I had decided to write this week about what's new in the Caribbean, but my fingers refused to move across the keyboard. Then it dawned on me: One of the most wonderful things about this sunny group of islands is their timelessness. What is new isn't as important as what has always been there: warm weather, warm people, turquoise waters teeming with colorful fish, fine food, and cool drinks. Because Caribbean bargains are everywhere, from the ads in this section to big or little travel agencies and even shopping warehouses, let's look at some of the more intriguing offerings and let the prices fall where they may.
St. Kitts is excited that World Cup cricket matches will be played on the island next March, and packages are being planned. But why wait till then? Ottley's Plantation Inn , originally a 17th-century sugar plantation on 35 acres of lawns and gardens at the foot of Mount Liamuiga , has a Ten-Night Romantic Retreat beginning at $3,658 as of Nov. 1 and including 10 nights' accommodations, airport transfers, a bottle of wine, all breakfasts, Sunday brunch, seven dinners, one picnic lunch, a deluxe island tour, and an all-day catamaran trip to Nevis or a guided rain forest hike.
Call 800-772-3039 or visit ottleys.com .
As of Dec. 23, guests of the all-inclusive Tamarijn Aruba resort will have full use of the features and facilities of the adjacent Divi Aruba , effectively doubling their options and maybe their fun. All stays include all meals and snacks at a choice of seven dining outlets, unlimited beverages at seven bars , and the use of three freshwater pools. In addition, one or two youngsters up to age 18 can stay and eat free when sharing a room with one or two paying adults. After Dec. 23, rates begin at $454 nightly, although there sometimes are specials. For honeymooners or divers, add-on features are $160-$466 above the room cost.
See a travel agent, call 800-554-2008 , or visit tamarijnaruba.com . Note that as of Dec. 31, all Aruba-bound US residents will need a passport for reentry into the United States.
The Turks & Caicos Club , a 21-suite hotel next to what has been called the island's best snorkeling reef, has added a three-night Pictures in Paradise package, available now through May 31 starting at $1,575 . Guests get a one-bedroom oceanfront suite on Grace Bay Beach, chilled champagne and fruit upon arrival, a one-hour personalized photo session, daily American breakfast, and a candlelight gourmet dinner. Also included are complimentary water sports, a welcome rum punch and afternoon sorbet, use of the fresh water pool, unlimited Internet access, a DVD and book library, twice-daily maid service, and round-trip airport transfers.
Call 888-4TCCLUB or visit turksandcaicosclub.com .
If you can afford to luxuriate in a private villa, one of the leading sources is Newport, R.I.-based Wimco , with villas on several islands. For you holiday travelers (Dec. 23-Jan. 5), prices at amenity-filled villas in St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands range from $3,800-$6,600 a week -- not cheap, but perhaps ensuring a memorable holiday.
Call 800-449-1553 or visit wimco.com .
One selling point of the Mount Nevis Hotel is its location between high green hills and 3,000-foot-high Nevis Peak. To help show it off, the resort is offering 20 percent off the Mount Nevis Hotel's Peak Experience Dec. 15-April 15 . The five-night adventure package costs $2,499 and includes accommodations in a superior suite, round-trip airport transfers (the hotel reimburses guests for the taxi rides), a welcome rum punch, American breakfast daily, two dinners for two on the terrace of the hotel's restaurant, which overlooks Nevis's sister island of St. Kitts, a guided hike for two to Nevis's summit, a guided mountain bike ride for two, two in-room massages, and complimentary video rental and Internet.
Visit mountnevishotel.com or call 800-756-3847 .
Call 800-728-0719 or visit wildernessinquiry.org .
(The fine print: The package requires a three-night stay and is not available Dec. 31 .)
Call 800-567-7720 or visit applecorehotels.com/promos/park .
When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Contact Richard P. Carpenter at email@example.com.