A host of glamourous runway shows, lavish dinners with champagne on tap and an endless amount of sparkling aquamarine seas – it can only mean one thing: Cunard’s annual Transatlantic Fashion Week is back! On Thursday afternoon, my excitement levels reached an all-time level high as I boarded the iconic Queen Mary 2 at Southampton, laden with suitcases filled with a mixture of designer and high street fashion.
Over the course of the next few days, the luxurious flagship will take me across the Atlantic on a seven-night voyage, arriving in New York for New York Fashion Week. I will be documenting my journey on HELLO! Online throughout the week…
Wednesday 6th September
Morning and afternoon
Although the previous night’s festivities were fabulous, today I was feeling blue as this is my last full day on board Queen Mary 2. Without getting into a humph about it, I made sure I was up early and ready to make the most of my time left. After another delightful breakfast in bed, I headed straight to Deck 3 to the designer shops for the Furla leaving gathering. Here I took one last look at the incredible collection exclusively on board the ship before I toured the other stores.
I re-joined my group on the back deck at the Queens Grill where we enjoyed refreshing juices in the open air, whilst kicking back in the perfectly situated Jacuzzi. We relished every moment, with the warm sea breeze and balmy rays enveloping us.
For lunch, we then headed up one floor to the outdoor café, which according to one passenger is never open! However today it was and after enjoying a fabulous lunch, we spent the afternoon lounging in the sun whilst reminiscing about our incredible seven-night luxury voyage.
For our final evening together, we headed to our favourite destination - the Britannia restaurant. I picked the crab, avocado and tomato salad with chilli oil for my starter, then moved onto the most amazing roasted vegetable ravioli with mushroom ragout – simply scrumptious. I then topped this all off with an indulgent chocolate truffle cheesecake with chocolate sauce.
We then headed off to pack and woke up super early - 5am NYC time - to watch the breath-taking view of the Manhattan skyline as we sailed by. Huddled up in our comfy robes, watching the sunrise was a truly magical experience. The sky was mesmerising in all its heavenly beauty, while the subtle movement of waves reflected a beautiful shimmering light. The Statue of Liberty and the skyscrapers of the financial district stood out - I was spellbound by this magnificent, iconic view. Although many of us were equipped with cameras and mobile phones just so we could fully take in the resplendent glory of what stood in front of us. Our journey on board Queen Mary 2 finally came to a magnificent end.
Tuesday 5th September
Morning and afternoon
The sun was shining bright today, so I treated myself to a delightful breakfast at the Britannia, where I sat close to the window and savoured the ocean views. For a change, my group and I joined a table with other guests, where we each shared stories about our amazing experiences on board Queen Mary 2. I chose a delicious Spanish omelette with cheese and tomato, paired with coffee and freshly baked pastries. A short while later, I headed straight to Deck 12 to lounge in the sunshine at the indoor Pavilion pool - which boasted window ceilings and cobalt marble flooring, perfect for an idyllic escape. I happily sipped on a virgin pina colada whilst listening to jazz band Purple Haze play some blues music.
Following a blissful day, the final formal night was upon us and it was time to party in glamourous fashion. I made sure I booked another hair appointment with Florin at Canyon Ranch Spa Club, to get me ready for the Roaring '20s Ball. After a quick brief about styles, we decided it was best for more curls and bounce - and that he did! During our conversation, he revealed how he spent all day curling several passengers’ hair for this themed evening as well as styling Julien Macdonald’s models for their final photoshoot (it was good to know that I was in good hands!).
I then slipped on my trusty navy blue flapper dress from my university days, albeit a tiny bit shorter and slightly tighter than it once was! I accessorised with my chic black suede heels and a long pearl-beaded necklace, while rounding off the vintage look with deep red lips and heavily defined eyes – I was ready to party in spectacular style!
Prior to the ball, we enjoyed cocktails with the designers from Parsons School of Design at the Laurent Perrier Champagne Lounge on Deck 3. For dinner, we headed to our regular seats at Britannia and dined on an asparagus and mushroom salad with red onion and feta cheese. For my main, I tasted roasted duck with hazelnut croquette potatoes, panache of vegetables and green beans. And, trying, to be healthy, I finished off my meal with a “low sugar” chocolate mousse with vanilla sauce. We continued the night with some Queen Mary cosmopolitans at the Commodore Club before partying with Julien Macdonald himself and his models at the G32 nightclub untill the early hours of the morning - what happened at G32, stays at G32!
