After June 2007, when news broke of her retirement, Queen Elizabeth 2 enjoyed a spectacular farewell season. QE2 had always attracted a large crowd of spectators and ship enthusiasts, but once her retirement plans became known, the people of the world have made an extra special effort to see QE2 for one last time.
During her 40th Anniversary Celebrations in September 2007 QE2 made a lap of honour around Britain including a historic call at Greenock on the Clyde, near the place of her birth.
Her 2008 World Cruise was heralded as a magnificent farewell celebration. Having completed extensive world cruising since entering service, QE2 has become an icon in many ports she has visited around the world. The 2008 World Cruise was one final chance for these port-cities to say goodbye to the most recognised ship in the world.
In October, QE2 completed her last trans-Atlantic crossing. Her last departure from New York, on October 16 was her 806th and final Atlantic crossing.
On this occasion, QE2 was joined by QM2, as the two liners posed by the Statue of Liberty for one final salute to the great American city. QE2 then headed under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and out to open sea, with QM2 in close quarters.
Upon return to Southampton, QE2 and QM2 saluted each-other once more before QM2 departed for refit in Hamburg leaving QE2 to begin her second last voyage, a Mediterranean cruise.
QE2's final voyage to Dubai departed Southampton on November 11. For 40-years QE2 called Southampton home and the city planned suitable events to farewell their Queen. The significance of these events were further emphasised by a minutes silence held aboard (in the presence of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh) to mark 90 years since armistice day. During the silence, 1 million poppies were dropped over QE2 as a sign of respect.
The day's activities continued with a fly-past by a RAF Harrier Jump Jet as well as sail-pasts by the RFA Mounts Bay and three P2000 Royal Navy Archer Class small patrol boats - HMS Blazer, HMS Puncher and HMS Tracker.
On the evening of November 11, after all passengers had boarded, QE2 let go of her lines for the final time and made her way into the turning basin. Once in position a spectacular fireworks display signaled the end of an era for QE2, Cunard and Southampton.
QE2's final voyage was 16 nights of unforgettable memories. Unlike many retiring ships, QE2 sailed for her final destination with a full passenger compliment. Passengers aboard enjoyed the unique lifestyle aboard QE2 right up until the very end, with the crew maintaining the utmost professionalism.
QE2 arrived in Dubai on November 26th at the end of her ultimate voyage. She approached The World Islands at approximately 3pm and was joined by a flotilla of small yachts and larger private boats. From there she was escorted by HMS Lancaster into Port Rashid. During her arrival she was saluted by an Emirates Airbus A380 low-level fly past.
On November 27th once the final Cunard passengers departed the Cunard House Flag and British Red Ensign were lowered for the final time, with ownership passing to Istithmar, the investment arm of Dubai World. It was anticipated at the time that QE2 would soon begin the planned refurbishment to become a floating hotel at The Palm Jumeirah.
Due to the 2008/2009 Global Economic Crisis, plans for QE2's refurbishment and conversion were thrown into uncertainty. The ship lingered at Port Rashid for months, with little information offered as to the future of the former Cunard flagship's future.
As QE2 spent more and more time laying idle in Dubai, rumours began mounting at a steady pace regarding the future of the famous liner.
In March, 2009 while alongside at Port Rashid the Cunard lettering on QE2's superstructure was painted over. This occurred just days before QE2 was visited by both Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria as each of these ships were on their respective World Cruises.
Reports persisted as to the financial strain that Istithmar was under. These reports resulted in Istithmar officially denying that the QE2 project was under threat, stating plans were still underway for the full refurbishment of QE2. However despite this statement, in June 2009 the Southampton Daily Echo ran a cover story reporting that QE2 would return to Southampton.
This report was followed in July 2009 by news that QE2 will in fact remain in Istithmar ownership, but sail to South Africa to become part of a Istithmar sponsored marina development in Cape Town. To facilitate this, QE2 was moved to the Dubai Dry Dock and given an extensive external overhaul. She was, at this time, registered under the flag of Vanuatu with Port Vila being her new home port (replacing Southampton).
However sadly the Cape Town move was called of. Despite plans to relocate the ship to London and Asia as a floating hotel, the QE2 remains tied up alongside at Port Rashid - a sparkling jewel with an uncertain future.