Question marks over treatment of passengers on disrupted river cruises

Question marks have been raised over the treatment of passengers on river cruises that have been disrupted by the serious flooding in central Europe.

Travel-News.co.uk has received communication from a passenger booked on a June 5 Danube cruise with Viking River Cruises. In it, she is critical of the options that have been made available to passengers following the disruption to the trip that the flooding has caused. She also states that passengers were told that they would be travelling to Austria by coach, despite their misgivings over making the journey due to the current conditions. She was, however, more appreciative of the company’s initial arrangements for accommodation.

The passenger stated, ‘I’m currently one of 300 passengers of the June 5th Danube cruise in Budapest. Though Viking has done a nice job of lodging us at the Corinthia Hotel, it is not giving us ANY choices for refunds, rebooking or cancellations. There is a significant number of passengers unwilling to make the trip to Krems by coach and lodge in the Viking Freya, but the rep here says it will be OK. Don’t reproduce their PR line, it’s b******! Most of the passengers are senior citizens and are being cajoled into getting on a coach tomorrow morning to Austria even though it’s not safe to travel there.’

In its response to Travel-news.co.uk, Viking River cruises said, ‘We are sorry to hear that one of our passengers is not happy and would urge them to contact the UK office directly in order resolve the issue. Faced with this unprecedented situation, we are working hard to make alternative arrangements. All affected customers will be contacted upon return.’

Extended periods of very heavy rain are responsible for the swollen rivers and flooding that have been causing chaos across much of central Europe, including parts of Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Viking later added, ‘ We have received an update from our operations team in Europe and staff on the ground. To date 140 passengers have had to be relocated to the Corinthia Hotel and just a handful of passengers have enquired about returning home. We are continuing to monitor the situation.’

 

European River Cruises on the Rise

The number of us deciding to take our holidays in the slow lane is on the rise, according to The Passenger Shipping Association.

Over the last three years there has been a marked increase in the number of Britons trading holidays on the beach for the more luxurious, and altogether more relaxed and refined, option of a European river cruise; despite recession-busting price increases.

The figures for 2011 show that there were an extra 5,000 British passengers sailing the continent’s waterways, compared to the previous year. The rise, of approximately 7%, brings the total number of passengers from the UK to 80,300; a stark increase on both 2010 (74,900) and 2009 (69,000).

The PSA’s data shows that combined cruises along the Rhine and Danube showed the largest rise as, in fact, they doubled in the year-on-year figures from 4,300 (2010) to 8,300 (2011). The other significant increases were in France (Rhône and Seine; a combined increase of 28%) and Russia (up 11% Y-O-Y).

The number of passengers going further afield than Europe also increased during 2011(according to the PSA). These increases were largely due to the rising number of visitors to China and other Asian countries where cruises on the likes of the Yangtze and Mekong saw increases of 6%.

However, political troubles in Egypt have hit the traditional Nile River cruises hard. Nile cruises saw a drop of 57% as 25,000 passengers opted to stay at home or go on other types of holidays in order to avoid the political unrest.

The overall trend, however, is definitely on an upward trajectory with similar increases expected to be seen in the 2012 figures. Bill Gibbons, the director of the PSA, explained the increase in popularity: “As European river cruises in particular continue to grow in popularity, the appeal of a river journey has never been stronger. Passengers enjoy panoramic landscapes together with easy access to explore the heart of great cities and towns, and all while just unpacking once. 2012 will see the launch of 12 new river cruise vessels, a number which feature suites and balconies, together with some wonderful new itineraries.”

With an ever growing number of vessels and passengers it is unsurprising that travel companies are grappling for a piece of the action. Possibly even more telling is the price of such a holiday, which has increased by an average of £225 per person in the last eighteen months. This increase means that 2012 is set to be by far the most profitable year for the river cruise industry – so much so that the UK river cruise industry was recently valued at a staggering £179 million.