Multiple river cruise lines have been forced to change itineraries and even cancel sailings as higher than average water levels have created flooding on several European rivers.

Portions of major rivers in Austria, Germany, and Hungary have been closed, with navigability uncertain as rivers are flooding over their banks and landmarks become obscured.

Several portions of the Danube – the second-longest river in Europe, running more than 1,700 miles from the Black Forest to the Black Sea – have been completely closed.

According to In Queensland, roughly 140 passengers have recently been evacuated from a river cruise ship on the Danube in southern Germany, with the ship unable to continue due to closures.

The specific ship or cruise line involved in that incident has not been identified, but multiple cruise lines are considering cancellations and other adjustments.

“The Danube is experiencing higher-than-average water levels, due to an unprecedented amount of rain in the last month,” explained Pam Hoffee, Avalon Waterways President to Travel Market Report, “This week, we made the decision to cancel two cruises on the lower Danube, due to ship access and availability.”

Similarly, Viking River Cruises has kept booked travelers updated with announcements on its website.

“Currently, sections of the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers are experiencing high water levels. To varying degrees, these conditions may affect select itineraries,” the cruise line said.

“Our Switzerland-based nautical team is continually monitoring the situation and will make any necessary adjustments to accommodate the conditions. Guests and their Travel Advisors will continue to be notified directly if we think that their itinerary might be impacted.”

River cruise lines can often adapt itineraries by adjusting their routes along tributaries, or else spending more time on less affected portions of rivers while waiting for flooding to recede. Some lines that operate multiple vessels may also offer alternate sailings on sister ships to their booked guests, depending on the individual circumstances for each sailing.

Larger river cruise lines, such as Viking, can easily transfer guests to alternate ships, and in fact plan voyages in opposite directions to facilitate such transfers.

“In the event of high (or low) water, this tactic allows us to implement a ship swap that is typically seamless for guests – both they and their luggage are able to be transferred to their exact, identical stateroom on a sister ship that was purposefully sailing on the other half of the river in preparation for such a disruption,” Viking explained.

River Cruises in Budapest (Photo Credit: Borisb17)

The flooding and closure of portions of the Danube follows another recent incident when a river cruise boat and smaller motorboat collided, resulting in at least two deaths. Changes in water levels may have played a role in that incident, which is currently being investigated.

Guests booked on any river sailings in the coming weeks on any European rivers should stay in close contact with their cruise line about potential deviations, itinerary adjustments, or cancellations.

Many travelers unfamiliar with river cruises may wonder why more water can have such a dramatic impact on sailings. Droughts that shrink rivers are easily understood as a hazard (ships can’t sail without water, after all), but flooding can be equally treacherous.

When rivers rise, for example, their banks may change or be subject to erosion, changing the edge navigability for docking procedures or even flooding docks so they cannot be safely used. Higher water levels also create problems for passing under bridges, and can change the strength and speed of local currents.

River cruises can be a phenomenal way to explore many European cities that aren’t easily reached by oceangoing vessels, delving into the rich culture of different destinations with longer stays and more intimate visits.

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