2013 Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Award Winners

October 15th, 2013

The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs

The results of Condé Nast Traveler 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards are in. This year, the 26th annual Readers’ Choice Awards boasted its highest-ever participation with 79,268 readers casting 1.3 million votes. The result is a compilation of the best cities, islands, cruise lines, airlines, hotels and resorts in the world.

The #1 spot for Top Hotel & Resort in the World was a tie between The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs in Matauri Bay, New Zealand and La Residence in Franschhoek, South Africa.

Congratulations to all the winners of the 2013 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards including:

Top 100 Hotels & Resorts in the World: #1 The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs, #7 One&Only The Palm Dubai, #22 (tied) Phinda Private Game Reserve, One&Only Palmilla, #63 Nayara Hotel Spa & Gardens, #75 Park Hyatt Dubai

Top Midsize-Ship Cruise Lines: #1 Crystal Cruises

Top Hotels in the Middle East: #1 Park Hyatt Dubai

Top Resorts in the Middle East: #1 One&Only The Palm Dubai, #2 Anantara Qasr Al Sarab, #5 One&Only Royal Mirage

Top Resorts in Central & South America: #1 Arenal Nayara Hotel & Gardens

Top Resorts in Baja, Mexico: #1 One&Only Palmilla

Top Hotels in Australia & the Pacific: #1 Park Hyatt Sydney

Top Hotels in the Atlantic: #2 One&Only Ocean Club, #4 Parrot Cay

Top Hotels in New England: #3 The Wauwinet, #7 White Elephant Hotel

Top Resorts & Safari Camps: #4 Phinda Private Game Reserve, #25 Lake Manyara Tree Lodge

Top Hotels in Chicago: #4 Park Hyatt Chicago

Top Hotels in Northern Europe: #5 Park Hyatt Hamburg

Top Hotels in South America: #4 Park Hyatt Palacio Duhau

Top Hotels in Washington, D.C: #5 Park Hyatt Washington, D.C.

Top Resorts in the Caribbean: #5 The Caves, #6 Hôtel Saint-Barth Isle de France, #10 Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort

Top Hotels in France & Monaco: #6 Park Hyatt Paris-Vedome, #18 Pavillon de la Reine

Top Hotels in Africa: #7 One&Only Cape Town

Top Hotels in Japan and South Korea: #7 Park Hyatt Seoul, #8 Park Hyatt Tokyo

Top Islands in the Caribbean: #7 St. Barths

Top Hotels in the Southwest: #8 Inn on the Alameda

Top Resorts in Europe: #10 Chewton Glen

Top Cities in the United States: #10 Napa

Top Hotels in Southeast Asia: #13 Park Hyatt Saigon

Top Resorts in Asia: #16 Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp

Top Hotels in Central Europe: #17 Park Hyatt Zurich

Top Hotels in China: #29 Park Hyatt Shanghai, #37 Park Hyatt Beijing


For the complete list of 2013 Readers’ Choice winners, click here: http://www.cntraveler.com/readers-choice-awards

Dream (Jobs) Do Come True with Crystal Cruises

April 29th, 2013

Most boys want to grow up to be an astronaut, athlete, or airplane pilot; however girls dream of becoming a veterinarian, teacher, or journalist. According to a recent LinkedIn survey of 8,000 professionals, only three in 10 people are actually working in their dream jobs or related fields. Crystal Cruises is responding with the chance to make childhood dreams come true by offering a broad selection of new shore excursions and onboard programming. For 2013, this includes pilot training, teaching opportunities, and, yes, even space training. Here’s how to…


…become an Astronaut

Voyage: “Northern Enchantment” from Copenhagen to Stockholm

The St. Petersburg port-of-call offers guests four different space training experiences to Star City, a former top-secret cosmonaut training facility outside Moscow. Once aboard the largest parabola aircraft in the world, travelers get a lesson in zero-gravity. Or guests can choose to delve into the world’s largest Hydro-Space laboratory and experience the most advanced and challenging training a cosmonaut undergoes – installing a space antenna on a replica of the International Space Station. This all happens while being submerged in the 54,000 square foot hydrolab and wearing an authentic 275lb Orlan DMA liquid cooled spacesuit. Previously only available for Russian cosmonauts in training, Crystal has secured Star City’s Centrifuge TsF-18, the largest in the world, for Crystal guests to experience simulated G-force levels of all stages of space travel. For those who prefer to be on the “Houston” side of space travel, Crystal guests are invited to the Yuri Gagarin State Scientific Research and Testing Cosmonaut Training Center for a look at the history of Russian space travel, the Space Race, and an up-close look at Russian spacecrafts.


