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Travel + Leisure announces best cities, resorts

Just in time for summer vacations and halfway points for paid time off, Travel + Leisure magazine has released its World's Best Awards, multiple lists identifying the best islands in the world, the best cities in the world, the best domestic airports and the best hotels in the U.S., among other desirable destinations and attractions. 

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 Here are a few places to add to your bucket list, according to Travel + Leisure:

Top 10 cities around the world

10. Cape Town, South Africa

9. Savannah, Georgia

8. Barcelona, Spain

7. New Orleans, Louisiana

6. Kyoto, Japan

5. Luang Prabang, Laos

4. Florence, Italy

3. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

2. Chiang Mai, Thailand

1. Charleston, South Carolina

"Charleston is a remarkably dynamic place, so it's no surprise that it has achieved its highest ranking ever in our survey as this year's best city in the world," said Nathan Lump, the magazine's editor. "The city has managed to preserve all the qualities for which it is widely known -- a prime coastal setting, historic architecture, friendly locals -- while also nurturing a creative culture that is making it one of the most notable destinations for those who seek out interesting restaurants, bars and shops."

 

Top 10 islands around the world 

10. Bali, Indonesia

9. Kauai, Hawaii

8. Hilton Head, South Carolina

7. Maui, Hawaii

6. Sebu, Phillippenes

5. Santorini, Greece

4. Waiheke Island, New Zealand

3. Ischia, Italy

2. Boracay, Philippines

1. Palawan, Philippines

Top 10 domestic airports

10. Portland International Jetport (PWM), Maine

9. Nashville International Airport (BNA), Tennessee

8. Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), Pennsylvania

7. John Wayne Airport (SNA), Santa Ana, California

6. Dallas Love Field (DAL), Texas

5. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), Minnesota

4. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), Texas

3. Tampa International Airport (TPA), Florida

2. Indianapolis International Airport (IND), Indiana

1. Portland International Airport (PDX), Oregon

"In addition to its navigability, PDX boasts an admirable on-time departure record," Travel + Leisure writer Melanie Lieberman wrote. 

PDX garnered the magazine's No. 1 spot for the fourth year in a row.

Top 10 large-ship ocean cruise lines

10. Royal Caribbean International

9. Celebrity Cruises      

8. Holland America Line

7. Princess Cruises       

6. Oceania Cruises

5. Azamara Club Cruises

4. Cunard

3. Regent Seven Seas Cruises

2. Crystal Cruises

1. Viking Cruises

"What truly makes a statement on the line’s twin 930-passenger ships, Viking Star and Viking Sea, is the Scandinavian aesthetic, which translates to airy cabins (all of which have full-size balconies) and public spaces," Travel + Leisure's Jacqueline Gifford wrote. "Wi-Fi is free to all guests, no matter their cabin class, and there is no surcharge to dine outside the main restaurant in places like The Chef’s Table, which serves a five-course tasting menu."

The magazine named Gray & Co. the worlds best tour operator, National Car Rental as the world's best car rental company and The Lodge at Glendorn in Bradford, Pennsylvania, as the world's best resort hotel in the continental U.S.

The World's Best Awards also feature categories for destinations in Europe, Canada, Mexico and other international locations. 

Read more here.

Can civil rights leaders solve Airbnb's discrimination problem?

Airbnb seems to be taking accusations of discrimination seriously. To prove that point, the company is meeting Thursday with civil rights leaders to see how it can battle reports of prejudice against minority groups, including black and transgender people. 

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An Airbnb spokesman told USA Today it's hoping for a productive conversation, adding, "We don't have all the answers and we want to listen to everyone who shares our commitment to fighting bias and discrimination."

The company has been criticized after reports by Harvard University revealed racial discrimination. Studies have found that guests with stereotypical black-sounding names are less likely to be chosen than a white person, even with everything else being exactly the same. 

And the accusations have turned into legal action. At least one civil rights lawsuit has been filed against Airbnb for allegedly ignoring a man's discrimination claim, which led to the infamous #airbnbwhileblack, where thousands added their voices to the cries of discrimination. 

This kind of mistreatment is actually already covered under federal law. The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in places of public accommodation, including hotels and motels, which presumably would include companies like Airbnb. 

Airbnb has said it's working to fight any biases, but that may prove difficult. Policies banishing hosts for overt discrimination is an easy action, but proving mistreatment that's more veiled is tougher to pinpoint -- especially since Airbnb hosts don't technically work for Airbnb. 

But the company doesn't seem dismayed. An investigation into its policies is underway with a full report expected to come out in September. 

This video includes images from Getty Images and clips from Airbnb and C-SPAN

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Airbnb contest allows you to sleep with sharks

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Airbnb is offering the public a special underwater experience at the Aquarium de Paris, where guests can sleep surrounded by 35 sharks.

