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Review: QE2 hotel – what’s it like to stay at Dubai’s floating hotel

Review: QE2 hotel – what’s it like to stay at Dubai’s floating hotel

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Dubai is full of 5+ star hotels designed to wow but if you are looking for an iconic place to stay with a bit of history to it, the QE2 hotel delivers. 

As a fan of cruising and a bit of a history geek I was more than a bit excited to add the Queen Elizabeth 2 to our five day break in Dubai. 

This ocean liner turned floating hotel was exactly what we are looking for after three nights at the LEGOLAND Dubai Hotel. We wanted to relocate to a hotel close to Downtown Dubai to see the city sights but also enjoy the character of our accommodation.

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Spoiler alert, we loved it. So much so that we booked another night while onboard.

However, I don’t think it’s for everyone. If you’re contemplating a stay on the Queen Elizabeth 2 there’s a few things you should know before you book. I’ll be covering them in this review.

But first, forgive me for indulging in a bit of scene setting.

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The QE2 – ocean liner to hotel

This former Cunard ocean liner became Dubai’s first floating hotel in 2018, ten years after arriving in Dubai and 50 years after being launched by Queen Elizabeth II in Clydebank, Scotland. 

When we decided to book our stay I sat down with our kids to watch a History Channel documentary about the QE2 so they knew the importance of the ship.

Something mentioned more than once was how the QE2 broke the mould for cruise ship design. 

A lot of features that made it so popular are still replicated across modern cruise ships. Its entertainment spaces, balcony cabins and luxurious style were what set it apart, giving it an iconic status that resonated for decades.

It also hogged the headlines with a trans-atlantic bomb scare, multiple mechanical meltdowns and its role as a troop ship during the Falkland War.

Where is the QE2 now?

Our 11-year-old daughter stood between the huge propellors of the QE2 which were removed when it arrived in the UAE
The QE2 ship’s propellors

The QE2 is moored in Mina Rashid Port in Dubai. She has a permanent berth alongside her own terminal building where you can find the Queen Elizabeth 2 hotel reception which is furnished with original seating from the ship and displays about its service.

A glass case containing a captain's hat in the QE2 terminal building in Mina Rashid Port in Dubai
The QE2 hotel terminal building

Who owns the QE2 now?

The QE2 cruise ship is owned by Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation (PCFC), a subsidiary of Dubai World. It is managed by French hospitality company, Accor, which took over the running of Dubai’s floating hotel in 2022.

The ship was previously owned by Cunard from its launch in 1967 to 2008 when it was sold to Dubai World for $100m. After several years of speculation, the QE2 hotel opened to guests in 2018.

Want to know more? Later on in this post, I’ll share more facts and figures that made the QE2 one of the UK’s most famous vessels.

Our stay on the QE2

We booked the Queen Elizabeth 2 ship* after spending three nights at LEGOLAND Dubai* – something very much aimed at the kids. 

It would be unfair to compare the QE2 – it’s not aimed at children – but our young cruise fans aged eight and 11-years-old still loved it. And us adults relished mixing up our Dubai experience.

Arriving at the ship is similar to arriving for a cruise, just without the long passenger queues and document checks to set up your cruise account.

There is a dedicated terminal building in Mina Rashid Port where the check-in team take your details exactly like they would at a hotel and your bags are whisked away to your cabin. 

Our 11-year-old daughter sat with a boom on her lap in the QE2 hotel terminal building
QE2 library in terminal building

Before going onboard you can browse around the ship’s memorabilia which includes some of the 6,000 books that were once part of the QE2 library.

You’re free to take any of the gangways – we stumbled across the car lift, complete with a shiny Rolls Royce, and wandered through the tourist class cabins before finding the stairs upwards. 

There are deck plans at most junctions around the ship but don’t expect to get to know your way around in 24 hours. We struggled even with 48 hours onboard. So, if you’re into cruising that’s pretty familiar.

If you’re not a regular cruiser you’ll want to give yourselves some time to get between places – don’t stress, just go with the flow. We found lots of amazing spaces by just following our noses.

