Bora Bora tops poll
Travellers have voted Bora Bora in French Polynesia No. 1 in the South Pacific in TripAdvisor's inaugural travellers' choice island awards.
Moorea, in French Polynesia, was voted No. 2 and Rarotonga, Cook Islands, No. 3. Australia's only entry was Kangaroo Island in ninth place.
Ambergris Caye in Belize was voted the best island in the world, with St John, US Virgin Islands, No. 2 and, again, Bora Bora, French Polynesia, No. 3.
Belize boasts the second largest coral reef in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
"Ambergris Caye boasts spectacular caves, winding waterfalls, tropical rainforest and hundreds of limestone caves," TripAdvisor spokeswoman Emma Shaw said in a statement.
She said the TripAdvisor's inaugural list of the world's best islands was based on millions of reviews and ratings by international tourists on the travel website over the past year.
The highest ranking European island to feature on the list was Santorini in Greece, known for its black volcanic soil beaches, whitewashed buildings and dramatic views.
Santorini topped a separate list of the top 10 European islands in which Greek islands took four of the slots, joined by Cephalonia, Naxos, and Zakynthos.
The top ranking island in a list for Britain was Mainland, in the Orkney Islands in Scotland, which also came fifth in the European list.
"It's great to see UK islands recognised by travellers, proving that islands don't have to offer exotic sunshine," said Shaw.
World's top islands:
1. Ambergris Caye - Belize
2. St John, US Virgin Islands - Caribbean
3. Bora Bora - French Polynesia
4. San Juan Island - United States
5. Santorini - Greece
6. Isla Mujeres - Mexico
7. Moorea - French Polynesia
8. Koh Tao - Thailand
9. Easter Island - Chile
10. Nosy Be - Madagascar
A taste of the Big Apple
For the first time in four decades, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, which last year attracted 6.28 million visitors, will open seven days a week, starting in July.
The museum has been closed on Mondays since 1971. The extended hours will apply to the museum's main building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and at The Cloisters museum and gardens, the branch museum for mediaeval art and architecture in Fort Tryon Park.
Both locations will be closed on New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Still in New York, visitors can get a feel for the grittier side of the city, with family-run operator Levys' Unique New York.
Matt Levy leads the Brooklyn graffiti tour and explains the difference between tagging, throw-ups, bombing and wheat pasting on a walk that includes stops at a local distiller to sample small-batch whiskey and an organic beef jerky store.
"Being a native brings a tremendous sense of pride and place to my tours ... and a swagger and an ego," says Levy, who grew up in Brooklyn's Victorian Flatbush. "My brother Gideon leads the city's only Jewish gangsters tour."
Levy says a walk from one side of Brooklyn Bridge to the other is a must for any visitor.
Private tours cost from $US150 a person.
Cruising with Kipling
Rudyard Kipling's poem Mandalay, which was later put to music, is the inspiration for a new musical cruise on Myanmar's Irrawaddy River.
Baritone Stewart Cameron will perform the song, set in the era of British Burma and which tells of a soldier's longing to be back on an old paddle steamer "chunking" along the river.
There will also be performances of popular opera and Viennese operetta and classical with soprano Jennifer Parish and two violinists.
On the Road to Mandalay was written in 1907 by American songwriter Oley Speaks and has been recorded by many singers, including Australian bass baritone Peter Dawson.
Modelled on the Scottish-built steamers in Mandalay, the RV Tonle has airconditioned cabins that open to promenade decks.
The 12-day tour departs Mandalay on February 1 and costs from $6590 a person, twin share, including return flights from Brisbane.
Shop til you drop in LA
Australian Karine Bulger, a one-time resident of Los Angeles, will share her retail expertise when she leads a shopping trip to the outlets and boutiques in the City of Angels.
The trip will coincide with the holiday sales and Bulger says the shopping, which caters to a range of tastes and budgets, starts with online orders before departure that will be waiting for collection on arrival in the US. The trip includes high-end shops, shoe warehouses, the jewellery district and a session with a stylist.
The introductory trip in May, departing from Los Angeles, costs $US3500 a person.
Tradition and culture
Art and ceremony, hunting and fishing, and a glimpse into Yolngu life will be part of new five-day journeys into East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.
The tours will be operated by Lirrwi Tourism and groups of up to 12 will travel with indigenous guides to three coastal communities, Baniyala on Blue Mud Bay and the smaller and more remote Bukudal and Nyinyikay.
The trips, departing from Nhulunbuy, will start later this year and cost from $2000 a person.
More flights to Vancouver
In airline news, China Southern Airlines starts daily flights to Vancouver from June 17, via its main hub in Guangzhou.
The airline flies twice a day between Sydney and Guangzhou, 10 times a week from Melbourne, three times a week from Perth and, from June 24, increases Brisbane flights from four to five a week.
European budget airline EasyJet will close all its airport check-in desks, to encourage more passengers to check in online, reports The Telegraph, London.
The desks will be replaced by bag-drop desks, for those flyers wishing to travel with checked luggage, from April 30.
Scandinavian Airlines has scrapped first, business and economy classes in favour of a two-tier service onboard its flights in the region and the rest of Europe starting in June.
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