What happens if your cruise never starts due to flooding or low water?
Did you read the small print in your contract BEFORE you paid up?
Are the crew actually employees of Emerald with decision making powers, or are they contracted staff "who need to wait for the office to open."
If you are elderly or disabled how will you cope with an 800 km bus trip instead?
And No, your travel insurance will NOT cover you if you "fail to sail"!
The BBC's World Weather forecast on Thursday 30 April 2015, two days prior to our cruise, warned of further, very heavy rain for Switzerland on that Thursday/Friday night, a slight respite on Saturday followed by another very heavy belt of rain along with rising temperatures causing faster snow melt. They also forecast "a real risk of flooding." In fact roads were closed, some villages isolated and the police were out with loudhailers. Basel docking for cruise boats was underwater.
That was before our non cruise started!
And the forecasters were right! The water level in Basel rose from 550 cms on Thursday to 830 cms by Monday 4th May.
Importantly, our boat had not managed to complete its previous leg and could not even get under the bridge into Basel.
The day before our cruise was due to commence the Emerald Sky was moored up - NOT ON THE RHINE - but on the Grand Canal d'Alsace where it remained stuck for 6 days.
Unwarned and unprepared for what lay ahead, we arrived in Basel and were bussed to a section of the canal in the middle of nowhere. During the night the Emerald Sky moved a short distance down the Canal to Breisach from where we could see the Viking boats parallel to us but on the Rhine until they managed to sail on! For the next 3 days a bus programme was instigated and a tantalising possibility was held before our noses that the Sky "might sail in which case the bus will take you to the new mooring!"
Obviously, this was tosh. The rainwater had to drain somewhere and that 'somewhere' was the Rhine whose force was too great to open the Canal lock gates. Plainly, after going nowhere for 4 days, it would be impossible for the Emerald Sky to catch up on its schedule, let alone reach Amsterdam without going full pelt and non stop.
Suddenly, after dinner at 9 pm on Tuesday evening we were told to 1) to pay all our bar bills immediately 2) to pack our suitcases and leave them outside our cabins by 6 am and 3) to vacate the boat by 7 am to begin days of long bus journeys and packing/unpacking each day.
Not one person from the Emerald Office in Switzerland, even though one was promised and we were only 30 miles away, came to speak to the passengers or help the poor beleaguered cruise director (on a short term contract) to organise help for people in wheelchairs or flights for those who couldn't face hours of lengthy bus trips etc.
So my point is this. If bad weather strikes AFTER the cruise begins, well it's "force majeure" and certainly not the cruise company's fault, although you should expect upfront honesty.
However, in this case, the cards were well and truly stacked against the cruise even starting. The demographic of a river cruise will often contain a small number of immobile passengers who want to enjoy the company of their family and friends and are prepared to remain on board and enjoy the views and facilities while the others go on trips.
Emerald should have warned us on that first day that they were moored on a canal, might be stuck there for several days (for goodness sake, the Rhine is a major waterway with plenty of technical forecasting) and if unlucky, they may have to turn the cruise into a bus tour. They should have given the passengers options of a refund or another cruise on that first day.
In similar circumstances Tauck offer a total refund, Viking on the other hand offered a total refund or a 50% voucher for those who were prepared to take their chances (google lemons into lemonade Viking Rhone.) Emerald offered a measly £500 of vouchers to use on a future cruise with them one month after our return. No thanks.
How good will your cruise company be if things go wrong?
The ship, the crew, the food, the cabins were all fine. The backroom people let them down. It could have been great.
Lovely bed, good storage and clever sliding panoramic windows. The bathroom door is sited right beside the bed and is a squeeze to get into even if you are small like me. Cleanliness was excellent.