Things regular cruisers will notice (and possibly miss)

The QE2 is run by the Accor group which means it operates more like a hotel than a ship, so you’ll notice there’s: 

  • no cruise accounts for guests. You can pay as you go or add expenses to your room
  • no photo cards for guests, but you will get a key card for your room
  • no muster stations drill or life vests in your cabin
  • no announcements from your captain or cruise director. The ship now has a microphone shy hotel manager
  • no cabin steward. Your room is serviced daily by housekeeping but you’re unlikely to meet them
  • no daily newsletter, but there is an online guide to your stay onboard
  • not full board as standard, but there are deals to add breakfast and other meals to your booking
  • no daytime or evening entertainment. There are theatres but tickets for shows have to be bought separately to your stay
  • no excursions, although here is a shuttle bus to the Mall of Dubai and Old Dubai.

Something you will notice, whether you are a cruise fan or not, is that the QE2 smells like a ship rather than a hotel. This is different to modern cruise ships that we have sailed on where the communal areas have a scent more like a hotel. 

It’s not unpleasant – we’ve been on ships that have had bad stink issues. I’d liken the scent to an old stately home with a whiff of diesel engine. It’s a reminder that the QE2 is an old girl.

The bow of the QE2 seen from the wing bridge overlooking yachts in Mina Rashid Port in Dubai

It’s hard to ignore that the outdoor areas are not very well maintained. Wood work could do with a varnish and the decks need a repaint.

The inside spaces are mostly well looked after, especially around the restaurants, which are open to the general public.

The whole ship is still a work in progress, so keep this in mind when you book.

Captain’s Room with Balcony

Our Captain's Room with Balcony. there is a king sized bed and seating with two floor to ceiling windows looking out on the port

We booked two Captain’s Rooms with Balconies with interconnecting doors. These were located on the Signal Deck at the top of the ship just along from what would have been the QE2’s Captain’s cabin.

Had we been sailing onboard the QE2 in her heyday these rooms would have cost about the same as an average UK house at the time.

Decor and amenities

Our rooms were light and spacious with large patio doors onto a wide balcony. The king-sized bed was very comfortable and there’s a sofa, desk and bench to provide additional seating.

Something I know will get regular cruisers excited is that these cabins come with a set of large draws as well as a full length wardrobe. These are often left of cabin design specifications for some reason.

There’s also a fridge, coffee machine and safe and all the lighting is controlled with touch screen panels.

In the bathroom there’s a large walk in rainfall shower with extra shower head, twin sinks and QE2 bathrobes. 

The coffee and tea station in our Captain's Room. There is a coffee machine with water bottles and glasses on the side board. Underneath is a draw contains various flavours of tea, two mugs and wine glasses

It was great to see a commitment to being plastic free with biodegradable coffee pods and glass water bottles that were refilled daily. The bathroom toiletry bottles were also refilled.

Love a freebie? You can take home your QE2 slippers as well as an assortment of complimentary items branded with the ship’s name.

Overall, the rooms were very well maintained and definitely 4 star standard.

Wooden deck chairs with blue and white striped covers on our cabin balcony

Outside, the balcony railing and furniture were in need of a revarnish. However the chairs were original and very comfy.

How many people can a Captain’s Room sleep?

The Captain’s Rooms are advertised as sleeping two adults and up to two children or three adults and one child if you request an extra put-up bed.

You could fit one extra single bed in the room but certainly not two. So, as is the case in a lot of Middle East hotels, what they expect you to do is all share the king-sized bed.

An open door between our rooms onboard the ship

None of us is particularly small so we opted for the extra connecting room. 

We did consider booking the Officer’s Suite as there’s a king size bed and sofa bed as standard. But when I contacted the hotel about this room’s configuration for a family of four they suggested the sofa bed was only big enough for one child. 

There’s also a Duplex Room which would fit families. This has been created by combining two cabins on on a different decks. There’s a bedroom and a living area with sofa bed.

And there are also two Royal Suites which can sleep families with extra beds.

Is the QE2 family-friendly?

The Tin Box family doing a selfie on the balcony of one of their rooms onboard the QE2 hotel. There is a view of Dubai's port in the background

I’ve already mentioned that our girls were very excited to stay on the QE2, especially after we watched the documentary. However, its family facilities are not a patch on the ones we’ve experienced on modern cruise ships. 

