Below are the cruise lines, airlines, hotels and products that we feel are worthy of special recognition in 2015. Awards are based upon cruise lines, ships, hotels, resorts, attractions and other travel-related products that we personally experience during the year.
CRUISE LINE AWARDS
Best Expedition Ship - Silver Discoverer - Silversea Expeditions: Our second sailing aboard Silversea Expeditions confirmed that Silversea has managed to somehow turn an expedition into a 5-star luxury experience. Silversea has transformed these small adventure ships into floating resorts with amenities well beyond their original design specs. Read our review.
Silversea Expeditions' Silver Discoverer
Best Expedition Leader - Juan Restrepo - Silversea Expeditions: Our 2014 Sub-Antarctic Islands cruise on Silver Discoverer was the second time we have sailed with Jaun Restrepo as our Expedition Team Leader. Juan does an excellent job of leading the expedition team and keeping guests well informed of what's on the day's agenda.
Juan Restrepo, Expedition Leader
Best Expedition Itinerary - Sub Antarctic Islands Itinerary, Silversea Expeditions: This is the first time we have given an award to a cruise destination. However, our sailing to the sub antarctic islands on Silver Discoverer was so remote and so unique that it deserves special recognition. Very few people get to visit these islands each year and Silversea is one of the few cruise lines that can take you there. Read our review.
King penguins on MacQuarie Island, Australia
Best Large Luxury Ship - Crystal Serenity - Crystal Cruises: Still our favorite large (800 to 2,000 pax) ship luxury cruise ship, Crystal Serenity continues to deliver excellent, personal service, spacious accommodations, great entertainment and excellent dining options. Read our review.
Best Alternate Dining - Silk Road - Crystal Serenity - Crystal Cruises: This is one of our favorite restaurants, on land or sea! The Black Cod with Miso Glaze remains our favorite entree. The Sushi Bar offers relaxed, 'no reservations required' seating and delivers some of the freshest sushi you will find anywhere. Read our review.
The Sushi Bar at Silk Road, Crystal Serenity
Best Cruise Director - Gary Hunter - Crystal Serenity - Crystal Cruises: Gary has had a long career as a cruise director, and the experience has paid off. In 2015 we had the opportunity to sail with Gary for the second time on Crystal Serenity. We named him BEST Cruise Director in 2013, and feel as though he still retains that title in 2015. Gary's puppet show is one of the best shows we have ever attended on any cruise! Read our review.
Gary Hunter (right), Cruise Director, Crystal Cruises
Best River Cruise - SS Catherine - Uniworld Boutique River Cruises: Our first sailing aboard a Uniworld river cruise left us with a new perspective on river cruising. This rapidly expanding segment of the travel industry is fortunate to have a 5-star luxury product that can deliver this level of service. Guests on SS Catherine enjoy excellent dining, top-notch service and the most comfortable bed you will ever sleep on. Read our review.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises' SS Catherine
Honorable Mention - Tamarind - Nieuw Amsterdam - Holland America Line: This Asian-Fusion restaurant on Nieuw Amsterdam is one of the best Asian restaurants you will find on any cruise ship. Innovative dishes, excellent fresh sushi and attentive service make this a 'must' when sailing on Nieuw Amsterdam. Don't miss the Five Spice BBQ rib starter. Read our review.
The Spicy Tuna Roll at Tamarind
Best Dining - Safari Explorer - Un-Cruise Adventures: Who knew that the little 36-guest Safari Explorer would deliver what may be the best food we have had on any cruise ship to date? We certainly did not expect it. But, Chef Joe was delivering creative and delicious dishes every evening during our seven-night Hawaii cruise. Braised beef short ribs with wine reduction, dijon crusted rack of lamb, a beautiful medium rare duck breast, perfectly seared scallops, were just some of the offerings that wowed the 29 of us. And, the freshly-baked bread from pastry chef Justin was nothing short of spectacular. Read our review.
Crispy duck breast and seared scallops on Safari Explorer
Best Excursion - Night Snorkel with Manta Rays - Safari Explorer - Un-Cruise Adventures: This certainly has to be one of the most unique and cool excursions we have ever done. Guests are fitted with wet suits and snorkel gear, then taken to a snorkel location where divers have placed lights at the bottom of the ocean. The light shining up attracts plankton and the manta rays love to eat the tasty plankton. Floating face down in the water, the snorkelers experience the mantas gliding within a few feet of them as they swoop up from the bottom of the ocean to catch the plankton, then gently roll over and return for another feeding run. Read our review.
