At the end of her cable-laying career(then owned by Thomas Brassey} she was refitted once again as a liner but once again efforts to make her a commercial success failed. She was used as a showboat, a floating palace/concert hall and gymnasium. She acted as an advertising hoarding—sailing up and down the Mersey for Lewis's Department Store, who at this point were her owners, before being sold. The idea was to attract people to the store by using her as a floating visitor attraction. By the time she was sold piecemeal at auction in 1888 she had become an embarrassment.
She was broken up for scrap at Rock Ferry on the River Mersey by Henry Bath & Son Ltd in 1889–1890 — it took 18 months to take her apart.
Whilst it is rumoured that a human skeleton was found inside Great Eastern's double hull, the same thing has been said of RMS Titanic and the Hoover Dam (among others); and inspection hatches in the inner hull would have provided an easy escape. The ship was the subject of one programme in the BBC documentary series Seven Wonders of the Industrial World which repeated the tale about two dead bodies in the hull, including a child worker, although stated it as a rumour. An episode of Haunted History
implied that the find of the skeleton was indeed factual. One of the narrators of the segment read an article published from the time when Great Eastern was being dismantled. The article stated that the workers broke into a compartment in the inner shell on the port side, and did find a skeleton. The idea of one or more skeletons sealed inside the hull traces back to the construction of Great Eastern, when it was discovered that two of the riveters, a worker and his apprentice, had mysteriously vanished. It was believed that they had been sealed on the inside by accident.
At the time of her local break-up Liverpool Football Club were looking for a flagpole for their Anfield ground and consequently purchased her top mast. It still stands there today, at the Kop end.[