Dubai: The emirate added another iconic tourist destination to the list by converting the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship into a floating hotel at Rashid Port turning the whole area into an entertainment port village in 18 months, Sultan Ahmad Bin Sulayem, Chairman, Istithmar World, said.

He said: “The vessel will be moored next to the original cruise terminal at Port Rashid and converted into a 300 room luxury hotel, with top quality lifestyle facilities, while the terminal itself will be developed into a maritime museum.

“The QE2 will be at the heart of Dubai in its permanent position at Port Rashid and contribute to the growth of Dubai as the city continues to develop and expand as a top tourist destination. The vessel is truly iconic and has a huge following around the world. Our vision is to enhance the facilities on board but retain the very strong sense of history that is a fundamental part of her attraction.”

Istithmar World, the investment arm of government-owned conglomerate Dubai World, bought the QE2 from its original owner — the British-American owned shipping company Cunard Line — for $100 million (Dh367.3 million) in June 2007 but it arrived Dubai in November 2008.

He said: “Having the QE2 moored as a floating, top class hotel right on the waterfront in the centre of Dubai will also add further life and activity to the surrounding area.”

Bin Sulayem remarked that DP World has been expanding Port Rashid’s capacity into a port entertainment village including the Maritime Museum, with 25 displays from around the world.

However, he didn’t disclose the finance plan for renovation and new facilities at Port Rashid. “Istithmar will not finance the project but there are different options for the finance process.”

Mohammad Al Mu’allem, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, DP World, UAE Region, said:” The 293-metre long vessel, which in its heyday could accommodate more than 2,900 people, together with the connected maritime museum and the other facilities to be set around, will be a leading tourist attraction at Port Rashid and add further to the attractions it offers as the leading cruise destination in the Middle East.

“This entertainment port village will be enrolled in the touristic programme in the UAE expecting to attract over 500,000 tourists per year.”

Cruise tourism

Dubai’s cruise tourism has been growing rapidly. The award-winning Dubai Cruise Terminal at Port Rashid hosted 108 cruise ships with 396,554 passengers in 2011 and 71 vessels with 275,000 tourists during the first half of this year. This figure is projected to touch 145 cruise ships and 500,000 passengers by 2015, according to Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), DP World’s strategic partner.

In April, five cruise ships docked at Dubai Cruise Terminal simultaneously, bringing with them over 19,000 tourists, the largest number of visitors handled at the Port Rashid facility on a single day.

DP World’s vision is for Port Rashid to eventually be able to serve as many as seven large cruise vessels at one time.