Flooding closes Venice to cruise ships

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Near-record flooding has temporarily closed Venice to cruise passengers.

Cruises that had been scheduled to stop in Venice have been rerouted to Trieste or Ravenna, CLIA Europe spokesman Martyn Griffiths said.

Tides six feet above normal have left many parts of Venice underwater, beached water taxis and boats along the quays, and damaged many tourism businesses and sites.

Cruise calls were rerouted at the request of the operators of the cruise terminal in Venice, Griffiths said. The terminal is open and being used as a transfer point for passengers if needed. For the moment, it is also being used as a shelter for Venice residents displaced by the flooding.

No ships are expected to call in Venice before Nov. 21, Griffiths said.

Doing some water-level damage control

By Michelle Baran

Any river cruise enthusiasts who saw the images of France’s Seine River creeping towards the tops of Paris’ elegant bridges last week probably had the same thought I did — this can’t be good for the river cruise business.
River cruise lines admit that the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris dealt a pretty harsh blow to their 2016 France bookings and that the March attacks in Brussels didn’t help either. But slowly, sales were coming back.
And then the rains came, pushing the Seine so high last week that iconic institutions such as the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay museums in Paris temporarily closed.
Obviously, no river cruise vessels were able to sail under those Paris bridges for a time.
But as it turns out, the flooding was relatively short-lived and the water levels are receding. The Louvre reopened on Wednesday, and the river cruise lines reported minimal disruptions and anticipated that sailings would return to normal in line with the receding water levels.
What was likely more disruptive were the images of the floodwaters in Paris, which isn’t the kind of marketing the river cruise industry — especially in France where bookings are still fragile — needs right now.
But river cruise lines have been learning how to cope. Over the past several years they have taken a fair amount of flak for a lack of transparency and clear communication about water level issues, and they are working on being much more open about exactly how high and low waters are impacting their sailings.
Viking, for example, now how has a dedicated page on its website where travel agents and passengers can see all updates on disruptions, no matter how big or small. Because the Viking fleet is so large and its operations so vast, this page can actually serve as a comprehensive resource for anyone with concerns about water levels that wants to check up on a river they plan to sail.
A river cruise tour guide has also put together a website documenting water levels in Europe throughout the season. Though by no means a comprehensive or official source, this is another good place for concerned passengers and travel sellers to check.
But ultimately, river cruise lines themselves should be and increasingly are the go-to source for questions about high and low waters and specific changes to itineraries, as each line has different contingency plans in place. The good news is that while water levels will always be a nagging problem on rivers, at least river cruise lines are learning how to do more and better damage control, which will ultimately mean smoother sailing through the issue than in the past.

Defining adequate compensation

Defining adequate compensation

By Michelle Baran
InsightMassive flooding in Central Europe earlier this month deprived many river cruise passengers of the journey they had paid for, leaving many of them very disappointed and looking for proper compensation. But that begs the question: What kind of compensation is proper?

At least one group of passengers expressed their unhappiness by forwarding to members of the media an email exchange between them and their cruise line in which the passengers requested a full refund for a river cruise they claim was severely damaged by the flooding.

“We missed Koblenz, Speyer, Rudesheim and all the castles along the scenic Rhine River Gorge — which was our primary reason for choosing this particular cruise,” they wrote. “We had a wonderful visit to Marksburg Castle, but it took a multihour bus ride there and back to do so. We paid for eight days on a boat, not partial days on a bus and missed itinerary points. … We did not get what we paid for.”MichelleBaran

In this case, the river cruise line explained that because the rains and floods were a force majeure, or act of God, beyond the company’s control, the passengers were not granted a full refund for the disrupted cruise. Instead, they were provided with a future cruise credit.

Whatever the outcome of this individual case, it was certainly one of many individual customer service disputes that each river cruise line had to resolve on a case-by-case basis.

And while the email exchange brought to light the fact that a number of passengers were unhappy with how the crisis was handled, the situation was just as disappointing for the river cruise companies, which lost untold millions of dollars when they were forced to cancel or shorten cruises. And those losses will continue as the companies honor future cruise credits.

While some travelers clearly felt that river cruise companies came up short in terms of customer service and crisis management, the fact is, the cruise lines and passengers alike suffered losses in the path of Central Europe’s surging rivers.