While Austria and Germany have gone back into lockdown, it’s not all doom and gloom for the river cruise lines, with most operators offering alternative routes for guests.
Germany has cancelled the popular Christmas Markets for the second time in the Bavaria region, which includes Nuremberg, Passau and Regensburg. The Munich market was cancelled just three days before it was due to open this week.
Avalon Waterways, Crystal River Cruise, Emerald, Scenic and Tauk have moved to protect guests’ experiences by cancelling a number of sailings for the rest of the year. But they are optimistic about the outlook for 2022, with booking strong in the European summer and beyond.
Here’s a roundup of how each of the cruise lines are responding to the latest lockdown.
AmaWaterways has four ships sailing on the Danube River that are affected by the lockdown in Austria. AmaWaterways founder and executive vice president, Ms Kristin Karst told Travel Agent that the cruise line was contacting travel agents and guests booked on Danube River itineraries this weekend.
She said, “We know how much our guests have been looking forward to their river cruise experience on board our festive ships so rather than cancel, we quickly reached out to our travel partners and guests and provided creative alternative arrangements.”
She noted that travelling at this time is a personal choice and they’ve kept their flexible policies in place to accommodate the evolving conditions. They are continuing to monitor the situation and where they need to will offer guests an alternative sailing. Guests who are impacted by modified itineraries will receive future cruise credits based on the number of days affected.
Ms Karst appreciated the patience and flexibility that travel agents and travellers had shown as itineraries were changed.
Due to the developing COVID-19 situation in Austria, Crystal Cruises has cancelled all remaining itineraries onboard the Crystal Ravel in December 2021. Sailings onboard the Crystal Debussy, which sail on the Rhine River from Amsterdam and Basel will continue to operate through to the end of the year.
The cruise line is notifying affected guests and their travel companions; and giving them the option to reschedule to 2022 sailings, a future cruise credit valid for any sailings departing before 31 December 2023, or a full refund.
Until recently, demand had been strong since the river cruises started again in August. Crystal River Cruises senior vice president and managing director, Walter Littlejohn told Travel Agent Central that the success of the season was testament to their ‘Crystal Clean+” health and safety protocols, and fully vaccinated staff. The cruise line has extended the protocols until December 31, 2022, with Crystal providing COVID-19 testing at embarkation.
He said that such a positive response from guests made it even more disappointing that they had to cancel the remaining four sailings on the Crystal Ravel. The ship will resume river cruising in March 2022, with seven night “Delightful Danube” itineraries between Budapest and Vilshofen, Germany. The Crystal Mozart is sailing on seven night “Danube Dreams and Discoveries” roundtrip itineraries from Vienna.
Riviera River Cruises
Riviera Cruises’ Executive vice president sales and marketing North America, Ms Marilyn Conroy told Travel Agent Central that they are hopeful that their December 2021, Danube Imperial Cities and Yuletide Markets roundtrip cruises from Budapest, Hungary will be able to go ahead, but if Austria’s lockdown is extended they will look at alternative itineraries.
Scenic, which includes Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours and Emerald Cruises has cancelled all remaining 2021 European river cruises.
The line said in a statement; “With Austria announcing a full national lockdown from Monday and the Bavarian region of Germany cancelling its Christmas Markets we are suspending six Scenic river cruises and four Emerald Cruises river cruises. All were due to visit Europe’s Christmas Markets.”
The cruise line intends to contact affected guests to discuss their options which include transferring to a 2022 Christmas Markets river cruise.
It was disappointing because for the last few months they welcomed thousands of guests on board their river ships and gave them fantastic memories of sailing through Europe’s villages, towns and cities. They are looking forward to welcoming guests back on board in March, 2022.
Uniworld has cancelled their ‘Danube Holiday Markets’, ‘Classic Christmas Markets’ and ‘European Holiday Markets sailings that are scheduled for the first two weeks of December due to the latest lockdown in Austria. They have contacted guests to arrange alternative travel dates and are working on alternative itineraries along the Rhine River.
Guests booked on Viking ships can breathe a sigh of relief because although they won’t be able to stop in any ports in Austria, their ships are still operating.
The cruise company issued a statement saying, “In light of the lockdown measures announced by the Austrian government on November 19, we have modified the itineraries of all impacted river voyages. Ships that had been originally scheduled to stop in Austria during the affected time period will now just sail through Austria.
“In recognition of any inconvenience caused by the change, Viking has also provided guests on these modified itineraries with onboard credit to be used on their upcoming sailing, as well as a voucher to be used for their next voyage.”
If there are further disruptions to cruises, then Viking will notify their customers directly.