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New life for nautical icon

She circled the globe 25 times and has more than 800 trans-Atlantic crossings and nearly 6 million nautical miles under her keel; and now the Queen Elizabeth 2 will be making port for the last time in 2008.

The QE2 was purchased for $100 million in June 2007 by Istithmar, an investment arm of Dubai World, according to news reports. With a backdrop of colorful fireworks, the QE2 set off on Jan. 6 for a final trip around the globe from Britain’s major port of Southampton alongside the $592-million Queen Victoria, which was making its maiden world cruise.

Both vessels are owned by Cunard, and the QE2 was the company’s oldest vessel, having made its maiden voyage in September 1967. Over the years, she has carried more than 2.5 million passengers, according to Cunard’s Web site. In November 2008, the QE2 will end her journey and be refurbished into a five-star hotel berthed at the ornate man-made island The Palm Jumeirah near Dubai.

“QE2 is without a doubt one of the wonders of the maritime world, and is easily the most famous serving liner in the world today,” said Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman of Dubai World in Cunard’s report. “I am delighted we will be able to make a home for her on the newest wonder of the world, The Palm Jumeirah.”

Original interior décor on the ship will be replaced once berthed, and the ship will include a history museum as well.

— Elizabeth Ellis