Road Warrior

Hotels, planes and everything in between: Travel + Leisure sets 'World's Best" list

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC
Dustin Steller | E+ | Getty Images

Is Oregon's Portland International the best domestic airport? Should Kyoto, Japan, be crowned the overall best city? And does Maui have it made as the best Hawaiian island?

According to Travel + Leisure magazine's 2015 World's Best Awards,the answer is yes to all of the above.

Just released this month, T+L's annual awards are based on an "indexed average" of readers' responses and give kudos in a wide range of categories. These include cities and service providers, ranging from airports, airlines and car rental agencies, to destination spas and safari outfitters. Among some "usual suspect" locations that have topped the list for more than a decade are a few newcomers.

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See how some of the winners stack up against your favorites.

—By Harriet Baskas, special to CNBC. Follow Road Warrior on Twitter at @CNBCtravel.
Posted 18 July 2015

World's Best Airline

Based on cabin comfort, in-flight service, customer service, and value, T+L readers chose San Francisco-based Virgin America as the world's best domestic airline. The honor—bestowed on the company for the eighth consecutive year—"reflects our continued commitment to delivering a 'guest-centric' travel experience on every flight through better design, technology and topnotch service," said David Cush, Virgin America president and CEO, in a statement.

Other winners in the domestic airlines category include JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest and Alaska. In the international airlines category, Singapore Airlines took first place, a spot it has held for 20 years in a row; followed by Emirates, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand.

World's Best Airport

For the second year in a row, Portland International Airport got the nod for best domestic airport from T+L readers, who were asked to consider criteria such as location/access, check-in, shopping, design and food and drink establishments.

Tampa International, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Dallas Love Field and Austin-Bergstrom airports round out the top-five list in this category. On the international side, Singapore Changi Airport placed first, for the third year in a row, this year ahead of Hong Kong International, Amsterdam Schiphol, Zurich and Munich airports.

World's Best Car Rental Agencies

National Car Rental, which has been on T+L's world's best awards list for 20 years in a row, led the list of world's best car rental agencies. Enterprise, Alamo (also owned by Enterprise Holdings) took spots two and three, consecutively, while Avis and Hertz brought up the rear in a category that rated the companies on vehicle selection, vehicle availability, car-rental location, service and value.

"Our customer-focused strategy continues to pay off," said Pat Farrell, chief marketing officer at Enterprise Holdings. "It sets the bar high and strengthens all three of our brands in one of the most competitive spaces out there: the global car rental industry."

World's Best Cruise Line

The Seabourn Odyssey cruise ship sails into Venice, Italy.
Courtesy Seabourn

Travel +Leisure has four subsets in its world's best cruise lines category: small, large and mega-ocean ships and ships that ply rivers.

The Seabourn luxury cruise line, which has been on T+L's list for 20 years in a row, took first place in the small-ship category, while Crystal Cruises (also on the list 20 years in a row) and the Disney Cruise line (on the list 10 years in a row) took top spots in large and mega-ocean ship categories, respectively.

Viking River Cruises landed the top spot in the River Cruise Lines subcategory.

Destination Spas

The Golden Door spa in San Marcos, Calif.
Courtesy Golden Door

When it came to ranking destination spas for all the trimmings, 600-acre Golden Door in San Marco, California—complete with Zen rock gardens, hiking trails, a salon, gym and two swimming pools—checked in at first place. Other winners in this category included Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico; Ten Thousand Waves Japanese Spa & Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Lake Austin Spa Resort in Texas; and Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona.

Best Hotels in the Continental U.S.

The main lobby of the Wentworth Mansion hotel in Charleston, S.C.
Courtesy Wentworth Mansion

Travel + Leisure's world's best awards have more than 20 different categories for hotels, with breakouts for inns & small lodges, city size, continents and regions.

The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park, received the top spot for large city hotels (100 rooms or more) in the continental U.S., while the Wentworth Mansion in Charleston, South Carolina, placed first among small city hotels (fewer than 100 rooms).

"Being on this list with so many other incredible properties in Charleston and around the nation is exciting, humbling and keeps us all on our toes," said Linn Lesesne, Wentworth Mansion spokeswoman and co-owner.

Best Resorts in the Continental US

The Triple Creek Ranch resort in Darby, Mont.
Courtesy Triple Creek Ranch

In the resorts category for the continental U.S., the upscale Sunset Key Guest Cottages, a luxury resort in Key West, Florida, ranked first for resorts with 40 rooms or more. For Inns and Small Lodges with fewer than 40 rooms, Montana's Triple Creek Ranch, with 23 plush log cabins on 600 acres in the Bitterroot Mountains, topped the list.

In Hawaii, the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, which has been on T+L's list for 20 years in a row, took the top honor.

Best Islands

Fisherman's Wharf in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
Landon Sveinson Photography | Tourism Vancouver Island

Islands get their own category in the T+L world's best awards, with the Galapagos Islands—on the list for the past 10 years—taking first place for 2015. Bali, the Maldives, Tasmania, Australia and the Greek island of Santorini round out the top five.

In the continental U.S. and Canada, the top slot went to Vancouver Island, British Columbia; followed by Hilton Head, South Carolina; the Golden Isles (Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons Island; Sea Island and St. Simons Island in Georgia. The San Juan Islands in Washington and Kiawah Island in South Carolina also made the list.

And in Hawaii, Maui took top spot this year for Best Hawaiian Island.

Best Overall Cities

T+L readers also gave their nod to some of the world's best cities. In its "overall" category Kyoto, Japan, famous for its gardens, temples, shrines, took top honors. Charleston, South Carolina, Siem Reap in Cambodia, Florence, Rome, Bangkok, Krakow, Barcelona, Cape Town and Jerusalem all made this year's top 10 list.

Charleston also topped the list of best cities in the U.S. and Canada, followed by New Orleans, Savannah, Georgia and Santa Fe, New Mexico, San Francisco, Quebec City, Chicago, New York City, Victoria, B.C. and Asheville, North Carolina.

World's Best Cities

A view of the Duomo in Florence, Italy.
Luca Bruno | AP

In Europe, the 2015 world's best city nod goes to Florence, Italy, which has been on the list for the past ten years. Rome, Krakow, Barcelona, Istanbul, Budapest, Seville, Edinburgh, Madrid and Paris—which has been on the list for the past 20 years—also take their place on this year's Top Ten list.