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LUXURY TRAVEL: Christmas Crackers 2013
It is that time of year when we look back and reflect over our wonderful, exciting, luxurious year. Our talented team has climbed mountains, trekked jungles, sailed seas, tested sun loungers, soaked in spas and schussed down ski slopes, all to bring you reports on the globe's most gorgeous luxury hotels, luxury resorts and to-die-for destinations. We've checked the thread count so you can sleep easy. Yes, we did it all for you... 
 
So what were our 2013 highlights? Choices, choices. After much debate over champagne cocktails and input from all (including those members of the team still scattered across the world) here, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER is our list of Christmas Crackers. The cracking destinations and resorts we loved best this year.

And with hardly a break to digest the Christmas pudding we're ready to do it all again in 2014.

AROUND THE WORLD
Most extravagant, in-your-face, Luxury Hotel
 Le Royal Monceau  Raffles Paris, France
Now there are some extravagant  hotels in the world, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai springs to mind, or the Bellagio in Las Vegas perhaps. But it is hard to combine extravagant with true style and make it work. Phillip Starck's interiors for Le Royal Monceau do that.
Explore the perfect pleasure palace here
 
 
The Perfect Paradise Island
Laucala Island Resort, Fiji
Frigate Island, Dolphin Island, Namale; so many to choose from. We're also  looking forward to what Sol Kerzner does to Hayman  when it re-opens in march 2014  but for now we're revved up on Red Bull energy drink zillionaire Dietrich Mateschitz 's private paradise, Laucala Island resort in Fiji. Why we're in lust here
Laucala Island Resort, Fiji
 
Best Historic Hotel (with decent plumbing)
Browns Hotel, London, England
There are a lot of wonderful historic hotels we chose ten legendary options  while back, the newly refurbished Majestic in KL is a contender and we've been impressed with a  hotel like The Fairmont Peace Hotel even if we couldn't find enough plugs.  However for hands down history with style our 2013 choice is London's oldest hotel. Read why Dickens meets Design here

Service with Style (and a smile)
Four Seasons Hong Kong, China
Time and again people will tell you that luxury is all about the service. You can have the hottest hotel on the planet but if your service stinks, so do you (let's tell it like it is). Most self-respecting five Star hotels spend significant time in on staff training so this is a tricky one to choose and there was much debate among our well travelled and, dare we say, picky team ( Laurence you know who you are...). However, this time around Four Seasons Hong Kong gets the trophy. A hotel's style comes from the top and debonair William Mackay, Regional Vice President and General Manager has just the right mix of calm and perfectionism to make it work. He's been at the helm of FS Hong Kong since before it opened (8 years ago), so maybe perfecting seamless service takes a little time...
See our review in our January issue
Check out the hotels' website here

New Kid on the Block
Nobu Hotel, Las Vegas, USA
This was a closely fought category runner up was the Hotel Indigo Hong Kong because of the buzz generated by its roof bar. Later in the year Point Yamu by COMO .Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives and Chedi Andermatt & Residences, Switzerland - designed by uber-talented  Jean Michel Gethy  - caused a pre-Christmas heart flutter. But Robert de Niro and Chef Nobu's first foray into the hotel biz finally claimed the prize. Described by our reporter as 'As simple as sushi and as cleverly classy as a Nobu meal', the new hotel was clearly good enough to eat.
See how Feng Shui meets David Rockwell here
Luxury Las Vegas Hotel
Nobu Hotel, Las Vegas, USA
Caused the Biggest Stir (without a spoon)
Iniala,  Phuket, Thailand
So exciting...and so near the year end .this one certainly deserves the title Christmas Cracker. This property was the star of ILTM (International Luxury Travel Mart) which has just finished in Cannes, the world's luxury movers and shakers were impressed. And that's not always easy to do. Just opened this week Iniala is sublime. Each villa is designed by a different architect and interior designer -all are ravishing and surprising.
Which one to choose? Now THAT'S the question. Take a look at our sneak preview and decide.
Iniala Phuket Thailand
Iniala Phuket, Thailand
Spirit of Place Luxury Resort
Oberoi Bali, Indonesia
We love The New but sometimes there just too much time and attention pent on The-Next-Big-Thing and not enough appreciation for the tried and tested, the luxurious and legendary. So in honour of tradition we nominate The Oberoi Bali, one of the first, some would argue THE first five star resort on the island. The property had been around for a good few years and while newer resorts are whiter and shiny...with more glass,  Oberoi Bali has a real feel of  the island;from it traditional dancers and gamelan players to the temple-like pool and villas.  Here's to the old(er) and fabulous.
See our review in our January Issue.
Check out the hotel's website here

