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Canada Travel news and opinion

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    The sea caves near Wisconsin's Apostle Islands are always reachable in the summertime. During warm months, you can easily kayak or take a boat to these magical little inlets in Lake Superior. During winter though, when the lake freezes over, patchy ice and unstable surfaces usually make the caves too dangerous to get to.

    But right now, for the first time in five years, the lake is frozen enough to allow a walk, snowshoe or ski out to the sea caves. They're positively dripping in icicles and bedazzled with sparkling snow. People are going wild.

    To reach the sea caves, you'll start at the edge of Lake Superior and walk about a mile on the frozen lake. Conditions can change quickly when the ice melts, so call the Ice Line to make sure it's safe before you make the trek.

    Hikers are rewarded with an adrenaline rush from walking on water and stunning photos of these rarely-seen caverns. They'll probably only be around for another six weeks or so-- get them while they're hot (er, cold)!

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    Last week, we learned that London has officially surpassed Paris in its number of visitors. From July to September 2013, a record-breaking 4.9 million people came to explore London. And when official end-of-year numbers are released, it's expected that the total number of visitors to London in 2013 will be more than 16 million.

    London and Paris have long duked it out, taking turns as "world's top tourist destination." The statistics may flop back and forth, but we all know which city has been the true winner this whole time.

    Sorry Paris... c'est la vie. Here are 20 reasons London always beats you.

    1. Many of London’s major landmarks sit right on the water, which makes a River Thames sunset much more epic than a River Seine sunset.

    2. As a London tourist without a phone, you can make your calls from an adorable vintage box. In Paris, it's phone booths or bust.

    3. Does Paris have a catchy slogan that also serves as a hilarious-yet-legitimate safety warning? No, it does not.

    4. Harrods (London’s department store of dreams) has seven floors, 330 departments, four acres, and a tapas restaurant. The Champs-Élysées has trash.

    5. Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens are all buried under the church floors of Westminster Abbey. There are a few bishops buried in Notre Dame, but not nearly as many famous skeletons.

    6. The Eiffel Tower does not spin.

    7. Approximately 7,500 bright red, double-decker public buses shuttle people around London in the most cutesy and classic mode of transport imaginable. They make the Parisian bus system looks dismally un-scenic.

    8. Prince Harry. That is all.

    9. In London's Hyde Park, you'll find acres and acres of grass to lounge on and lakes to row in, Notebook style. Paris, meanwhile, is more of a dirt-path-and-flowers city.

    10. Do people write songs or draw taste maps or make animal art out of routes on the Paris Metro the way they do on the Tube? Does Jay Z ride the Paris Metro to his concerts? Didn't think so.

    11. An afternoon tea and cake break is always more scrumptious than an afternoon cooked snail break.

    12. Exhibits at the British Museum have showcased the Rosetta Stone, ancient Egyptian mummies, and corpse casts of a family who drowned in volcanic ash at Pompeii. Take THAT, Louvre.

    13. Notting Hill Carnival in London is much less crowded and overwhelming than the Bastille Day mayhem you'll see in Paris. Plus, London's big festival has calypso music and Caribbean food.

    14. Crepes don’t hold a flakey, fluffy, chewy candle to scones with jam and cream.

    15. In London, it's only the Buckingham Palace guards who won't talk to you. In Paris, nobody talks to you.

    16. Strolling London’s cobblestone lanes, you might run into Kate Moss or Jude Law. On the streets of Paris, you're likely to find is Kim and Kanye. Oof.

    17. Buckingham Palace is just as wondrous as Versailles, only it doesn't take a zillion hours to get to.

    18. In 2012, London hosted the Olympic Games. Paris hasn't done that since 1924.

    19. London Bridge is falling down... and if it does, we'll still have the equally beautiful Tower Bridge. Paris has got only one famous bridge, and it can't even move up and down to let boats through. Pssh.
    tower bridge

    20. Paris has a clock tower too, at a former palace called La Conciergerie. But that clock is much more squat -- and hence way less cool -- than the almighty Big Ben.

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    Bokor Hill Station is the trifecta of awesome: it's abandoned, historic and open to the public.

    The abandoned Cambodian resort town has a dark past that matches its eerie current state. Commissioned by French colonists, it was built by indentured servants and completed in 1925. During construction it is believed that nearly 1,000 Cambodians died.

    The main attraction was the Bokor Palace Hotel & Casino, along with shops, a post office and apartments. The resort was a retreat from hot, urban Phnom Penh, but by the 1940s the Europeans had left Bokor Hill Station to abandonment.

    In the 1950s and 1960s the resort town was revived by wealthy Khmers, but by the 70s it was once again abandoned. Today, the buildings stand in ghostly desertion, but are a popular attraction for tourists and photographers. It's situated within a national park and can be accessed by motorbike. It's not exactly easy to get to, but it's totally worth it.

    Check out some stunning photos of Bokor Hill Station below!


    bokor hill station









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    Via Rail says it could cancel passenger service from Quebec to the Maritimes if CN doesn't find an investor to buy a portion of its railway in northern New Brunswick.

    CN announced last week that it will discontinue operations on a 70-kilometre section connecting Bathurst to Miramichi because their freight cars don't use the line.

    Via Rail's Ocean line runs on the same route.

    Spokesperson Mylène Bélanger said Via Rail will maintain the connection between Quebec and Halifax for as long as it can, but will not acquire the railway itself.

    "At this time it's still a hypothetical question, but if this section is abandoned we'll look into the commercial viability of all other alternatives, for connecting between Halifax and Montreal, before adopting any other route,” she said.

    CN said operations will be maintained on the tracks between Nelson Junction and Nepisiquit Junction for at least five months while the rail line is put up for sale.

    “Via Rail does not have the financial resources to acquire or maintain this section of the tracks. So we’ll wait for any developments," said Bélanger.

