The latest beds for the night
Opening in spring, the Marley Resort and Spa offers a treat for reggae fans. The former governor's mansion on Nassau, in the Bahamas, where Bob Marley spent many summers with his family, has been transformed into a luxury hotel with 16 suites named after some of his most famous tunes. Although the musician was known for having simple tastes, each room at the new hotel will be furnished with top mod cons, including Bose music systems and flat-screen televisions. The hotel's honeymoon suite is appropriately named "One Love", and has a Jacuzzi for two. Another new resort with musical connections is Compass Point, also in Nassau. Just refurbished by Island Outpost, the hotel group run by record producer Chris Blackwell, its colourful beach shacks are sure to attract a rock-star and celebrity clientele. Other openings include the luxurious Discovery at Marigot Bay, a 124-room stylish, boutique resort in St Lucia.
The details: Marley Resort and Spa (091 242 327 1662; marleyresort.com), rates available upon application. Compass Point (islandoutpost.com), rooms from $270 (about R1 900) per room per night. Discovery at Marigot Bay (091 758 458 5300; discoverystlucia.com), rooms from $260 (R1 820) per night.
The top carnival action
Carnival is the Caribbean's biggest celebration and nowhere is it more noisy, colourful and exuberant than Trinidad. The party begins on the Friday before Ash Wednesday and climaxes on Carnival Monday, or J'ouvert. Revellers caked in mud and body paint take to the streets of Port of Spain at 2am to soca and calypso rhythms. At 10am they are joined by flamboyantly dressed masqueraders, brass bands, steel pan players and tens of thousands of dancers. Celebrations on Guadeloupe on Ash Wednesday are particularly interesting - the streets fill with black-and-white costumed devils who burn an effigy of "Vaval", the symbol of carnival. And Crop-Over is the big celebration in Barbados, taking place in the summer to mark the end of the sugar cane season.
The details: The main carnival season is 16-20 February. Trinidad and Tobago (visittnt.com). Barbados (barbados.org/ cropover.htm). Guadeloupe (antilles-info-tourisme.com).
The season's spa openings
Chill out in the tropical heat. Spectacular new spas due to open in the Caribbean in 2007 include The Fern Tree Spa, a $4m addition to the Half Moon resort in Jamaica, with a relaxation centre comprising treatment rooms, a meditation labyrinth and a hydrotherapy pool. A "spa elder", said to be knowledgable about traditional Jamaican healing, will be on hand to talk clients through a tailor-made well-being programme. Also in Jamaica, the stylish boutique Rockhouse Hotel in Negril is completing its own on-site spa. Treatments will draw on Jamaica's natural resources, with a menu including ginger and lemongrass or coffee body scrubs and an aloe and cucumber soak. And Curtain Bluff, one of Antigua's most established and elegant hotels, is due to open its new spa set over the water, featuring five treatment rooms, in February.
The details: Fern Tree Spa at Half Moon (halfmoon.com). Rockhouse Hotel (091 876 957 4373; rockhousehotel.com). Curtain Bluff (091 268 462 8400; curtainbluff.com).
The hottest jazz festivals
St Lucia's international jazz festival is in its 15th year, now the Caribbean's biggest event after the Trinidad carnival. Tens of thousands of music fans come to the festival to see jazz greats and this year is no exception, with Kenny Garrett and Al Green due to appear. This year's Barbados Jazz Festival is hosting Will Downing, Macy Gray and Anita Baker, and The Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival marks its 10th anniversary with Shaggy and Kenny Rogers. There are also festivals on Bonaire and Tobago (see pages 4-5).
The details: St Lucia Jazz Festival, 4-13 May (stluciajazz .org). Barbados Jazz Festival, 8-14 January (091 246 437 4537; barbadosjazzfestival.com). Air Jamaica Jazz Festival (091 876 754 1526; airjamaicajazzandblues.com). Bonaire Jazz Festival (09 599 717 4496; bonairejazz.com).