…become an Award-Winning Journalist

Voyage: Aquitaine Tapestry” from Lisbon to London

During this sailing, guests can take a complimentary lesson in journalism from Tom DeFrank, the award-winning journalist and one of Washington’s most respected President-watchers. DeFrank has covered the White House since the Nixon administration and reported on the resignation of one President, the impeachment of a second, and was an eyewitness to two assassination attempts. His reporting skills have been praised by ABC News, the American Journalism Review, and even Former President Gerald R. Ford.


…become a Pilot

Voyage: Baltic Brillance” from Stockholm to Copenhagen

Guests will have the opportunity to don a flight suit and helmet, board the famed Russian MiG fighter jet built especially for high-altitude missions, and zoom over Russia’s landscape at over twice the speed of sound. With the help of the English-speaking test pilot, guests will take control and guide the plane through simple maneuvers and circles.


…become a Veterinarian

Voyage: Bounty of the Baltic” from Stockholm to Copenhagen

As part of Crystal’s “You Care, We Care” program, guests have the opportunity to become a vet-for-a-day at Rostock’s Zoological Garden, the largest zoo on the German Baltic coast. The zoo is home to more than 2,000 animals of 250 different species – from big cats to elephants, monkeys, polar bears, and more. During this complimentary shore excursion, guests will assist zookeepers in feeding these animals and keeping their environment clean and healthy.


…become a Professional Athlete (for a day)

Voyage: Coastal Connoisseur” from Barcelona to Lisbon

In Barcelona, Crystal guests can visit Camp Nou, home to Futbol Club Barcelona, for a day in the life of a professional soccer star. The stadium tour includes a stop at the visitors’ locker room, walking the tunnel for a grand entrance onto the pitch and dugouts, as well as stopping by the television studio and press room.


…become a Teacher

Voyage: Pacific Panorama” from Kōbe to Vancouver

Guests who aspired to become a teacher as a child can fulfill their dream by enrolling in Crystal’s complimentary “You Care, We Care” voluntourism program during the Petropavlovsk port-of-call. At the local international business school, Link, participants will become educators-for-the-day, teaching Russian teenagers conversational English via Skype.



discover the quiet beauty and urban sophistication of canada from the teak decks of crystal symphony this fall

July 26th, 2012

From the idyllic archipelagos along the St. Lawrence River to the grandeur of the Basilica Notre Dame de Montreal and the unspoiled beauty of the Magdalen Islands, experience the fall foliage, natural wonder, and cosmopolitan elegance of Canada aboard Crystal Symphony’s “Treasures of Canada” sailing. This seven-day, round-trip Montreal cruise, departing on September 30, 2012, is a brand new itinerary for the award-winning cruise line and has three maiden calls, including one in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, North America’s last vestige of the French Republic and Al Capone’s “home-away-from-home” during the island’s golden era of Prohibition profiteering. Other ports-of-call include Sept-Îles*, Magdalen Islands*, and Quebec City, Canada. With Crystal Symphony fresh from a $15 million “Extreme Makeover,” sailing aboard the très chic ship is more luxurious than ever.

Book by August 31, 2012 for all-inclusive rates as low as $3,055 per person (not including port, security, and handling charges). This cruise-only fare includes all beverages including fine wines, champagne, premium spirits, and non-alcoholic beverages; gratuities for all room categories, dining, and bar staff; specialty on board dining, including Prego and Silk Road and The Sushi Bar by Nobu Matsuhisa; 24-hour room service; fitness and enrichment workshop classes, and much more. For additional information, please visit www.crystalcruises.com.

*Denotes maiden call for Crystal Cruises

crystal cruises’ short & sweet sailings – book by june 30 for limited time savings!

June 20th, 2012

Shorter can be sweeter! Ultra luxe Crystal Cruises is offering 12 new, five- to eight-day sailings from July through December 2012. To accommodate today’s time-strapped traveler, these shorter sailings showcase the favorite must-see destinations and charm-filled gems of Southern Europe while “tasting” the Crystal difference.