Best Bit of Exercise (a natural High)
Bay of Fires walk, Tasmania
Trekking in Nepal, testing the new trails to Macchu Picchu  - all contenders. And next year a trip with the eco-warriors, explora in Chile will definitely be on our wish list.  Yes, we know there are a lot of serious adventures out there but for now it is the temptations of Tasmania that has our team most impressed.
Why Tasmania booted its way into goal here

HIGH FLYERS
Best Rest at 30,000 feet
Cathay Pacific
Cathay Pacific and Singapore both  unveiled  shiny new First Class options this year. Singapore airlines is chosen with impressive regularity  by our industry movers and shakers as their favourite airline.  However we're not going as far as First for this award... let's stick to the Business in hand. Here we are fans of both Etihad and Emirates but this year we all agreed Cathay Pacific's new Business Class takes the prize. The shallow amongst us think the in-seat mirror for pre-landing preening clinched the deal but we know there are so many more valid reasons...
Read why Cathay flies highest here
Cathay Pacific
Lounge to Lounge in
Virgin Atlantic Club House
Cathay Pacific's newly opened The Bridge, new passenger lounge at Hong Kong Internationa l Airport was a contender, and  BA's two-storey extravaganza at Heathrow  is always good . And we like Chef Neil Perry's pop up restaurants for Qantas club (see below).  However we just couldn't go past Richard Branson's fun palace, the Virgin Atlantic Club House Heathrow especially with its new spas
Read why here
Virgin Atlantic Club House
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse
Best Restaurant-in-the-Sky
Neil Perry and Qantas
Some of the world's best celebrity chefs are now adding their signature style to your in-flight menus. Heston Blumenthal's recent mission to transform the humble shepherd's Pie' into a gastronomic taste sensation in mid-air on British Airways nearly swayed us but in the end Neil Perry's pop up restaurants in the lounges and his gourmet food-in-the-sky won the day. Plus Qantas frequent flyers can buy Perry's divine Christmas pudding at a special rate. Sold. So Neil Perry from Rockpool group and Qantas get this year's TLTB award for cracking food in flight.
 
Most Unexpected Treat
Tie: Fiji Airlines & Garuda Indonesia
Air Pacific as it used to be known, hasn't always had a great reputation with the luxury crowd. Its rainbow coloured livery and service being more package deal than posh. However with the change of name this June to Fiji Airways, spanking new  A330-200s on the Los Angeles-Nadi and Sydney- Nadi routes and a new business class, things are looking up... and up. Read our review here

Garuda Indonesia also struggled with a less than stellar reputation in the past but not any more Garuda is now dedicating itself to service and comfort and we're impressed. Its business class (sky tested by our writer recently) came out with flying colours (literally).  Read our review here.
 
ON SEA
Luxury Cruise Ship
Crystal Serenity Suite
Best Suites at Sea
Crystal Serenity
Crystal Cruises' two fabulous ships Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony top the charts comfortably in the best at sea stakes for medium-size vessels. And with her new refit, Crystal Serenity nudges out her sister for best suites at sea with clean lines, classic simplicity, and refined elegance in a dramatic ultra-contemporary remodel. Read more here
 
Various Editors 10/12/13
Take the Luxury Poll
69% of voters want
in flight WI-FI.
qoute I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
Oscar Wilde
qoute

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