CRUISE NEWS

And Now, Pirates

The details are chilling, a cruiser's nightmare: Passengers on the luxury cruise ship Seabourn Spirit, sailing from Egypt to Kenya, were awoken by pirates who attacked the ship with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. The ship outran the attackers, but could that Nov. 5 attack 100 miles off the coast of Somalia portend a terrifying new threat for cruise passengers?

In researching this question, CoGo initially was alarmed at piracy reports. In the first nine months of this year, pirates attacked 251 ships worldwide, taking 259 hostages -- 12 of whom are still missing, according to the International Maritime Bureau, which tracks piracy reports. The most treacherous waters are off the coasts of Indonesia and Somalia.

But all of those attacks involved freighters and cargo ships. Cruise ships are unlikely targets because they ride high above the water and have large crews, said Brian Major of the Cruise Line International Association, a trade group. Although Seabourn specializes in "small," intimate cruises, the Spirit is still seven stories high.

"I don't know what these guys were thinking," spokesman Bruce Good said. "You're going to pull alongside a 430-foot-long cruise ship riding high in the water in a 25-foot inflatable boat, and then what? It seems like these guys didn't think it through too well."

SECURITY WATCH

France: Should You Go?

Despite the riots exploding throughout France, experts last week advised prospective travelers to go, but take simple precautions.

Monitor news reports, move quickly away from any demonstrations, exercise particular caution after dark and avoid areas where riots have occurred, the U.S. State Department advised last week in a public announcement that expires Dec. 7.

Given that riots have occurred in 300 French cities and towns, CoGo wasn't sure what to make of that last bit. David Lea, an analyst with Control Risks Group, an international security consulting and risk advisory firm in London, was more direct: "Avoid low-income areas on the outskirts of towns and cities."

Also avoid the train between Charles de Gaulle airport and Paris because it passes through troubled neighborhoods, warned both the State Department and Ed Daly of iJet, an Annapolis-based security consulting firm. Lea disagreed, saying that precaution was unnecessary.

When traveling abroad, it's always a good idea to register with the U.S. embassy in your destination, especially if visiting a country with civil unrest. Sign up online at www.travel.state.gov.

UPRIGHT AND LOCKED

Will I Fly?

Ticket holders on Independence Air were rightly confused by a bankruptcy filing with a twist: a 60-day auction.

"To me, that signals that they don't intend to reorganize, but to liquidate," said D.C. bankruptcy lawyer Charles Docter. But does it also mean that ticket-holders are safe for 60 days?

Protecting ticket holders by continuing operations through the Christmas season certainly seems to be the intent, said Docter. A major creditor or bankruptcy trustee could object, Docter added, and demand a quicker resolution to avoid further losses during the auction period. A judge would have to rule if such an objection was raised. Then again, given that this is the industry's busiest season, that argument may not fly.

No one has a crystal ball, but experts hold out hope for the remainder of this year. "Their cash flow alone should carry them through the holidays," said Joe Brancatelli, publisher of the business travel Web site JoeSentMe.com. He advised booking through the New Year; after that, if a buyer doesn't materialize, shop elsewhere.

BARGAIN OF THE WEEK

Whoa, Canada

Buy a 10-flight, restriction-free pass good to 15 cities in eastern Canada for $3,311 plus taxes. What's the Deal?, Page P3.

Reporting: Cindy Loose.

Help feed CoGo. Send travel news, road reports and juicy tattles to: cogo@washpost.com. By fax: 202-912-3609. By mail: CoGo, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.