The “Crystal Getaways” sale offers new and returning guests the chance to experience Crystal’s award winning, all-inclusive service for as little as $262/person per day if booked by June 30. The sailings available for this first-time offer are:

Starting at just $1,310 per person, the rate for these all-inclusive sailings includes luxurious accommodations; gourmet dining including Nobu’s Silk Road and Piero Selvaggio menus at Prego; fine wines and premium spirits; gratuities for housekeeping, bar, and dining staff throughout the ship; all fitness classes; inspirational enrichment activities; a variety on onboard entertainment; and much more!

For Crystal reservations, contact a travel agent, call 888-799-4625, or visit www.crystalcruises.com.

extreme makeover: cruise ship edition

June 19th, 2012

Sure, Ty Pennington may be able to remodel a home in one week, but could he do the same for a 77,319 square foot cruise ship in two? Well, the interior designs teams at Adfecto and SMC Design from London and KNA Design from Los Angeles have done just that to Crystal Cruises’ award-winning ship, Crystal Symphony.

The completion of the recent $15 million dry dock reveals chic new public spaces aboard the ultra-luxe ship, including the Avenue Saloon, Palm Court Lounge, Galaxy Lounge, Hollywood Theatre, Bridge Lounge, Fantasia and Waves “junior cruisers” entertainment centers, and the Tender Landing/passenger boarding area.  The final step in a five-year plan, Crystal Cruises has now redesigned every room aboard the prized ship, to the tune of $65 million.

Now that the dry dock is complete, Crystal Symphony is showing off her new look while she explores the Baltic and Northern Europe before crossing the Atlantic in September to experience the brilliant foliage and infamous beauty of fall in New England and Canada.

For more information on Crystal Cruises and upcoming itineraries, please visit www.crystalcruises.com.

crystal cruises expands its horizons with the addition of seven new european ports of call

June 7th, 2012

European vacations should be filled with limitless experiences and extravagant memories (envision stepping foot in Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste where Louis X1V was married or whale watching on the Norwegian Sea). Well, imagine no longer!  Crystal Cruises has added seven European maiden calls to their 2012 itineraries:

Klaipeda, Lithuania: Surrounded by the Baltic Sea, Latvia, Russia, Belarus, and Poland, the city of Klaipeda is filled with rich attractions and must see sights.  Stroll the cobbled streets or absorb the beauty of the Curonian Spit before heading to the Lithuanian Sea Museum to enjoy several animal exhibits along with a dolphin and sea lion show.

Heimaey, Iceland: Although Heimaey was demolished in 1973 by a volcanic eruption, the reconstructed island still remains a dominant fishing port in Iceland and a popular tourist destination.  Enjoy a day playing golf on one of the 62 courses or book a tour with Glacier Jeeps to explore Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Iceland.

St-Jean-de-Luz, France: Located on the Basque coast, this city is easily one of the most attractive.  Its medieval-esque environment is home to the historic Church of St.John where Louis XIV tied the knot with Marie Thérèse.  After being wooed by the charming ambiance, wind down and stroll along the beach boardwalk.

Leknes, Norway: Surrounded by picturesque mountains and cliffs perfect for climbing, hiking, and cycling, Leknes is blessed with some of the most stunning scenery in the world.  Whether one relaxes on the beach or hits the local shops for some souvenirs, a must-see in this city is the old schoolhouse in the Fygle neighborhood.

Bonifacio/Corsica, France: The town of Bonifacio is the predominant attraction on the French island of Corsica.  It is best known for its immaculate Haute Ville, a series of tall and narrow medieval homes perched high above the sea on the edge of striking white limestone cliffs.  Completely encircled by the citadel walls, the steep walk is worth it for the unparalleled views, as well as the opportunity to meander through the labyrinth of ancient streets and narrow alleyways.

Palamos, Spain: Set right on the coast of Costa Brava, this 800-year-old village is known for its symbolic beaches and particularly exceptional prawns.  Daytrip to Barcelona, head to the fresh fish market, or explore gothic Girona.

Akureyri, Iceland: Iceland’s second-largest city is home to one of its most superb fjords, surrounded by attractive snow dusted mountains and pastures.  Top to-dos include whale-watching, seeing the “Waterfall of the Gods”, and visiting the botanical gardens

Bon Voyage!


rocket man: crystal cruise’s tribute to elton john

June 6th, 2012

“Saturday Night’s Alright” aboard Crystal Cruises!  Crystal recently took the idea of entertainment to a higher level with their newest show, “Rocket Man: A Tribute to Elton John.”

