Low water levels on the Rhine River, particularly in Germany, are so far having a minimal impact on river cruising this summer, but that may change as levels are predicted to go down further.
According to Reuters, water levels rose earlier this month in some southern sections of the river after some much needed rain, but levels are still too low in northern parts including around Kaub and Cologne.
Near Kaub, water levels on July 10 were measured at somewhere between 1 and 1.25 meters (3.28 to 4.92 feet). By July 19, water levels are expected to be just above 0.75 meters (2.46 feet).
Low waters near Kaub are particularly problematic as that stretch of the river is an essential piece of the route for many Rhine River cruise itineraries, including those that sail from Amsterdam through Cologne and Rudesheim and on to Basel in Switzerland.
"Due to the ongoing high temperatures and low rainfall amounts across Europe, some stretches of the Rhine River in areas we sail are experiencing low water levels," said a spokesperson for Scenic and Emerald Waterways. "As river conditions can change relatively quickly, and to ensure as little disruption as possible to our guests' experience, we are closely monitoring the situation and proactively planning to revise the routes of some cruises.
Where possible, we will ensure the ports of call are not impacted by these changes, and our team is working hard to find the best possible solution for each individual cruise. Our guests are notified of any changes to their itinerary and/or sailings."
At AmaWaterways, it's business as usual, said Rudi Schreiner, co-founder and president.
"Water levels on certain rivers can change quickly but we are well prepared and able to adapt quickly to any given situation to ensure our guests still have their long awaited vacation," he told Travel Market Report. "… our ships and itineraries have been purposely designed to minimize the impact on our guests' experience should a low water situation develop."
In addition to alternative ports of call, docking sites, and excursions on standby, AmaWaterways schedules ships to sail towards each other on the same (but reversed) itinerary, which allows for a "ship swap" should river authorities stop traffic at a critical point on the river.
River cruise operators faced sailing complications on the Rhine last summer after unusually dry weather and a heat wave led to record low water levels.
On the Danbue River, where water levels have mostly been okay, at least one river cruise line has had to make a small change.
"Our team is constantly monitoring water levels and we are not currently experiencing low water issues on the Rhine," Pam Hoffee, president of Avalon Waterways told TMR. "The only water challenge that Avalon is currently facing is at Pfelling on the Danube. It is affecting a very small number of cruises that sail to Nuremberg, so we are starting/ending in Vilshofen or Passau instead of Nuremberg.
With an entire fleet of new, Suite Ships, Avalon was built for low water conditions. Not only are our drafts extremely low, our ships are identical if a Ship Swap is ever needed, providing cruisers the same experience, down to the stateroom number."