LONDON: The world’s largest floating nightclub has opened onboard the retired Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship in Dubai.
The luxury Float Dubai venue, which can accommodate 1,000 people, hosted an opening party on Thursday ahead of its first weekend.
Celebrities including American actress Lindsay Lohan, rapper DaBaby and British boxer Amir Khan are expected to appear aboard the ship this weekend, which once hosted the likes of Hollywood stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
But due to the coronavirus pandemic, partying will be limited, with tables needing to be booked in advance, security guards preventing people from standing up and dancing, and plainclothes police officers patroling the venue to prevent infringements.
Dubai extended the strictest anti-COVID-19 measures in the UAE, with seating rules in many hospitality venues only relaxed in August this year.
Many are now allowed to stay open until 3 a.m., but social distancing measures remain in place.
Rob Smith, a British expat who attended Float Dubai’s opening night, told The Times: “It feels so good to see things opening back up again. It feels like things are getting back to normal.”
The QE2 was bought by Dubai government entity DP World, controlled by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, in 2008 for around $88 million.
Parts of the vessel were converted into a hotel in 2018, with plans to base it off the Palm Jumeirah island resort.
The club’s opening was delayed by the onset of the pandemic, with the rooms left vacant and the QE2 subsequently relocated to Rashid Port, where its monthly upkeep is estimated at around £650,000 ($893,424).
British expat Lara Rogers added: “The ship has an eerie vibe to it. It’s a shame to see it like this. It needs some TLC (tender loving care) to bring it back to life because it has so much history here within these walls. Maybe the club can help inject some excitement for it again.”
The QE2 was originally launched in 1967 by Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland. At 963 feet, it is estimated to have carried over 2.5 million passengers over its lifetime, traveled around 6 million nautical miles, circumnavigated the globe 25 times, and even served as a British troop ship during the Falklands War in 1982.