Readers’ Favorite Resorts in the Continental U.S.

Whether you’re craving California’s sunset-soaked Pacific or a snow-dusted mountain retreat, the continental U.S. has no shortage of elite resorts.

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10 Most Insane Shopping Malls Around the World

A shopping mall may not conjure the allure of a historic marketplace (like Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar) or the splendor of an iconic shopping street (Champs-Élysées) — but they have their own appeal, and they’re not all a dime a dozen.

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10 Secret ways to get a discount on your cruise

Researching your cruise online, booking early and working with an experienced travel agent who specializes in cruises may be the best way to find a great deal on your next cruise vacation. But be aware there may be ways to save additional money based on your personal details such as your age or where you live.

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Orlando Becomes First Destination To Surpass 60 Million Visitors, Sets New Record For U.S. Tourism Industry

Visit Orlando, the destination’s official tourism association, today announced that more than 62 million people visited Orlando in 2014. The announcement marks a new all-time record for the U.S. travel industry, solidifying Orlando’s position as the most visited destination in the nation. Visitation grew five percent from 2013 as visitors from around the world came to experience all that is new across the ever-expanding destination.

“This historic milestone is the latest testament to Orlando’s leadership in tourism,” said Visit Orlando President and CEO George Aguel. “It’s a tribute to the steadfast commitment and continued investment by our tourism community, the special brand of service that greets our visitors and the global marketing and sales efforts of our Visit Orlando team and member companies.”

A record 32 million room nights were sold in Orlando in 2014, resulting in bed tax collections topping $200 million for the first time in Orange County, Fla., home to the Central Florida tourism district.

“The impact of tourism on our community is remarkable, and in fact, the travel and tourism industry is the largest generator of jobs and economic impact for our region,” said Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. “In addition to delighting visitors and families from around the world, our travel and hospitality industry helps to support a great quality of life for Orlando’s residents, including our amazing new performing arts center and outstanding sports venues.”

To meet the needs of a growing number of visitors, Orange County has made investments in infrastructure, including investing in an important expansion and renovation of the nationally recognized Orange County Convention Center.

“Passing the 60 million annual visitors mark is a significant achievement for Orlando and the U.S. travel industry that generates $2.1 trillion for the U.S. economy each year,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Thanks to the close partnership among members of Orlando’s tourism community and strong leadership by public officials and Visit Orlando, this popular destination known around the world is well positioned to continue setting records in tourism.”

In 2014, Walt Disney World Resort completed New Fantasyland, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley at Universal Orlando Resort opened. Visitors to Orlando in 2015 will experience the first full year of these exciting expansions that opened in 2014 and be the first to see several new attractions, including I-Drive 360, featuring a trio of new attractions from Merlin Entertainments, as well as a multi-year transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs.

In recent years, the Orlando experience has also become more diverse, attracting an increasingly wide range of visitors. Foodies find a surprisingly sophisticated culinary destination, recognized with more “Best of the South” chef nominations by the prestigious James Beard Foundation than any city in Florida for three straight years. Luxury travelers are drawn to the five-star service at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando that opened six months ago, as well as the Ritz-Carlton Orlando and Waldorf Astoria Orlando.

Visitors are also discovering exciting new venues in which to enjoy the arts and professional sports, like the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts and the Major League Soccer stadium coming to Downtown Orlando in 2016.

Five reasons a cruise is educational for kids

A cruise can be an educational experience for children, both in terms of exploring new destinations and learning stuff on the ship.

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Top 25 Beaches — United States

Take a look at Trip Advisor’s Top 25 Beaches in the US.

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Cruise Critic Names the Best Ships for 2015 in the 5th Annual Cruisers’ Choice Awards

Cruise Critic®, the world’s leading cruise reviews site and online cruise community, has announced the winners of the 2015 Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards. The awards name the best cruise ships of the year, based entirely on consumer reviews posted to the Cruise Critic website.

For the third year in a row, Disney Cruise Line won the coveted “Best Overall” award, with Disney Dream winning in the large ship category and Disney Wonder in the mid-size category. In total, Disney’s fleet won twelve awards, including “Best Entertainment” and “Best Cruises to the Bahamas” for Disney Dream, and “Best Cabins,” “Best Service” and “Best for Families” for Disney Fantasy.

A back-to-back win was also nabbed by Oceania Riviera, named “Best Cabins” and “Best Dining” in the mid-size category for the second year in a row – a nod to the ship’s luxurious cabin furnishings, wide variety of restaurants and onboard Culinary Center. Carnival Liberty was named “Best Value-for-Money” in the large ship category for the second consecutive year.