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In what will be the company's first-ever underwater bedroom, guests can sleep 32 feet below the surface in a room defined by a cylindrical glass wall designed to give a 360-degree view of aquatic life.

Contestants can win a one-night stay in the underwater oasis by entering Airbnb’s limited-time contest. A round trip to Paris (economy class tickets), a private visit and tour of the Aquarium de Paris, a private dinner for two in the aquarium and breakfast the morning after the stay are also included in the winnings. Each winner is allowed one guest.

>>This treehouse is Airbnb's most desired rental property in the world

Interested travelers must write about a unique reason they should be afforded the opportunity to sleep with the fierce animals in 50-550 words in order to win the underwater stay for two one night between April 11 and April 13. Entries will be evaluated for "originality," "creativity" and "spirit of the submission."

The special offering was designed to teach people more about sharks, which Airbnb and Aquarium de Paris believe are the most misunderstood animals in the world.  

"Avoid seeing Jaws before your sleepover," Airbnb jokes in a section of the contest rules.

Three contest winners will be selected on April 9 and announced on social media. 

At least one media outlet has speculated that the whole thing is an elaborate April Fool's Day prank

Click here to see photos of the listing on Airbnb.

Some people swim with the sharks, now you can sleep with the sharks.Sweet dreams!Posted by Airbnb on Tuesday, March 29, 2016 

Plans develop for the first US-based hotels in Cuba in nearly 60 years

Video includes clips from Bloomberg, the White House and Al Jazeera and images from Hotel Inglaterra, Hotel Quinta Avenida, Hotel Santa Isabel and Getty Images.

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Starwood Hotels and Resorts has signed hotel deals in Cuba — the first American-based company to do so in nearly 60 years. 

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Three historic hotels are part of the expansion: Hotel Inglaterra, Hotel Quinta Avenida and Hotel Santa Isabel, which will all be undergoing renovations and rebranding later this year. 

Currently, hotels in Cuba are state-run, but with the new merger, Starwood is planning to rebrand the hotels and staff them with locals. 

The deals come just as Cuba is expecting an influx of tourists from the U.S. Last year, the country received over 3.5 million tourists from around the world.  

Since the diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the U.S., Cuban officials and tourist agencies have been worried about having enough space to house tourists.

Americans still can't get tourist visas, but with more round trip flights, other companies are looking to invest in the island's industries. 

American and Cuban officials signed an agreement on Feb. 16 to resume commercial flights between the two countries.

Airbnb offers murder house from 'American Horror Story' to renters

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Looking to amp up the excitement on your next vacation? 

Ditch the hotel and consider staying in a house with an interesting history -- muder-related history.

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While no real crimes were committed in a California "murder house" available to renters on Airbnb, travelers might recognize some rooms from scenes in various television shows. The austere mansion has appeared in "American Horror Story," "The X-Files," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "The Twilight Zone."

The estate, which was built in Los Angeles in 1908, has been declared a historical and a cultural landmark. Renters can expect to pay around $1,450 per night to stay in the home, which can accommodate more than 16 people and features nine bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms.

According to Wetpaint, Angela Oakenfold, ex-wife of electronica star Paul Oakenfold, purchased the property last March for $3.2 million. The Airbnb host listed on the description is named Angela, but there is no last name listed for the host. 

"One of the most important estates ever built in Los Angeles, the Alfred Rosenheim Mansion was declared a historical monument and cultural landmark,” the description reads. “Built in 1908, this stunning architectural masterpiece boasts original features throughout.”

Update: The Airbnb listing was removed from the site, but you can still see photos of the mansion here.

Former concentration camp to be converted to vacation resort

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There is a tiny, uninhabited island off the coast of Montenegro in the Adriatic Sea that was once the site of a World War II concentration camp. The camp was occupied by Italian troops under fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. 

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Historians claim that 2,300 people were imprisoned here and at least 130 were killed or starved to death. 

Now, Swiss-Egyptian developer Orascom wants to convert that abandoned island into a luxury vacation resort.

The Montenegrin government approved a project to transform the islet of Mamula into a resort, complete with swimming pools, a yacht marina, a spa, restaurants and a dance floor. It granted Orascom a 49-year lease for $1.64 per square meter. Mamula's diameter is about 200 meters.

"We were facing two options: to leave the site to fall into ruin or find investors who would be willing to restore it and make it accessible to visitors," Olivera Brajovic, head of Montenegro's national directorate for tourism development, told AFP.

Montenegrin tourism officials have said the resort would attract tourism and help boost the country's economy.

But many family members of the wartime camp's prisoners are outraged.

"To build a luxury hotel dedicated to entertainment at this place where so many people perished and suffered is a blatant example of lack of seriousness towards history," Olivera Doklestic told AFP

Doklestic's grandfather, father and uncle were all imprisoned at Mamula.

Orascom said it'll invest $16.3 million in the project.

Read more about the proposed development here

See images and video of the proposed development here

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