Following a series of accidents that included a deadly river
boat collision on the Danube and a dramatic evacuation of passengers from a
broken-down ocean liner in dangerous seas, Viking has gone silent about reports
that one of its river ships hit a lock in Germany, shutting down part of the
Main-Danube canal to all traffic.
For river cruise lines, the closure mostly affected what one
executive estimated are about 25 sailings a week between Amsterdam and
Budapest, forcing operators to alter their itineraries, swap passengers between
ships or put guests on buses.
According to reports in the German media and from
on-the-ground operations officials from other river cruise lines, a Viking ship was sailing upriver on June 5 when it hit the wall of a lock at Riedenburg,
damaging it so badly that the lock could not be closed. The damaged lock is
located between Regensburg and Nuremberg, which are stops on 14-day itineraries
that most lines offer.
Local media reports said it was the Viking Var. But travel
advisor Ruth DeMuth with TripGuy Travel, who said she was on the Var that day,
said it was the Viking ship ahead of them, the Viking Tir, that hit the lock.
"They were stuck in the lock for a bit, finally were able to get loose and
back out of the lock, and they ended up parking behind us," she said. "I
spoke with passengers from that ship the next morning and they reported the hit
was hard enough that it knocked over glasses of wine but no one was hurt. I did not go down to look at their ship but
other guests reported seeing damage to the Tir."
Viking has declined repeated requests for confirmation of or
comment on the incident. And on a Viking web page offering passengers updates
about its cruises, the company said only that sailings between Regensburg and
Nuremberg were temporarily restricted "due to repair work being performed
on the lock at Riedenburg."
DeMuth said at the site of the accident, there were
differing accounts "whether it was the ship's fault by running into the
corner of the lock or whether the lock operator started closing the gate too
early, pushing the ship out of position and causing it to get 'stuck' for a
The incident was the fifth involving one of Viking's ships since
last fall and the fourth involving a European river vessel.
In late March, engine failures on the Viking Sky ocean liner
forced a lengthy and dramatic helicopter evacuation in rough seas off the coast
A little more than a week later, the Viking Idun river ship
collided with a cargo vessel while sailing through Belgium on April 1.
Last month, the Viking Sigyn hit a small tour boat during a
stormy nighttime cruise along a crowded stretch of the Danube in Budapest,
killing 19 South Korean tourists and a Hungarian crewman. Seven people were
rescued, eight are still missing, and the Viking captain was placed under
Last fall, the Viking Tor failed to retract its wheelhouse
far enough and hit the bridge at the Riedenburg lock, destroying the
No Viking river cruise passengers have been injured in the
accidents, but two Viking crew members were killed in September 2016 in a
wheelhouse accident similar to last year's incident with the Viking Tor, according to the German media outlet Cruisetricks.de.
It was unclear how long the repairs to the lock damaged in
the latest accident would take. Initial reports estimated that repairs could
take up to three weeks, but more recent reports indicated officials hoped to
have the canal reopened as early as June 14.
Meantime, river lines were contacting customers and
adjusting their itineraries to do ship swaps or avoid the area until the lock
Cruisetricks.de said about 30
freight and passenger ships pass through the lock every day.
Pamela Hoffee, managing director of Avalon Waterways,
said her staff estimated about 25 passenger ships make the 14-day sailing
between Amsterdam and Budapest each week.
While some lines have been able to anchor ships on both
sides of the lock and swap passengers to minimize itinerary changes, Hoffee
said Avalon's schedules and ship positionings have not allowed for that. So, in
addition to offering refunds or the ability to rebook on later sailings, she
said Avalon has developed options that involve a few nights in a hotel in Regensburg
and slightly different sailing schedules to minimize disruptions and maximize
"We've tried to make the best of the situation,"
she said. " We've got a lot of different options."
This report was updated on June 13 with information from a travel agent who was on a Viking ship when the accident happened.