Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Floods wash out river cruises

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British tourists and 40 crew were stuck on the cruise ship Filia Rheni on the Danube river in Vienna after floods inundated the landing bridge of the ship.

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British tourists and 40 crew were stuck on the cruise ship Filia Rheni on the Danube river in Vienna after floods inundated the landing bridge of the ship.

‘It is now clear we are facing the worst floods of all time."

Those are the words of Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orb!n on June 7, as his country waited for floodwaters to peak. Record-setting flood levels have been reported in many areas of Central Europe, and river-cruising lines started cancelling trips, busing passengers and moving ships to alternative routes.

Did their emergency plans succeed? Were the cruise lines transparent with their customers and the media? Were they quick enough making decisions as it became obvious that portions of their routes were going to be shut down? Did passengers who were disrupted receive fair compensation?

Those are the types of questions ocean cruise lines have to answer from time to time, and now it's river cruise companies that are on the spot. More answers will come in the days ahead from passenger reviews.

High water is the enemy of river cruising, but the current dilemma is not new. The same kind of flooding occurred in 2002, though river cruising was a small niche market at that time. Today, it's a much larger niche as many of the major players have expanded their fleets and attracted unprecedented media attention.

Part of that growth should be passenger preparedness. Patricia Gordon, a regular reader, offers this sanguine advice:

"I, as an experienced ocean and river cruiser, have learned a lot from this episode. For one, read the fine print in your booking paperwork ... a river cruise might be what you purchased but a river cruise might not be what you get, and you agree to that when you book (whether you know that or not).

"Secondly, purchase insurance that allows you to cancel for any reason. Those who did this time are very glad they did.

"Thirdly, consider the ramifications of booking your own air travel with pre- and post-cruise plans ... what happens if your cruise is cancelled or if your cruise starts or ends at a different city? This has been a huge problem for some who, for instance, were to end in Prague and now are winding up, via bus, in Munich."

All good things to consider.

Phil's Pick of the Week

When I think of repositioning cruises, my thoughts automatically jump from one continent (or one country) to another. But this week, I've chosen a cruise that begins and ends in the same country -- the U.S. -- going from Boston to Tampa. It's on Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas leaving October 27 for 13 nights, and includes stops in St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Barbados, Cura ao and Aruba.

Starting price at the time of writing: $1,089. Call your cruise agent or go to Royalcaribbean.com for more information.

-- Postmedia News

Visit portsandbows.com for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an email newsletter on the site for even more cruise information. Phil Reimer may be contacted directly at portsandbows

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 22, 2013 ??65534

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