Unique, best-seen-by-cruise itineraries ruled the “Best Shore Excursions” category – Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America, which sails year-round in Hawaii, won the award in the large ship category and Princess’ Coral Princess won in the mid-size category, sailing partial and full transit Panama Canal cruises. Silversea’s Silver Galapagos won in the small ship category, offering expedition cruises of the Galapagos.

“Being named to this list of winners is one of the highest forms of praise cruise lines can receive,” explains Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. “The awards represent the compilation of thousands of reviews Cruise Critic received over the past year, so it’s truly representative of the experiences of those who have sailed on the ships first-hand.”

The Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards are awarded in three ship classes, based on passenger capacity (Large: 2,000+ passengers; Mid-Size: 1,200 to 1,999 passengers; Small: 1,199 or fewer passengers) and are calculated using the ratings submitted with each Cruise Critic member review.

First-place winners include:

Best Cruises Overall
Disney Dream (Large)
Disney Wonder (Mid-Size)
Pacific Princess (Small)

Best Cruise Ship Cabins
Disney Fantasy (Large)
Oceania Riviera (Mid-Size)
Regent Seven Seas Voyager (Small)

Best Cruise Ships for Dining
Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam (Large)
Oceania Riviera (Mid-Size)
Azamara Quest (Small)

Best Cruise Ships for Embarkation
Disney Fantasy (Large)
Disney Magic (Mid-Size)
Crystal Symphony (Small)

Best Cruise Ships for Entertainment
Disney Dream (Large)
Disney Magic (Mid-Size)
Pacific Princess (Small)

Best Cruise Ships for Fitness
Celebrity Equinox (Large)
Oceania Riviera (Mid-Size)
Azamara Quest (Small)

Best Cruise Ship Public Rooms
Disney Dream (Large)
Oceania Riviera (Mid-Size)
Crystal Serenity (Small)

Best Cruise Ships for Service
Disney Fantasy (Large)
Disney Wonder (Mid-Size)
Regent Seven Seas Voyager (Small)

Best Cruise Ship Shore Excursions
Norwegian Pride of America (Large)
Coral Princess (Mid-Size)
Silversea Silver Galapagos (Small)

Best Cruise Ships for Value
Carnival Liberty (Large)
Holland America Zuiderdam (Mid-Size)
Pacific Princess (Small)

Best Cruises for Families: Disney Fantasy

Best Alaska Cruises: Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas
Best Bahamas Cruises: Disney Dream
Best Caribbean Cruises: Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam
Best Mediterranean Cruises: Celebrity Reflection
Best Cruises from Florida: Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam
Best Cruises from the Northeast: Carnival Pride
Best Cruises from the West Coast: Sapphire Princess
Best Cruises from the U.K.: Celebrity Eclipse

For the full list of winners, visit the 2015 Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Awards.

Orlando Named No. 1 Hot Spot for 2015

According to Priceline.com, Orlando is the No. 1 “hot spot” for travelers in 2015. After a multi-year surge of blockbuster expansions at Orlando’s world-class theme parks, Orlando’s retail, dining and entertainment scene is following suit in 2015. Visit Orlando, the destination’s official tourism association, uncovered 15 new openings 2015 travelers will be among the first to experience:

INTERNATIONAL DRIVE
In the heart of Orlando’s tourism corridor, International Drive will see significant development in 2015 with the addition of several retail, dining and entertainment venues.

1.    I-Drive 360, a new entertainment complex from Merlin Entertainments, will open a trio of new attractions. At the heart of the complex, The Orlando Eye is a 400-foot-tall (12.92-meter) observation wheel providing breathtaking views of Central Florida in all directions within fully enclosed, air-conditioned glass capsules. Madame Tussauds, the world’s most famous celebrity wax attraction, offers visitors the ultimate fame experience with its signature red carpet treatment. SEA LIFE Orlando delivers a new wave of underwater adventures with beautiful displays of colorful fish, sharks, jellyfish, sea horses and more, that turn the traditional aquarium observation on its head. The Yardhouse, Tin Roof and more retail, restaurants and entertainment yet to be announced, will add to the experience.

2.    Orlando welcomes one of South Beach’s hottest dance clubs with the addition of Mangos Tropical Café. With 55,000 square feet (5,109 square meters) of entertainment space, the Orlando location is a massive restaurant and nightlife destination offering high-energy entertainment for a wide variety of tastes. Guests will enjoy Salsa, Bachatta, Reggae and Pop performances with Floribbean Cuisine and tropical cocktails.

