Luxury Travel Advisor has named the 2015 winners of its prestigious Awards of Excellence. Our advisory board, an invitation-only panel of those influential travel advisors who have graced the cover of the magazine, selected each of the nominees across several categories. Our readers then voted exclusively to determine the best of each segment. Please join us in congratulating the 2015 winners.
Most Anticipated New Luxury Hotel Opening 2016
Il Sereno, Lake Como, Italy
This new ultra-luxe hotel on the shores of Lake Como, Italy, follows the success of its sister property, Le Sereno St Barth. If it’s anywhere near as popular, we suggest booking one of its 30 oversized suites well in advance, as well as the Penthouse, which has a private terrace, garden and rooftop lap pool. Il Sereno, which offers views of the French Alps, is being touted as the most posh hotel on Lake Como. It has a contemporary, relaxed vibe created by Milan-based designer Patricia Urquiola, who designs for B&B Italia, Baccarat, BMW, Louis Vuitton and other luxe brands.
Top African/Indian Ocean Opening 2015
Mandarin Oriental, Marrakech
Imagine taking a casual walk around this resort, with its 50 acres of landscaped gardens, all the while inhaling the fragrance of 100,000 roses. Yeah, we think, it sounds pretty romantic, too. Guests will also get access to some of those roses all to themselves in the secluded gardens that are a part of the 54 private villas, which come with swimming pools and hot tubs. Want a view of the gardens? We suggest one of the seven suites with a rooftop plunge pool and 360-degree views of the landscape. Nice Touch: The Atlas Mountains provide a dramatic background.
Top Middle East Hotel Opening 2015
Accommodations at Taj Dubai comprise a total of 296 rooms, including Taj Club Rooms, 16 Junior Suites and 15 Luxury Suites with panoramic views of Burj Khalifa, dancing fountains and the Dubai Mall. Want the top digs? The Maharaja Suite was inspired by Maharaja’s palaces in Rajasthan; it has a roof terrace on the 33rd floor of the hotel. The Presidential Suite measures 7,320 square feet and occupies the entire 35th floor, and has its own fitness suite and yoga room.
Top Asia Hotel Opening 2015
The Ritz-Carlton Macau
This 250-suite hotel opened at Galaxy Macau, a new resort area with shopping, dining and entertainment venues. Nice Touches: The pool has views over Cotai and a series of mighty fine cabanas. The ESPA has 10 treatment rooms and three couples’ suites. Executive Chef Bruno Correa oversees the hotel’s culinary offerings, which range from classic Cantonese fine dining at Lai Heen to Afternoon tea or cocktails at the The Ritz-Carlton Bar & Lounge.
Top South Pacific Hotel Opening 2015
Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Ubud, Bali
Set along the Ayung River, this resort has 35 suites and 25 private pool villas. A unique touch is that it offers tailored spiritual, wellness, health and detox programs, all complemented by the fulltime, personalized attention of a dedicated Patih, or butler. Its four restaurants and lounges offer Indonesian cuisine, Mediterranean dining and health-conscious menus. The eight-room Spa at Mandapa has a wellness and lifestyle program based on the following pillars — Balinese Spa, Detox & Nutrition, Alternative Therapy, Body Therapy and Healing.
Top North American Hotel Opening 2015
Baccarat Hotel & Residences New York
Located on West 53rd Street across from the Museum of Modern Art, this glass-tower building glitters throughout its 114 rooms in an understated manner. Shea Gallante is the Michelin-starred chef at the hotel’s restaurant; he also designed the small-plate dining at Baccarat’s sleek 60-foot bar, which is meant to recall Versailles. Nice Touch: Those in suites get La Mer amenities and Baccarat votive candles.
Top Luxury Hotel Renovation/Restoration
The Lanesborough underwent a major overhaul spanning two years that touched all 93 guestrooms (including the Royal Suite) and public areas. After our visit, we can vouch that rooms are now the epitome of elegance with beautiful armoires, desks, a fabulous selection of art and bathrooms with Italian marble. For dining, star Chef Florian Favario is at the helm in Celeste, the new Regency-style restaurant.
Top Europe Hotel Opening 2015
Mandarin Oriental Milan, Italy
Situated in four 18th-century buildings not far from La Scala, the famous opera house, the hotel has 104 guestrooms and suites which are billed as the most spacious accommodations in the city. Enticements include a six-room spa, the Mandarin bar and the talked-about restaurant, Seta, which is overseen by Executive Chef Antonio Guida, formerly of the Tuscan hot spot Il Pellicano.