    Daily passenger train service in the Maritimes was scaled back to three days a week in October 2012

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    (Relaxnews) - Starwood Hotels is testing a new feature that would replace keys and membership cards with a smartphone app.

    The new feature, which the company calls a "keyless key," would enable its Starwood Preferred Guest members to simply go straight to their rooms and open the door via their smartphone, rather than having to go through the process of checking in.

    The system will be trialed at the chain's Aloft Harlem New York and Aloft Silicon Valley California hotels and builds on Starwood's existing Smart Check In service. Available at a number of Aloft hotels, it automates a number of processes for valued, time-poor customers but the features are built around a physical smart card that guests must obtain and carry with them.

    With the Keyless Key all that a guest will need is an Android smartphone running version 4.3 or newer or an iPhone 4S or newer. The locking mechanism works via Bluetooth so as long as the app is running, the door will automatically unlock or lock.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, if the trial is successful, Starwood plans to roll the feature out to all of its W and Aloft hotels, globally by the end of 2015.

    The company's competitors will be watching closely. With the exception of free or metered Wi-Fi, the hospitality industry has been very slow to unlock the potential benefits of mobile technology and apps. But if Starwood's trial is a success, then smart keys and a host of other "smart" features could soon become the norm across the industry.

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  • 01/28/14--07:00: Best Hotels in Canada 2014
  • Whether you're planning a city or countryside vacation -- with towering skyscrapers or snowy peaks -- there are plenty of reasons to visit Canada. And once you decide which destination caters to your interests, be it cosmopolitan Toronto or charming Whistler, you'll find there are plenty of luxury lodging options to choose from. But with a seemingly endless number of attractive places to stay, it can be tricky discerning which properties surpass the rest.


    That's where U.S. News & World Report's Best Hotels rankings can help. Our travel editors have evaluated guidebooks, industry accolades and guest reviews. Using an unbiased methodology, we pinpointed the properties that consistently land on top -- these are the hotels that appear on our second annual Best Hotels in Canada rankings.

    Below, you'll find 10 properties that represent the crème de la crème of Canadian hospitality. While each hotel maintains a unique style, they all hold a prominent spot on our 2014 list of the Best Hotels in Canada thanks to their upscale amenities, inspiring settings and superlative service. These attributes not only make for an unforgettable trip, but also keep guests returning time and time again.

    See the full list of the Best Hotels in Canada»

    10. Hotel Le St-James

    Burrowed in the heart of Old Montreal, Hotel Le St-James impresses guests with its 19th-century architecture, antique furnishings and upscale amenities. But it's Hotel Le St-James' commitment to excellent customer service that helped cement its status as our No. 10 Best Hotel in Canada for the second year running. And with a trendy atmosphere and top-notch facilities -- like the underground Le Spa and refined XO Le Restaurant -- it's not surprising that the hotel earned such prestigious accolades as the 2014 AAA Four Diamond and Forbes Travel Guide Four Star awards.

    9. The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto


    In a metropolis brimming with luxury lodging, it's no easy feat to stand out from the pack. But this Ritz-Carlton property has hit the mark again this year thanks to its refined ambiance, distinctive architecture and excellent views of Lake Ontario and Toronto's cityscape. But it's not just the striking scenery that helped The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto stay among the best and brightest in this city's hospitality market for the second year in a row. Upholding its brand's excellent standard of service and rigorous attention to detail, The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto has caught the attention of reputable sources like Condé Nast Traveler and seized the ninth spot on our 2014 list of the Best Hotels in Canada.

    8. Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler
    Whistler, British Columbia

    Cozying up to the northern base of Whistler's legendary Blackcomb Mountain, this mountainside escape earns a nod of approval from guests and experts alike for its wealth of outdoor activities -- including hiking, biking, skiing and sleigh riding. And that's not all this Four Seasons property has going for it. Accommodations here are appointed with deep soaking tubs, fireplaces and private balconies that offer views of the mountain. Melding the elements of a quintessential ski resort with attentive service, the Four Seasons Resort Whistler held on to the title as one of Whistler's best hotels for the second year in a row, boasting accolades from venerable publications such as Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure.

    7. Four Seasons Hotel Toronto


    A noteworthy newcomer to the top 10 on U.S. News' Best Hotels in Canada list, this Four Seasons outpost is climbing its way to the top thanks to its superior customer service, stylish accommodations and sophisticated ambiance --all of which help set it apart from nearby competitors. Aside from property's enviable downtown location, enticing amenities (such as gourmet cuisine created by acclaimed chef Daniel Boulud) help it earn a high approval rating among guests and critics. This year, the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto received recognition from Travel + Leisure and nabbed a prestigious AAA Five Diamond award.

    6. Auberge Saint-Antoine
    Québec City

    Tucked away on the St. Lawrence River in Québec City, the Auberge Saint-Antoine charms guests with its fascinating blend of old and new: Antiques and historical artifacts are mixed with modern features like Nespresso coffee machines and Bose stereo systems. The sophisticated ambiance carries over to Panache restaurant, which dishes up imaginative French-Canadian dishes. Although the Auberge Saint-Antoine may not feel like a brand-backed property, you can count on a first-rate experience and reflective of Relais & Châteaux's high standards for exceptional service.

    5. Hastings House Country House Hotel
    Salt Spring Island, British Columbia


    Hastings House Country House Hotel earns high marks for its Salt Spring Island surroundings and tranquil atmosphere. While staying at this property, guests can indulge in replenishing spa treatments like hot stone massages at the Wellspring Spa before savoring gourmet meals in the main dining room. Meanwhile, many of the accommodations here feature fireplaces and deep soaking tubs. Apart from its comfortable digs, this Relais & Châteaux property took the No. 5 spot on our 2014 Best Hotels in Canada ranking due its personalized service -- one of the defining attributes that helped it earn accolades such as the 2014 Forbes Travel Guide Four Star award.

