RMS Queen Elizabeth was retired from service in November 1968, and was sold to a succession of buyers, most of whom had adventurous and unsuccessful plans for her.
Finally she was sold to a Hong Kong businessmen Tung Chao Yung who intended to convert her into a floating University cruise ship. In 1972 while undergoing refurbishment in Hong Kong harbour, she caught on fire under mysterious circumstances and was capsized by the water used to fight the fire.
In 1968, Queen Elizabeth was sold to a group of Philadelphia businessmen from a company called The Queen Corporation (which was 85% owned by Cunard and 15% by them), at the same time the ship's name was also altered as Cunard removed the word "Queen" from the bows and stern. The new company intended to operate the ship as a hotel and tourist attraction in Port Everglades, Florida, similar to the use of Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. The Elizabeth, as it was now called, actually opened to tourists before the Queen Mary (which opened in 1971) but it was not to last. Losing money and forced to close after being declared a fire hazard, the ship was sold at auction in 1970 to Hong Kong tycoon C.Y. Tung.
Tung, head of the Orient Overseas Line, intended to convert the vessel into a university for the World Campus Afloat program (later reformed and renamed as Semester at Sea). Following the tradition of the Orient Overseas Line, the ship was renamed Seawise University, as a play on Tung's initials.
1972: The wreck of Seawise University, the former Queen Elizabeth.Near the completion of the £5 million conversion, the vessel caught fire on 9 January 1972. There is some suspicion that the fires were set deliberately, as several blazes broke out simultaneously throughout the ship. The fact that C.Y. Tung had acquired the vessel for $3.5 million, and had insured it for $8 million, led some to speculate that the inferno was part of a fraud to collect on the insurance claim. Others speculated that the fires were the result of a conflict between Tung, a Chinese Nationalist, and Communist-dominated ship construction unions.
The ship was completely destroyed by the fire, and the water sprayed on her by fireboats caused the burnt wreck to capsize and sink in Hong Kong Victoria Harbour. The charred wreck was featured in the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun, as a covert headquarters for MI6.
The vessel was finally declared a shipping hazard and dismantled for scrap between 1974 and 1975. Portions of the hull that were not salvaged were left at the bottom of the bay and later incorporated into landfill for the new Hong Kong International Airport. However, the keel and boilers remain at the bottom of the harbour still and the area is marked as "Foul" on local sea charts warning ships not to try to anchor there