Crisis On The Rhine. That was the headline in this morning’s Wall Street Breakfast. The news comes as no surprise to our readers who have buzzing on our water levels page about ship swaps, bus transfers and skipped ports of call. As you might imagine when travel plans are interrupted, the comments range from disappointment to resignation. “Very frustrating,” writes reader David, “but nature is in control.”
Indeed, the Rhine needs rain, and a lot of it. Rain is in the forecast, but will it help? As you can see in the map above, the water levels at Kaub were 42 centimeters at 8:30 this morning (German time). By the time you’re reading this, water levels will have breached 40 centimeters, a low mark that’s too shallow for large vessels to navigate.
Some river cruise companies have offloaded guests in Koblenz and put them on smaller boats to cruise the Rhine Gorge.
Several of our readers are providing commentary from the rivers, live reports about their experiences. We’re impressed that most comments are civil and kind, and it makes us happy that our community is comprised of people trying to help one another.
“Your post brought tears to my eyes,” wrote Karen. She was replying to commenter Annette, who, in turn, was responding to another commenter, Gabriella.
Gabriella is currently on the Rhine and posting reports that provided information that Annette and others were looking for. Annette’s response to Gabriela is edited for brevity: I booked a life time trip for my elderly siblings and their spouses that leaves Basel on August 26. If it wasn’t for your generosity in posting, I would be clueless. I have until August 12 to cancel but that is not what I want to do. Life is fragile at 75. Who knows if they will be healthy enough next year? Thank you in advance for taking time out of your trip to help. I saved for 10 years to give this gift to my siblings. I just want to make this the best I can for them.
A couple of recurrent themes are, “we don’t want to be on a bus tour when we paid for a river cruise,” “no bag drag for us.” From what we’re hearing, though, the bus transfers are short and often necessary to pass an unnavigable part of the river that the ship can’t pass. Ship swaps, while not ideal, are also necessary.
Jon the Traveler writes that ship swaps are no big deal (edited for brevity): I experienced low water during 2018 … we did a ship swap, which was seamless. Viking gave us a bonus lunch cruise on a very beautiful boat going through the middle Rhine. I would never cancel … never cancel … why not enjoy the changes?
Barb echoes his comments: There are ten of us, so we will have fun on whatever this adventure turns out to be. Life is about experiences.
The map above highlights areas in Germany that are experiencing low water, indicated by the orange dots, and normal levels, indicated by green dots. Though rain is in the forecast for next week, “it promises at best only slightly higher water levels,” according to a report by the Bundesanstalt für Gewässerkunde (BFG). “Possible increases will not result in any drastic change. The ongoing low water situation will therefore continue to have an impact on runoff in the coming weeks.”
The two-week forecast looks a little better for river cruisers. In the graphic above you can see water levels rising, slightly, at Kaub. The Rhine could be passable if water levels follow the direction of the graph beginning on August 21. On that day, the BFG’s report gives a 50/50 chance to the water levels at Kaub being above 78 centimeters. That’s enough for some river cruisers to navigate the Rhine. It’s not ideal, as most captains prefer water levels above one meter. To follow the trends, see BFG’s 14-day water levels forecasts here and the six-week forecasts here.
BFG’s report basically concedes that it’s all up to Mother Nature (translated from German and edited for brevity): The 6-week forecast for the Kaub level from August 8th, 2022 … shows that beyond the next 1 to 2 weeks, the predicted course of the water level is significantly more uncertain. Since the amount of water stored in the catchment area (particularly in the soil or in the form of snow) is currently very low, further water level development will be dominated all the more by the weather forecast for the next few weeks (and their uncertainty). Source BFG current low water report.
Perhaps it’s best to heed the advice of commenter falynette: No one can control the weather. If you want perfection in every way, then cancel. Otherwise go with an open mind to go with the flow and enjoy whatever the experience gives you … Having done a cruise in 2018 when the water levels were extremely bad, and not being in top health, I went open to anything as I traveled from New Zealand and do not regret one minute.
Go with the flow. What else can we do?