NEW YORK -- As floods inundated the Czech Republic and neighboring
countries in central Europe last week, many U.S. agents selling the
region applied three "r's": re-book, reaccommodate and reserve
Perennial tourist favorite Prague was hit particularly hard.
Trips there were canceled, postponed or diverted, and clients
shuffled between hotels, as agents nervously awaited damage
CSA Czech Airlines is offering full refunds or itinerary changes
without penalty for departures from North America to Prague up to
and including Aug. 24, according to a spokeswoman for the
Among the city-center hotels closed for repairs are the
Inter-Continental Praha, the Hilton Prague, and the Four Seasons,
which sits astride the swollen Vltava River, just steps from the
famed Charles Bridge.
According to reports, some 10% of the city was flooded and
damage figures were in the billions of dollars.
In response, Weber Travel Agency in Brookfield, Ill., canceled
all departures to Prague for the week but advised clients scheduled
to leave later in the season to check back after the weekend.
"I'm telling them to hold off on making a decision," said Robert
Schlade, travel consultant at Weber. "We have 14 people leaving in
September for an Oktoberfest tour combining Prague with Munich and
Salzburg, and we're still not sure what's going to happen with
Exeter International in Tampa, Fla., decided to send one group
scheduled to depart for Prague last weekend to St. Petersburg,
Russia, instead, said manager Joe Sandillo.
"It was a matter of convenience, although our clients could have
stayed at a hotel in Prague's [higher] castle district, if they
still wanted to go."
Sandillo added that he, too, will take a wait-and-see approach
to bookings for the remainder of the month.
Meanwhile, Bernharda Fabrici, managing director of Tatra Travel
Bureau in New York, spent most of her week on the phone and on line
arranging alternative accommodations for clients booked into hotels
in flooded districts.
She said, "It's bad because the hotels on the outskirts are now
filling to capacity; in a few days, the situation could become very
So Fabrici is advising many clients still intent on traveling to
Prague to consider putting off the trip.
"I don't think they would have a very good time," she said.
With both the Elbe and Danube rivers closed to ship traffic last
week, river cruise operators hurried to modify programs. Uniworld,
for example, bused guests between two cruise ships that had
overlapping Danube river itineraries.
Peter Deilmann Cruises canceled the Aug. 17 departures of the
Danube Princess and the Dresden, which was to sail an Elbe River
For its part, the Czech Tourist Authority predicted normal
travel to the area could resume by September.
U.S. director Katerina Pavlitova said the Vltava was returning
to normal levels, and Prague's most prized structures had escaped
However, she advised agents to contact the authority at (212)
288-0830, or monitor the Web at www.czechcenter.com for updates.
While the threat to Prague receded, an Elbe River over 25 feet
higher than normal continued to swamp historic eastern German
cities such as Dresden, Dessau and Magdeburg.
The Zwinger Palace museum and the Semperoper opera house in
baroque Dresden -- restored only in the last decade -- were damaged
by the worst flooding since 1845.
Rebecca Tobin contributed to this report.
Ex-pat report: Closures, but no tidal wave
Former Travel Weekly Europe editor Dinah Spritzer, who is
the business editor at the Prague Post, kept a diary of the flood
and didn't need waterproof ink to do it. The days of her life
Tuesday. My parents call at 7 a.m. because they have heard on
the BBC radio that Prague is to be hit by a tidal wave. I assure
them all is well. My staff and I learn that floods, which have
already submerged the towns of Cesky Krumlov, Pilsen and Cesky
Budejovice, are to arrive here in the evening.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla declares a "military regime" and
suspends "all human rights" in an effort to force people to
evacuate as needed. Foreigners are impressed at the Czech response
to the emergency: "They are efficient beyond all expectations, and
we feel very safe. Time for a beer. Or two. Heck, they're only 50
Wednesday. I take my usual tram to work. We learn that three
districts far from the center are under water, and the bridges are
closed, including the famous Charles Bridge. Attractions in the
city center such as the Old Town, the Lesser Quarter and the Jewish
Quarter are off limits. Major hotels close to the river have been
evacuated, and the city's most famous restaurant, Kampa Park, is
Thursday. I venture to Old Town, where all is dry and visitors
are happy to see the Old Town Square, and many head for the
riverbank to check out the swollen river as if it were just another