Conde Nast Traveler's bash last night at New York's Museum of Natural History
Photos: Patrick Butler
By Wendy Perrin
What are the world's best islands? The Maldives.
What's the best city in Europe? Florence.
What's the world's best resort? The Four Seasons Bali at Sayan.
We learned all this and more last night at Conde Nast Traveler's annual Readers' Choice Awards ceremony, which honors the destinations, airlines, hotels, cruise lines, et al., that the magazine's well-traveled readers have rated the world's best. The award ceremony will be televised on the Travel Channel on October 25 at 8 pm E/P, but instead of making you wait, I'll share some of my favorite moments:
The actor Liam Neeson, a dedicated flyfisherman, told this story before handing out the award for best airline: He enjoys discovering rivers off the beaten track and was once fishing in Patagonia with a 9-year-old river guide in a remote spot so "pure" that not only had the boy never heard of Paraguay, he'd never even heard of New York. LOVE that! The winner of the award for best U.S. airline, by the way, was JetBlue. Singapore Airlines beat out Cathay Pacific and Emirates for best foreign airline--which surprised nobody, since Singapore has won for 18 of the last 19 years. Everyone laughed when Singapore's head of North American operations accepted the award and said, "In the words of Madonna . . . 'lt's just like the very first time.'"
I also enjoyed when Marcia Gay Harden, who was presenting the awards for best Mexican resort (La Casa Que Canta in Zihuatanejo) and best Atlantic Ocean resort (One & Only Ocean Club in the Bahamas), recalled how she was first smitten by the travel bug: As a child, she and her 4 siblings flew to Japan. (Harden's mom deserves a red badge of courage. Can you imagine taking 5 kids between the ages of 9 and 2 on a 15-hour flight?!) The flight attendant gave Harden a pen and a coloring book, and she couldn't have been happier. Ever since her first moments in Japan, she said, "I've loved looking for the next best place to go."
The comedienne Sandra Bernhard, who makes no secret of her lesbian leanings, announced, "I'm proud to be bi. . . coastal" and then handed out the award for best city in the Americas (outside the U.S.): Vancouver. The Vancouver award accepter quipped that yes, it's true, in Vancouver "you can ski and golf in the same day. . .but only if you come back early from sailing."
Ivanka Trump said that one of her most meaningful vacations was when she spent two weeks traveling in Patagonia alone and learned a lot about herself. The cruise-line awards she handed out were perhaps the biggest upset of the evening. Crystal Cruises, which has been rated the best large-ship cruise line for the last 11 years, was edged out by Regent Seven Seas by 1/10 of a percentage point. As for best small-ship cruise line, Sea Dream Yacht Club (click here for my recent post about it) snatched the honor away from longtime favorite Silversea.
The complete award results can be found in the November issue of Conde Nast Traveler (and at cntraveler.com starting Oct. 24). Or you can tune in to the Travel Channel on October 25.
Natasha Richardson in the green room before presenting awards onstage at the Conde Nast Traveler 2006 Readers' Choice Awards ceremony, Oct. 16, 2006