The new ways to get around
It should prove easier to get to and around the Caribbean this year with several new airline routes and cruise itineraries. British Airways has announced that it will begin flights into Port of Spain, Trinidad, from next summer. And Virgin Atlantic launched direct flights from Manchester to St Lucia just last month. New inter-island flights will provide welcome links. The islands of Antigua and Montserrat will receive a new connection courtesy of Air Montserrat, and Caribbean Star will link Trinidad to Curaçao. For those with deep pockets, Carib Aviation is offering private charters between Antigua and Dominica and Antigua and Nevis. And a private jet operation, Rainbow International Airlines, is developing a route connecting Antigua and Anguilla. Carnival Cruise Lines will begin its latest itinerary in April, titled "Exotic Eastern Caribbean". The seven-day tour is due to stop off at Half Moon Cay, a Bahamian private island, Puerto Rico, St Thomas and The Turks and Caicos, and costs from £800 per person. EasyCruise also has a new itinerary for those on a tighter budget, which will take in the islands of St Martin, St Barts, Anguilla, St Kitts and Nevis and Antigua. Prices will start from £9 per night.
The details: British Airways (ba.com), Virgin Atlantic (virgin-atlantic.com). Caribbean Star (091 800 723 1111; flycaribbeanstar. com). Air Montserrat (091 664 491 6728; airmontserrat.com). Carib Aviation (091 268 462 3147; candoo.com/ carib). Rainbow International Airlines (091 340 626 1112 ; rainbowinternationalairlines.com). Carnival Cruises (carnivalcruise. co.uk). EasyCruise (easycruise.com).
The cultural highlight
In 1995 a volcanic eruption devastated a large part of the island of Montserrat. Now record producer Sir George Martin, who ran Air Studios on Montserrat and still has a home there, is the driving force behind the new Montserrat Cultural Centre in Little Bay. The venue aims to provide a cultural heart for the island, as well as a venue to host entertainers from across the Caribbean and further afield. It is due to open in March and will have a large auditorium for use in concerts, plays and films. There will also be rehearsal spaces, a media production room, foyer exhibition space and a restaurant and bar.
The details: Montserrat Tourist Board (visitmontserrat.com). George Martin Music (georgemartinmusic.com).
The historic event
Next year marks the 200th anniversary of the end of the transatlantic slave trade, a moment that will be marked on Jamaica with events overseen by a national bicentennial committee especially set up to coordinate events. One of the dates featured on the special calendar will be Fi Wi Sinting, a roots festival named after a Patois expression meaning "something for us". The celebration of all things African, now in its 17th year, is organised by the redoubtable Sista P and takes place every February in Portland. Visitors attending can expect to be entertained by displays of Kumina drumming from the Congo, Nyabinghi chanting, traditional Mento music, and performances by costumed Jonkono players. There will be traditional crafts and food on sale too.
The details: The Fi Wi Sinting festival takes place on 18 February (091 876 715 3529; fiwisinting.com). For further information about other special events on the island connected to the anniversary of the end of the transatlantic slave trade, contact the Jamaica Tourist Board (visitjamaica.com).
The literary festival
Proving the region's cultural credentials, the Calabash Literary Festival puts the spotlight on local writing. Held in the unexpected surroundings of a small fishing village in southern Jamaica, Treasure Beach, it was established in 2001 by the writer Colin Channer. Today it features more than 30 authors with an emphasis on Jamaican and Caribbean work. Readings, music, discussions and workshops are part of a packed schedule which spans the month of May. The festival takes place at Jakes, one of the chicest boutique hotels on the island.
The details: Calabash Literary Festival 1-31 May 2007 (calabashliterary festival.org). Gimistory Festival dates tba (091 345 949 5477; marketcncf @candddw.ky).
The best giant reptiles: How to adopt a dragon
Grand Cayman is the scene of a struggle for survival by the rare blue iguana. Visitors can help the 5ft-long reptile by supporting the Blue Iguana Recovery
Programme. The Reef Club, a prestigious hotel, has set up an "Adopt a Dragon" package, monies from which will go to the programme, which includes tours of the Botanic Park where the iguanas breed in captivity. Prices for a family of four start at $429 (about R3 000) per night, including accommodation and the tour (091 345 947 3100; the reef.com).
The best fan bases: Watch cricket in St Lucia
The countdown has begun for the Cricket World Cup. Each host island is searching out more accommodation for last-minute bookings. England fans will be heading for St Lucia. There is still (pricey) limited availability with several tour companies such as Almond Resorts (almondresorts .com), Kuoni Sports Abroad (sportabroad. co.uk) and Sporting Journeys (0870-708 2001; sportingjourneys.com). Home-stay programmes are also available in Antigua ([email protected]) and St Lucia (islandselections.com).