Historic floods in Europe have little impact on river cruise lines

Basel, Switzerland, was just one of the cities flooded by the Rhine River as a result of record rainfall this month. Photo Credit: Pablo Odriozola/Shutterstock.com
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Record rainfall not seen in a century has resulted in devastating flooding through Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland. But the crisis has had little reported impact on river cruise lines that cater to U.S. passengers, many of which have not yet resumed operations in the region following the Covid pandemic shutdown.

The Rhine, one of the most popular rivers and regions for river cruising, is among the hardest hit by the flooding, specifically the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in southwest Germany, which includes the port cities of Cologne and Dusseldorf. But lines that spoke with Travel Weekly said current conditions are not affecting their preparations to return to operations in the summer and fall.

Avalon Waterways said it is going ahead with plans for its first Rhine sailings next month.

"We are set to return to Germany, and the Rhine River, in August," said Pam Hoffee, managing director of Avalon Waterways. "Our first Moselle cruise departs one month later, in September. Our hope is that conditions return to normal well before our sailings. We are monitoring the situation closely and will advise in advance if any alterations will be required. We will make those decisions closer to departure dates, giving adequate time for waters to recede."

AmaWaterways' first planned departure on the Rhine this summer will be when the AmaSiena embarks from Amsterdam on July 29 for a seven-night sailing to Basel, Switzerland.

Crystal River Cruises plans to resume operations on Aug. 29, and according to Walter Littlejohn, senior vice president and managing director of Crystal River Cruises, "We do not anticipate that our restart will be affected."

Uniworld said its European sailings are operating normally, according to a statement from president and CEO Ellen Bettridge. That includes an itinerary that departed Amsterdam on Monday.

"The safety of our guests and crew is always our top priority, and we're closely monitoring the situation and water levels to make adjustments if needed," Bettridge said.

At Tauck, cruises on the Rhine, Rhone and Danube are not slated to begin until August, and Moselle sailings won't commence until September, so the current situation in the region is not affecting the operator's plans, according to corporate communications manager Tom Armstrong.

CroisiEurope has not yet begun its Rhine River itineraries. However, the line was forced to cancel a July 16 sailing on the Rhone in France, due to what it described as an increase in flow on the river that prevented the ship from cruising. Guests were offered sailings in different destinations or at later dates or could opt for a full refund instead.

"A canceled cruise is a minor inconvenience compared to the rebuilding efforts that will be necessary in flooded communities," said Michael DaCosta, general manager of North America for CroisiEurope.

Last week's flooding has resulted in dozens of casualties, hundreds of missing persons, collapsed bridges and widespread property damage. In some areas, more than seven inches of rain fell within 72 hours, according to the BBC -- six times the heaviest rainfall recorded for July, on average, for these regions. Scientists believe the unexpected precipitation was caused by a cold, low-pressure system over Central Europe dubbed "Bernd," according to the Wall Street Journal.

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