Travel Weekly Readers Choice 2015


Travel companies honored at gala event

Travel Weekly is proud to present the winners of our 13th annual Readers Choice Awards.

The awards are presented to the industry's suppliers who led the way in product and service during the past year. The winners, one for each of 74 categories, represent the best of the best of the travel industry, in the airline, car, hospitality, rail, GDS, agent education, tour, cruise, destination and theme park sectors.

The 2015 awards were presented to winners Dec. 15 during a black-tie gala dinner and ceremony at the Conrad New York.

In addition, Travel Weekly honored Brian Stack, the managing director of CIE Tours International, and Susan Tanzman, the president and owner of Martin's Travel and Tours, as its 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award winners.

The following are the winners in their respective categories:

Airlines

Delta Airlines scored three Readers Choice wins: Domestic (its fifth consecutive win in that category), Sales & Service and Overall (which it has won twice, since the category's inception). Virgin Atlantic took the honors in the International category, United received the nod for Global Network and Emirates won its fourth Business/First Class award.

Car Rentals

Hertz once again emerged as the winner in both the Domestic and International categories, its 12th and 13th consecutive victories in those respective categories.

Cruise Lines

Royal Caribbean International took home four prizes this year: Cruise Line: Caribbean, Cruise Line: Sales & Service, Cruise Line: Overall and Cruise Ship: New (for the Quantum of the Seas).

Sister line Celebrity Cruises, meanwhile, topped two Cruise Line and two Cruise Ship categories, earning nods for Cruise Line: Europe and Cruise Line: Premium as well as two accolades for the Celebrity Reflection, in the categories of Cruise Ship: Premium and Cruise Ship: Overall.

Princess Cruises' pair of awards were for the Domestic and Alaska categories. Since the inception of the Readers Choice Awards, Princess has taken the top prize for Alaska 12 out of 13 times.

As it did last year, Norwegian Cruise Line took top honors for Cruise Line: Hawaii/Pacific.

Two categories saw a reversal at the top: Seabourn got the nod this year in the category of Cruise Line: Under 1,000 Berths. Meanwhile, last year's winner in that category, Crystal Cruises, took the prize for Cruise Line: Luxury, breaking Seabourn's four-year winning streak.

In two other categories, however, history repeated itself, with Holland America Line winning for Best World Cruise Itinerary and Disney Cruise Line honored for Best Family Experience.

In the category of Cruise Ship: Luxury, Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 scored its 12th consecutive win.

In the river cruising sector, meanwhile, Viking continued its reign with wins for Cruise Line: River Cruising, Cruise Line: River Cruise Sales & Service and Cruise Ship: River Cruising (for the Viking Longship Tor).

Destinations

For the U.S., Travel Weekly readers once again bestowed accolades upon the Aloha State: Hawaii took the honors for U.S. State for the 12th year running. Within the state, meanwhile, Maui also won for the 12th time in the Destination: Hawaii category. On the mainland, Las Vegas scored its 11th victory in the U.S. City category.

Up north, Vancouver maintained its unbeaten record in the Destination: Canada category, while Whistler got the nod in Destination: Ski. Down south in Mexico, the Riviera Maya scored its 12th consecutive Readers Choice win.

St. Lucia staged a comeback this year, claiming its fourth win in the Caribbean category after being beaten out by the Dominican Republic last year. Costa Rica won its 11th consecutive award in Central/South America.

For the Continent, it was deja vu as Ireland repeated its win last year for Europe.

South Africa continued its winning streak in the Africa category, which was added to the Readers Choice Awards in 2008, while Australia prevailed in Asia/Pacific, ending Tahiti's two-year winning streak in that category.

GDSs

Sabre, the oldest of the major GDSs and the leading U.S. system by market share, emerged as this category's victor for the seventh year running.

Hotel Chains

Marriott International took top honors in the Domestic and Overall Hotel Group categories; in the former, it was the hotelier's 12th consecutive win, while in the latter it was its second win in a row.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide racked up a trio of wins -- Asia (for the third year running), Hawaii/South Pacific (its sixth consecutive win) and Sales & Service (for the second year in a row) -- while Hilton Worldwide scored for Europe.

Sandals continued its winning streak in the Caribbean and All-Inclusive categories with its 13th and 10th victories in those respective categories. Secrets Resorts and Spas scored its second consecutive win for Mexico.

For the fifth year running, Ritz-Carlton Hotels & Resorts prevailed in the Luxury category, while Westin Hotels & Resorts won in the Upscale category for the eighth consecutive year.

Also for the eighth straight year, Hampton Inn took the honors for Mid-Priced and Karisma Hotels & Resorts won in the Boutique category.

Rail Vacations

Rocky Mountaineer capped its 25th year with a seventh straight win in this category. The company offers vacation packages on rail routes throughout British Columbia, Alberta and the Canadian Rockies.

Resorts Worldwide

The St. Regis Bora Bora continued its reign in the category with its eighth straight win. The property features the largest overwater and beach bungalow villas in the South Pacific.

Ski Resorts

Amid a field of six competitors, the Fairmont Chateau Whistler in British Columbia emerged victorious in this category, new for this year. North America's largest slopeside hotel, the property features 550 rooms and improved its pool area and other public facilities in late 2012.

Theme Parks

Walt Disney World extended its unbeaten record in this Readers Choice category, scoring its 13th victory.

Tour Operators

Delta Vacations racked up a pair of wins, in the Domestic Packaged and Packaged Overall categories.

In the Packaged Sales & Service category, Travel Impressions took top honors. The company had previously scored 10 consecutive wins for Sales & Service before the category was divided into Packaged and Escorted categories this year: For the latter, the top prize was claimed by Globus, which also won in the International, Asia/Pacific and Escorted Overall categories.

Readers tapped another escorted-tour operator, Tauck, for a pair of wins, for Domestic Escorted and Canada (its sixth consecutive wins in those categories).

Other wins for region-specific tours went to Funjet Vacations, for the Caribbean; Trafalgar, for Europe; Pleasant Holidays, for Hawaii (its 12th consecutive win); Apple Vacations for Mexico (another 12-timer); and Abercrombie & Kent, for Africa. It was A&K's 11th win in the Africa category, a feat it matched with its 11th win in the Luxury category. In the new Adventure category, Adventures by Disney emerged victorious.

Travel Agent Educational Programs

Readers this year gave the nod to Norwegian Cruise Line, whose NCL University offers courses about Norwegian's destinations, its fleet, how to sell family cruising and more.  

Travel Agent Loyalty Programs

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide emerged victorious in this category, which was new for this year. Members of SPG Pro can earn SPG elite status, upgrades and Starpoints for bookings at the hotelier's nearly 1,250 properties.

Methodology

The nominees and award recipients were chosen in two rounds of voting by Travel Weekly's readers.

The open ballot phase of the voting was conducted during the summer. Readers were invited to write in the names of any company they believed best exemplified that particular category. The leading vote recipients were identified as finalists, and voting on finalists took place through November 2015.

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