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 2: Sunday
During the night, the boat sailed only a very short distance before it was stopped at locks that were closed to boat traffic because of flooding and high water. We awoke to find ourselves beside a small rural canal bank in France, just beside the German border, close to Breisach, a charming and old town that looks well worth an exploration, but today’s port excursion is a day long one and there will be no time to explore.
After a quick breakfast, we climbed aboard the buses which will take us into the Black Forest. Our guide, Petra, told us the stories of these beautiful Black Forest villages, about storks and festivals, traditional costumes and traditional rituals. The scenery is breathtaking, even though it is overcast today.
Along the way, we stopped to see the world’s biggest cuckoo clock and to hear about the history of these handmade clocks that have been part of a Black Forest cottage industry for centuries.
In the city of Tribeck, we hiked up to Germany’s highest waterfall, which is pretty spectacular right now because of the heavy rains. And it’s raining now, but not heavily. We had time to look in some of the shops, which feature cuckoo clocks and handmade wood carvings. One very proud shopkeeper showed us the difference between the cheaply made production line clocks and the lovingly carved – and justly expensive – clocks created by local artisans.
We enjoyed a traditional Black Forest lunch in the Cafe Lilie, ham and German potato salad, and then a demonstration of how to make an authentic Black Forest cake. There is much whipped cream involved. And we got to eat big fat slices with coffee for dessert.
Another drive through the hills of the Black Forest took us to the outdoor museum of Vogstbauernhof where traditional Black Forest farmhouses have been preserved – six fully furnished farmhouses, the day labourer’s cottage, and fifteen outbuildings including a mill, barns, stalls, a chapel and a granny house, or ‘leibgedinghaus’. They are charming and present a window into the past, recreating life as it would have been led in these forested hills in the Middle Ages.
Once we returned to the boat, we were informed that the flooding is still preventing any ships from moving through the locks, and we will remain in our dockage in Breisach until the water levels fall. That could happen any time, we are told, but for the time being, we are stuck here until the water levels decrease and it is once again safe to traverse the locks and pass under the low river bridges. A new- and in my view, a better – itinerary has been planned for the next day.
Most passengers greeted this news with stoic good humor and were content that the cruise line was doing everything it could do under the circumstances. There was some muted grumbling. I’m just amazed that Karla, the cruise director, has been able to plan and execute a full day of excursions, dining sites and activities at such short notice.
For tonight, the atmosphere was upbeat. A handsome young man played music in the main lounge and the bar was busy. There’s even dancing.
Next: The newly planned excursion for today took us in to France