    4. Trump International Hotel and Tower, Toronto

    At 65 stories, this towering hotel trumps the competition with spacious and well-appointed accommodations, quality service and sweeping views of Toronto's skyline. After claiming the No. 2 spot on the list of Best Toronto hotels in 2013, this esteemed member of the Trump family has made its way up the list to the No. 1 place on our list of the Best Hotels in Toronto. And with guest rooms outfitted with wet bars and marble bathroom fixtures and perks like an infinity saltwater lap pool and unobstructed city views from the STOCK restaurant, it's not hard to see how this hotel has continued to garner a positive reputation. Holding awards from Condé Nast Traveler, Forbes and AAA, the Trump International Hotel and Tower, Toronto stands as Toronto's finest luxury hotel.

    3. Fairmont Pacific Rim
    Vancouver, British Columbia


    Clocking in at No. 3 on the 2014 list of the Best Hotels in Canada, this Fairmont property impresses visitors with its desirable amenities and superior customer service. And with an enviable harbor-front address, the Fairmont Pacific Rim combines convenience with luxury, affording dramatic views and easy access to some of the city's top attractions. When they're not soaking in the scenery, travelers can unwind in a private cabana by the pool or splurge on a treatment at the 11,000-square-foot Willow Stream Spa. What's more, this Fairmont outpost appeases discerning guests with its lavish suite amenities, including 42-inch LCD TVs and Nespresso coffee makers.

    2. Rosewood Hotel Georgia
    Vancouver, British Columbia

    For the second consecutive year, this Rosewood retreat has claimed the title of No. 2 Best Hotel in Canada. And with accommodations adorned with rainforest shower fixtures and Lady Primrose toiletries, and an inner courtyard offering beautiful views of the Vancouver skyline, it's easy to see why the Rosewood Hotel Georgia is consistently ranked among the best. Plus, this Rosewood outpost showcases the brand's impeccable customer service and refined atmosphere (inspired by its natural surroundings), helping it rake in accolades from distinguished sources, such as AAA and Forbes Travel Guide.

    1. Ritz-Carlton, Montreal


    The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal's unbeatable downtown location is a major selling point for travelers and critics, but it's the hotel's lavish accommodations and amenities -- which include a greenhouse, pool and French restaurant with a menu crafted by famed chef Daniel Boulud -- that helped it achieve the Best Hotel in Canada title for 2014. After taking the No. 3 spot last year, this Ritz-Carlton hotel has moved up the ranks thanks to its emphasis on personalized customer service and its acute attention to detail, which only bolsters the property's refined, inviting atmosphere and sets it apart from its peers.

    See Photos of the Top 10 Hotels »

    --Liz Weiss

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  • 01/28/14--07:08: Best Hotels in the USA 2014
  • Choosing the right hotel for your next stateside getaway is no easy feat: A property's quality can be difficult to measure until you're standing at check-in with luggage in tow. That's where U.S. News & World Report's annual Best Hotels in the USA rankings come in. In recent years, high-end hotels have been upping their game and making strides in defining new standards of luxury. This year's rankings reflect increased competition and an ever-improving guest experience.


    U.S. News' travel editors analyzed a wide assortment of travel resources -- including guidebooks, travel websites, guest reviews and expert ratings -- to compile a comprehensive list of the best places to rest your head in the United States. Our editors used an unbiased methodology to evaluate nearly 1,700 luxury hotels across the country. From Hawaii's most paradisiacal escapes to the towering high-rise hotels of Chicago, this collection of properties showcases the diversity of lodging options across America.

    The 10 top hotels in the USA for 2014 stand out among a varied landscape of great American properties. High-end amenities, excellent customer service and gourmet restaurants contribute to the distinguished reputations of each of these hotels.

    See the full list of the Best Hotels in the USA»

    10. Waldorf Astoria Chicago

    The Waldorf Astoria Chicago's convenient location near Michigan Avenue places the hotel within walking distance of the city's top things to do, but guests of the lavish property can also opt for private transportation via the hotel's in-house Mercedes Benz sedan. It's the exclusive access to exceptional amenities like these that both guests and experts praise. Travelers also hold this Waldorf Astoria hotel in high esteem for its stylish accommodations that feature Bowers & Wilkins speaker systems, 500-thread-count sheets and sweeping views of the Chicago skyline. Plus, this Hilton-affiliated property brings all the perks that accompany its brand: Think exceptional service and state-of-the-art amenities, such as an extensive spa, well-equipped fitness center and gourmet European restaurant, Balsan. The Waldorf Astoria slipped one spots to No. 10 in this year's ranking, but it still holds on to its distinction as one of the country's top 10 hotels.

    9. Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa
    Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.


    Seated among gardens and olive groves, the 49 casitas at the Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa offer private balconies, multiple rooms and touches like fireplaces, deep soaking tubs and high-tech sound systems. The Mediterranean-inspired Relais & Châteaux property located about 25 miles north of San Diego took a spot among the top 10 U.S. hotels this year following a $30 million renovation. The updates earned Rancho Valencia recognition among industry leaders: The hotel received a Forbes Travel Guide Five Star rating and a place on the 2014 Condé Nast Gold List. But it's not only experts who note the hotel's standout quality: Guests praise Rancho Valencia for its gracious service, expansive spa and scenic grounds.

    8. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka'upulehu
    Big Island, Hawaii

    The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka'upulehu brings a taste of Hawaii's Golden Age to the reputable Four Seasons brand. With seven pools, a renowned spa, a golf course that overlooks the Pacific Ocean and guest rooms with bamboo canopy beds, the Four Seasons Hualalai is lauded by visitors who say that the manicured landscape creates a private paradise and the welcoming staff makes the resort feel like home. The hotel garners praise from experts, and this year is no exception: The Four Seasons Hualalai earned several industry accolades, including the coveted AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star awards, as well as a spot on the Travel + Leisure 500 World's Best Hotels list.

