Best new route(s)
Air NZ and Qantas
A tie. Air New Zealand last month began its longest non-stop service to the great city of Chicago using its latest Dreamliners. It's 14 to 15 hours on the way up and longer coming back, so be prepared. It opens up the Midwest and the northeast of the US for Kiwis and taps into a huge pool of Americans who have this country on their wish list. In March, Qantas launched a regular non-stop link between the Antipodes and Britain with its Perth-London service. The flights since have been close to full and described by one analyst as the Holy Grail. There will be more ultralong-haul flights as aircraft technology improves and more passengers want to avoid stopovers.
— Grant Bradley
Singapore's flagship airport is pretty much my happy place. Clean, efficient, and friendly, this place is how the world should be. Dotted around the terminals are Staff Canteens, where you can get cheap fabulous Singaporean cuisine. The Singapore Airlines lounges are superb, and Kiwis flying in on Singapore Airlines, SilkAir or Air New Zealand can access the Changi Transit Programme, getting you $21 to spend
in duty free.
— Winston Aldworth
Best Public Transport
Somehow, Russia knows how to make using public transport fun. Perhaps it's the clean, breathtakingly ornate metro stations you pass through in Moscow, such as Komsomolskaya with its soaring yellow ceilings and enormous chandeliers. Or it could be the high-speed trains that arrive at scrupulously punctual intervals and make leaving the car at home preferable. It could even be the incredible feats of engineering that see Moscow boast some of the deepest metro stations in the world (Park Pobedy is 84m below ground).
Whatever the reason, the Russians have the commute across a city that is home to 20 million people down to a fine art. Take note, Auckland Transport.
— Courtney Whitaker
Best new plane
This Airbus beauty entered commercial service with Singapore Airlines in October and with some aerodynamic tweaks and a new fuel system it can fly further than other models of the plane. The new Ultra Long Range aircraft can fly up to 18,000km with a premium-only configuration (that means no Economy Class) and allowed the airline to reclaim the crown for the longest flight in the world — Singapore to New York. Although there's a limited market, the plane should work well for airlines that need to go those many extra miles.
— Grant Bradley
Best Southeast Asian boat trip
Coconut Boats, Hoi An, Vietnam
It was a steamy, stormy day in the riverside town of Hoi An, when my son and I booked ourselves a Coconut Boat tour. Motoring along the murky river, past modern hotels and traditional thatched huts, eventually we saw turbulent grey surf on the horizon. Before being sucked out to sea, we hung a left where our coconut skippers were waiting for us. As we transferred from our riverboat to woven wicker baskets like noodle bowls, and were grateful for our lifejackets, a posse of local fishermen gave us a master class in throwing fishing nets. Paddling into a mercifully calm tributary between tall reeds, we drifted through a village that looked as if it hadn't changed in a hundred years and to finish, we tied up outside a restaurant for the scheduled snack which turned out to be a feast.
— Elisabeth Easther
Best drive as a passenger
Skippers Canyon, Queenstown
Skippers Canyon is not for the fainthearted: in fact, your rental company will not cover you if you crash. This road winds through the rugged canyons and river valleys carved out by the wild and raging Shotover River and is best navigated by the experienced drivers of 4WD Queenstown. It's a spectacular drive through elemental scenery of standing rocks and steep drops, centimetres from your window. Blue sky arches overhead and the blue river tumbles through gorges below. Between is the dry tussock and dust of the southern landscape. And the picturesque bridges spanning those rivers are a marvel to themselves. It's a trip into the early days of New Zealand the gold miners were too busy digging into the land beneath their feet to appreciate the grandeur around them.
— Helen Van Berkel
Best way to see a city you've already seen
Movie Bus, New York
You will recognise New York from the movies and TV shows you've seen earlier: Home Alone, King Kong, Gossip Girl, Die Hard, Ghostbusters. I strongly recommend a movie bus tour that takes you to all the iconic spots you've seen in your own living room. You'll hear the sounds — everyone does pointlessly honk their horn in traffic — and see the scenes that are so quintessentially New York — steam really does rise out of the subway grate. The guides give you the inside gen on movie sets aorund the world (the iconic scene in Sleepless in Seattle? Filmed in Los Angeles. King Kong? Major scenes filmed in Wellington).
— Helen Van Berkel
Coolest old thing in Dubai
Dhows on the Creek
At just 47 years old, it's tempting to imagine that the oldest thing in the emirate arrives on the EK499 to Dubai from Auckland. The Al Fahidi Fort might seem aged but it's only been around since 1800. At 10 years old, the soaring Burj Khalifa is just a whipper-snapper. Dubai's real history can be found on the water. The wooden traders' wooden boats, or dhows, have changed little in 500 years.
One of the oldest, the Al Mansour Dhow, has been converted into a floating restaurant to host dinner cruises — a magnificent way to see the Dubai skyline at sunset. To ride on an Abra river ferry is to travel back in time. In a kingdom of glass and construction cranes, the river might be the place most grounded in history.
— Thomas Bywater
Fastest Turkish car ride
Istanbul's roads are not the best, safest or easiest way to navigate the city by any stretch of the imagination — always go with the tram, people. But we had a dinner reservation at a lovely restaurant on the Bosphorus, and I was wearing heels, so Uber was the only option. We managed to communicate with our driver, Murat, using an interesting mix of Google Translate, our limited Turkish and lively hand gestures. Luckily, Murat was an absolute pro at navigating the perilously small — at times steep — alleys of Sultanahmet to get us across the bridge to Taksim just in time for our reservation. This was achieved only by impressive last-minute u-turns, burnouts, the odd scoot down a footpath and much tooting. A 20-minute ride on paper, one hour in practice. An hour is a very fast commute to Taksim in rush hour, our hotel concierge later tells us. Five stars for Murat.
— Courtney Whitaker
Best way to actually see Queenstown on a cruise
I'm going to burn in hell for saying this, but Queenstown is an ugly burg. Someone spotted the magical shores of Lake Wakatipu and decided to build the worst monstrosities greed and tastelessness could ever conceive. So the best place to admire one of the country's great beauty spots is to board the Spirit of Queenstown and take a scenic cruise around the lake. Out on the blue waters of the lake you will see what the fuss is about: The Remarkables are spectacular, the lake is glorious, the stories of the stations and families that made their lives here fascinating.
— Helen Van Berkel
Best rockin' Kombi van
Parked in the sweeping driveway at the beachfront Bali resort Alila Seminyak is a yellow and white VW kombi van that looks like a nicely done-up vehicle. But, like something out of MTV's Pimp My Ride, the stylish exterior masks an outrageous interior kitted out for some wild karaoke sessions. A curved bench seat in the back accommodates up to five people facing a TV mounted in the back of the front seats that plays videos and karaoke tracks through booming speakers.
But the best feature is a chilly bin tucked away beneath the two front seats that slides out on tracks so your drinks stay cold while the van heats up with all the hits. The tinting on the windows isn't 100 per cent, so expect some funny looks while you're cruising around Bali belting out Cher songs.
— Sophie Ryan