Friday, 4 September 2015

Low water levels plague Europe river cruises

Low water levels plague Europe river cruises

With a low water level, a large stretch of the Elbe's riverbed was exposed in August near Magdeburg, Germany. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

A hot and dry summer in Europe has led to lower-than-normal water levels on portions of the Danube and Elbe rivers throughout the summer, and has forced river cruise lines to alter their itineraries during July, August and now into September.
“Water levels on the Elbe and Danube rivers are currently lower than normal and Viking has had to make adjustments to the cruise schedules of several ships sailing these rivers,” Viking River Cruises wrote on its website this week.
Five Viking cruises have been altered this week, four of which include a ship swap. Passengers will be transferred in order to avoid a low-water area of the Elbe River that ships cannot bypass.
Additionally, Viking’s Sept. 2 “Grand European Tour” from Budapest to Amsterdam, scheduled to depart on the Viking Aegir, will begin in Komarom, Hungary, on the Viking Embla. Viking will provide transfers from Budapest to Komarom.
“These are currently the only sailings we expect to be altered by the low water on the rivers,” Viking stated.
But low water levels have been a problem all summer. The low levels on the Elbe came during a year when Viking launched two new vessels on the river in eastern Germany. Other river cruise lines have avoided the Elbe in part because of the challenges presented when the water level is low.
The Danube River is one that all the major river cruise lines sail. The area on the Danube where the low waters have posed a problem is the 75-mile stretch between Regensburg and Passau in Germany.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection had to alter eight Danube River sailings in July and August, which included having guests swap ships from one side of the low waters to the other. The company canceled its Aug. 9 “European Jewels” cruise on the Maria Theresa, deciding that there wouldn’t be enough actual cruising in the trip to justify the departure.
“We sincerely appreciate the understanding and support our guests and travel industry partners have shown during this challenging time,” Uniworld wrote on its website.
Avalon Waterways wrote on its Facebook page last week that the river levels on the Danube had again begun to recede.
“Danube River waters receded over the weekend and early this week. Once again, the waters between Regensburg and Passau are beginning to delay and/or stall ship passage. We are fervently working to keep cruise itinerary disruptions to a minimum. If or when cruise itineraries are altered, however, we will provide affected travelers with alternate opportunities to see and explore the best Europe has to offer,” Avalon wrote on Facebook.
The post elicited a string of comments from passengers, some concerned about current and upcoming sailings, others with positive messages of support and kudos for how Avalon handled past sailings that were disrupted due to low water levels.
The forecast is calling for rain in the coming days, according to Rudi Schreiner, president of AmaWaterways, which has not had to alter any of its Danube itineraries yet this summer. Schreiner is hoping that some much-needed precipitation along the Danube will help bring the river’s water levels back up.