The World’s Best 2017 Hall of Fame Winners
Every year for the World’s Best survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on their travel experiences around the globe, to share their opinions on everything from airlines and cruise lines to cities and spas. And every year, the survey reminds us of why we love to travel, of the ways in which being taken out of our comfort zone — in comfort — can return us to our best selves.
Related:The Top 100 Hotels in the World
But it is one thing to achieve excellence and another to sustain it. This list honors the airlines, cruise ships, cities, hotels, and more that have been named to the World’s Best list for at least 10 consecutive years. Some are grande dames: Singapore Airlines has been lauded as the Top International Airline since the list began 22 years ago.
All of these entries speak to what it means to be the best in the world — in service, style, and sophistication.
Beloved by foodies and history buffs alike, Florence continually ranks as one of the top cities to visit in Europe. The activities do not disappoint, whether it’s climbing to the top of the Duomo, seeing Michelangelo’s David, or savoring a plate of wild boar tagliatelle at a small, family-run trattoria.
All that is required for the perfect vacation here is an appetite for life. You can explore the Colosseum or admire art in the Borghese Gallery, shop along Via Condotti or stay in a top property like the World’s Best–winning Hotel de Russie.
Voted this year as Hawaii’s top island, Maui offers volcanic craters and waterfalls to explore; the coastline boasts 30 miles of beaches on which to unwind after a day spent snorkeling or surfing.
Its rainforest lends this island the nickname “the Garden Isle,” making it an idyll for naturalists and hikers, while beachcombers celebrate its fifty miles of white-sand beaches. Steven Spielberg is one of its many fans; he filmed Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Hook here.
Big Island, Hawaii
The island’s varied topography, ranging from volcanoes to rainforests, mountains, and breathtaking beaches, offers the best of everything one could wish for in a tropical getaway. Its justifiably famous coffee means you’ll be ready to start your adventures bright and early.
New York City, New York
An urban reality of a “choose your own adventure” game, this city caters to vacationers of every age and every interest, with the finest in art, theater, and restaurants. And yes: the Statue of Liberty, seen from the High Line park or a Circle Line boat tour, is a must for all.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Celebrated for its breathtaking landscapes, artisanal food, restorative spas, and meandering walks through art galleries and cafes, Santa Fe is an easy long-weekend escape. The fact that it gets 350 days of sunshine a year is the icing on the cake.
Charleston, South Carolina
This city’s historic sights and booming culinary scene — along with the locals’ warm Southern hospitality — have kept our readers happy year after year. And with new hotels shaking things up, like the World’s Best–winning Dewberry, there’s never been a better time to visit.
Quebec City, Canada
Get a taste of France without the jet lag in this historic city, whose old, cobblestoned quarter is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site. There are also natural wonders to see, including the spectacular Montmorency Falls.
Vancouver Island, Canada
By day, you can have a whale-watching adventure, hike through Strathcona Park, and visit boutique wineries. At night, you can unwind at a boutique hotel and enjoy the fishermen’s fresh catch as the fog rolls in.
This sophisticated seaside city is hailed for its famous harbor, extraordinary surfing, and a temperate climate that makes enjoying its cultural gems (the Opera House among them) a joy.
Though smaller than its sister city Sydney, Melbourne has plenty going for it: a thriving arts scene, exquisite restaurants (the World’s 50 Best were announced here this year), and charming pedestrian streets. A lovely day on the beach is easily spent in the nearby suburbs.
Bali delivers on plenty of romantic attractions, from the pristine beaches to the five-star resorts that specifically cater to couples. A strong spa and wellness culture also draws those in search of R&R.
Thailand’s capital city is a blur of excitement, from the bustling streets to the nighttime markets. And foodies will not be disappointed: days can be spent street-stall hopping while nights are devoted to sophisticated restaurants and trendy bars.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat belongs on everyone’s bucket list. Here, there are no ropes advising visitors to move away and observe the ruins from a distance, and educated and affordable private guides can help make the experience more memorable. When the heat overwhelms, return to the utmost of civilization, sipping watermelon juice poolside at a deluxe hotel.