    7. The Grand Del Mar
    San Diego


    Sweeping terraces, open-air walkways and the acclaimed Addison restaurant are some of the noteworthy amenities that helped The Grand Del Mar nab its highest spot yet on our Best Hotels in the USA ranking. The resort raked in awards this year thanks to its 21,000-square-foot spa, Tom Fazio-designed golf course and oversized guest rooms and suites. Visitors are reluctant to leave the Mediterranean-inspired estate in the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve after experiencing its tranquil setting, accommodating staff and extensive list of indoor and outdoor activities.

    6. Amangani
    Jackson Hole, Wyo.

    Amangani earned the No. 1 spot on last year's Best U.S. Hotels list, but slipped to the sixth spot after receiving fewer awards in 2014. That's not to say Amangani's draws aren't as abundant as ever. The resort sits on the East Gros Ventre Butte in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and is home to a heated outdoor pool with panoramic views of the Teton Mountains. Guests offer shining reviews of the full-service spa, the spacious suites (equipped with fireplaces and separate living areas) and the highly attentive staff. Although it can be tough to leave the resort grounds, Amangani offers year-round recreation opportunities, such as fly-fishing in the warmer months and cross-country skiing during winter.

    5. Four Seasons Resort Lana'i, The Lodge at Koele
    Lanai, Hawaii


    On Hawaii's most exclusive island, the Four Seasons Resort Lana'i, The Lodge at Koele has all the makings of a tropical resort. With access to a greenhouse, two golf courses (designed by Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus), poolside service and a full repertoire of outdoor recreation, guests find it hard to check out of the estate-like property. Visitors love the hotel's staff members, whose kindness and attentiveness is consistent with the brand's reputation. Travel experts also find this property noteworthy -- The Lodge at Koele earns a spot on the 2014 Travel + Leisure 500 World's Best Hotels and Condé Nast Traveler Gold lists, among others. Though this resort dropped a few spots from its No. 2 rank last year, the Four Seasons Lodge at Koele continues to shine.

    4. Four Seasons Hotel Seattle

    Located within walking distance of many of Seattle's best things to do and see -- like Pike Place Market and the Seattle Art Museum -- this stylish Four Seasons hotel wins praise from travelers for convenience, comfort and high-quality customer service. This urban escape is home to a rooftop infinity pool, a 6,000-square-foot spa and the swanky ART Restaurant and Lounge. Meanwhile, the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle -- a Forbes Five Star award-winning hotel -- has spacious accommodations equipped with complimentary wireless Internet access, TVs embedded in bathroom mirrors and floor-to-ceiling windows for views of the city.

    3. The Allison Inn & Spa
    Newberg, Ore.


    The Allison Inn & Spa didn't come close to cracking the top 10 in 2013, but the hotel soared to the No. 3 spot this year due to its excellent concierge services, guest rooms outfitted in rich earth tones and 35-acre swath of Oregon's wine country. Guests describe the hotel's employees as detail-oriented in how they care for both the property and its visitors. Wine enthusiasts will find plenty to do with 200 wineries located in the surrounding Willamette Valley. And with a 15,000-square-foot spa, an indoor pool and the JORY signature restaurant (complete with live jazz entertainment and an 800-label wine list), all types of travelers can find respite at The Allison Inn & Spa.

    2. The Inn at Palmetto Bluff
    Bluffton, S.C.

    The Inn at Palmetto Bluff's 50 cottages and suites sit alongside the May River west of Hilton Head Island. Travelers and experts praise this property's Southern charm and hospitality, citing a notably gracious staff and a wide range of easily accessible amenities. Guests of the inn have numerous activities at their fingertips, including golfing on a Jack Nicklaus signature course, touring nearby Daufuskie Island, participating in fitness classes and playing tennis, croquet and bocce. And with spacious accommodations that boast private porches, fireplaces and wet bars, it's no wonder The Inn at Palmetto Bluff earns awards like Forbes Travel Guide's Five Star rating year after year.

    1. The Lodge at Sea Island
    Sea Island, Ga.


    Surpassing all other U.S. News-ranked hotels in the United States, The Lodge at Sea Island earns the top distinction of 2014's Best Hotel in the USA. Though The Lodge has been recognized as a Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond property for several years, the hotel skyrocketed to the top after gaining further recognition among experts and guests alike. Guests laud just about everything at the hotel -- from the seven restaurants to the three 18-hole championship golf courses to the 65,000-square-foot spa (located at its sister property The Cloister, which is also on Sea Island grounds). Guest rooms are also met with praise for their waterfront views, wood furnishings, spacious patios and large bathrooms with rainfall showerheads and deep soaking tubs.

    See photos of the top 10 hotels »

    -- Allison Michaels

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    When contemplating a Caribbean getaway, visions of aquamarine waves crashing against a honey-hued shoreline surely come to mind. What might not be as easy to imagine is where to bed down. Do you want to stay in a small boutique property or would a large all-inclusive better suit your needs? Whether you've come to the Caribbean for a family vacation, your honeymoon or an indulgent escape, you can't discount the importance of a booking the right hotel.


    It may seem like a daunting task, but U.S. News' travel editors have done the legwork for you. Using an unbiased methodology that aggregates the opinions of travel experts and guests, we combed the Caribbean for the best hotels. We analyzed guidebooks, magazines and review-based websites to compile a list of properties that consistently receive accolades.

    The properties that you'll find on the 2014 Best Hotels in the Caribbean rankings are a diverse group -- ranging from sprawling all-inclusive resorts to small boutique hotels. Dotting the Caribbean in popular locales like Jamaica and Punta Cana and more exclusive destinations like St. Barts and St. Kitts & Nevis, each hotel on this list stands out from its peers thanks to its memorable ambiance, upscale amenities and exemplary service.

