In recent years I’ve developed a special interest in and affection for Cunard ships. As a very small child I crossed the Atlantic on RMS Media in 1957, returning on the Queen Mary in 1959. In 2010 I was able to revisit the Queen Mary, now a floating hotel in Long Beach, California. In 2018 the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) finally reopened as a floating hotel, moored at Dubai’s Port Rashid, and visiting her got added to my to-do list.
In July I made my first post-Covid trip to the UK to see friends and family. In earlier times I took a direct flight from Melbourne though Singapore to London so as to maximise my time with family. Now retired, I took the opportunity to have a stopover in Dubai so I could fulfil my ambition.
The QE2 made her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1969 then came to prominence when she was requisitioned for the Falklands War as a troop transport in 1982. In 1985 her engines were converted from steam to diesel. In 2007 she was sold to Dubai interests to become a floating hotel but this didn’t happen until 2018.
My stay on QE2
Originally I’d planned to stay for three nights but a late family wedding notification reduced this to two. I flew from Melbourne and arrived Wednesday mid-afternoon. Dubai taxis and Uber provide an efficient, reasonably priced service which is just as well since the QE2 is moored well away from public transport. Obviously the first thing to do was to check in. A large ship-inspired onshore building houses the reception along with a large number of QE2 artefacts.
I’d chosen a ‘Captain’s Room’, in service days designated as a first-class stateroom. No balcony! How things have changed since the 1960s: now every effort is made to maximise the number of balconies on cruise ships; back then only the elite got a balcony. I wasn’t fussed since Dubai in July is not balcony weather. My stateroom, breakfast included, cost a very reasonable AED563 per night (US$153; GBP125; AUD237); the room rate increases somewhat during the cooler months. The cheapest (‘Classic’) rooms start at about half this; if you’re feeling flush, the Royal Suite, once reserved for members of the Royal Family can be yours for AED3000+ per night.
Top of my to-do list was the Heritage tour. This is run twice a day and I was nicely in time for the 5.00p.m. tour, ably led by Craig. The tour took in a number of places that are not open to casual visitors including the bridge. Having just arrived, the tour served as a good orientation exercise. I spent a good few hours exploring the ship on my own, getting lost more than once!
For dinner I went to the Lido restaurant and enjoyed butter chicken and rice, very reasonably priced at AED70 (US$19; GBP16; AUD29) considering that they have a captive audience. On the Wednesday night the restaurant was all but deserted; it was much busier on Thursday. The included buffet breakfast was much as you’d get at any hotel.
As for Dubai itself
If Dubai had been my destination, rather than a stopover, I would not have gone in July! A daytime temperature of 39C did not lend itself to prolonged outside sightseeing. I spent most of Thursday in the huge Dubai Mall, also riding the Metro to Deira City Centre from where I walked down to the Dubai Creek. Dubai metro trains and trams have Gold Class cabins, offering additional comfort for a premium fare and there are also cabins set aside for women and children.
On Friday I didn’t need to go to the airport until about 7.30p.m. so went to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building (830m, 2,722ft), named for a former president of the UAE, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The cheaper of the two viewing decks is on the 124th floor: the views are spectacular.
Then all too soon it was time to go back to the QE2 and pack for the onward UK flight.