Hotel of the Year Awarded! Strong Group of Finalists Nominated in 2011

The grand sense of arrival each time you pass into the lobby of a hotel is thrilling. It’s curiosity you feel when opening your guestroom door for the first time…followed by a moment of either relief or

Disney Dream Ship

renewal…and a rush to the window to open the drapes and check out the view or climb onto the balcony. You are suddenly lord or lady of the manor, surveying your new, if temporary, domain.


I globetrot each year breathlessly checking into and visiting dozens of hotels, typically peeking at every single amenity, activity, nook and cranny. I find that there are hotels in places…and hotels which are places.

At the close of each year, I review my notes and nominate some of the properties I have experienced in order to select a “Michael Patrick Shiels Hotel of the Year Award” winner. What are my criteria for deciding? It’s not terribly scientific. It’s mainly whether I felt a tinge of pain in my tummy at the time of departure. Wondering whether I’d ever have the pleasure of returning? Knowing I just spent a few of what turned out to be some of the best days of my life in an efficient, quality place. Most of all, since time is valuable: was it memorable?

Past yearly awardees have included the Kahler International, in Rochester, MN; Grand Del Mar, near San Diego; Doonbeg Lodge and Golf Club, in County Clare, Ireland; and Captain Lord Mansion, in Kennebunkport, ME.

This year’s nominees included Vail Cascade Resort and Spa, with secluded, slope-side, lift access and fine dining in Vail, CO; Hyatt Lost Pines Resort’s western-style adventure in Austin, TX; Great House Inn in Cardiff, Wales, which has housed Prince Charles in cozy fashion; and the artistry, luxury and culinary craft of the Mediterranean village-style Pelican Hill Resort and Spa, in Newport Beach, CA.

This year’s winner is Disney Cruise Lines’ new Disney Dream.

The grand, fanciful lobby of the hotel of the year: The Disney Dream photo credit Harrison Shiels



The ship’s art deco, three-story atrium is as glamorous as any lobby in you’ll ever sweep into, immediately transporting you to the golden age of both hotels and ocean liners. You will swear you’re seeing in sepia-tone! Fourteen decks of fun (including a thrilling and fun top-deck “AquaDuck” water coaster) depart from Port Canaveral, FL on three, four and five night itineraries to Nassau and Castaway Cay – a pristine private Bahamian island. Massive, old Hollywood-style theaters provide, touching, Broadway quality shows, and Disney pirates dance on deck under an explosion of fireworks at sea.

Supervised teen-only and pre-teen or toddler clubs allow parents time away to enjoy adult-exclusive dining or sophisticated themed nightclubs, cocktail lounges, or romantic moments peering out at sea. Entertainment for all ages is constant, but so is sedate seclusion. Outside-facing staterooms have breezy, scenic balconies. For more information on how to set sail, visit

For a current list of special places to lodge, visit the “Recommended Hotels” section of



Michael Patrick Shiels may be contacted at or via



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