    See the full list of the Best Hotels in the Caribbean»

    10. Caneel Bay Resort
    St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

    Trading in last year's silver badge and upgrading to gold, Caneel Bay Resort cracked the top 10 for the first time this year. Whether it's the resort's location within the Virgin Islands National Park or its technology-free ethos (there are no TVs or telephones in the rooms), Caneel Bay is consistently described by guests as an oasis. This boutique resort took home the AAA Four Diamond award and claimed a coveted spot on the 2014 Condé Nast Traveler Gold list. Visitors can explore the 170-acre peninsula or cozy up in their rooms -- accommodations feature private balconies or terraces, Caribbean stone accents and views of the garden or Caneel Beach.

    9. Jade Mountain
    Soufrière, St. Lucia


    Talk about a room with a view: Each of the "sanctuaries" at Jade Mountain is missing its fourth wall, offering unobstructed views of the Piton Mountains. Along with the spectacular scenery, Jade Mountain's unconventional accommodations also boast 15-foot-high ceilings and contemporary interiors crafted from tropical hardwood (some also feature private infinity pools). While it's not directly on the beach (reserve a room at Jade Mountain's sister property, Anse Chastanet, to be closer to the shoreline), this AAA Five Diamond property offers plenty of other ways to stay busy, like private yoga lessons and treatments at the Kai en Ciel spa.

    8. Four Seasons Resort Nevis
    Charlestown, St. Kitts & Nevis

    Handing over its reign as the Best Hotel in St. Kitts & Nevis to the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, the Four Seasons Resort Nevis fell from the No. 5 to the No. 8 spot on the 2014 Best Hotels in the Caribbean ranking. But if the awards the resort received are any indication, this Four Seasons outpost hasn't lost any of its appeal: This year, it won the prestigious AAA Five Diamond Award, among other industry accolades. Stretched across the golden sands of Pinney's Beach, the Four Seasons Resort Nevis is a guest favorite thanks to its ample facilities, including an 18-hole golf course, 10 tennis courts and an outdoor spa sanctuary.

    7. Rosewood Jumby Bay
    St. John's, Antigua


    Two words: private island. Rosewood Jumby Bay sits on a secluded, 300-acre island 2 miles off the northwest coast of Antigua. If that's not enticing enough, consider this Rosewood resort's accolades: This year it earned the AAA Five Diamond honor, the Condé Nast Readers' Choice award and a spot on Travel + Leisure's annual 500 World's Best Hotels list. The resort's 40 rooms and villas are equally impressive with wrap-around terraces, private courtyards and outdoor garden showers. Of course luxurious amenities are nothing without impeccable service to match: Guests say the staff caters to every whim.

    6. Nisbet Plantation Beach Club
    Newcastle, St. Kitts & Nevis

    Beating out its main competitor, the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, this hotel -- set on a retired 18th-century sugar plantation -- proves small boutique properties pack just as big a punch as big, brand-backed resorts. If the intimate feel of Nisbet Plantation Beach Club isn't enough of a draw (the hotel boasts just 36 guest rooms and suites), perhaps its lush setting is. The hotel's lemon-tinted cottages are spread out across 30 acres of tropical greenery on Nevis' northeastern coast. Explore the grounds on a hike or a horseback ride and see why Nisbet Plantation earned a AAA Four Diamond award, plus recognition from Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure.

    5. Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France
    Baie des Flamands, St. Barts

    Set against the waters of Flamands Beach, the whitewashed walls of Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France are easy to recognize. Though this AAA Four Diamond hotel fell three spots (it held the No. 2 place on the Best Hotels in the Caribbean 2013 ranking), the 40-room hotel consistently wows guests with its stylish interiors and impeccable service. Past visitors say the hotel's location right on the shore is what sets this St. Barts hotel apart from the rest. Travel publications seem to agree: Hotel Saint-Barth earned a place on the 2014 Condé Nast Traveler Gold and Travel + Leisure 500 World's Best Hotels lists. When they're not admiring the view from their rooms, guests can enjoy the hotel's secluded setting with a horseback ride along the shore or a treatment at the outdoor spa pavilion.

    4. Eden Rock, St. Barths
    Baie de St. Jean, St. Barts


    Beating Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France for the title of Best Hotel in St. Barts, Eden Rock also received awards from AAA, Condé Nast and Travel + Leisure this year. This Relais & Châteaux property is perched on a rock overlooking St. Jean Bay along St. Bart's northern shore. Travelers can enjoy the scenery from the aptly named restaurant, On the Rocks, or from the rooms' private terraces. For something out of the ordinary, consider booking the Villa Nina -- of the many amenities this room boasts (like a swimming pool, whiskey bar and private butler), perhaps its most distinctive is a private art gallery.

    3. Spice Island Beach Resort
    St. George's, Grenada


    A newcomer to the top 10 list, Grenada's Spice Island Beach Resort improved 10 spots from the No. 13 place it held last year. Occupying 8 acres of prime real estate on Grand Anse Beach, this AAA Four Diamond winner receives as much praise from guests as it does from experts: Visitors frequently describe the 32-room boutique hotel as magical thanks to the courteous staff and choice location. While Spice Island's position on Grenada is ideal for exploring the island or participating in complimentary snorkeling, kayaking and sailing, the accommodations also receive a hefty amount of praise, especially the Seagrape Beach Suites. These digs feature a private patio and garden, a double hammock and a whirlpool tub that looks out over the ocean.

