Earlier this week, we heard from a reader who was “stuck” in Passau on Uniworld’s River Duchess. Underway now, the ship had been stationary since September 3 due to low water levels on the Danube. “The River Duchess has been impacted by the low water near Passau,” Uniworld’s CEO Ellen Bettridge told us on Wednesday. “Good news is that it is raining.”
The stretch of river between Passau and Regensburg had been impassable until Thursday of this week. This afternoon (Saturday), River Duchess was heading toward Bamberg, doing six knots per hour (~7 mph), according to cruisemapper.com.
Our reader was concerned that River Duchess would not make it to Amsterdam as scheduled. His concern proved to be correct. The ship’s guests debarked yesterday and after a “long bus journey” are staying in a “nice Sheraton hotel in Frankfurt,” our reader says. He didn’t sound as if he was overly miffed about something that Uniworld could not control.
Water level deviations are beyond Uniworld’s control, he commented. Responding to others who are boarding River Duchess tomorrow (Sunday), he said they may be bussed to Cologne or Frankfurt, but added, “When you get on the ship, where ever it is, [the ship] is lovely and the crew are great.”
Deviations like these are not ideal for the guests, the crew or cruise companies. You can bet that Uniworld would rather have its guests in the elegant staterooms and suites on River Duchess than having to spend handsomely for hotel rooms, dining, etc.
“The last thing we want is a deviation, which is why we canceled 10 cruises this season and moved guests to other cruises this year,” Bettridge tells us. She notes that her team does lots of due diligence, monitoring water levels and making decisions based on the water levels and predicted rainfall. Even when forecasts bode favorably, things can change quickly. Is it merely a coincidence that as I write this, my iPhone weather app shows no rain in Asheville currently? But if I were to walk out my front door with no umbrella, I would get doused. Weather forecasts seem to have become works of fiction of late.
Bettridge says that her team worked hard to keep guests happy and that being docked in Passau allowed Uniworld to run additional shore programs. Despite the circumstances, guest feedback, she says, has been positive.
She suggested we review the feedback about Uniworld on FeeFo, an independent review platform that Bettridge says she cannot edit (in fact, we found several negative comments from disgruntled guests). Earlier this week, a guest affected by water levels, wrote: Everyone was helpful, knowledgeable and gracious. When the river proved too shallow to finish the cruise, alternative excursions were created, extra guides and entertainment materialized and everyone who was leaving from the port we didn’t reach had all of their alternative travel arrangements provided. Special kudos for Ramona, who never lost her cool or her “cool.”
To read guest comments, go to https://www.uniworld.com/ and look for the FeeFo icon as indicated in this screenshot.
Of course, Uniworld’s not the only company that was affected by low water levels on the Danube. Others were stuck in Passau too. Are cruise companies to blame when the weather fails to cooperate? We’re interested in your opinions, so please take a moment to complete our questionnaire below.
Who's To Blame?We can all agree that river cruise companies have no control over water levels that cause deviations. Nonetheless, guests whose cruises are affected by water levels are often understandably disappointed. What responsibility does the cruise company bear? Are deviations due to water levels something they should compensate for - or should river cruise guests be forgiving? What's your opinion?
Here’s wishing you all a nice weekend, and we look forward to hearing what you have to say about who’s responsible when the weather goes awry.