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From grand openings to spectacular makeovers, this was a year for luxury, refinement and, in some cases, a playful spirit

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Aulani: A Disney Resort, Hawaii: It’s the perfect combination of Disney quality and celebration of Polynesian culture, but without too much interruption from Mickey and Minnie. Families can feed stingrays or snorkel with tropical fish, and adult-only areas offer a break. Rooms from $399. - Steve MacNaull

Paul Hiffmeyer/Paul Hiffmeyer

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Corinthia, London: This 21st-century version of classic luxury is for those who like their hotels to live as largely as they do. The lobby chandelier is made from 1,001 Baccarat crystal baubles, a serious art collection adorns hotel walls and the first Harrod's hotel shop is here. From $705. - Mercedeh Sanati

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Edition Istanbul: Silk carpets, floor marble bathrooms with soaker tubs - the Istanbul Edition is a balm against Istanbul's chaotic streets. But the in-house disco is not be missed: If you're a Russian plutocrat with a taste for augmented models, Club Billionaire is a dream come true. Rooms from $420. - Chris Johns

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Mondrian SoHo, New York: Set back from Crosby Street, the hotel appears first as a French garden. But inside the Mondrian is polished, elegant and simply gorgeous - feathered lamps and plush settees create a feeling of fantasy. And you can't beat the location: SoHo, but far enough away from Broadway traffic. From $299. - Bonny Reichert

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Musha Cay, Bahamas: Spread along 11 islands and 40 sugar-sand beaches, this private island is the ultimate lifestyle cocktail. Serenity and seclusion are paramount here: Only 24 guests can stay on this private playground in the Exumas, owned by illusionist David Copperfield. $265,000 a week. - Si Si Penaloza

MUSHA CAY/AFP

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St. Pancras, London: The neglected Midland Hotel, which loomed in Gothic splendour over a rail terminal, reopened this year. The original wood-panelled booking office is now a stylish bar, while original carpets have been copied and deliberately faded. London’s greatest Victorian building has been reborn. From $362. - Colin Amery

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Ritz Carlton Hong Kong: This luxury hotel stretches from the 102nd to the 118th floors of the International Commerce Centre in Kowloon. Billed as the tallest hotel in the world, there's no room, bar or restaurant without a spectacular view of Victoria Harbour, the New Territories or the main Hong Kong island. All 312 rooms are sumptuously decorated. From $560. - Kamal al-Solaylee

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Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Vancouver: The venerable Hotel Georgia, a storied downtown property, reopened this year after a spectacular $120-million facelift. Colourful works by Canadian artists balance an abundance of retro architectural details such as elaborately carved columns, crystal chandeliers, gilt mouldings and a curved grand staircase. From $375. - Julie Ovenell-Carter

Laura Leyshon/laura leyshon The Globe and Mail

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TAJ Falaknuma Palace, India: Built in the 1890s, the palace has been refurbished to an intoxicating blend of Italian and Tudor architecture. It is the only seven-star hotel in India. The most mind-blowing feature? A 101-seat dining hall, considered the largest in the world. Rooms from $385. - Si Si Penaloza

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Le Royal Monceau, Paris: The historic hotel reopened after a massive, two-year renovation. Philippe Starck designed an interior that is equal parts palace and playground, a cerebral and contemplative nod back in time, infused with a feisty, sexy spirit. Sounds utterly French, non? Rooms from $1,064. - Amy Verner

Philippe Garcia

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