There's water, water, everywhere. STEVE NELSON and his family dip their toes in the new attraction at Alton Towers.

SOMEWHERE in the bowels of Alton Towers there is, I imagine, a mischievous little devil who engineers the attractions that make it the premier theme park in Britain.

Sometimes malevolent, but generous of spirit, he has in the past conjured Nemesis, Oblivion and Air, three of the best white-knuckle rides in the world.

He has created lots of fun for the little ones and families too among the stately acres that were once dominated by impressive gardens.

But there is no evidence this season of anything new that is out of the ordinary. There is a virtual reality game that is great fun, and a terrific attraction for the little ones in which they fire foam balls at each other across balconies. Oh, and on the haunted house ride you can now shoot the spooks with ray guns.

But no, the little devil has turned away from the rides to the creation of Europe's first water park hotel, Splash Landings.

Earlier this month, Alton Towers opened the hotel to the media. The following day its first paying guests arrived, only to find that the huge project was not finished and they were given a complimentary stay.

But the work is now all but complete and there are few available dates left before September.

The Caribbean flavour is evident as soon as you see the vibrant blues, yellows and reds that dominate the entrance.

Inside, it is wall-to-wall fun, with a comic plumber, giant bear, pirate and limbo dancers roaming the reception area, bar and restaurant. The staff were dressed in brightly-coloured shirts and a calypso band was playing. It was even sunny outside.

Some staff have been recruited from the Caribbean under an exchange scheme with the Sandals hotel group, so don't be surprised if you end up chatting to a waiter from the West Indies or chef from the Caribbean in the buffet-style restaurant.

The centrepiece of the hotel, which is next to the well-established Alton Towers Hotel, is the Cariba Creek waterpark, which is like York's Waterworld on acid.

As my partner, Ingrid, and children Jack and Lucy, stepped tentatively into the pool, I looked to see grown men and women darting about drenching each other and small children. We were soon joining in the chaos.

People whizzed down tubes as Master Blaster - the biggest water rollercoaster in the UK - snaked around the edge.

Cariba Creek features five slides, a large hot whirpool, 70 so-called water toys in a treehouse setting, gushing geysers, waterfalls and a clock tower that tips gallons of water on the unsuspecting below.

You should be prepared to get informal at Splash Landings. Most guests walk from their rooms to the pool area in their swimwear, adding to the beach party atmosphere.

Almost all guests stay on a one-night package that gives them two days on the park and plenty of time for Cariba Creek in the evening. The waterpark is only open to guests of the two hotels.

After a restful night, we got up early for a hot buffet breakfast before being escorted to the park for early rides on Nemesis and Air.

Nemesis, a collection of steel track, nuts and bolts welded together into your worst nightmare, was doing a roaring trade in screams.

I staggered off, legs like jelly, and made my way to the newest of the white knuckle attractions, the innocently-named Air.

Like Nemesis, this ride leaves the rider dangling from an overhead track, but in this case you are locked into a horizontal position facing down to give the impression of flying through the air.

It looks terrifying, but oddly turned out to be a pleasant experience despite the 180-degree twists.

The awesome Oblivion, the world's first vertical drop rollercoaster, was "experiencing technical difficulties" when I later plucked up the courage to give it a go. Perhaps someone had thrown up into the machinery.

Many rides later, we headed home wondering which was the biggest attraction - the rides or the hotel? You'll have lots of fun in both.

Fact file

Prices are dependent on the time of year and number of adults in a room. For two adults and two children aged four-11 staying on a one-night package, the cost would be between £230 and £300.The price includes use of Cariba Creek, passes to the park for two days, hot buffet breakfast, priority ride passes, early ride passes for Nemesis and Air and free car parking.

To book, visit the Alton Towers website at or telephone 08705 00 11 00.

Updated: 09:02 Saturday, June 14, 2003