Yes folks, it’s THAT time of year again, as we pull up a chair and listen in raptored attention to the results of the greatest travel industry awards events of the year- THE ANTHONYS!!
And yes, it’s been quite a year. From the beaches of summertime Denmark to the bridge on the River Kwai, THE ANTHONYS have scoured the world of modern and contemporary travel, offering a hopefully laser like focus on the greats- and indeed, the grates- of the modern travel industry.
So, why not pop a bottle or eight of Lambrini, and dig into the twiglets as we unveil this years winners and losers, right here in THE ANTHONYS!
EMIRATES: Great space and styling, decent food and great service combine with an economy class cabin that’s soothing, spacious and genuinely relaxing. But it’s the in flight entertainment system on the back of every seat that really raises this airline way above it’s rivals. An outstanding product in an increasingly strained, restrictive market,
MOST IMPROVED AIRLINE:
DELTA: No, I don’t believe that I said it, either. But yes. Seat back TV’s on 757’s and 737’s going to and from Puerto Rico? And a full, free drinks service in international economy? Check. I am often surprised by airline services these days, but rarely in a pleasant way. Kudos to Delta for realising that your fare paying customers really are something more than just human cargo.
WORST AIRLINE: and we have a tie here, folks….
BRITISH AIRWAYS; For your sheer, unremitting greed in axing almost every perk once associated with flying economy in Europe, and then leaving your hugely dedicated, over worked, poorly motivated in flight staff to cope with the fallout from hordes of angry passengers. It says volumes about the mentality of those at the top of BA, and not in a good way. An airline in both free fall and denial. Literally doubling down.
AIR FRANCE: A generally superb airborne product and in flight service is woefully betrayed by the most callous and uncaring land side customer service since Sweeney Todd’s barber shop. The airline where the spirit of Cruella De Ville meets the competence and sure touch of Inspector Clouseau of the Surete. Such a flying shame. Even Dick Dastardly’s Vulture Squadron was better run than this.
LA COURONNE, ROUEN, FRANCE is a two star, Michelin rated restaurant in the Vieux Marche that dates all the way back to 1345. People gathered there to watch the martyrdom of Joan of Arc back in May of 1431, though the entertainment these days is a bit more sedate. Fabulous food and wine served with great flair in elegant, hushed surroundings that are far more welcoming than pretentious. A venue that understands the difference between style and hype. One of the finest dining experiences of my lifetime, and hugely recommended.
GIRAFFE, TERMINAL FIVE, HEATHROW AIRPORT is a crowded, over priced mess. The staff are run off their feet, there’s little space between tables, and it’s hideously over priced. We’re all supposed to overlook this because it is, apparently, ‘funky’. There was probably less surrounding debris on the streets of Berlin in May, 1945. And the food? Mediocre, at best. At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask.
BEST NEW DESTINATION:
SKAGEN, DENMARK: Where the North Sea meets the Baltic, Skagen juts out like a bruised boxer’s jaw into the surf. The beach is long, sweeping and spotless and, on a sunny day, it would be wonderful. But this was June; summer wasn’t here yet. The old town is an artist’s haven, and chock full of gingerbread houses straight out of a Brothers Grimm fable. And all overlaid with that kind of effortlessly cool style that only the Danes really have. Compact, chocolate box pretty, and not at all overcrowded.
MOST OVER RATED DESTINATION:
MONTE CARLO (also known as Monte Carbuncle, or even Monte Carloff): There are far nicer, considerably cheaper, far less hyped places within a few minutes’ train travel along the French Riviera (and that train journey is a sheer joy). Any place where you are expected to pay ‘only’ nine euros for a coffee- and to be grateful for the ‘privilege’- is more of a warning bell than a welcome mat. Yes, the harbour is pretty, but the rest of the place provides brittle glamour at best. Monte Carlo’s single most attractive feature remains the railway track that leads to Villefranche.
MOST MOVING EXPERIENCE:
KWAI RIVER BRIDGE, KANCHANABURRI, THAILAND: Yes, part of the infamous WW2 bridge was subsequently rebuilt after the original central span was destroyed by American fighter bombers, but it was rebuilt in the same style. The actual bridge is small, squat and brutal looking, more form over function. But, when you know it’s history, and the lost lives and suffering that spawned it, you feel it in every step. Walking over it is a humbling, mind blowing experience that would make even the very stones weep.
BEST ‘HELLO, AGAIN’ AWARD:
VILLEFRANCHE SUR MER, COTE D’AZUR, FRANCE: Six years since we last met, and a brace of visits to Villefranche during 2017 felt like healing balm. The sheer style, beauty and sophistication of the place is platinum chip soul food. The beach has a few more club style resort bars now, but the old town remains the pearl of Europe’s prettiest stretch of coastline. J’adore.
BEST SMALL SHIP:
AEGEAN ODYSSEY, VOYAGES TO ANTIQUITY: As small and perfect as a charm bracelet, intimate, elegant and easily accessible. Outstanding service, brilliantly well thought through itineraries, wonderful food and a fantastic reference library for all those fabulous places she visits. What’s not to love?
BEST LUXURY SHIP:
SILVER WHISPER, SILVERSEA CRUISES: While new fleet starlet Silver Muse garnered the bulk of the headlines, the serene and stately Silver Whisper purrs like a Rolls Royce, is as perfectly poised as Audrey Hepburn, and keeps putting it out there in sublime, under stated Silversea style. Hot Rocks dining outdoors under the summer solstice sky will always be a travel highlight for me.
BEST FIND IN CRUISING:
SAGA SAPPHIRE; SAGA CRUISES: Sheer, inclusive value here is one thing, but such an expansive and open ship is usually the prerogative of only the six star market. Saga Sapphire carries just 700 passengers in total. Jars of free sweets on the upper deck, and steak for breakfast every morning if you wanted it? Oh, yes. And the interior decor is an eclectic, quirky delight that will keep you constantly engaged here.
BEST MAINSTREAM UK BASED SHIP:
COLUMBUS, CRUISE AND MARITIME VOYAGES: Elegant, expansive and pretty, with large cabins and single supplements at just 25 per cent make this ship a winner. But it’s the sheer quality of the ship herself that really shines, with vast, open outdoor decks and huge amount of sunlit interior nooks, she’s a great ship for longer voyages. And, add in the fact that you can sail round trip from the UK without enduring the hassle of flying into the equation, and the attraction becomes obvious.
BEST LARGE CRUISE SHIP:
ADVENTURE OF THE SEAS; ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL: Vast, sassy, brimming with fun things to do for families and groups of all ages, the ship added stellar, spectacular entertainment with stunning over the top features such as the Royal Promenade and Studio B ice rink, and near flawless, extra charge fine dining venues such as Chops Grille. The outdoor cove balcony cabins on Deck Seven are among the best in class. Smaller, more intimate venues such as the Schooner Bar give parts of the ship a quiet, classy sophistication that come as a pleasant surprise for some. A great choice for the Caribbean.
That’s it for 2017, folks. Thanks so much for bearing with me one and all. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and all the very best for 2018. As ever, stay tuned….