Snorkeling with Manta Rays at night in Hawaii
Best Resort Hotel (Hawaii) - Four Seasons Hualalai - Kona, Hawaii - Best in Hawaii: We stayed at Four Seasons Hualalai in 2003 and loved it. When we returned in 2015, we were instantly reminded why this is one of best resorts in the world. If we only had four days to spend in Hawaii, it would be at Four Seasons Hualalai. It's that good. Read our review. Read our review.
Four Seasons Hualalai, Kona, Hawaii
Best Luxury Hotel (Waikiki) - Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk - Best on Waikiki Beach: We have experienced two luxury hotels in Waikiki. In 2003, we stayed at Halekulani, a 5-star property that was very nice. However, our most recent stay at Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk makes this our new favorite luxury property in Waikiki with its huge, beautiful rooms and suites, a great location a short stroll from the beach, 5-star service and an amazing Spa. Read our review.
Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk
Best Luxury Hotel (Europe) - Palazzo Manfredi - Rome, Italy - Best in Rome: Any cruise that embarks or disembarks from Civitavecchia is not complete without a pre-/post-cruise stay in Rome. Forget the big, crowded chain hotels. In Rome, a boutique hotel is the only way to go. Our new favorite is the Palazzo Manfredi, located just steps from The Colosseum. Read our review.
The view from our corner room at Palazzo Manfredi
Best Luxury Hotel (New Zealand) - Hotel InterContinental - Wellington, New Zealand - Best in New Zealand: When your cruise takes you to Wellington, New Zealand, at the southernmost tip of the north island, you should plan on at least two nights to explore Wellington. This is a great city to explore on foot and there is a lot to see and do. Hotel InterContinental is our pick as the perfect home base for exploring Wellington. Read our review.
Hotel InterContinental, Wellington, New Zealand
BEST Island Tour - EagleRider Harley Tour - Cozumel, Mexico: We are always looking for interesting things to do in ports-of-call in addition to what the cruise ship offers. During a recent visit to Cozumel on Holland America, we pre-booked a Harley-Davidson motorcycle tour of the Island with EagleRider Cozumel. There is no better way to see the island of Cozumel than on two wheels. EagleRider offers guided tours, or you can simply rent a bike for the day. Read our review.
Touring Cozumel with EagleRider Cozumel
Best Airline Service - Air New Zealand Premium Economy: When we flew from LAX to Auckland, we had the opportunity to experience Air New Zealand's new Premium Economy seating. This new Premium Economy seat is comparable to Business Class on many other airlines. Air New Zelaand gets high marks from us for their great customer service and comfortable Premium Economy seats. To say we were impressed is an understatement. Read our review.
Air New Zealand Premium Economy
Best Ground Transfer (USA) - Larry's Limo - Miami/Fort Lauderdale: Whenever we cruise out of Miami or Port Everglades, we call Larry's Limo for transfers to/from the airport to our hotel or the cruise pier. When it comes to private transfer services, no other company compares to Larry's. Read our review.
Larry's Limousine meets us at Port Everglades
Best Ground Transfer (Europe) - Movartis Limousine Service - Rome, Italy: When we travel overseas we always try to arrange for private transfers from the airport to our hotel or ship. There is nothing worse than having to negotiate with a taxi driver at the airport after an all-night flight and in a foreign language. On our most recent cruise that disembarked in Civitavecchia, we pre-arranged for Movartis Limousine to transfer us to our hotel in Rome. Read our review.
Movartis Limousine meets us at the port in Civitavecchia, Italy
BEST Travel Convenience - Luggage Forward - Luggage Delivery Service: We used Luggage Forward twice in 2015. They shipped our luggage to New Zealand so that it was waiting for us on Silversea Silver Discoverer, in our suite, when we boarded the ship. We did not have to hassle with checking the bags at the airport, or worry about lost luggage. Luggage Forward handled everything, and it was a real convenience. At the end of the cruise, they picked up our luggage in Wellington, New Zealand, and shipped the bags home for us. Then, on our Hawaii trip in December, we had Luggage Forward ship our bags home from the Four Seasons Hualalai in Kona. The luggage arrived at our doorstep a day ahead of schedule! We can highly recommend Luggage Forward! Read our review.
Luggage was waiting for us when we arrived on Silversea Silver Discoverer in New Zealan
Originally posted on: 12/17/2015