Europe’s Heat Wave Disrupts River Cruises

August 8, 2003
Europe’s unprecedented heat wave means more than uncomfortably hot temperatures for passengers sailing on river cruises this summer. Itineraries which so far have been impacted by low river levels – caused by Europe’s extreme drought – include sailings on some parts of the Danube (particularly around Passau). Even more seriously affected are cruises on the Elbe River, which runs through Germany, Hungary and the Czech Republic, and on Italy’s Po River.  Cruises along other major waterways, such as France’s Seine and Rhone and Portugal’s Douro rivers are not affected at this point.  
Patrick Clark, vice president of sales for Uniworld, which operates ten river cruise boats in Europe, says that the company's 130-passenger River Dutchess recently bypassed Passau on a Budapest to Nuremberg itinerary but passengers were transported to the port of call via motorcoach. Clark says the company is also keeping a close eye on the lower Danube near Bucharest.
“This is a very fluid situation,” Clark says, “pun not intended. But one rain storm could change this overnight.”  
The low river levels have also impacted Peter Deilmann, another major cruise operator in Europe. The company, which operates nine ships there, reports it has just cancelled the August 9 sailing of the 106-passenger Dresden. That ship sails seven day itineraries from Dresden to Hamburg via the Elbe.  Those who were booked on next week’s Dresden sailing have been switched over to non-affected cruises on the Danube.  
Deilmann president Ronald Santangelo reports that the Po River has also been problematic for the company, which canceled two of its seven-day roundtrips from Venice earlier this summer. At this point, Deilmann has modified that itinerary and, says Santangelo, the 94-passenger Casanova sails “as far as the water will allow us.” Passengers don’t miss out on ports, however, he notes.  “We just bus them to the cities they were intended to go to.” 
Rather unbelievably, Grand Circle Travel, a third major operator of European river cruises, was not able to answer questions about the drought’s impact on its passengers and its itineraries.