
We'll make them in the shape of palm trees that will proliferate not
with dates or coconuts but with villas, residences, palaces, hotels,
water homes, marinas, dive sites, theatres and retail shops all jammed
together as tightly as in some cookie-cutter subdivision in Mississauga.
And we'll make it so that nobody but the super-rich can afford to even
breathe the air there.
The "trunk" of The Palm Jumeirah stretches two kilometres across the
water before sprouting into 17 "fronds" that are connected by subsea
tunnels to an 11-kilometre crescent surrounding the palm.
The properties boast names such as Kingdom of Sheba, Taj Exotica, Palm
Grandeur, Tiara Residence and Emerald Palace. There's nary a Day's Inn
among them, but naturally, The Donald will weigh in sometime in 2009
with The Palm Trump International Hotel and Tower, obscenely priced at
$600 million US.
And Palm Jumeirah is only the beginning. The project also includes two
other islands -- The Palm Jebel Ali, half again as big, and The Palm
Deira, which will have 41 flippin' fronds and 8,000 two-storey villas by
the time it's done.
The storied QE2, launched by QE II herself in 1967, has rescued stranded
passengers at sea, survived a mid-Atlantic bomb hoax and ransom demand,
served as a troop ship in the Falklands crisis, sailed into uncharted
offshore rocks and stood up to a 95-foot wave during Hurricane Luis.
The goodbyes will be long and sad. Cunard is planning six farewell
voyages starting in September 2008, including two transatlantic
crossings in tandem with the Queen Mary 2.
Cunard's longest-sailing liner, and still the fastest in the world, will
embark on her final voyage on Nov. 11, 2008 -- Remembrance Day-- sailing
from Southampton to Dubai.
And there, among the ersatz fronds, is where the majestic monarch of the
seas, the blueblood who has crossed the Atlantic 800 times and ferried
2.5 million people between continents and around the world, will spend
her well-deserved retirement.
God save the queen.