If you want splash parks and kids clubs the QE2 is not for you. But, there are plans to reinstate the outdoor pools in the future.

When we visited in April 2024 there was a small indoor pool located in the gym.

What our kids enjoyed was exploring the ship, both independently with us and on a fact-filled organised tour.

Find out more about QE2 ship tours below.

Our girls also love a buffet. We had breakfast and dinner buffets as well as an al carte lunch in the Lido Restaurant. The fish and chips was the best we’ve had outside the UK.

There are high chairs in the restaurants and the restrooms nearby have been updated with baby changing facilities. Elsewhere the restrooms are more retro and quite small. Expect to see ash trays in the toilet cubicles!

There are lifts which would accommodate a pushchair.

Dubai is obviously a playground for all ages, so if you are staying on the QE2 with kids there’s plenty of entertainment ashore.

Check out these fun activities for kids in Dubai.

QE2 ship tours

The QE2’s Curator and Heritage Coordinator, Brandon Clark, speaking in front on the controls on the bridge wing
QE2 bridge wing

The whole ship is a living history museum. Most of the fixtures and fittings are original, and you can book afternoon tea in the Queens Grill exactly how it would have been served when the QE2 was sailing.

Something we highly recommend doing during your stay is a ship tour. There are two each day, at 11am and 5pm, and they are available to hotel guests and day visitors.

We lucked in with a tour led by Brandon Clark, the QE2’s Curator and Heritage Coordinator. 

Over two hours he entertained us with stories about the history of the QE2, its crew and passengers. We all, including the kids, thought the time flew by as we were fed facts and shown details we’d missed while exploring by ourselves.

QE2 ship's tour guide showing guests the chartroom behind the ship's bridge. Everyone is smiling at an open draw of old electrical equipment that was the bridge's junk draw
QE2 Chartroom

The tour is the only way to access the ship’s bridge and chartroom. They are fascinating. Charts, log books, CB radios and even the obligatory junk draw have been left just how they were on the day the crew stepped ashore for the final time.

There are plans to open the engine rooms later in 2024 and new exhibitions are being created all the time. 

The newest display, ‘Special Relationship’, was opened by HRH Princess Anne in March 2024 and tells the story of the QE2s bomb hoax of 1972.

Our girls looking at the 'Special Relationship' exhibition. Old newspaper clippings are mounted behind a glass case
Special Relationship exhibition

British special forces were dramatically flown across the Atlantic to search the ship. No bombs were found but the military personnel enjoyed a luxurious cruise home.

After our tour we were free to explore more of the ship by our ourselves including the QE2 Theatre, the Grand Lounge, the casino (the machines are disabled), Mid Ship Lobby and Chartroom Bar.

QE2 hotel restaurants

The Queen Elizabeth 2’s restaurants can be booked whether you are staying onboard or not. 

Breakfast is served in the Lido Restaurant on the Quarter Deck and is exactly what you’d experience on any other cruise ship with hot and cold buffet options and a range of cuisines for the international market.

The Lido is also open for al a carte lunch and you can book afternoon tea in the famous Queens Grill on Fridays and Saturdays. Children over eight can dine in this restaurant. Afternoon tea is on my wish list for when we next visit Dubai.

Dinner is available as a buffet in the Lido or you can book a table for more formal dining in the Queens Grill.

A view across the outdoor Pavilion dining area to the flag flying at the stern of the ship
Pavilion dining area

Alternatively there’s mezze, seafood and Arabic mix grill on the menu in the Pavilion outdoor dining space on Deck 1.

For something less formal there’s bar snacks in The Golden Lion which, since arriving in the city, has claimed the title of bring Dubai’s oldest pub. Under 21s are not allowed inside but Mr Tin Box and I snuck in for a quick happy hour drink.

The crests of Royal Navy and Merchant Navy ships line the top of the bar area.

Find out more about all the dining options for guests and walk-ins.

What’s the dress code for the QE2 in Dubai?