British impersonator Jonathan Kane exceptionally mimics Sir Elton’s unique style – from his piano playing, voice, and mannerisms, to his unmistakable on-stage persona (Kane wears a shiny gold tux, a perfectly shaped wig and funky glasses, need we say more?).  Kane’s masquerade is flawless, bringing guests along for an entertaining, sensational ride.

Taking place in Crystal’s award winning showroom, the Galaxy Lounge, the lounge features a hydraulic-rising stage along with comfortable seating, giving everyone a taste of Crystal’s own “Rocket Man.”  Grab your passport and hop on board because Crystal’s taste in entertainment is only becoming more spectacular.

crystal cruises honors soldiers with veterans’ get-together

May 23rd, 2012

Photos courtesy of MaineSeniorGuide.com and Crystal Cruises

Memorial Day is generally viewed as a day off from school or work and an excuse to hit the beach.  But for war veterans and their families the day carries a more important significance. For them, the holiday is about honoring fallen soldiers and Crystal Cruises aims to do the same. While Crystal recently introduced regular veterans’ get-togethers onboard Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, passengers sailing during Memorial Day weekend will be treated to a slew of extra special activities. The activities vary from ship to ship but are equally commemorative.

The activities will allow guests to honor soldiers in a variety of ways, ranging from open forums and poetry dedications to memorial ceremonies and shore excursions at various war-related sites. The events will be led by either four-star Marine General Anthony Zinni, former Commander in Chief of U.S. General Command or foreign policy author Dr. Robert Freedman.

There’s nothing wrong with spending the next few days indulging with friends and family but we encourage you to take a few moments and commemorate our soldiers.

gabriel campanario’s top 10 cities to sketch

May 11th, 2012

Toothbrush? Check. Passport? Check. Pencil and Sketchbook? Double check.

In this recent USAToday article, Larry Bleiberg claims that a “growing number of travelers are using a pencil to capture vacation memories.” According to Gabriel Campanario, founder of UrbanSketchers.org, not only is sketching a great way to capture your memories, it also makes for a richer travel experience.

So, what are Gabriel’s top 10 cities to sketch? He names New York City, Seattle, Montreal, Norfolk, London, Venice, Barcelona, Istanbul, and Hong Kong as his favorites. Ready to head out and sketch? Well, Crystal Cruises will make a call in nine out of these 10 cities in the next year! Crystal will even help get you started at the on board Creative Learning Institute where their specially trained Odyssey Art at Sea instructor will give you some helpful tips. So grab your pencil, forgot the camera, and hop on Crystal Cruises for the richest travel experience.

europe this summer? mais oui!

May 7th, 2012

With the spring weather upon us, we have our hearts set on Europe. Whether you’re traveling to London for the Olympic Games or hoping to stay as far away as possible, we have a suggestion for every traveler’s delight.

For the Olympics:

The Halkin

London, UK

The Halkin is a hidden gem in Belgravia. Clean lines and impeccable service define the London favorite, along with its award winning nahm restaurant serving up authentic Thai fare. Guests can even order this haute Thai cuisine for room service!

What’s New: Celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year, The Halkin has certainly made its mark on the London hotel scene. To celebrate, The Halkin has partnered with William Curley, renowned patissier and chocolatier, to fashion a Couture Chocolate Afternoon Tea. This is a Champagne tea service inspired by the chocolatier’s new book, Couture Chocolate, and will include a selection of chocolate patisserie, homemade scones with clotted cream and preserves, and a selection of freshly made sandwiches.

Rates: Rates start at £260 ($422) per night.


Metropolitan London

London, UK

This well known London hotel is famous for its Met Bar that first opened in 1997 and set the trend for the ultimate great night out in the heart of London! Now the Met Bar has re-opened its doors with a whole NEW look featuring an expanded and innovative cocktail menu and classic seasonal British cuisine. For the first time, the Met Bar ended its “Members-Only” policy, making it accessible to all from early in the day to late at night.
What’s New: The new COMO Shambhala Urban Escape offers key Asian-inspired therapies as well as a resident acupuncturist. Among the treatments on offer are the Dr. Perricone facials (the COMO Shambhala Urban Escape is the only spa in the U.K. to work with this popular U.S. product line) and COMO Shambhala PURIFY facials, suitable for men and women.

Rates: Rates start at £229 ($372) per night.


