A heat wave and severe drought have lingered over much of Europe
this summer, stalling some cruises on the Continent’s largest
rivers and creating uncomfortable days for tourists and locals
Viking River Cruises said four of its ships were caught in low
waters on the Rhine-Danube and Elbe routes in mid-July, although
rain last week returned parts of the rivers to navigable levels for
all but the heaviest barges.
“We’ve dealt with it head-on,” said Jeffrey S. Dash, Viking
Rivers’ president, as he described meeting with 120 passengers who
missed their scheduled embarkation in Amsterdam.
Dash said that, during the worst stretch, three Viking ships
were stalled by water levels near Passau, Germany. “Two ships made
it by and one didn’t,” he said.
Patrick Clark, vice president of sales for Uniworld, said one of
its Danube cruises had worried about the dropping water levels and
bypassed Passau. “Then the rain started and the water went up 30
centimeters,” he said. The Danube still is reported to be at record
low levels in parts of Eastern Europe.
Both companies used motor coaches to take passengers on
“We’ve been pretty fortunate,” Clark said, explaining that
Uniworld’s schedule has avoided some problems. Its Elbe cruises are
not scheduled until fall. Italy’s Po River is at its lowest levels
in decades, but the river often drops during the summer so the
company changes its Cremona-to-Venice route to a Venice round
The problems are blamed on weeks of 90-degree heat combined with
what some meteorologists have described as a 100-year drought.
European and U.S. news reports have said that Italy, France,
Germany, Portugal and Austria are hardest hit, with some countries
experiencing their first summer blackouts in decades due to a
shortage of hydroelectric power. In France, wildfires along the
parched Riviera have forced evacuations and rationing of water was
being considered in some areas of Italy.
Farmers say harvests may be 60 percent below normal, resulting
in shortages, higher prices and overall losses of more than $5.7