Top Caribbean Hotel Opening 2015
Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall, Jamaica
The new all-inclusive Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica, is tailored exclusively for adults and couples and includes swim-up suites and adults-only restaurants and pool areas. It’s the sister property to the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall, the brand’s family-friendly resort, offering water and land activities for kids of all ages.
Top Mexico/Central America Hotel Opening 2015
Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos
This beachfront resort has great views of the Sea of Cortez and plenty of suites with private balconies and ocean views. Seven restaurants and on-site activities, such as scuba diving, golf and fishing, fuel the all-inclusive vibe and make it a pretty swell venue for family get-togethers. Amenities include spa treatments and several bars and lounges. The four pools include one just for kids.
Best Luxury Hotel in New York
The St. Regis New York
The St. Regis New York has a new design, one that shows its uptown sophistication with downtown chic. This is one hotel that year after year provides the ultimate in Manhattan luxury, thanks to its iconic features, such as the famous King Cole Bar (home of the original Bloody Mary), classy butler service, and a dedication to making each stay a fabulous memory. Nice Touch: Bentley provides the hotel’s house cars.
Best Luxury Hotel in London
This London icon topped readers’ votes and that’s probably due to the sum of many swell parts, including super posh rooms and suites, a pampering spa and Michelin-starred cuisine. Or could it be its wildly popular Afternoon Tea? It’s such fun to dress up and sit in the lobby of The Dorchester to see and be seen as guests come in from their swanky sojourns in nearby Hyde Park and Mayfair. You might even spot a celebrity, a world leader or a royal if you’re lucky.
Best Luxury Hotel Worldwide
Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Hawaii
This property, set on the south Kona-Kohala Coast, is surrounded by white sands, lava rock and the mesmerizing surf. Always popular with high-profile guests, its new Suite Experience Managers program provides an around-the-clock concierge team for the top 10 of the resort’s 51 suites and villas. Those top suites include the Hawaii Loa Presidential Villa and Makaloa Villa. If you don’t book a suite, do secure an Oceanview Deluxe Room.
Best Luxury Boutique Hotel Worldwide
Auberge du Soleil, Napa Valley, CA
This Napa Valley gem offers plenty of privacy throughout its 55 rooms, as well as access to California’s wine country. Everything here is influenced by the surrounding landscape, from treatments at the Auberge spa (think rosemary, lemon balm and cabernet grape seed remedies), to dining options. Executive Chef Robert Curry’s menus source local ingredients at the Restaurant and Bistro & Bar and all accommdations have Mediterranean-style décor with sweeping views of the valley.
Best New Villa Worldwide
Villa Manzu, Costa Rica
Spread across five acres, this eight-suite estate is dotted with hammocks and secluded spots to enjoy views of both nature and the ocean. Two pools, a spa, theater room and bar/party room allow for a range of intimate gatherings, while activities like hikes, horseback riding and kayaking can all be arranged through the villa’s staff. Dining at Villa Manzu is also an added treat, as the executive chef designs meals to personal preference.
Best Luxury Beach Hotel Worldwide
Four Seasons Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Joshua Bush of Avenue Two Travel visited this resort last year and said, “It provided the quintessential over-water bungalow experience we had always imagined.” This perennial winner makes the most of its setting, with options like private, beachfront sunset dining by candlelight just one choice for dinner. Guests love snorkeling and other water activities in this “Garden of Eden” and claim it’s ideal for romance travelers and family groups alike.
Best New Suite Worldwide
Mandarin Oriental, New York: Two-Bedroom Central Park West Suite
This 1,220-square-foot suite has floor-to-ceiling windows, which provide panoramic views of Central Park and the New York skyline. We love the plush, curved sofas and huge comfy beds, all positioned to take advantage of the views. When it’s time to go downstairs, the hotel’s 35th-floor Sky Lobby has its own fab views, which include Central Park. Yes, please.
Best Luxury Hotel in Rome
Hotel de Russie
Looking to live la dolce vita? This Rocco Forte Collection gem has just unveiled a refurbishment of its top two suites to create the ambiance of a private Italian apartment. Situated on the top floor of the hotel, the spacious Popolo Suite has a wrap-around terrace, a dining room and walk-in closets. Also renovated, the Picasso Suite reflects its namesake artist’s style with lithographs and hand-crafted cushions displaying Picasso’s famous painting, Portrait De Dora Maar.