Monday 4th September
He’s one of my favourite British fashion designers, so not only was I excited to see his show in person but I was very much looking forward to hearing him speak. Hosted by noted fashion historian Colin McDowell, celebrity favourite Julien Macdonald sat down for an intimate audience where he opened up about his humble beginnings and his ambition to work with the very best. I have always been a fan of his and thought I knew everything there was to know about him, but I was surprised to learn about his entry into fashion - working for legendary fashion icon, Karl Lagerfeld.
Julien explained how he was picked as a university student to work at Chanel, and although he initially turned down the opportunity, the then-aspiring designer later landed a scholarship with the French fashion house. Karl had asked his university whether his final year should be spent at Chanel as part of his degree, while the other students worked on other college projects.
He revealed to the audience: “I told Karl that all my life I believed in education. And it’s the British educational systems which got me here [today]. I could not have possibly destroyed my education… I wanted the title for my mother and my father, just to say that I had graduated and received a degree from the prestigious, Royal College of Art.”
He added: “My college project was to work for Karl Lagerfeld and for Chanel. So that is what I did for my final year. Everything that I worked on, I would go to Paris and present it there to Karl. It’s safe to say that I graduated with flying colours!” Following his degree, Julien went on to work for Chanel for a couple of years, going on to surprise fashionistas alike with his invention of the knitted tweed.
Afternoon and evening
Taking our seats on front row again, six top graduates and aspiring designers from Parsons School of Design gave us an exclusive first look of their incredible collections. Past alumni from the program include Donna Karen, Marc Jacobs and Jason Wu. With the sunshine out and a slightly warmer breeze, I ventured out for some fresh air. I threw one of my favourite, floral summer dresses from New Look and headed straight to the highest deck on Deck 13 to take in the beautiful view of the crystal blue seas. It felt like serenity - so peaceful and calm. I then took a trip to the kennels where I got to meet some of my fellow passengers’ pet dogs. A short while later, I joined my group for a delightful afternoon tea in the Queens Court where we were served fresh scones with strawberry jam as well as an assortment of finger sized sandwiches and delicious sweet treats. Since tonight was our night off, I headed down to the gym for a much needed fitness session before I made use of the room service. I picked a tasty Caesar salad with some spicy chicken fajitas - at this point of my journey, I was definitely craving something hot and spicy. To wind down the evening, I headed outside to the closest deck to watch the sun’s last rays of the day - it was absolutely divine.
Sunday 3rd September
After a late start this morning, I was excited to be attending Julien Macdonald’s Fashion Show in the grand Queens Room. Dressed in my chic black figure-hugging number from his Star collection with Debenhams, I felt picture ready. I was lucky enough to be sat next to the Captain and his lovely wife on the frow and the show did not disappoint. As expected, the collection was exceptionally beautiful and it was incredible to see the intricate designs and craftsmanship so closely. We got to see some of Julien’s most notorious designs - including those worn by Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift.
Following the grand fashion show, I headed to the stunning new Laurent Perrier champagne lounge for a masterclass. I learnt all about the prestigious brand’s history and was then guided through a selection of some special vintages of this famous champagne, which was paired with a gorgeous charcuterie board to complement the flavours of the wine. Amongst the group, the favourite appeared to be the Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé. The wine is one of the rare rosé champagnes which has been made by using Grand Cru pinot noir grapes before it’s pressed and left in contact with their skins. The ingenious process gives the champagne its distinct light pink shade and a gorgeous red fruit taste, making it a light, fresh and elegant drink for all occasions.
Despite being an informal night, everyone had to be dressed to the nines. The difference from formal night is that women can wear two-piece separates rather than a full-length gown. I wore a lovely navy pleated skirt from Next, and a black sequin embellished sheer blouse. We placed at our regular table inside the Britannia Restaurant, where I enjoyed the Japanese seasonal salad to start before moving onto the perfectly roasted guinea fowl, paired with pommes Bryon, sautéed haricot vert and orange scented carrots. I rounded off the meal with a sweet vanilla panna cotta with raspberry and mango sauce. Following the evening’s proceedings, we headed up to Queen’s room for Big Band Night, we mingled with fellow guests and enjoyed various cocktails till the early hours of the morning.
Saturday 2nd September
My wake-up call wasn’t as smooth sailing as the previous day. I woke up at 5am to see the sunrise, but unfortunately due to the heavy rain and turbulent waves there was nothing to capture. However, I still wandered over to the back deck to take in the atmosphere alone, somewhat eerie yet still mesmerising. I felt like I was the only person on the ship travelling through thin air. After another quick nap and breakfast in bed, I decided it was time to pay a visit to the gym.
