Katrina: The aftermath

The Good Times

Will Roll Again

Despite hell and high water, New Orleans will celebrate Mardi Gras Feb. 17-28, promise two of the primary organizers of the city's annual festivities.

Celebrating Mardi Gras is a civic duty and matter of pride on what will be the 150th anniversary of Mardi Gras parades on the streets of New Orleans, said Arthur Hardy, publisher of Mardi Gras Guide magazine, in a telephone interview. "I can't think of a more important symbolic gesture of our recovery than putting Mardi Gras on the streets. And it's more than symbolic, it's a cataylst for recovery. If we can do this, it says we're back."

To date, 10 of the 55 organizations that sponsor floats and such have gotten in touch and committed to participating, said Hardy, who posts the latest news at www.mardigrasguide.com. Warehouses holding Mardi Gras floats and wares suffered very little damage from Hurricane Katrina, he added.

Master float designer and parade architect Blaine Kern Sr. also vowed that Mardi Gras will roll, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

For those who'd like a more family-friendly Mardi Gras experience, you'll find that in other Louisiana locales, including the state capital, Baton Rouge. Details: www.louisianatravel.com.


Don't Panic, Be Cautious

With so many travel providers falling into bankruptcy -- Delta and Northwest being the lastest examples -- how can you protect yourself?

For starters, Delta and Northwest are both promising to honor tickets and award points. As US Airways and United have shown, major companies don't necessarily disappear just because of a bankruptcy or two. In fact, mergers are more likely. But of course, there are no guarantees. So we repeat the old bromide -- pay by credit card. Also, consider buying from a third party that will help you if things go south. You might consider travel insurance. But choosing the right policy is tricky. Here are a few tips:

* If the fine print doesn't mention "financial default of travel provider," assume that you aren't covered for the sudden disappearance of your travel provider.

* Even if they do cover a trip ruined by financial default, most insurers exempt certain financially shaky companies. Look for a section of the insurance contract called "Travel Supplier Restrictions" to find blacklisted firms.

* To get an idea of the companies typically excluded from financial default coverage, go to www.totaltravelinsurance.com/bankruptcy-insurance.asp.The list compiled by Total Travel Insurance, which sells policies from numerous insurers, includes 27 airlines, 38 tour operators, 11 cruise lines and three car companies.

* Four major insurance companies in the United States -- M.H. Ross, TravelSafe, CSA Travel Protection and HTH Worldwide -- do not impose any travel supplier restrictions, says Peter Evans, spokesman of InsureMyTrip.com, another online company that offers numerous policies.

* Even those four companies, Evans warns, will not cover your losses if you bought directly from the firm that went defunct. It will cover losses only if you bought your travel services from a third party, such as a travel agent.


Amtrak last week postponed a fare hike originally set to go into effect Tuesday to allow for public comment, but has moved ahead with plans to increase Acela service . . . Aeromexico is offering free tickets home for Mexicans affected by Katrina. Contact the nearest Mexican consulate for details.


First-Class Barbados

Spend five nights at a luxury resort in Barbados for $1,985, including airfare. Details: What's the Deal?, Page. P3.

Reporting: Cindy Loose.

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