River cruise lines report few disruptions due to Seine flooding

River Seine flooded.
River cruise lines said that only a small number of their departures have been impacted by the severe flooding of France’s Seine River.

Due to heavier than usual rainfall, the Seine overflowed last week, forcing the Louvre in Paris to close for several days — the iconic art museum reopened on Wednesday.

The high waters have impacted at least three Viking river cruises: the June 8 Paris & the Heart of Normandy sailing aboard the Viking Rinda; the June 10 Paris & the Heart of Normandy sailing aboard the Viking Kadlin; and the June 12 Paris & the Heart of Normandy sailing aboard the Viking Rolf.

Viking said in a statement on its website that the potential effects on these cruises could entail changes in embarkation and/or disembarkation ports, abbreviated sailing portions and certain destinations being visited by motorcoach.

According to AmaWaterways co-founder and president Rudi Schreiner, the biggest issue for river cruise vessels has been the inability to get into and out of Paris to dock. Many Seine river itineraries have instead been docking in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a little more than 20 miles upriver from Paris and river cruise lines were then bussing passengers into the French capital for sightseeing.

AmaWaterways has had two cruises impacted by the high waters and has given those passengers a future cruise credit to compensate for the inconvenience.

Patrick Clark, managing director of Avalon Waterways said that while the rains in France have created higher-than-normal waters on its rivers, the company has not had any cancellations due to the rain. “All cruises have operated but we have had to make some alternate disembarkation and embarkation arrangements where conditions necessitate for a handful of cruises.”

Added Clark, “Water levels are receding and expected to continue to improve and normalize this week. The Louvre is open, as is Giverny [the location of French artist Claude Monet’s famous gardens].”

Why Paris is of concern to the river cruise industry, too

It just so happens that France has been on the rise in the river cruising world. The Seine River and cruises on the Rhone and Saone rivers in the south of France have been gaining popularity in recent years, and last year Bordeaux became a new river cruise region that lines have since jumped on with new capacity.

So, in the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Paris earlier this month, river cruise lines also have a lot to potentially lose if travelers become nervous about upcoming sailings in France — or in the rest of Europe for that matter.

Michelle Baran

Michelle Baran

Having been on an AmaWaterways river cruise on the Rhine River in Strasbourg at the time of the attacks, I spoke with Ama’s executive vice president and co-owner Kristin Karst in their immediate aftermath.

The company had a river vessel sailing the Seine back towards Paris several days after the attacks and decided to disembark passengers in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a bit further up the Seine from Paris, given the uncertainty in the capital as events unfolded there. Karst noted that AmaWaterways offers a two-night post-river cruise program in Paris, and gave the guests the option to continue with their plans or fly home.

“We had one very large group [and] they wanted to continue and do the two nights in Paris,” said Karst.

AmaWaterways had two more Rhone cruises this month, on Nov. 19 and Nov. 26, and did have some cancellations on those cruises, for which the line offered a 100% future cruise credit. While the news is concerning, Karst noted that an agent had emailed the company several days after the attacks to open up a group booking request for a cruise in Bordeaux, which she found hopeful.

The Paris attacks come at the tail end of what was a challenging 2015 for travel in Europe between the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris at the start of the year, and the migrant crisis that remained in the media spotlight throughout the summer. River cruise lines had the added challenge of low water levels, a nagging problem in Europe since July.

After several years of boom times for the river cruise industry, there is now a large amount of inventory sailing through Europe, and a lot of hype and investment on the line. Like other sectors of the travel industry, the river cruise segment is likely watching closely and hoping this all blows over before the selling season gets under way after the start of the new year. Either way, they’re probably well aware that the Paris attacks will pose some challenges, however short or long-lived.

Celebrity Cruises packages combine ocean and river voyages

Celebrity Cruises said it will offer 11 itineraries next year that combine an ocean cruise with a river cruise in Europe.

The fully commissionable packages range from 16 to 24 nights and will be available on four well-known rivers: the Danube, Rhine, Rhone and Seine. Celebrity’s river cruise partner is Amras Cruises.

“By introducing these river-and-ocean cruise packages, travellers can immerse themselves in Europe more so than ever before, with the ease of choosing a vacation package exclusively created by Celebrity,” said the cruise line’s president, Michael Bayley.

The deluxe packages will be sold with airfare, pre-cruise hotel stays, transfers and a beverage package, making them similar to a luxury cruise in concept.