It was finally time for the fashion proceedings to begin and for me to lose myself in the world of high-end glamour. The first show opened at the Royal Court Theatre with the Grosvenor Shirts fashion show hosted by their CEO, Karl Dunkley. I watched the models take centre stage as they showcased a classic array of tailored shirts.Shortly afterwards, I was invited to view the new Furla shop, which was opened by Captain Peter Philpott. Exquisite designs and bold colours were a central theme. Guests on board Queen Mary 2 are lucky enough to get their hands on a limited edition of the Furla ‘Linda’ crossbody bag, as well as purchasing the popular Metropolis bag with the option to customise with a selection of colourful flaps.
Tonight’s occasion was hosted by Captain Philpott himself. With a little help from blogger Debs from Bang On Style, I styled my hair into loose and glossy waves which were pinned to one side to complement my pale green, cold-shoulder number from Topshop. I felt ready to party the night away in spectacular fashion once again. We headed straight to the Queens Room on Deck 3 for the cocktail party where we mingled with fellow guests.
We then enjoyed a carefully curated seven-course menu at the chic French restaurant The Verandah on Deck 7. My favourites were the Scottish langoustine ravioli, which was teamed with bagna cauda and parsley puree and the grilled lobster, glazed with butter and paired with baby spinach, pommes and a small house salad.
Friday 1st September
Waking up to the gentle waves and glistening blue sea was unreal. My only dismay was that I didn’t wake up early enough to catch the sunrise. Alas, my morning started off with a delectable buffet breakfast at Kings Court on Deck 7, the only restaurant on board where you can dine 24-hours. Catering is for all dietary needs, there are endless options of fresh fruit and salads, a vast range of fry-ups as well as cereals and bread. Despite the grandeur of the ship, this restaurant is a comfortable location with an air of informality.
Following my meal, I was given an excellent guided tour of Queen Mary 2. Walking through galleries, ornate hallways and designer shops, I learnt so much about life at sea. Guests can spend their time out on deck or watch a film screening at the royal theatre, as well as viewings at the planetarium and various masterclasses - including a trip to the florist to learn about floral arrangement!
I was treated to an exclusive masterclass in cocktail making. Mixologists at the Commodore Club created a special, bespoke drink for HELLO!, aptly called the HELLO! cocktail. The gin-based liqueur was sweet and spicy, while the method was described as a “complex, yet, simple” concoction. The soft pink dew and red berry garnish looked elegant and classic - which certainly receives the HELLO! seal of approval!
The session was swiftly followed by the launch of the new Chanel perfume, Gabrielle. This is the first scent launched by Chanel in almost two decades – other perfumes from Chanel include Chanel No.5, No. 19 and Cristalle. The sweet aroma stems from four different flowers: jasmine, ylang-ylang, tuberose and orange blossom. It took 15 years to create, the perfume team at Cunard revealed that it took Chanel five years just to design the shape of the bottle!
Tonight was the first formal evening, the Black and White ball. I made sure I pulled out all the stops and headed straight to the ship’s salon, the Canyon Ranch Spa Club. My hairdresser Florian talked me through many styles and in the end we went for a tousled chignon. I then slipped into my beautiful black and white crochet gown by Ukulele. The gorgeous ensemble featured floral lace and a geometric trim, while boasting a partially lined skirt and sheer full-length sleeves. I felt like Audrey Hepburn plucked out of My Fair Lady.
The dinner was once again hosted at the fancy Britannia Restaurant where I dined on a seafood salad with avocado and citrus cocktail sauce. This was followed by roast Vermont turkey with roast potatoes, carrots and grilled brussel sprouts topped off with sage gravy. To finish, I had the iced strawberry and frangelico parfait with strawberry sauce. We then moved to the Queens Room on Deck 3 for the night’s festivities, where we danced in pairs till the end of the night. For those without plus ones, they were able to partner up with some of Queen Mary 2’s hosts - a sweet gesture for those solo travellers wanting to dance.
Thursday, 31st August
After checking in my luggage and settling into my Balcony Stateroom, I was given the chance to familiarise myself with the ship’s decks and all the amenities close to my cabin. Before the ocean liner set sail, passengers were given a quick safety drill before we kicked off the celebrations at the sail away party on Deck 8. Waving goodbye to the UK, fellow passengers kicked back in the glorious sunshine, drinking various beverages while making sure they captured their favourite social-media snap.
The first night on Queen Mary 2 was a cause for celebration. Slipping into some of our finest wears, we were treated to a delicious three-course menu at Britannia Restaurant. From healthy to hearty and from light bites to haute cuisine, we were spoilt for choice. I opted for the asparagus and chervil veloute soup before turning my attention to the baked cod with caper brown butter, which was teamed with creamed parsley potatoes, braised fennel and wilted spinach. I topped off my delicious meal with a warm apple and apricot tart with custard.