A floating high street for QE2
by Eddie Pierce
QUEEN Elizabeth 2, the elegant liner which carries the rich and famous across the Atlantic and once carried British troops into war, is about to get a GBP30 million (about HK$360 million) face-lift.
Cunard's Commercial Director, Robin Wilkins, explained why the company is happy to invest such a large sum of money - more than she cost to build in the first place - on an internal refit.
'When she began service 25 years ago, she was 25 years ahead of her time. The refurbishment will again guarantee that what QE2 offers passengers is ahead of the rest, while at the same time retaining the grace, elegance and tradition for which this - the last genuine ocean liner - is rightly famous, and which newer ships so obviously lack.' Every cabin will be redecorated and every bathroom is to be renewed. Carpeting, soft furnishings, wall coverings and furniture will be chosen with the emphasis on rich fabrics and colours.
The redesign will retain the synagogue, cinema, hospital and kennels, and will add a pub and a brand new 'high street' of shops, including a florist. The library - already the most extensive at sea with a stock of 6,000 volumes - is to be doubled in size.
The QE2 was originally built by Upper Clyde shipbuilders to replace an earlier Queen Elizabeth which was built for Cunard in 1940.
Often called a 'city at sea', the QE2 pampers its customers with every possible comfort and convenience.
And whether you have paid GBP300 or GBP12,000 for your ticket, you are assured of the same distinctive ambience and sense of occasion once enjoyed by privileged passengers during the golden age of cruising.
But in 1982, the QE2 temporarily abandoned her clientele and signed up for national service during the Falklands crisis.
The operation to turn her from a five-star floating hotel to a military troop carrier included building helicopter pads on the sun decks and removing many of the luxury fixtures and fittings.
In 1987 a major structural refit costing GBP110 million was carried out at Bremerhaven in Germany, although flooded cabins, poor air conditioning and electrical faults on the subsequent cruise cost Cunard GBP900,000 in compensation.
Cunard are determined that she will continue unchallenged in her role as the most famous and glamorous ship in the world.
And for that privilege, GBP30 million is just a drop in the ocean.