Nihiwatu, Sumba, Indonesia. Photo: Travel + Leisure
Unveiling the 2016 best of travel awards, Travel + Leisure Magazine’s readers voted on just about everything in travel, from destinations, to hotels and cruise lines, to best airlines, with popular favorites making return visits to the top of the rankings, and a few surprises.
The top three domestic airlines were perennial favorite Virgin America, JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines. According to T+L, one reader said that Virgin, purchased this year by number-four carrier Alaska Air, is “just pure fun to fly.”
Singapore Airlines once again took the top spot for international airlines, a rank it has owned for the entire 21 years that T+L has been holding the awards. Emirates and Qatar Airways took second and third, on a Top Ten list that also included the 10-year-old Porter Airlines, a Toronto-based carrier that slipped in at number 10.
The annual rankings cover airlines, airports, car-rental agencies, cities, cruise ships, destination spas, hotels, hotel brands, islands, tour operators, and safari outfitters.
The best beds to lay your head
The Nihiwatu, in Sumba, Indonesia, was rated tops in all the world for hotels, mostly for its tremendous service from the local population. The Spectator Hotel in Charleston, SC, garnered the second top spot, while the Huka Lodge in Taupo, New Zealand, rounded out the three best lodging properties.
If you’re looking for the Continental U.S. hotel most likely to leave your clients raving, T+L readers say send them to the Spectator, where every guest is assigned a butler. To the north, book your clients at The XV Beacon in Boston, or The Surrey in New York City—numbers two and three on the list. And since they were voting, T+L readers named the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago as number 13.
The Lodge at Glendorn, a Bradford, PA, Relaix & Chateau property, sat atop the list of the Top Continental U.S. Resorts, followed by the Willcox, in Aiken, SC, and Twin Farms, in Barnard, VT.
Canada’s top three hotels were: The Wedgewood Hotel & Spa and the Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver, first and second respectively, and the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto.
Atop the waves
If your clients are looking for the best mega-ship experience, T+L readers think their best bet is Cunard, where the service made one T+L reader feel like “royalty.” Numbers two and three were Disney Cruise Line and Princess Cruises.
Uniworld’s Boutique River Cruise Collection was rated number one for the narrow waterways, in good part for its shore excursions. Tauck took first place on the river, with Viking Cruises sailing into second.
The ultimate destinations
While the best hotels, airlines and cruises make getting and being there half the fun, for many travelers, ultimately it’s the destination that makes the vacation.
The Philippines dominated T+L’s list of top world islands, taking three of the top 10 spots. Palawan and Boracay were numbers one and two; Cebu was number six. Ischia, Italy, took the number three spot.
When it comes to the world’s best cities, Charleston, SC, ranked number one. It’s classic southern charm and architecture, restaurants and nearby islands moved the city up from second place on last year’s list.
Coming in at second place was Chiang Mai, Thailand. The country’s fourth-largest city is known for being the center of culture for Northern Thailand.
Ranked third on the best world cities is San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Located in Central Mexico, 170 miles northwest of Mexico City, San Miguel was named for Ignacio Allende, a captain in the Spanish Army who eventually joined the Mexican independence movement. The city was the first to declare its independence from Spain during the Mexican War of Independence.