The weather. It can’t be predicted. It can’t be guaranteed. So, when is the best time to take a European river cruise?
September is the most popular time to take a river cruise in Europe, but also the most expensive. You’ll find lower prices during the months of November, December, March and April. The snow melt from the Alps swells Europe’s rivers in late April and May, at times so much that river vessels cannot sail under the ancient low bridges. June, July and August typically have the warmest weather but the ports are most crowded. And, severe heat and drought in the summer can cause water level to drop too low for river boat navigation. The fall usually means the end of the drought, but rains begin and the rivers start to swell again.
OK, so what do the river cruise lines do?
River cruise lines have developed a couple of alternative plans when rivers become impassable. One is to turn the remainder of the cruise into a bus tour, with passengers reaching destinations by bus and staying overnight in hotels. This is a solution Avalon Waterways®, a division of Globus® has successfully implemented. Otherwise, the vessel can operate day trips from a central docked location so the ship remains the passenger’s hotel. The ship then resumes its course when water levels return to normal.
The other is to exchange ships à la Viking River Cruises. In cases where a line has two or more ships running the same river, often in different directions, passengers might be bussed around a high-water stretch and board a sister ship for the rest of the sailing. Since many riverboats have identical layouts, passengers can typically retrieve the same cabin number on the new ship with minimal hassle.
Only in extreme circumstances will the cruise be cancelled entirely.
Tauck® European River Cruising has dealt with the issues of water levels by developing an amusing animation video called Meet Europe’s “River Gods.” The video makes clear that sometimes the river gods are in a surly mood and they don’t want anyone traveling in their realm. But the video explains that your vacation will not be substandard since appropriate land arrangements will be substituted. Tauck® is prepared for the unexpected along Europe’s waterways
Water levels can impact any river cruise. The best advice is to choose a river cruise line that is also experienced in land touring or has many ships along the rivers that can be swapped if a section of the river becomes impossible to negotiate.
If you are considering a European river cruise, please feel free to send me an email or call me so we can discuss your vacation plans in detail.
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