Dry October follows dry summer on Europe's rivers

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The Crystal Mozart is one of Crystal's five river ships.
The Crystal Mozart is one of Crystal's five river ships.

An unseasonably warm fall following this year's hot, dry European summer is continuing to disrupt river cruises.

Walter Littlejohn, vice president and managing director of Crystal River Cruises, says he's lost track of the number of itinerary changes the company has made with its five European river ships because of low water levels this year.

Littlejohn on Wednesday said he had just returned from Germany, where it was sunny and 75 degrees with no rain in sight for at least the next 10 days.

"We had guests on the top vista deck who were tanning and drinking cocktails," he said. "The weather is fantastic, but it's creating low water situations."

Littlejohn said that just a few centimeters can make the difference in whether a ship can sail. And since water levels fluctuate from hour to hour, the situation is unpredictable. Littlejohn said Crystal changes sailing routes in advance to avoid last-minute disruptions.

"We usually communicate changes seven to 10 days in advance," he said. "In some instances, people may not like it, but our philosophy is to keep sailing. ... We may not be cruising to where the guests originally intended to go, but they still get to enjoy the region and amenities and comforts of a river cruise vacation."

When there is an impassable portion of the river, other river cruise lines commonly put passengers on motorcoaches and in hotels to begin or complete their journeys. When possible, they also swap passengers between ships going in opposite directions to keep guests on the river and as close to their original itinerary as possible.

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