herald

Friday 17 August 2018

The 2011 Evening Herald Travel Awards

With the Holiday World Show in the RDS and the Irish Travel Agents' Association awards coming up this month, all eyes are on the travel industry. Here travel editor Mark Evans picks his winners of the past year

BEST SHORT-HAUL AIIRLIINE: SAS

In a world of no frills, Scandinavian Airlines bucks the trend. Perks include one-piece baggage allowance of up to 23kg, online check-in, 25pc child discount and friendly inflight service. And its Copenhagen hub, with great shopping and restaurants, is one of Europe’s best airports. www.flysas.com

BEST LONG-HAUL AIRLINE / BUSINESS: CONTINENTAL

The American carrier has installed flatbeds and iPod docks on many of its business-class routes. It’s always a pleasure flying even in economy with Continental. Why? The staff are good (one steward who kept up the spirits of an entire cabin when the flight was delayed by tailbacks in the US stands out); Newark is a great hub for onward connections and getting into Manhattan; and the inflight entertainment is among the leaders. www.continental.com

BEST LONG-HAUL AIRLINE / ECONOMY: USAIRWAYS

American carriers aren’t noted for their friendliness, but I’ve been impressed by the banter you get from the US Airways crews in and out of Philadelphia from Ireland. They’re still using 767s, so an overhaul would be nice, but the attention to detail, the business lounge in Philly and the very keen prices more than make up for that quibble. www.usairways.com

BEST AIRPORT: PHILADELPHIA IINTERNATIONAL

American airports don’t normally get good press, but Philly is an exception. Given that it’s one long terminal, transfers are a cinch. The shopping’s good, too, and it’s a foodie’s paradise, with everything from Philly steaks to succulent seafood. What’s more, it’s got its own train station, and is only 24 minutes into downtown. www.phl.org

BEST HOTEL: KCLUB

It’s all about the detail here. Luxurious golf courses, elegant bedrooms with period furniture, a great bar and restaurants and a very warm welcome for children. Worth a splurge and it’s a very handy drive down the road from Dublin. www.kclub.ie

BEST VALUE HOTEL: TANKARDSTOWN HOUSE

More like a stay with a rich friend who owns a country mansion, you’ll feel like you’re in Provence in the Brabazon restaurant. You can stay in the main house (you pour your own pints in the bar and pay on an honour system) or in courtyard lodgings. There’s acres for fine walks and it’s handily located beside Slane in Co Meath. The kids will love playing with the resident dogs. www.tankardstown.ie

BEST VIEW HOTEL: AGHADOE HEIGHTS / SHEENFALLS LODGE

I couldn’t make my mind up here. Aghadoe is Killarney’s premier hotel, with jaw-dropping views over the Killarney Lakes. Food is good value here and the sprawling bedrooms are a mix of the modern (floor to ceiling glass) and antique furniture. www.aghadoeheights.com

Down the road, Sheen Falls is a stone’s throw from majestic Kenmare and commands a stunning view over the waterfall that gives it its name. No wonder I’m drawn to Kerry year after year. www.sheenfalls.ie

BEST SPA: RADISSON BLU ROE PARK RESORT

I’m not the biggest fan of spas , but the Radisson — conveniently situated near Derry city and the Antrim coast — changed my mind. The hotel has a wide range of activities, from swimming to golf lessons and entertainment, and its spa staff can ease away those aches and pains. www.radissonroepark.com

BEST BOUTIQUE HOTEL: ST GILES THE COURT / TUSCANY, NEW YORK

The sister hotels are new to the Manhattan scene, but they offer total luxury for a fair price in a city that can melt any credit card. Both are situated in the upmarket Murray Hill district, and are very convenient for the likes of Fifth Avenue, Times Square and Macy’s department store. www.stgilesnewyork.com

BEST WEEKEND HOTEL: BEAURIVAGE

Boasting a stunning location on the shores of Lake Geneva in the cosmopolitan Swiss city, this grand dame is filled with history. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the Empress of Austria, composer Richard Wagner and Eleanor Roosevelt have all stayed here. Once you check in to one of the ornate rooms and try the fine dining, you’ll see why. www.beau-rivage.ch

BEST LUXURY HOTEL: PARK HOTEL, KENMARE

John and Francis Brennan, stars of their own RTE show, are the experts in the Irish hotel industry. And attention to detail is what the Park is all about. Situated in the centre of historic Kenmare in Co Kerry, the service is second to none and the rooms are straight out of an epiosde of Downton Abbey. www.parkkenmare.com

