Nisbet Plantation offers guests rustic retreat in Nevis

Hotel editor Grant Flowers stayed at the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club on Nevis. His report follows:

NEWCASTLE, Nevis -- áThere are Nevis people and there are non-Nevis people.

The island's quiet, rustic feel doesn't suit everyone, but for those who like the Nevis style, the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club is a great place to stay. Anyone who wants to forget that the rest of the world exists will love it.

Nisbet is a 38-room cottage colony located on the northeast shore of Nevis. Like many of the hotels on the island, the property has a history: Nisbet was a sugar plantation in the 18th century.

The property has operated on an upscale level for about 10 years, and for the last three years Nisbet has earned four diamonds from AAA.

Its sister property is the Reefs in Bermuda, and both hotels are owned by the same Bermuda-based company.

The general managers, Don and Kathie Johnson, joined Nisbet in December after stints in Bermuda. Don was previously at the Reefs.

Although the island isn't big, Nisbet is just a five-minute taxi ride from the airport. For a property with only 38 rooms, Nisbet Plantation is sizable.

The first thing guests see is the great house, a remnant of plantation days. Afternoon tea and dinner are served here daily (except on Thursdays). The only television on the property is located here.

Behind the nearby reception office and gift shop, the grounds slope gradually to the beach. Cottages are spread throughout this grassy area.

The Avenue of Palms connects the great house with the beach, which features an open-air bar with shaded areas, a small clubhouse serving breakfast and lunch (plus a seafood dinner on Thursdays) and a pool.

Rooms are divided into three categories: superior, deluxe and premier.

Each of the 16 superior rooms, spread among eight cottages, has a screened patio. The 10 deluxe rooms have a separate living room and a full bath. The 12 premier units are junior-sized suites with an open patio and a sizable living room area.

In the rooms, furnishings and patterns focus more on comfort than on style. Long, thick couches and armchairs are decorated with tropically themed patterns.

All units face the shore and have telephones, ceiling fans (no need for air conditioning, even during the day), irons and hair dryers.

Guests can expect some improvements during the year.

"We're putting more amenities in the guest rooms to give them more of a personal touch," said Don. "Hopefully, when the guests leave, they will feel as if they're leaving a second home."

The Johnsons plan to upgrade the furnishings and add an outdoor shower to each room. They also want to enlarge the rooms in a couple of years. More shaded areas will be added at the beach.

Snorkeling equipment is available on site, but guests who want to windsurf, sail, hike or rent mountain bikes have to use outside vendors.

Hotel employees can arrange these activities.

Guests at Nisbet tend to be mostly from the U.S. and Europe. Brits provide a substantial percentage of the business.

According to Kathie, the length of stay depends on where the guests are from: A typical American stay is a week, while the Brits often stay two or even three weeks.

Peak and off-season occupancies are typical of the Caribbean, but Don is optimistic about the summer -- á April was full and May seems strong.

About 15% of the hotel's business comes from repeat customers, which Don said was a little higher than the managers expected.

"We think people who come here want to go off the beaten track and maybe not want to go to the same place twice," he said. "However, repeat business is starting to grow."

Summer rates start at $265 per night, double, for a superior room and rise to $335 for a premier room.

During the autumn, rates range from $295 to $365, respectively.

Winter prices, valid from Dec. 21 through April 4, can approach $500 for a superior room. All rates include breakfast and dinner.

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