Japan’s ancient former capital is famous for its more than 1,000 temples, verdant gardens, and architectural treasures including Shinto shrines and the Kyoto Imperial Palace. To experience Kyoto at its most dazzling, visit during cherry blossom season in the spring.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is often a stopover en route to Machu Picchu to literally catch one’s breath (the altitude of more than 11,000 feet has hotels stocking oxygen tanks in its lobbies). But Cuzco deserves its own visit to soak up the distinct Incan culture and breathtaking vistas.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Argentina’s capital is no doubt one of the most stylish, buzzy cities in the world. Walk beautiful neighborhoods like Recoleta, where you can shop for exquisitely made leather goods and jewelry, or take in a tango show and go bar-hopping late into the night.
There’s a reason you see tons of Santorini photos populating your Instagram feed. With its iconic white buildings, many built into caves, and vistas over the azure Aegean Sea, this Greek island is the visual definition of serene beauty.
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Made famous by Charles Darwin, these islands are so magical that by the third day of your trip, swimming with hammerhead sharks seems like a good idea (you won’t be wrong). It’s impossible not to be transported by boobies walking over your feet, sea lions swimming circles around you, and whales breaching in the distance.
Cape Town, South Africa
A city bounded by towering mountains and the windswept Atlantic, Cape Town is a stop on many a safari itinerary. Admiring the dramatic scenery is just scratching the surface: go deeper into the scene by visiting cutting-edge restaurants and top hotels (like the World’s Best–winning Ellerman House).
This exquisite, ancient city remains on our list year after year, drawing visitors of all faiths who appreciate its beauty and storied history.
Alvear Palace Hotel, Buenos Aires, Argentina
This turn-of-the-century hotel’s grandness—both in scale and ambience—lands it on the World’s Best list year after year. As one reader wrote, the staff “treated everyone like they are royalty!”
Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Located in a former Belle Époque mansion in the city’s posh Recoleta neighborhood, the Four Seasons has been sleekly restored to offer modern suites with a chic Argentinean sensibility.
Ritz-Carlton, Santiago, Chile
Featuring marvelous views of the Andes, this 205-room hotel earns a perennial spot on the list for its location in the sophisticated Las Condes neighborhood, as well as for its spa and indoor pool, which is enclosed by a glass roof.
Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris, France
You don’t need to leave this 244-room hotel to experience the best Paris has to offer. From the perfectly arranged flowers in the marble lobby to the lavish Le Cinq restaurant and decadently furnished suites, the George V feels like a palatial retreat.
Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai, Thailand
At this expansive resort, which overlooks rice paddies in the Mae Rim Valley, there are only two reasons to leave your lounge chair by the pool: to indulge in a Thai massage at the spa, or to cook up a delicious local meal during a class in the Rim Tai Kitchen.
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, Thailand
The city’s din seems miles away at this riverside oasis, a Bangkok grande dame that first opened as the Oriental hotel in 1876. Today’s amenities include private butler service, a stunning pool overlooking the water, and exquisite food.
The Peninsula Hong Kong
The flagship property of this World’s Best–winning hotel company opened in 1928 and continues to dazzle guests with its opulence and service. Many of the 300 rooms and suites have sweeping views of the harbor.
Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
This centrally located five-star property — the first hotel from the Mandarin Oriental brand — boasts sleek furnishings, a pampering spa, and sweeping skyline views.
Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur, India
Lose yourself to the majesty of India on these 32 acres, where you can choose to stay in rooms with marble baths or in air-conditioned tents that take “glamping” to a whole new level (think claw-foot tubs and gold-thread tapestries).
Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra, India
Featuring sweeping views of the Taj Mahal, this 102-room property is a reason to celebrate that the famed monument is actually closed once a week — that means you get more time to linger in your four-poster bed or head to the spa for an Ayurvedic treatment.
This year, T+L welcomed this airline, which features leather seats in coach and excellent in-flight entertainment systems, into the Hall of Fame. “Fantastic service, great food,” writes one fan, with another adding, “Virgin made flying fun again!”
Virgin Atlantic Airways, International
Consistently attentive service has our readers planning their itineraries around this airline’s transatlantic schedule. Flight attendants receive shout-outs year after year for their compassion toward even the most anxious — and youngest — travelers.
What began as an alternative to overpriced flights is now a prized way to travel, with comfortable seats and attentive service. Readers throw additional praise at the airline’s family-friendly attitude.
This airline consistently wins top ratings from readers who love its service, food, in-flight entertainment, and tropical feel. Writes one reader. “Best flights ever! You’re in Hawaii as soon as you board.”
