Cruise operators on the Danube and Elbe rivers canceled and rerouted trips last week as record floods displaced thousands and killed scores of Germans and Eastern Europeans. The outlook for this week remained uncertain as of the Travel section's press time Tuesday.
The flooding affected hundreds of passengers, many of whom were loaded onto buses or transferred to other vessels. Some cruise companies were declining refunds to customers whose cruises were altered instead of canceled, relying on standard disclaimers that let them change itineraries for situations, such as the weather, that are beyond their control. Others said they would consider refunds on a case-by-case basis.
The luxury German line Peter Deilmann Cruises, which has doubled its riverboat fleet in the last five years, canceled the Aug. 17 and 24 sailings of its 106-passenger Dresden, which makes weeklong sailings on the Elbe between Dresden and Hamburg, Germany. On the Danube, the Aug. 17 sailing of the 200-passenger Danube Princess was canceled, but the 204-passenger Mozart embarked on its Aug. 18 cruise; both ships make weeklong round-trip sailings from Passau, Germany.
Los Angeles-based Uniworld altered itineraries on the Danube but did not cancel any cruises, said spokeswoman Denise Seomin. The affected vessels included the 142-passenger Amadeus II, which sails between Budapest, Hungary, and Prague, Czech Republic, and the 138-passenger River Empress, scheduled between Amsterdam and Budapest.
The flooding was another blow to the European river cruise industry, which had been growing rapidly until the Sept. 11 attacks.
"We're waiting for the locusts to show up," said Elliot Gillies, spokesman for Germany's KD River Cruises of Europe, which was offering a two-for-one sale even before the floods began. Cruises of its Fontane and Schumann on its sister Viking line, which each carry about 120 passengers and ply the Elbe between Prague and Magdeburg, Germany, were expected to be postponed at least until Sept. 7.
Among the flood-affected hotels was the Hilton Prague, expected to be closed until mid-September. Many tourist attractions in popular ports, such as Prague and Dresden, remained closed last week.