    2. Jamaica Inn
    Ocho Rios, Jamaica

    Even in a vacation destination saturated with all-inclusive resorts, the intimate, 48-suite Jamaica Inn manages to stand out, moving up two spots this year from No. 4 to No. 2. Though the inn's private shoreline, beachfront spa and spacious, antique-filled rooms are no doubt alluring, the hotel's attentive staff is what keeps guests coming back again and again. Previous visitors say they were treated like royalty, with every service member remembering guests' names and personal preferences. Lodgers' praise is also reflected in the accolades the Jamaica Inn received this year, including the Condé Nast Readers Choice award.

    1. Tortuga Bay
    Punta Cana, Dominican Republic


    For the second year in a row, Punta Cana's Tortuga Bay claimed the title of Best Hotel in the Caribbean. With its private beachfront, Oscar de la Renta-designed decor and lavish, all-suite accommodations, it's easy to see why this small, AAA Five Diamond property earned top marks from travel experts and guests alike. While visitors appreciate the abundant amenities -- like the two golf courses, the Six Senses Spa and the ample water sports equipment available for use -- lodgers are also quick to praise the personalized service. Recent guests say they felt welcome as soon as they set foot on the property, describing Tortuga Bay as blissful.

    See photos of the top 10 hotels »

    -- Ann Rivall

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    The thick fog that's hugged Metro Vancouver over the past week has lent itself to some beautiful images, but many people are cursing the constant BWAAAAAH that's put them in a different kind of fog.

    Foghorns have been going off around the clock to warn ships passing through Canada's busiest port. The cloud cover restricts visibility and makes navigation difficult for marine traffic.

    International and Canadian rules require anchored ships to sound their foghorns every minute, while those sailing through the harbour must do it every two minutes, reported CBC News.

    The seemingly relentless foghorn blasts have left some very tired and cranky people in their wake:

    But this puts it into perspective: "Complaining about it is like complaining about roosters when you live next to a farm," Mike Cotter of the Jericho Sailing Centre told CBC.

    The fog is forecast to dissipate in the next few days.

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    We're here to take an unpopular stance: There's a lot of value in visiting places that have been dubbed "tourist traps." Granted, some spots have earned their bad reputation by charging high fees for underwhelming, overcrowded attractions. But others have cemented their status as beloved attractions, either by reinventing themselves or staying exactly the way you remember them from your childhood. Below you'll find the six spots that we think are worth joining the crowds to see:

    • The High Line in New York City: Although there's no shortage of compelling art in New York, green space comes at quite a premium. Joined together, they create a spot that means a lot of things to a lot of visitors. The repurposed railroad line is a popular spot for strolls and a quiet reprieve from the city not so far below. The new Whitney Museum of American Art is right off the High Line as are tons of popular restaurants to fuel up before or after a visit.

    • Boating in Biscayne Bay around Star Island in South Beach: Members of our Miami office voted this hybrid activity -- part star tour a la Los Angeles, part sightseeing cruise -- as their favorite "touristy" thing to do in the area, hands down. Depart from Bayside piers and watch the skyline fade away while making your way to the man-made island with homes of celebrities, including Gloria Estefan and Shaquille O'Neal.

    • Signature Lounge at the 96th in Chicago: For the price of one cocktail, get access to a picture-worthy view of the city from atop the John Hancock building. Consider going before sunset to get the best of both worlds: clear views of the city in the daylight then the twinkle of the skyscrapers at dusk. And apologies to the men: surprisingly, some of the best views of the city below are from the women's bathroom.

    • The Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas: One of Travelzoo's Deal Experts, who used to live in the city, said she could watch the choreographed water feature all day long -- and visitors tend to agree. Often times seeing the show all the way through once a day isn't enough. The complimentary show, which runs at least every half hour daily, is often saved for the end of a visit, but is also a festive way to start out a trip to The Strip.

    • Alcatraz Island ... at night in San Francisco: The unlikely pairing of spooky after-hours access at the infamous prison site, including looks at the hospital and dungeon, plus sunset, skyline and Golden Gate views make for a perfect way to spend an evening in the Bay Area. We tend to skip Alcatraz during the day, but a nighttime visit is worth planning a few months in advance. Sailings can sell out quickly.

    • Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica: Two recent additions -- the shops at Santa Monica Place and the oceanview Tongva Park -- just add to the reasons why this is a perennial picturesque favorite. Classic activities like taking a beach cruiser out to see the sites, noshing on snacks alongside the water and taking a spin on the iconic Ferris wheel or carousel bring visitors out in droves, and keeps them coming back season after season.

    Hilary Solan is an editor at Travelzoo and based in Chicago. Travelzoo has 250 deal experts from around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.

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    If you're the kind of person who would really like to have a pet cat, but fear you're not quite up to the responsibility (or the clean-up), Montreal's soon-to-open Café Chat L'Heureux is for you.

    According to their website, the cafe has plans to launch this summer in Montreal's Plateau district. Café Chat L'Heureux (translated as "happy cat cafe") is inspired by the cat coffee shops of China and Japan, where people who don't have a lot of space can pay to cuddle with kitties, according to the BBC.

    In a video for the cafe's Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to make this a reality, owner Clement Marty explains that Montrealers are also finding it difficult to keep pets, with many apartments not allowing them at all.

    As explained on their Facebook page, Café Chat L'Heureux will have eight to 10 resident cats for people to hang out with, while two to three will be from shelters for potential adoption. The focus on animal welfare is important to Marty, who also stresses the benefits of "purr therapy" for alleviating anxiety.

    Marty plans to host senior groups and people with disabilities to help quell any loneliness they may feel, as well as children's classes to teach about pet responsibility and care.

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    So, you didn't get a ticket to Sochi this winter. Not to worry, sports fans: There are still plenty of sites used in Olympic Games that are open to visitors. Here are some of our favorites.

    By Marisa Lascala,

    More from Condé Nast Traveler:

  • Stop Visiting These Places! You're Ruining Them!