3.    Escapology Orlando brings a new kind of entertainment to Orlando with its first U.S. location. The attraction challenges guests to be their own heroes in a thrilling game of adventure and mystery. Teams of up to six players are locked in a themed room with just 60 minutes to combine clues, solve puzzles and discover the key to escape.

4.    Nearby International Drive, The Florida Mall takes coloring to a new level with the opening of Crayola Experience. The 70,000-square-foot (6,503-square-meter) attraction will offer 25 hands-on activities.

5.    The list of dining and entertainment options unique to Orlando continues to grow with the addition of The Whiskey on Sand Lake Road, welcoming lovers of gourmet burgers, craft cocktails and rock ‘n roll fun. With over 100 brands of whiskey for the thirsty connoisseur, the venue will also host live entertainment, from musical guests to head-to-head “food fights,” where local chefs will pit recipe against recipe.

THEME PARKS

6.    Walt Disney World Resort is transforming Downtown Disney into Disney Springs doubling the number of shops, restaurants and other venues. The new area will open in phases starting in 2015 and include, Morimoto Asia, a one-of-a-kind dining experience created by Chef Masaharu Morimoto, of Iron Chef America fame. For the master chef’s first pan-Asian dining experience, Morimoto Asia’s extraordinary, 36-foot (11-meter) tall, two-story layout includes a vast range of areas to explore including open terraces, a grand hall, private rooms, long bar, cocktail lounge, waterside seating and more.

7.    The BOATHOUSE is an upscale, waterfront dining restaurant at Disney Springs that will immerse guests with experiences beyond the cuisine. Guests can listen to live music or take a romantic Captain’s guided tour aboard The Venezia, a beautifully crafted 40-foot (12-meter) wooden Italian Water Taxi featuring champagne toasts and chocolate-covered strawberries. The BOATHOUSE will be showcased in an expansive restaurant with three distinctive bars, one built over the water. Guests will enjoy a gourmet menu served daily until 2 a.m. featuring steaks, chops, fresh seafood and a raw bar.

8.    STK Orlando blends two concepts into one—the modern steakhouse and a chic lounge. Unique features include a live DJ, high-energy atmosphere and a sleek environment designed to encourage guests to interact and mingle. STK Orlando boasts the only rooftop dining venue in Disney Springs.

9.    LEGOLAND Florida Resort will open a new land called Heartlake City, set to welcome guests this summer. The expansion will include a horse-themed disc coaster called Mia’s Riding Adventure, an interactive show titled ‘Friends to the Rescue’ and new shops inside the Heartlake Mall.

10.  SeaWorld Orlando will debut an all-new show, Clyde & Seamore’s Sea Lion High, a hilarious tale, filled with amazing animal behaviors and splashy audience fun. The comedic sea lion duo will be joined by mischievous otters, a 2,300 lb. (1043 kg) walrus and a cast of goofy human characters.

DOWNTOWN ORLANDO

11.  The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts delivers a stellar lineup of 2015 entertainment for its inaugural season: Broadway productions including Disney’s Newsies, Motown the Musical, Pippin and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast; big-name musicians John Mellancamp, Jason Mraz and Idina Menzel; and comedians Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and Bill Maher will complement an ongoing Jazz Roots series and Orlando Ballet season.

12.  Orlando City Soccer Club is Major League Soccer’s newest expansion team set to debut in 2015 with global soccer icon, Kaká. The Orlando City Soccer Club will kick-off their first MLS season at the newly rebuilt Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium. After a $207 million reconstruction, sports fans will enjoy an all-new lower bowl with more legroom, improved broadband and Wi-Fi coverage and expanded concession with healthy and gluten-free options.

13.  An influx of restaurants will join new downtown Orlando venues in 2015, including: Two Chefs Seafood, featuring comfort food and seafood from former chefs of Emeril’s Orlando and The Palm Restaurant; and North Quarter Tavern, a chef-driven neighborhood tavern by the team behind downtown Orlando’s power-lunch staple, Citrus Restaurant.

AREA HOTELS

14.  Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort will feature 20 Bungalows on Seven Seas Lagoon and 360 Deluxe Studios. The Bungalows will be the first of this type of accommodation at Disney, sleep up to eight guests, and feature a plunge pool with views of fireworks over Magic Kingdom Park. The first phase is scheduled to open in 2015. The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel is getting a $125 million, multi-phased, multi-story upgrade.

15.  The JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes will welcome new restaurant concept based on the resort’s 13,000-square-foot (1,208-square-meter) farm. Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen, will serve up farm-fresh food and signature craft beer.