Low Waters Divert Danube and Elbe Cruises

June 22, 2014

(Update: June 22, 8:15 a.m. EDT) -- Viking Cruises has posted an updated list of sailings affected by a stretch of low water on the Danube River between Regensburg and Passau, Germany. Viking's website lists 12 cruises that have been affected -- all of which involve a "ship swap" to avoid the low water. To see the full list, click here.

A representative from Viking has also posted in the Cruise Critic forums to explain the steps the line has taken to avoid low water areas while still operating the scheduled cruises.

A statement from the Viking website said: "Viking's Switzerland-based nautical and operations teams, along with a network of local partners and authorities, continue to monitor the situation closely.

"Guests on [impacted] departures –- along with their Travel Agent -– should have received an email alerting them that they would embark on an identical sister ship. If a guest traveling on one of the impacted departures ... did not receive notification, please contact your Travel Agent or Viking's Customer Relations team 1.877.668.4546, extension 4525 or email customerrelations@vikingcruises.com."

(June 19, Vienna, 2 p.m. EDT) -- Low water – just less than an inch below the level needed for safe passage – has halted at least two riverboat voyages on the Danube and Elbe rivers.

Passengers of the Viking Embla were told today that they will be traveling by bus tomorrow from Vienna to join the nearly identical Viking Longship Aegir in Regensburg, Germany. The 285-mile trip usually takes three days on the river, but Viking plans to still provide scheduled shore excursions to Melk, Austria and Passau, Germany by bus from Regensburg.

No word yet whether or not the cruise line will offer any compensation for the diversion.

The Viking Embla, like the rest of the fleet's longships, has a draft of 5 feet (more than 1.5 meters). Many other river ships sailing this part of the Danube have similar clearances, so the low water could affect other river cruise companies as well.

APT Tours, Avalon Waterways, CroisiEurope, Emerald Waterways, Riviera Travel, Scenic Tours, Titan Travel and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, however, are reporting business as usual.

Tauck has experienced only minimal impact, according to a representative, being forced to dock slightly outside of one port and bus guests in for sightseeing tours.

Riviera Cruises, on the other hand, is canceling a cruise on the Elbe River because waters are too low to sail, but says it is not having problems on the Danube. Passengers were offered a full refund or the option to transfer to another sailing in 2015.

High waters caused at least four cancellations and numerous itinerary changes last year on the Danube and Elbe rivers.

River levels are generally a concern during the summer as it is the height of river cruise season and too much or too little rain can immediately affect the ability of riverboats to navigate. Sailings are rarely canceled, but passengers will often find themselves being bused between ports or from one ship to another.

--by Dan Benedict, Cruise Critic contributor; updates by Jamey Bergman, UK Production and River Section Editor