Q – I am impressed with the information on your site. My husband and I (both 69, well-educated) are planning a European River Cruise some time between July and Sept of either 2017 or 2018, I’ve been considering something between Amsterdam and Budapest (roughly), for approximately 2 weeks, but am open to suggestion. My husband has heart issues so can’t do extensive amounts of walking – he is fine at a slow pace for about an hour at a time, but may need to take rests. Are there any operators that are better than others in terms of the flexibility of their tours? (He’s also OK with taking a “day off” as needed and staying on board with a good book while I trot off on tours, so the on-board amenities would be important.) We don’t need “top of the line” but would prefer an operator, route, and date where there is a lower likelihood of ending up on a bus. We would appreciate your advice, and will most likely book through you when we’ve decided which year. (A really good deal in 2017 would likely tip the balance to sooner rather than later.) Thank you in advance.
A – This is, of course, the key question. Since river boat companies are not forthcoming with their alternative plans should the river gods get angry, there is some anxiety attached to booking any river boat product. We understand. Wish we had a satisfactory answer for you but we don’t. Not one of the top-rated river boat lines has, in our opinion, designed a sufficiently detailed “What-If” response to the question you address – “What will you do if we can’t do our itinerary as scheduled as a result of water level issues?” The current operating philosophy is still “you pay your money and you take your chances”.
Water issues may affect one key lock or bridge location, making passage by boat impossible, There may be an identical ship on the other side of the impediment and both boats simply switch passengers. Not altogether convenient, but not the end of the world either. The fact is that most water level changes occur with less than 48 hours notice. How many hotels of quality that can accommodate several hundred river boat guests on a moment’s notice are in these towns with available rooms?
Predicting water levels is now nearly impossible. Recent rains have not followed a particular pattern and rain is possible during any of the sailing months between May and October. In mid-October and late April is practically guaranteed and during the Christmas market cruises in December you actually hope for bad weather.
We would need to know a bit more about you before making specific recommendations but we would suggest both Uniworld and AMA might offer the kind of “slow walking” opportunities you are seeking.