Best Luxury Hotel in Paris
Four Seasons George V, Paris
Luxury abounds in Paris, but the Four Seasons George V has consistently won best hotel in its category. It’s because it’s about classic luxury and new luxury all at once. Think incredibly sumptuous guestrooms that let you block out the entire world if you wish, while just steps away is some of the best shopping, and the excitement of the Champs-Élysées. Service is paramount here, but it’s subtle and refined. Dining is overseen by a Michelin-star chef, Christian Le Squer.
Best Cruise Line for Luxury Ocean Cruises
With the leadership of president & CEO, Edie Rodriguez, Crystal Cruises is on an ambitious and exciting expansion program, but it’s the existing ships, Symphony and Serenity, that once again won our readers’ votes, notably for their excellent service and on-board offerings. Crystal continues to raise the bar on land, as well, with its famed over-the-top shore excursions. As for that expansion, there can never be too much from the line in the luxury arena.
Best Cruise Line for Luxury Small Ships
Seabourn Cruise Line
Seabourn continues to maintain its awesomeness, keeping our readers most pleased with its current offerings, and excited to see what’s on tap for the future. Coming up this year is yet another new ship, Seabourn Encore, which will sail the world with its super lovable sibling vessels. Seabourn said Encore will maintain the line’s high ratio of space per guest and will be configured with one additional deck and new expanded public areas. Best part? Every suite has a private veranda.
Best Luxury River Cruise Company
Viking River Cruise
The river cruise category is a competitive one but the company that won our readers’ hearts this year is Viking, which provides travelers with a constant flow of new product year after year. With a dedication to consistent service, experience and food and beverage, the line has become a mainstay in the luxury arena. And who can resist its enticing television ads, which have opened up the public’s eyes to what a river cruise vacation can provide?
Best Chauffeured Services Worldwide
Carey again takes home this award, thanks to its consistent high level of service and its international network that spans more than 1,000 cities worldwide. Our readers also love that it’s able to promise 24/7 chauffeured service for personal and business travel. We hear as well that services are centrally managed and locally dispatched to ensure a quality ride. Hot News: There’s even a new app that provides real-time ride information.
Airlines: Best Flat-Bed Business Class Service
Sleeping in Emirates Business Class is a snap with its flat-bed service but if you do sleep you’ll miss some pretty awesome service and some mighty fine food and wine. There’s in-seat power for your laptop and a side table for space to work. A personal minibar and entertainment system add to the ambience. Internet connectivity makes it easy to stay in touch with those on land. Did we mention there’s a lounge on the A380s?
Best Local Destination Management Company
Made for Spain
Specializing in custom travel itineraries, services and unique experiences in Spain, Made for Spain won this hotly contested category, thanks to the hard work of founder and co-owner, Virginia Irurita, and her team, who are always scouring their homeland for amazing offerings for their clients. Without the help of a fabulous local DMC, the work for many luxury travel advisors would be difficult indeed. The good news? The company has expanded in to Portugal.
Top General Manager Worldwide
Claudio Catani, Hotel Brunelleschi
Catani took home the prize for one of our most hotly contested categories and with good reason. This Florence, Italy hotel gets standout online ratings for its amazingly friendly and super-service-oriented staff, and we know that all starts at the top. In 2008, he arrived at the hotel to elevate it in terms of service and reputation and Catani has surpassed all expectations.
Top Luxury Sales Executive Worldwide
Chris Austin, Starwood Hotels & Resorts
The VP, Global Leisure, Luxury & TMC Sales for Starwood is laser focused on making it easy for travel advisors to work with the hotel company and may we say, he does it all with great class. Tasked seven years ago with creating a global luxury sales strategy in support of Starwood’s growing luxury brand portfolio, we’d say, Austin has met his goal and then some.
Best FIT Operator
Abercrombie & Kent
Abercrombie & Kent never stops in its quest to find new and unique offerings for its well-traveled clients.Staffed with some of the best guides throughout the world, A&K’s land programs consistently raise the bar on guest experience. Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy is another standout, dedicated to preserving natural habitats, protecting wildlife and supporting indigenous people throughout the world.