  • This Massive Lake Disappears Overnight Several Times a Year

  • The Friendliest and Unfriendliest Cities in the World

  • 12 Travel Mistakes You're Definitely Making

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    Ah the '80s. An easier time. A simpler time. A time full of "Alf" episodes.

    If you're looking to travel back in time (or just a sucker for nostalgia), and don't know where you put your nuclear-powered DeLorean, just watch Delta Airlines' latest in-flight safety video.

    The video starts off normally enough with an in-flight attendant announcing she'll be taking passengers through a safety demo. What follows next is a slew of 80's references that might make your head spin faster than a basketball on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's finger.

    Cheesy 80's synth music in the background? Check.

    Glam-rock hairdos and denim vests? Oh, yeah.

    Ataris, The original Teddy Ruxpin and Alf? You bet.

    And we're just at the half-way point here, people.

    The airline's humorous take isn't anything new (this is the '80s remember) with airlines like Virgin Airlines and Air New Zealand offering their own quirky takes on plane safety with dancing nuns or dwarfs and orcs thrown in for good measure.

    But really, when you've got an in-flight safety video featuring a dude doing the worm while a Steve Urkel look-a-like takes his seat, does it really matter?

    How many '80s references did you spot? Let us know in the comment section below or on Twitter @HPCaTravel.

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    Construction workers in northern B.C. will make themselves at home on a cruise ship as they complete $3.3 billion in upgrades to an aluminum smelter.

    The Silja Festival, which was built by Estonian company Tallink, is a 171-metre ship that once carried passengers across the Baltic Sea from Stockholm, Sweden to Riga, Latvia.

    The ship will be re-branded as the Delta Spirit Lodge while it houses Rio Tinto Alcan workers for nine months, the Kitimat Northern Sentinel reported.

    The story continues below the slideshow:

    The ship left an Estonian port on Monday and is expected to arrive in Kitimat by the end of February. It will be stationed at the former Eurocan wharf and have a service staff of 110 people.

    Security staff at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games were housed in two Holland America ships and one Carnival cruise liner, Pique Newsmagazine reported in April 2009.

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    Passengers headed to Omaha, Neb., through Denver International Airport may be out of luck for the next couple days, as it appears their flights have instead been re-routed to "Omaha!" As in, "Omaha! Omaha! Omaha!"

    The move is an apparent nod to Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who made a name for himself this season by repeatedly yelling the midwestern city's name as a secret signal while at the line of scrimmage. In homage, airport officials have taken the liberty of "correcting" the city's spelling on signage throughout the airport, tacking on an exclamation mark.

    Denver International has also started some friendly smack talk with Super Bowl XLVIII rival Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, engaging in a bet to fly the flag of the winning Super Bowl team in public for 24 hours.

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    BAYONNE, N.J. - Passengers aboard a cruise ship on which hundreds fell ill recalled days of misery holed up in their rooms as it returned to its home port Wednesday from a Caribbean trip cut short by what is suspected to be among the largest such norovirus outbreaks in the last 20 years.

    Travellers aboard the Explorer of the Seas recounted hundreds throwing up, and stricken passengers having food brought to their rooms. Others were served from covered buffets by crew members wearing gloves and masks during an outbreak that sickened nearly 700 passengers and crew on the ship operated by Royal Caribbean.

    Kim Waite, 50, of London, England, was on the cruise with her husband, Fred, to celebrate the end of her cancer treatments. She got severely ill, and barely saw her husband the whole trip.

    "My husband had to put me in a wheelchair and take me to the infirmary. The door opened on the lift and there were just hundreds of people being sick everywhere," she said. "They were throwing up in buckets and bags — I started crying, I couldn't believe it. I was in shock.

    "I've never wanted to go home so much in my life. I've never slept so much in my life, and I've got no sun tan."

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said its latest count puts the number of those sickened at 630 passengers and 54 crew members. The ship, on a 10-day cruise that had to be cut short, was carrying 3,050 passengers.

    Health investigators suspect norovirus, but lab results are not expected until later this week. If norovirus is to blame, it would be one of the largest norovirus outbreaks on a cruise ship in the last 20 years, the CDC said. A 2006 norovirus outbreak on a Carnival Cruise Lines ship also sickened close to 700.

    Retiree Bill Rakowicz, 61, from the city of St. Thomas in Ontario, Canada, said he thought he was just seasick when he began suffering from vomiting, pain and diarrhea.

    "Then I went out of my room and saw people with gloves and people sick everywhere," he said, adding that he saw a man in a wheelchair vomiting, then falling on the floor and hitting his head.

    He said he had the symptoms for five days starting Jan. 22, the day after the ship departed Bayonne. "It was awful. You feel like you want to give in," he said.

    Rakowicz gave high marks to Royal Caribbean for going "above and beyond" in its efforts to help passengers. A female travelling companion did not get sick, he said, which he said was not unusual. He said he was aware of a number of cases in which one person in a room got sick and the other didn't.

    Pastor Sue Rogutski, of Bloomsburg, Pa., said she got so sick she was quarantined for three days. She said her husband, Leonard, a nurse who only fell ill toward the end of the trip and less severely than her, had to carry her down from their room to the sick bay.

    "When we were in the sick bay, people were getting nervous and they started showing up there to try to get help," she said. "Suddenly, there was influx of 150 people. That puts into perspective what this crew was facing — that it was epidemic."

    Rogutski said the ship's buffets were all covered and no passengers could touch them. They had to be served by crew members wearing gloves and masks, including entertainers who pitched in. Sick passengers were brought food to their rooms.

    Norovirus — once known as Norwalk virus — is highly contagious. It can be picked up from an infected person, contaminated food or water or by touching contaminated surfaces. Sometimes mistaken for the stomach flu, the virus causes bouts of vomiting and diarrhea for a few days.

    The cruise line said most guests who fell ill were up and about as the ship headed to port. It said seven people were still sick when the ship reached Bayonne, but that none of the passengers had to be hospitalized.

