Wind and Water: How The Elements Could Affect Your River Cruise

River cruises are meant to be relaxing, tranquil and full of adventure, and for the most part they are. However just like any other type of holiday, bad weather can affect a river cruise; fog can prevent ships from leaving port, and torrential rain can stop passengers enjoying the open deck areas of the boat. The popularity of river cruising continues to increase year on year, but passengers are still learning the hard way when it comes to the elements. Here’s some things to check up on before you leave for your river cruise this year.

High Water

Because of bridges and the width and depth of rivers, river boats have to be built to strict requirements. However these measurements are based on average water levels, so if there’s heavy rain or flooding, the planned route of your cruise might have to be changed to ensure the safety of passengers.

So, when does high water occur? In fact, it’s the spring months where high water is most common, when snow and ice melts due to rising temperatures. These high waters can last all the way into May or June although this has only happened on a number of occasions in Europe. If you’re thinking about traveling on the Rhine or Danube rivers between Vienna and Cologne this year, get your river cruise operator to confirm the route and alternate route before you book.

Low Water

It’s not just high water that can disrupt your river cruise, low water can too! If there’s not enough water in a river, then a ship can be easily grounded. Low water is most common during peak summer months and can be the direct result of a drought. One of Europe’s most famous Rivers, the Elbe, has been affected by low water on numerous occasions.


River boats are certified to sail in different levels of wind; for example, most river boats in Europe are certified up to level 6. However new ships are only given a level 3, and will only gain higher certification after a month on the water. Therefore, if your river cruise is on a new boat and a windstorm kicks up, you could effectively remain docked until the wind subsides!

High winds are most common in waterways near the Atlantic, such as those in the Netherlands and Belgium. If your ship is docked because of high winds, your tour operator will most likely transport passengers to the day’s destinations by bus, but as high winds can change direction during the course of a day, you might only be docked for a short amount of time. Although this can be a huge hindranceto your cruise, it very rarely happens.

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