The luxury travel network Virtuoso® has revealed the winners for its 2023 Best of the Best awards announced at this year’s Virtuoso Travel Week held in Las Vegas at Bellagio Resort & Casino, ARIA Resort & Casino, and Vdara Hotel & Spa. The 35th annual gala spotlighted the network’s most esteemed travel agencies, advisors, and preferred partners.
Virtuoso surveyed hundreds of travel agencies and more than 11,400 high-end travel advisors to select the winners in each category, ranging from the most innovative experience to the best achievement in design. I have personally visited many of the nominated properties and agree with all of these selections as some of the very best in the world.
HOTEL OF THE YEAR:
“Perched on a rocky promontory high above the Ionian Sea, the iconic San Domenico Palace welcomes guests to a 14th-century convent with panoramic views of Mount Etna and an ancient Greek theatre where they can savor award-winning dining, unwind in the spa and swim in a clifftop infinity pool. Escaping into the Four Seasons world of timeless beauty is easy at this property – with the charming town of Taormina at its doorstep and the best of Sicily waiting to be explored.”
Nominees were Kokomo Private Island, Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid, an affiliate of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, The Newbury Boston, One&Only Mandarina.
BEST ADVENTURE OPERATOR
Winner: Lindblad Expeditions
For more than 50 years, Lindblad Expeditions has been sailing to incredible destinations in pursuit of discovery, bringing adventurous travelers to share in the thrill of uncovering the world’s wild secrets.
Nominees were Abercombie & Kent, Aqua Expeditions, Big Five Tours & Expeditions, Swain Destinations
BEST CRUISE LINE
Winner: Silversea Cruises
Silversea ultra-luxury cruises offer all-inclusive cruising across 900 worldwide destinations. The smallest ships are created for discovery with spacious ocean-view suites, including butler service.
Nominees were AmaWaterways, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises
BEST FAMILY OPERATOR
Winner: Micato Safaris
Among my personal favorite operators in the world, Micato is legendary in crafting the ultimate private experiences for luxury travelers. They are the true leaders of African safaris and craft spectacular life-changing adventures throughout India.
Nominees were Family Twist, One&Only Palmilla, The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, Royal Caribbean International
BEST ULTRA LUXURY OPERATOR
Winner: Cheval Blanc Paris
Fronting the Seine, the hotel’s perfect location highlights a 15-year renovation of the original Samaritaine building. In true Cheval Blanc style. There is also a chocolaterie, a Michelin-starred restaurant, and stunning design in their rooms with a view.
Nominees were Micato Safaris, Remote Lands, Dream Escape, White Desert
BEST WELLNESS PROPERTY
Winner: JOALI BEING
Guests are guided on the path to self-discovery and renewal at this Maldives island property. With 68 guest villas, ranging from one to four bedrooms, 34 beach villas, and 34 over-water villas, wellness programs are the highlight here, curated around the ‘Four Pillars of Joali Being’ – mind, skin, microbiome, and energy.
Nominees were: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Galeries Lafayette Paris, Lefay Resort & SPA Lago di Garda, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas
BEST ON SITE OPERATOR:
“For over 35 years, the expert travel specialists at Southern Crossings have been designing personalized itineraries to Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. With unmatched on-the-ground knowledge and a commitment to five-star service, the company works with a broad spectrum of discerning travelers, from honeymooners to multigenerational families.”
Nominees were: Access Italy, IC Bellagio, Leonidas Travel, Original Senses Greece
BEST TOUR OPERATOR:
This award recognizes a tour operator or wholesaler partner with the most compelling vacation options and itineraries, whether FIT or escorted.
A family-owned company for nearly 98 years, the Tauck Mission is to “create authentic, enriching travel experiences that enhance people’s lives by broadening their knowledge and fulfilling their dreams.” With journeys across seven continents, in over 100 destinations, and to over 70 countries, Tauck continuously finds new ways to enhance travel experiences that will be memorable for a lifetime.
Nominees were: Abercombie & Kent, Classic Vacations, Context Travel, Micato Safaris
BEST NEW OR REIMAGINED HOTEL:
This award recognizes a hotel that is either newly opened (within the last 12 months) or has re-opened after an extensive renovation resulting in a new hotel experience.
Winner: The Peninsula Istanbul/Turkey
Set on the iconic shores of the Bosphorus strait, The Peninsula Istanbul began welcoming guests in February 2023. Featuring classical-inspired architecture, The Peninsula Istanbul offers lush, landscaped gardens and swimming pools, one of which overlooks the Bosphorus. Guests can savor sublime local and international cuisine at sophisticated restaurants before indulging in the ancient Turkish tradition of hammam steam baths at the decadent The Peninsula Spa.
Nominees were; Atlantis The Royal Dubai, Passalacqua, Rosewood Vienna, an affiliate of Rosewood Hotel Group, Turtle Bay Resort
HOTELIER OF THE YEAR:
This award recognizes an experienced hotel manager with unparalleled leadership and vision, an unrelenting passion for the industry, an engaged commitment to the network of Virtuoso travel advisors, and an astute appreciation for detail. One of my dear friends in the hospitality industry, Markos, has created the most stunning hotels in Greece, including my favorite, Canaves Epitome. Look out for some surprise future launches from this creative genius.
Nominees were: Claudio Meli | The Place Firenze, Andrew Pike | The Milestone Hotel and Residences, Stuart Proctor | The Stafford London, Deborah Yager Fleming | Acqualina Resorts & Residences on the Beach