Day Four: What happens when a cruise goes sideways

Barbara Orr just had a very unusual cruise experience. Over the next few days she will explain what happens when a trip does not work out as planned. We thought it important to share this information with you, our readers, because these things do happen when you travel and it is wise to think ahead as to how you might react in a similar situation. — Cynthia Boal Janssens, editor

Cruises are expensive investments of money and time. But sometimes, for a variety of reasons, the cruise goes wrong. And then what?  Who’s at fault? Is there any compensation?

Here’s the day by day record of a cruise that didn’t roll out as it should have – read it to see what to expect when Mother Nature throws a curve ball, to learn your rights and the obligations of the cruise line, and to see how you can plan best to avoid disappointment.

This was to be a week long cruise from Basel to Amsterdam aboard the new Emerald Sky river ship, scheduled for the first week in May. But heavy rains and rising water levels changed the whole character of the cruise.


Day 4: Tuesday

The water levels on the Upper Rhine are still vey high.
The water levels on the Upper Rhine are still vey high.

Today there was an excursion to Heidelberg – a previously planned extra cost excursion but which has been given gratis to all passengers who wish to go.  It involves four hours of driving in a bus, there and back, however, because the ship has not moved, and so I elected to stay with the ship. And the day turned out to be leisurely and enjoyable.

With two friends, we arranged for three of the ship’s snazzy new bikes and rode into Breisach, the small historic town just a few kilometers from the ship. The cathedral on the hill had an interesting history and there were good shops featuring food and local crafts. We asked the proprietor of one of the shops, where I picked up a jar of locally made fig mustard, if she could recommend a restaurant that featured white asparagus and she suggested the Hotel Weinstube Schlussel, which proved to be a brilliant choice.

This was a small restaurant in a hotel filled with locals, where the food was simple, authentic and superb. I had white asparagus with roasted potatoes and ham, and others had schnitzel Ratherren style, with roasted vegetables. It was a substantial and deliciously good meal, which formed one of those moments when everything – the food, the conversation, the surroundings and the sunlight coming in through the window – was just right. It was the kind of dining experience you remember often, and with a smile.

The church in Breisach has some brilliant murals.
The church in Breisach has some brilliant murals.

We biked back to the boat, had a swim in the lovely pool on the back of the ship and had a little rest.

Dinner this evening was elegant- a creamy beet soup, a trio of lamb, and semifredo – and afterwards we all gathered in the lounge to hear the news about how our cruise would progress.

The news was not good.  Water levels had not improved, and in order to be sure that passengers get to Amsterdam on Friday, we would have to disembark to take buses tomorrow which would bring us to some of the ports we were scheduled to visit. The really discouraging news was that we had to pack and have our bags out by six a.m. and board the buses by seven.

A number of the passengers were visibly upset by this and that was understandable. There are some quite elderly people, and the pressure of  early departures and last minute changes isn’t easy for them. And the cruise they had planned for has now become a bus trip.

The Emerald Sky is equipped with spiffy bikes for passengers to take out on their own excurions.
The Emerald Sky is equipped with spiffy bikes for passengers to take out on their own excursions.

There were some pretty heated exchanges, some angry comments, but the staff were doing what they could. This is caused, not by a mistake on the part of the cruise line, but by the unpredictability of nature.

Some passengers have elected to fly home — British passengers are guaranteed a flight home if they want it — American and Canadian passengers don’t have an answer yet about their status. The staff worked to make the best travel arrangements to get those who wished to go home to their destinations.

Some chose to remain on the ship, which would try to rejoin the passengers traveling by bus along the river if it became possible. The rest of us would visit Rudesheim, Koblenz and Cologne, and take a boat ride to see the Rhine gorge and stay in nice hotels. It’s not the cruise I expected, but it could be worse!

Next: Early morning bus ride

1 thought on “Day Four: What happens when a cruise goes sideways”

  1. There was no intention of the boat catching up with the passengers. During the Wednesday morning all the cabins were stripped of the bed linen and towels. Even the coat hangers were replaced with new ones


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