As one reader says of this perennial favorite — capital letters not ours — “ BEST AMERICAN AIRLINE!” The staff gets points for its consideration, and its value is unbeatable.
Singapore Airlines, International
Rated No. 1 in its category since this list began 22 years ago, this airline reminds travelers that our vacations can begin at wheels up. Even when seated in economy, readers hail the service as being first class. In 2018, it will mark the world’s longest flight with its new route between Singapore and New York.
Readers celebrate this airline’s consistent excellence, with its helpful cabin crews, quality food service, and comfortable seats regardless of cabin class.
Cathay Pacific Airlines
This airline makes it likely you’ll land after a long-haul flight to Hong Kong feeling rested. “Incredible experience,” sums up one reader speaking for many, while another adds, “amazing, amazing, amazing!”
National Car Rental
Readers love its reward programs, and even the non-regulars praise the knowledgeable staff and ability to choose from a wide range of well-maintained vehicles. Writes one fan, who helped propel National to No. 1 this year, “Great cars. Great people.”
This rental car company earns a place on the list year after year (this year it was No. 2). Readers applaud its helpful staff and the high quality of its vehicles.
Renting cars is seldom put onto the list of traveling pleasures, but readers say that Hertz makes the difference, from its helpful staff to its ability to check in via remote kiosk. “They are wonderful,” writes one. “I enjoy renting cars from them.”
As all of us who have watched our first hours of vacation tick by while standing in line will understand why this is the kind of praise that puts Avis in the Hall of Fame: “They have always been there for me when I need to get somewhere in a hurry.”
Cunard took the top spot in the mega-ship ocean category list this year, in part thanks to a $132 million refurbishment of the Queen Mary 2. Readers repeatedly praise the line’s service and Old-World glamour, which feels like a throwback to cruising’s heyday in the early 20th century.
Disney Cruise Line
It’s no surprise that this mega-ship line wins praise for being family-friendly, but it goes beyond with our readers by offering larger-than-expected cabins — all the more appreciated with small ones in tow. Adults are also treated to their own entertainment “district.”
Holland America Line
Readers hail this line, which has both mega and large ships, for its value, attentive staff, and in-depth itineraries, with one fan remarking, “Great for family get-togethers!”
This line brings the best in hotel accommodations to the sea: rooms are large and elegantly furnished, and cruisers appreciate the extra touches of a pillow menu, evening hors d’oeuvres, and sparkling wine upon arrival.
Viking River Cruises
A sophisticated way to travel the world’s rivers, whether in Europe or Egypt, these ships receive top marks for their luxurious staterooms, personalized concierge service to assist with reservations on land, and gourmet meals prepared on board with local ingredients.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
Uniworld’s voyages along the waterways of Europe, Russia, Egypt, and China offer personalized service on some of the most luxurious ships in the market. (Check out our editor’s take on their latest vessel to sail the Seine, the Joie de Vivre.) “Absolutely outstanding in every way!” says one, while another adds. “We were taken care of beyond measure.”
This adults-oriented line, which has both mega and large ocean ships, is as sophisticated as they come, offering luxurious staterooms with balconies from which to see the glories of destinations like Alaska and British Columbia. Families with teens and tweens will also appreciate their partnership with the Discovery Communications on select shore excursions.
Royal Caribbean International
This family-friendly mega-ship cruise line is all about over-the-top amenities. Adventurers can enjoy the first-ever cruise ship zipline, circus school, and roller-skating rink on one of Royal’s Quantum-class smartships.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Hailed for both its large and midsize ships, Regent Seven Seas offers stellar service and premium comfort. (Check out our review of their latest ship, the Seven Seas Explorer.) Readers love that shore excursions are built into the cost of their cruise fare so one can choose adventures without thinking about the cost.
One of the joys of cruising is the food, but Oceania takes it to another level thanks to an ongoing partnership with French chef Jacques Pépin. If you’re interested in culinary experiences on land, the large ship line offers guided tours to local markets and wineries in European destinations.
In addition to the expected luxury and service that lands any cruise company on this list, Seabourn ups the ante by partnering with UNESCO on shore excursions to promote World Heritage sites. A favorite mid-size ship is the 458-passenger Seabourn Quest, ice-strengthened for its trips to Antarctica.