Tourists stranded as Europe’s rivers continue to drop

Photograph of a river landscape

Water levels across Europe’s rivers continue to plague cruise operators with reports of marooned boats on the Doubs River.

Stranded tourists have had to be bussed to different starting points to board their Bateaux du Saut du Doubs river cruise after water levels of the Doubs river, which straddles the Swiss-French border, dropped by an unprecedented level, according to Reuters.

Just like Europe’s most iconic spots for river cruises, the Rhine and Danube, the Doubs has fallen victim to the heatwaves and droughts plaguing the continent this summer, causing rivers, lakes are reservoirs across Western Europe to drop.

Water levels on the Rhine are set to fall dangerously close to the point where the river won’t be able to hold ships, meaning river cruise lines could face severe disruptions.

The Bulgarian, German and Serbian sections of the Danube have also reached critically low levels, coming dangerously close to halting cruise and cargo ships alike.

Ellen Bettridge, president & CEO of Uniworld, said the line won’t let low-water levels ruin its passengers’ holidays.

“The nature of rivers is that they ebb and flow with the seasons, and we are making adjustments as necessary,” Bettridge said. 

“Our guests are always our first priority, and we continuously monitor water levels along all of our routes and proactively share updates to our impacted guests and travel partners when available.

“While we may have to make adjustments to our daily itineraries, guests can be assured that we will still be operating and providing the 5-star Uniworld experience that they know and expect.”

A spokesperson for Viking shared a similar sentiment, confirming the low-water levels will affect the line’s river itineraries to varying degrees.

“Guests and their Travel Advisors will continue to be notified directly by Viking Customer Relations if we think that their itinerary might be impacted,” the spokesperson said.

Like other river cruise lines, including Avalon Waterways, Viking uses sister ships on reverse itineraries to conduct ship swaps to minimise disruption when water levels become impassable.

In April, passengers who booked a Scenic river cruise that was affected by flooding in 2013 were awarded up to $20,000 each in damages.

The NSW Supreme Court’s Justice Garling determined more than 30 claimants should be awarded substantial damages after their cruise holidays were affected by flooding.

High water levels on the Rhine and Main Rivers meant the cruise started on a different vessel and was met with substantial disruptions including changing ships three times and spending many hours on busses.

Image: River Doubs (iStock/siscosoler)

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