Yankee makes a Big Easy return

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NEW ORLEANS -- Yankee Holidays is back, and its Big Easy business is booming.

A surge in room capacity lured the Beverly, Mass.-based tour operator back to New Orleans last year, after "too many blackouts" had prompted a four-year hiatus, according to company president Charles de Gaspe Beaubien.

Today, the city is the second most popular destination for the specialist in North American city packages, he said.

About 8,000 rooms have been added since Yankee Holidays' pullout in 1996, bringing the city's total capacity to 33,000, according to Beverly Gianna, vice president of public affairs of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. The additions run from budget-priced hotels to luxury properties.

"[When] we heard there were a lot of new hotels, new products, we decided to check it out, and we were very happy about it," said de Gaspe Beaubien.

Yankee Holidays offers five basic package types for New Orleans but will customize them for groups of 10 or more.

The basic, no-frills package is the New Orleans Experience. The two-night plan includes hotel accommodations and admission to Mardi Gras World in nearby Algiers, where visitors can watch the Mardi Gras floats being built.

The package is offered with a choice of 10 hotels. At the Hampton Inn, the price is $139 per person, double. With the Hotel Monaco, the price is $200 per person, double.

The New Orleans Adventure is a three-night package with a few more features, such as dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe and a bayou/swamp tour. Designed for families, the plan starts at $308 per person, double.

Bon Appetit New Orleans is designed for food lovers and couples. The five-night package offers many great dining experiences, including a class and lunch at the New Orleans School of Cooking. It starts at $565 per person, double.

New Orleans Accent is a four-night program that gives a general impression of the city, with an emphasis on food and sightseeing. It includes a French Quarter walking tour and a Ghosts and Spirits evening walking tour.

The three-night Let the Good Times Roll plan is targeted to younger adults interested in the city's nightlife.

It includes the Crescent City Nights Walking Tour, which visits Tujague's restaurant, home of one of the oldest bars in the South, and a Bourbon Street nightclub.

The package is priced from $326 per person, double.

Yankee Holidays can be reached at (800) 255-2550 or at www.yankee-holidays.com.

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