Travel Weekly's Michelle Baran was sailing on AmaWaterways' new AmaSerena along the Rhine River from Basel, Switzerland, to Amsterdam. Michelle's second dispatch follows.
The night before we arrived in Rudesheim, Germany, about midway through the cruise, we were told that the water was low __ very low. But the decision had been made by the nautical team to sail on rather than do a ship swap, a process whereby two ships stop on either end of a low-water area and passengers pack up their bags and are bussed to the other side of the low waters, where they embark on the ship waiting on the other side to finish off the remainder of their cruise.
River cruise lines would prefer to avoid a ship swap since it's a hassle for guests, but this summer's low water levels made it the best option at times. And although we're already well into the fall season, traditionally a cooler and wetter time of year in Europe, the low waters continue to be a problem.
As we left Rudesheim to sail through arguably the most popular portion of the Rhine, the castle-flanked Rhine Gorge between Koblenz and Bingen, several of us who were having a light lunch in the lounge heard what sounded like the vessel scraping on gravel at the bottom of the river. Kristen Karst, executive vice president and co-owner of AmaWaterways, later informed us that was exactly what happened, but that it was nothing serious.
The captain informed us that we were passing through an area where there were at times as little as eight inches clearance for the vessel. In order to ensure passage, the crew reduced the amount of fresh water and fuel the AmaSerena had taken onboard to just the essentials. Every bit of weight matters in these situations. A capable and confident captain also matters, noted Karst, who said she was extremely impressed with AmaSerena Captain Jan de Bruin for successfully navigating the difficult stretch.
In the end, we made it to Cologne without further incident and without having to swap ships. When we got to Cologne, a group of about 20 of us set out on one of Ama's popular bike tours. Midway through the tour, the rain began to fall quite heavily. It might not have been perfect weather for a bike ride (we still had a blast), but the rain was badly needed. It made getting wet tolerable, and even welcome.