Q – I feel like I am getting the run-around from just about everyone I ask about recommended dates in Europe to avoid river boat vacation problems. I asked two travel agents and they hemmed and hawed and I got no answer So I called Uniworld and Avalon and got, basically, “it rarely happens” which is not much use to me. Then I started going online looking at the river boat sites and I found nothing that would be useful. This really seems to be a conspiracy of silence. Don’t mean to ruin your day but what is the problem with your industry? Why can’t we get straight information about which months have the worst flooding?
A – We can’t really answer “what is the problem with your industry” as we would need a few terabytes to handle the question adequately. The bottom line is that the boats need to go out full and negative information about months to avoid might be catastrophic in terms of the bottom line. The other part of the big picture is that no one knows for sure when flooding or equally serious draught will occur.
So here is what we do know: 2015 was one of the most challenging years on the major rivers of Europe. The worst flooding, resulting major disruptions and the cancellation of scores of river cruises occurred during the second week of May. This was produced by a combination of heavy rainfall and melting snow from the mountains. But June was the month in 2013 when historic flooding in Germany, including popular embarkation port Passau, were flooded with record levels of water.
But 2015, a historic weather year, also saw serious draught occurring in the months of July and October. So, perhaps, it is less a conspiracy of silence, and more a sense that there is no predicting weather months in advance in a way that can influence booking windows.
You can get a bus tour at any time on Europe’s major rivers. Theoretically, the lines claim you have a one in twenty chance of your itinerary being changed – but we think that figure is low if one looks at weather statistics from the last five years when traditional [patterns seem to have most affected. So what to do?
01 – Have a positive attitude. Plan your trip with the idea that you may have some bus rides and a few nights in a hotel. But you will be in the heart of Europe and you will generally well looked after if you book one of our top-rated lines.
02 – Purchase extremely expensive (10-11% of the total cost of your trip) cancel for any reason travel insurance. That way you can make your final decision a few days prior to departure, when you have access to the latest weather information, without risking everything you have paid for the trip.
As you know from our articles posted on this subject and previous Q and A;s, it is our feeling that the industry has not been honest with the consumer as regards water-level cancellations. But given that no one knows what the rivers will be like at the time of your booking, it is hard to imagine that the marketing folks could come up with anything much better than “You books your cruise and you takes your chances.”