If you’ve sailed with Cunard you’ll know that there’s a dress code for all occasions. The same applies to the QE2 and visiting Dubai in general. However, it’s not as formal as you might expect.

It’s fine to wear long shorts or a knee length skirt and a t-shirt around the ship during the day. In the evenings long trousers or skirts are expected in the restaurants. If you’re dining in the Queen’s Grill you might want to glam up a bit. The dress code is ‘smart casual’, so there’s no need for your black tie or ball gown.

We dined in the Lido during Ramadan and guests added a bit of extra sparkle to their Iftar outfits.

Me sat on a bar stool in the Chartroom bar. I'm wearing a long green and sparkly dress fit for Iftar

Don’t forget that you are in a Muslim country, so short shorts and strappy tops are less acceptable. However, we found Dubai’s clothing norms much more liberal than Oman where shorts, exposed upper arms and, dare I say it, cleavage will offend.

Something to note is that wearing swimming costumes around the upper deck would have looked a bit out of place when we stayed as there wasn’t an outdoor pool or any sun loungers. However, once the pool areas have been reinstated swimwear would be acceptable.

Here’s some ideas for what to pack for a cruise to help you plan for a similar trip.

How much does it cost to stay on the QE2?

We were surprised at how reasonable it was to stay in the QE2 hotel. We expected such a unique hotel to come with a premium price point, but it was comparable with and even cheaper than a lot of other 4 star Dubai hotels*.

Our Captain's Room with Balcony. there is a king sized bed and seating with two floor to ceiling windows looking out on the port
QE2 hotel Captains Room with Balcony

There are 447 rooms in the Queen Elizabeth 2 hotel.

When we booked in April 2024 our Captain’s Rooms with Balcony, including breakfast and a buffet dinner, cost 649 AED per room per night – that’s about £140.

There are more expensive suites and much cheaper outside cabins. In the future interior cabins are also being made available.

So, if you’re looking for a budget place to stay in Dubai the QE2 hotel is worth a look.

With my cruiser’s head on, there are things are aren’t included like entertainment and full board, so you can’t compare the price with a cruise. But as a hotel, the price stacks up pretty well.

Facts about the QE2

QE2 ship alongside at Mina Rashid Port in Dubai

Here’s some fun facts about the QE2:

  • The QE2 completed 1,419 voyages between 1969 and 2008, travelling six million miles
  • The QE2 is 294m long – 25m longer than the Titanic
  • It’s top speed was 34 knots after its engine was refitted with a diesel-electric power plant
  • The QE2 welcomed 2.5 million passengers while seagoing
  • Famous guests included members of the British Royal Family including Queen Elizabeth II and the now King Charles III, Elton John, Nelson Mandela and George Harrison.

Summing up our QE2 hotel review

Staying on the QE2 hotel went above and beyond our expectations. When it was in service it was described as a destination in itself and I think, for fans of Cunard and cruising, it continues to be just that.

The sunken mid ships lobby seating area with a compass pattern in the carpet

It is nostalgic while also providing high standard accommodation, food and service. It would make a great pre-cruise stay if you are joining a ship in Dubai. 

We would wholeheartedly recommend staying onboard and hope to have the opportunity to do so again, or at least return for one of those Queen’s Grill afternoon teas.

However, if you’re looking for a modern cruise experience with all the facilities of a brand new ship then book a cruise*.

And if you are looking for a Dubai hotel with state-of-the-art facilities there are lots of other options.

The ship is tired in places but it is still under renovation. It would be really interesting to see how it looks in a few years.

A model of the QE2 in a glass case. It shows what the ship will look like when it is fully refurbished with pools and seating on the top deck

Inside the Special Relationship exhibition there is a mock up of how the QE2 might look in the future, complete with pools and seating on deck. This will make what is already a unique Dubai hotel even more appealing to a wider market.

Tempted? Book your stay at Dubai’s floating hotel*

You might also like our review of LEGOLAND Dubai Hotel.

More cruise reading

Love cruise life as much as us? Here’s some more posts you might like:

Need more help planning your next cruise?

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links marked with a *. If you click on one of these and make a purchase I may earn some commission. This does not affect the price you pay.

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