On Saturday night I boarded the QE2, berthed in Dubai and closed to the public since 2008. Was it worth the wait? Did all the A-list celebs that were being flung around Twitter as potential attendees actually turn up?
Check out my review here – or read it below.
Of the dozens of NYE parties that took place on Saturday night, it seems the event people are most curious about is the last-minute knees-up organised on board the internationally famous cruise ship: the Queen Elizabeth II.
Bought by Dubai World subsidiary Isthithmar World for US$100m in 2008, most of us remember the 60-strong yacht flotilla that brought the 43-year-old British icon to its retirement home in Port Rashid.
Shortly afterwards news flew around that the liner would be moved to a spot alongside the Palm Jumeirah, once it had been renovated into a floating hotel housing various exciting restaurants and bars. Then this was followed by headlines stating that it was actually to be shipped to South Africa instead. Fortunately, three years on and she’s still where we last saw her: yet now finally ready for her first public airing.
In the days running up to December 31, the internet was excitedly a-flutter with all the celebrities that might be attending one of the ‘most exclusive NYE parties in the world’, with names such as Lindsay Lohan and Pamela Anderson flung about. Doubts then set in as Li-Lo issued a statement via her lawyer on December 30, informing the events company that she would sue if they kept using her name to promote their gig.
Still, on arrival at 7pm on the big day (in time for the red carpet call, which we found frequented only by promo girls in sailor outfits), the car park was busy with couples in black tie and ball gowns. By 8pm, the ‘sailors’ were ready with wrist bands and we sauntered into another area of the car park that had been spruced up into a ‘VIP holding pen’, where we were served canapes and bubbly, while the UK’s Lovely Laura stood on a roof and played sax along to jazz and pop classics.
By 9.45pm we were growing restless; wondering if we would ever actually make it aboard the famed cruiser – just as the light show began. Neon green flew across the ship’s side, revealing images of its arrival ceremony and various cruise routes, along to a soundtrack of Brit classics from the likes of The Beatles, Coldplay and The Verve.
By the time a covers singer duo began to belt out yet more pop ballads, we’d had enough, and a small portion of the party broke away to march up the red carpet and finally board. What we discovered inside was a very retro interior; the lift still boasting the same floor details (including the whereabouts of an on-board casino).
Led up to the top deck, the event’s VIPs – UK talk show host Vanessa Feltz, Nadine Coyle of Girls Aloud fame and retired cricketer Allan Lamb; no LiLo or PamAn in sight – were shown to their separate dining area, some distance from the main entertainment and, we’re sure, much to their disappointment.
Ourselves and the rest of the Dhs3,000-ticket public quickly tucked into the lacklustre buffet (it was 10pm and we were starving by this point), before the renowned Bootleg Beatles cheered everyone up with a snappy set comprising the band’s early hits, such as ‘She Loves You’. The dancefloor remained full as The Gypsies crowded the stage, going on to play immediately after the fireworks at 12am: as the clock struck the end of 2011 the ship was flanked by both the party’s delegated firecrackers and the spectacular, multi-coloured show of the Burj Khalifa in the distance.
As the French flamenco-flavoured musos kept the dancefloor crammed, we managed to get a sneak peak of the boat’s interior, despite the security guards stationed at every corner. What we found gave us pause for thought: dance halls seemingly left in the exact same condition; a disregarded piano sat silently in a corner; store signs left hanging above empty outlets. While we certainly didn’t check out all the floors: what we saw didn’t suggest that an extensive renovation has been taking place over the last few years.
The QE2 NYE party may not have been the best event Dubai has ever seen, but the cruise ship itself put on a fantastic show. Fingers crossed its life continues with many more special events in future.