For the Culture:

Belmond Afloat in France


Discover the French countryside from a new perspective with Afloat in France, a small fleet of luxury barges ideal for a group of family or friends on vacation. Fashion an itinerary that matches the interests of the crowd (think golf, cycling, or antiques), and relax in Belmond style over fine French dining and wine while meandering through the ever-changing scenery.

What’s New: Explore the finest vineyards from the Rhône Valley to Gevrey-Chambertin on the new seven-day “Wine Discovery Tour” aboard the Napoleón, which features instructive tastings, wine-centric French dinners, and guided walks through some of the region’s most famous vineyards. To ring in the new tour, each “Wine Discovery Tour” attendee is rewarded with a free one-night stay at a luxury five-star hotel in Paris.

Rates: Rates start at €4,450 ($5,825) per person, based on double occupancy of a cabin.


Le Pavillon des Lettres

Paris, France

The charming Pavillon des Lettres, an impossibly chic retreat for art and literature lovers, is the perfect alternative to Paris’ traditional hotels. Combining art, literature, and fine design, each of the hotel’s 26 rooms is devoted to a letter of the alphabet and a corresponding international writer (think B for Baudelaire or H for Hugo).

What’s new: Crazy Horse Cabaret, the avant-garde icon of provocative Parisian nightlife, celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2012 with Le Pavillon des Lettres. Together they are offering a package that includes amour-inducing accommodations and VIP tickets to the show.

Rates: Rates start at €265 ($351) per night.


Crystal Cruises Royal Explorer Sailing

Stockholm to London

From the old-world charm of Stockholm’s Gamla Stan to Helsinki’s cutting-edge Ice Bar, revel in the rich cultural life and fascinating museums of these Baltic capitals. From August 14 – 25, spend 11 days exploring these spectacular lands with Crystal Symphony, with calls in St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland; Berlin/Warnemünde, Germany; and Copenhagen, Denmark.

What’s New: Fresh from a $15 million drydock, Crystal Symphony will be showing off her newly redesigned public spaces. Guest chefs Orjan Johannessen and Odd Ivar Sovod will also be joining the cruise, along with wine expert Eugenio Jardim and mixologist Simon Ford to celebrate the Crystal Wine & Food Festival.

Rates: Check here for current pricing and special offers


For the Cuisine:

Park Hyatt Milan

Milan, Italy

Cozily situated in the heart of Milan next to the Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, this hotel is a natural favorite for visiting celebrities, design mavens, and vacation travelers alike.

What’s New: After a recent collaboration with the famous English fashion designer, Paul Smith, Park Hyatt Milan now serves their culinary creations upon beautiful, hand-painted dishes designed specifically for the hotel by Smith.

Rates:  Rates start at €540 ($715) per night.


Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme

Paris, France

Recently accepted into the prestigious Palace Hotels Group, the five-star Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme offers a sensual, understated elegance that extends throughout the hotel – from the lavish rooms and suites to the captivating social areas and exquisite spa.

What’s New: Refreshed and ready for spring, guests can enjoy lunch or dinner on the terrace in an intimate and confidential ambience in the most glamorous neighborhood in the city. Make sure to try the chef’s newest creation, the Non-coupable, a guilt-free dessert that features fresh market strawberries, a base of low-fat cheesecake and cream, finished with a tangy spark of crystallized thyme and lemon.

Rates: Rates start at €1180 ($1550) per night.


For the Scenery:

La Réserve Ramatuelle

St. Tropez, France

Located just outside St. Tropez, this stunning property, with 360° views of the Mediterranean Sea, is an intimate, elegant getaway that is ideal for discerning travelers.

What’s new: La Réserve Ramatuelle just added four new health and wellness programs that combine medical assessments, personal training sessions, physical activities, and personalized diets for a total care approach.

Rates: Rates start at €650 ($861) per night.


Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa

Interlaken, Switzerland

Located in the picturesque mountain setting of the Bernese Oberland, this five-star hotel and spa, known as one of the most beautiful hotels in Switzerland, is in the ultimate location for a summer vacation. Whether visiting for a wellness weekend or a family holiday, the unique grand hotel atmosphere is sure to provide memories that last a lifetime.

What’s New: Offering everything from snacks to cakes to tasty drinks, the hotel has recently renovated its outdoor dining area, the Victoria-Jungfrau terrace, adding a new lighting system designed to create the perfect atmosphere for dinners under the starry, summer night sky. With the addition of 110 seats, the terrace can now accommodate up to 150 guests.

Rates: Rates start at 443.10 CHF ($488.16) per night.