    The CDC said it recommended to Royal Caribbean that people who still have serious symptoms be linked to medical care, and perhaps given the option of staying in nearby hotels before travelling home.

    CDC investigators boarded the ship during its U.S. Virgin Islands port call on Sunday. They said no single food or water source or other origin has been identified.

    Royal Caribbean is providing all guests a 50 per cent refund of their cruise fares and an additional 50 per cent future cruise credit. It's also reimbursing airline change fees and accommodations for guests who had to change plans for travelling home.

    Stricken guests who were confined to their staterooms are being provided a credit of one future cruise day for each day of confinement.

    The ship will be sanitized and no one will be allowed aboard for a period of more than 24 hours as an extra precaution, the cruise line said.

    Rick O'Shea from Miami-based ByoPlanet was at the dock to greet the ship. His company was going to use sprayers that produce electrically charged droplets to help sanitize the ship. He said it would take eight to 12 hours to complete the job.

    Explorer of the Seas is on track to depart at its originally scheduled time Friday afternoon on its next cruise, a nine-night trip with port calls in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, a Royal Caribbean spokeswoman said.


    AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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    Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and these three things are probably useless to a guy who'd rather travel.

    Flowers and sweets are great Valentine's Day gifts for guys and girls but when you've visited the rose gardens of Elizabeth Park, in Hartford, Conn., or sampled Swiss chocolate actually made in Switzerland, those tried-and-true V-Day staples just won't tug at the heart strings like they used to.

    If you're on the hunt for a Valentine's Day gift this year and the special guy in your life loves travel as much as you, you're probably in luck. Gift shopping for a traveller nowadays is as easy as booking a flight online and unlike the sweets and plants that'll inevitably disappear; these gifts ought to last longer than two weeks.

    Whether your main man is always on the road, a frequent flyer, loves a good outdoor hike or simply needs a vacation, these gifts ideas ought to remind him his wanderlust comes second only to you.

    Missed out on a great idea? Let us know what else you'd like to see in the comments below or on Twitter @HPCaTravel

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    Winter, it turns out, is hard to get through when you live in a city. There's only so much bitter cold and abundant snowfall that you can take without wanting to get outdoors and actually enjoy it.

    If you're anything like us, you're keenly aware that the next long weekend isn't for a while. Eureka! You don't need a long weekend--hell, even a night--to get away to these places for a quick day escape to flee the city and take a breather (just remember to dress warmly).

    If you live in: San Francisco
    Escape to: Muir Woods National Monument, the 10th of its kind in our nation. About 16 miles north of San Francisco is another world of large, lush trees and six miles of trails. It's an easy city break and a great way to put life in perspective.

    If you live in: New York City
    Escape to: Fahnestock Winter Park is a veritable winter wonderland where you can rent snowshoes, inner tubes and skis (and even get ski lessons). To boot, it's only about 54 miles north of New York City.

    If you live in: Chicago
    Escape to: Wausau, Wisconsin, which has the largest vertical drop in the state. It's a great destination for skiers, tubers and cross-country fans, though it's a bit of a hike from the Windy City. This is the land of the mass hotel chain, but for individual appeal, stay at the Jefferson Street Inn.
    wausau wisconsin skiing

    If you live in: Austin
    Escape to: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Go hiking or rock climbing at this park in Fredericksburg, about 78 miles from Austin. On the way home, tour the "Texas White House," where Lyndon Johnson was born and buried.
    enchanted rock state natural area

    If you live in: Atlanta
    Escape to: Rome, Georgia, which is nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It has loads of Civil War history, the beautiful 32-acre Myrtle Hill Cemetery and a sweet downtown area.
    myrtle hill cemetery rome

    If you live in: Los Angeles
    Escape to: 80 miles east of LA sits Lake Arrowhead, a mountain town complete with mom & pop shops, that's perfect for a quick jaunt for snowboarding and skiing enthusiasts (you can also sled, ice skate and go snowshoeing).
    enchanted rock state natural area

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    All small towns have their perks -- from the peace and quiet to the lack of tourists (and not to mention, the simple fact you tend to get more square footage for your money), it sure seems like they are the standout winners when compared to urban areas.

    But just like big cities, no two tiny towns are created equal. And thanks to map publisher Rand McNally, which just released the results (see below for more details) of this past year's mission to find the best small towns in the country, we've found out which of these stand out as a cut above the rest. Whether, they offer incredible eats or just plain appreciate being American, these are definitely the small towns with big hearts (and big perks).

    The places listed above were selected by Rand McNally. Citizens were encouraged to vote for their hometowns (with populations of 150,000 or less), and a panel of judges narrowed the list of nearly 1,200 nominees down to 30 finalists, presented as either winners or runners-up in the slideshow above.

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    Thanks to @Amazing_Maps, we now know how people stereotype every state in the U.S., based on how they searched for those states on Google.

    This led us to ponder: What are travelers asking Google about?

    We started typing some common travel-related inquiries into Google. We then let the site autocomplete the questions for us and wrote down the three terms that people search for the most.

    Results reveal that the average Google traveler wonders about New York, dabbles in space travel, and is totally obsessed with 'World of Warcraft.'

    Craziest place to…
    Hook up
    Make love
    Go for spring break

    Why are airplanes…
    So safe
    Wings curved

    Tickets to…
    Jimmy Fallon

    How to get to…
    Newark Airport
    Kiloude City (a fictional Pokemon city)

    How long does it take to get to…
    The moon

    How to book tickets to…
    Machu Picchu
    Disneyland Paris
    Andaman by ship

    Best food in…
    The world

    How do I get to…
    Pandaria (fictional land in 'World of Warcraft')
    Isle of Thunder (fictional land in 'World of Warcraft')
    Timeless Isle (fictional land in 'World of Warcraft')

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