Michelle Baran
Michelle Baran

InsightIf travel sellers could accurately predict the weather, that would obviously make selling vacations a lot easier.

Absent such skills, however, one thing river cruise sellers can (and probably should) do is check how recent weather has affected water levels on rivers their clients are soon to be traveling on.

As worldwide weather patterns become increasingly erratic, sudden dry spells or, conversely, unforeseen heavy rains can have a significant impact on river cruise itineraries. As with the Mississippi River last year, a drought can limit vessels’ ability to pass through certain stretches if water levels are too low.

And if a river is subject to severe rains, the higher water levels can make it impossible for ships to pass under bridges or make the rivers unsafe to travel on, as was recently the case on the Douro River in Portugal.MichelleBaran

Having been on the Douro in early April during a period of higher-than-average water levels that prevented river cruise vessels from sailing for a short period, one thing passengers repeatedly expressed was that prior to that experience, checking the river’s water levels was not something they would have necessarily thought to do before leaving for a river cruise. A lot of passengers just assumed that rivers are pretty reliable.

Enter the travel seller, who can help monitor those water levels. And the easiest way to do so is to simply research local news articles (as well as Travel Weekly, though we admittedly don’t catch every single rise and fall of the world’s inland waterways) about the rivers or regions the river cruise will be on/in.

If regional weather patterns look like they might affect water levels, then the next step is to simply ask the river cruise line point blank whether the itinerary will proceed as planned. The challenge, of course, is that oftentimes even the river cruise companies themselves don't know whether there will be changes up until the last minute. It’s in everyone’s interests for the sailings to go as planned, and so they will often try to hold off on any premature cancellations or itinerary alterations. But it doesn’t hurt to ask, several times if necessary.

The end result could be helping a client rebook their river cruise for a more opportune time, or at the very least keeping clients well-informed.

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