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Condé Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards: The world's best hotels, airlines, cruises, islands and cities

Nov. 7, 2012 at 3:15 PM ET

A record 46,476 readers voted in the 2012 Condé Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards, an annual ranking of the world's best hotels, resorts, airlines, cruises, islands and cities. See which places earned top honors:

Top city in the U.S. and the world: Charleston, S.C.
Charleston placed top in the U.S. for the first time last year, then nabbed top honors in the world in 2012. People are sucked in by the easy pace, the relatively low cost of living, the climate and the coast, which supplies not only some of the best beaches in the Southeast, but also one-of-a-kind seafood.

Top island in the U.S. and the world: Maui
For the 19th straight year, readers named Maui the top island in the U.S.; this year, it also claimed the highest score in the world. No wonder: The destination has exquisite beaches, great restaurants and plenty of outdoor activities, plus hotels at all price points, most of them within walking distance to a beach.

Top hotel in the U.S.: Waldorf Astoria Chicago
This is the second time the Waldorf Astoria Chicago (formerly the Elysian) earned the No. 1 spot in the U.S. The hotel is fashion-forward—the lobby chandelier is inspired by a Chanel brooch—plus it has a private Lexus fleet, which shuttles guests around the city for free.

Top resort in the world: Qualia, Hamilton Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Celebrity-favorite Qualia—Oprah Winfrey and Naomi Watts have both bunked down here—scored a perfect 100, one of only four properties ever to do so. Plan to take a seaplane or helicopter trip to neighboring Whitsunday Island's Whitehaven Beach for a secluded picnic lunch.

Top airline in the U.S.: Virgin America
The trendy airline scored a full 10.8 points higher than the second-place domestic carrier, JetBlue.

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