A hot and dry summer in Europe has led to lower-than-normal
water levels on portions of the Danube and Elbe rivers throughout the summer,
and has forced river cruise lines to alter their itineraries during July,
August and now into September.
“Water levels on the Elbe and Danube rivers are currently
lower than normal and Viking has had to make adjustments to the cruise
schedules of several ships sailing these rivers,” Viking River Cruises wrote on
its website this week.
Five Viking cruises have been altered this week,
four of which include a ship swap. Passengers will be transferred in order
to avoid a low-water area of the Elbe River that ships cannot bypass.
Additionally, Viking’s Sept. 2 “Grand European Tour” from
Budapest to Amsterdam, scheduled to depart on the Viking Aegir, will begin in
Komarom, Hungary, on the Viking Embla. Viking will provide transfers from
Budapest to Komarom.
“These are currently the only sailings we expect to be
altered by the low water on the rivers,” Viking stated.
But low water levels have been a problem all summer. The low
levels on the Elbe came during a year when Viking launched two new vessels on
the river in eastern Germany. Other river cruise lines have avoided the Elbe in
part because of the challenges presented when the water level is low.
The Danube River is one that all the major river cruise
lines sail. The area on the Danube where the low waters have posed a problem is
the 75-mile stretch between Regensburg and Passau in Germany.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection had to alter eight
Danube River sailings in July and August, which included having guests swap
ships from one side of the low waters to the other. The company canceled its
Aug. 9 “European Jewels” cruise on the Maria Theresa, deciding that there
wouldn’t be enough actual cruising in the trip to justify the departure.
“We sincerely appreciate the understanding and support our
guests and travel industry partners have shown during this challenging time,”
Uniworld wrote on its website.
Avalon Waterways wrote on its Facebook page last week that
the river levels on the Danube had again begun to recede.
“Danube River waters receded over the weekend and early this
week. Once again, the waters between Regensburg and Passau are beginning to
delay and/or stall ship passage. We are fervently working to keep cruise
itinerary disruptions to a minimum. If or when cruise itineraries are altered,
however, we will provide affected travelers with alternate opportunities to see
and explore the best Europe has to offer,” Avalon wrote on Facebook.
The post elicited a string of comments from passengers, some
concerned about current and upcoming sailings, others with positive messages of
support and kudos for how Avalon handled past sailings that were disrupted due
to low water levels.
The forecast is calling for rain in the coming days,
according to Rudi Schreiner, president of AmaWaterways, which has not had to
alter any of its Danube itineraries yet this summer. Schreiner is hoping that
some much-needed precipitation along the Danube will help bring the river’s
water levels back up.