Rays of sunlight pierced through the clearing clouds of the early morning as I left our cabin, looking for a member of the ship’s crew. I had a pressing question. Were we going to have to pack up and transfer to a different ship?
Did We Clear the Shallow Part of the River?
That had always been a concern ever since we booked this cruise. Europe in the past years had undergone some of the worst weather conditions in its history. Only a couple of months ago, Paris experienced record heat waves. Droughts caused such low river water levels that vessels often no longer could traverse the shallow depths. This caused not only great disruptions to river commerce, but also created major impacts to the cruise industry. Though past reviews for this Viking cruise were in general glowing, negative comments mostly pertained to the contingency arrangements that had to be made due to these low water conditions, with comments like “I paid for a river cruise, not a bus tour.”
Will We Do A Ship Swap?
To Viking’s immense credit, their logistics in the handling of these cases were precise and impeccable. When a ship reached an impassible portion of the river, passengers were asked to pack up their belongings and ready them for pickup. Passengers then left the ship and were whisked off by bus for a city tour while their luggage was transferred to an awaiting ship further along the river and placed in the exact cabin number as before. Prior to re-boarding, passengers were treated to lunch at a local restaurant. Can you imagine arranging for a restaurant to accommodate 190 diners, likely without much prior notice? Upon their arrival at their new ship, guests were greeted with a welcome aboard party, by the same program director and manager as before, but this time with a different crew.
Viking endeavored to make the transition as seamless as possible. The process was called a “ship swap” because the same thing was happening with the passengers in the other ship, as they cruised the river in the opposite direction. The planning and timing involved in preparing both ships, and all their passengers for such an exchange must have been monumental. In some very dry situations, this ship swap process had to be repeated at another shallow part of the river. But customer reviews for this cruise concurred that Viking’s exacting logistical planning minimized disruptions for such an unpredictable situation. However, despite the best laid plans, there will always be the grumbling tourists.
It Must Have Been Yesterday’s Downpour!
This morning I knew that we were in a low water area of the river, and though it wouldn’t have bothered us to swap ships, I was just curious what the outlook was. The crew member smiled when I asked about it and said that last night, we passed the shallowest part of the river and that we CLEARED IT BY ONE FOOT. Because we had cleared the lowest part, he said that it was unlikely we were going to have any trouble with low water levels for the rest of the trip! Meaning, unlike so many cruises before us, that we were going to be able remain on the Viking Gefjon for our entire journey!
Wow!!! I recalled yesterday’s unexpected rain-drenched walk back to the ship from Melk. We returned to our cabins and wrung out our clothes in the bathroom sink, and this morning they were still hanging on various pieces of furniture in the room, drying. Yippee!!! It was well worth all the sogginess because I believe that the sudden downpour yesterday was what added that much needed one foot of water to the river last night, allowing us to remain on our ship!!
Coming up next: Passau