BEST CITY HOTEL: THE WESTBURY

No contest here. Where else would you get (as I found recently) a mixture of Christmas shoppers, a kaleidoscope of international guests and Imelda May hanging out with her pals? If St Mark’s Square is the drawing room of Europe, the Westbury bar — overlooking Grafton Street — is the drawing room of Dublin. And while hotels with swish lobbies often have disappointing rooms, this isn’t the case here and the modern furnishing and large bedrooms are a joy. www.doylecollection.com

BEST CRUISE LINE: ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Why? Simple really: much of it’s down to the launch of Allure of the Seas, even bigger than its sister, Oasis, which held the title for a year. No ordinary ships, these are mini-cities on the seas, with neighbourhoods filled with bars and restaurants. They’ve got a Central Park each, boardwalks, zip-lining and surfing, Broadway productions (Hairspray or Chicago on Oasis/Allure) and Dreamworks-character parades for the kids. They’re awesome ships, and great value all-inclusive holidays for all age groups. www.royalcaribbean.co.uk

BEST LUXURY CRUISELINE: CELEBRITY CRUISE

This line’s five-star ships are simply stunning — drinks by the on-deck Lawn Club (real grass, the cool icetopped bar where you perch your martini, the incredible cuisine and glitzy shopping. If you want to get away from it all, look no further. I was blown away by a visit to the Equinox ship; you will be too. www.celebritycruises.co.uk

BEST FERRY LINE: STENA

Someone’s misfortune is someone else opportunity. In 2010, the ferry companies roared back to life by keeping our links with Britain and the continent open during the Icelandic volcano and the snow blizzards. Better still, they treated travellers with respect and didn’t take advantage of the stranded thousands of desperate families. I visited Britain, taking the car from Dublin Port and driving to Manchester. WiFi onboard, a leisurely crossing and great food in the Stena Plus lounge made the crossing a cinch. www.stenaline.ie

BEST SKI COMPANY: TOPFLIGHT

It’s always top of the charts among its industry peers, and it’s easy to see why as it’s got years of experience under its belt. If you’re going skiing, or visiting Italy, it’s the top choice. www.topflight.ie

BEST HOLIDAY HOMES: TRIDENT

With hundreds of choices, and great deals year-round, it’s a top choice for large families and groups in particular. The wilds of Kerry or Donegal, the bustle of Dublin, or familyfriendly lodgings with children’s facilities can all be yours. And as well as luxurious homes around the country, you’ve got access to a massive range of rental properties abroad, too. www.tridentholidayhomes.ie

BEST WEEKEND DESTINATION: BELFAST

The city has world-class entertainment and restaurant options. There's great value, too, and the likes of new restaurants such as New York-style restaurant RBG, behind the Crown Bar, make it a tempting weekend break choice. www.discovernorthernireland.com

BEST SHORT HAUL: PARIS

Paying a visit Last spring I found the alternative Paris — the flea markets, good value and friendly local bistros. Invest in a good guidebook, such as Frommer’s Paris Free & Dirt Cheap, and pay less there. www.franceguide.com

BEST LONG HAUL HOLIDAY: FORT LAUDERDALE

It’s got better beaches (and it’s a lot cheaper) than Miami, you can get around the Venice of America by boatbus or taxi. There is great shopping at the enormous Sawgrass Mills and you can even visit the Everglades in a half-hour drive. If you’re planning on a Florida vacation, or a twin centre break with Orlando, look no further. www.sunny.org

BEST TOUR OPERATOR: FALCON HOLIDAYS

Having recently returned from a family break to the Costa del Sol, I can testify to the quality of the kids’ clubs. Everything from quizzes to parties to canoe races and rope climbing’s on offer, giving you a much-needed break, too. www.falconholidays.ie

BEST LONG HAUL TOUR OPERATOR:TOUR AMERICA

Cheap shopping weekends to New York, fly drives around California, exotic cruises and even packages to Africa are available from the dedicated market leader in America and beyond. www.touramerica.ie

BEST TRAVEL WEBSITE: TRAVEL EXTRA

Herald contributor Eoghan Corry is a mine of information on the travel scene. But don’t just take my word for it — check out his magazine site (Travel Extra) on Facebook and add it to your own Facebook page. It’s filled with regular updates about flight delays, holiday deals and all manner of other travel news. www.facebook.com/pages/Travel- Extra/248448322726

TRAVEL INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR: MARY McKENNA

One person fighting the gloom is Mary McKenna, MD of Tour America. The woman who introduced New York weekends and cruising to the mass market has come up with innovations over the past year, including the launch of Ireland’s first dedicated travel mobile site on m.touramerica.ie, and won the Deloitte & Touche Best Managed Company Award. www.touramerica.ie

>> CATCH ALL THE LATEST TRAVEL BARGAINS AND NEWS ON MARK’S NEW PAGE, TWITTER.COM/HERALDTRAVEL

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