Toxic Sludge in Danube Leaves Cruises Unaffected

October 7, 2010

(2:40 p.m. EDT) -- Three days after a reservoir break in Hungary flooded three small villages with toxic sludge -- a byproduct of aluminum production -- the mess has reached the Danube River. But so far, river cruise lines have not altered itineraries.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the sludge made its way to the Danube, Europe's second-longest river, through creeks and streams that feed into it, leaving irreparable damage in its muddy wake.

According to the article, more than 30 homes were left uninhabitable, some residents suffered burns, and animals were killed by contact with the substance.

However, officials in Hungary have said that metal levels in local drinking water have not reached toxic levels, and the pH of the sludge has been reduced such that further environmental damage to the Danube is unlikely.

The river cruise season along the Danube goes strong through October, with some lines offering late-fall sailings and Christmas market cruises in November and December. The Hungarian city of Budapest is often a turnaround port for river cruises that either offer Danube cruises west through Austria and Germany or east through Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria, sometimes as far as the Black Sea. For more on traversing Europe's rivers, visit Cruise Critic's River Cruises page.

Several river lines -- including a AMAWATERWAYS, Avalon Waterways, Sea Cloud Cruises, Tauck Cruising, Uniworld and Viking River Cruises -- offer Danube River sailings, but none has yet announced any itinerary changes.

Steve Born, vice president of marketing for the Globus family of brands, which includes Avalon Waterways, says, "We view the sludge situation in Hungary as an ecological issue instead of as an obstacle for our travelers. Our travelers will not come in contact with the sludge. We do not have plans to alter our Danube River sailings."

Likewise, Bruce Rosenberg, vice president of marketing for AMAWATERWAYS, says officials have spoken with the line's nautical team in Europe and are closely monitoring all media outlets for further information. At this time, he says the line is "continuing normal operations."

We'll keep you posted.

--by Ashley Kosciolek, Copy Editor