Since we had such miserable weather on our Christmas Markets cruise, the Ramblers decided to give the Danube River another try, adding some cruising on the Rhine and Main Rivers and the Rhine-Main canal as well. Because we enjoyed all aspects of our Uniworld cruise last December except the weather, we decided to book with them again. Now we were members of the River Heritage Club and were entitled to an additional discount and other perks as well as a potential upgrade.
The cruise we selected was the European Jewels, on the brand new S.S. (super ship) Maria Theresa. This time we would be cruising for 15 days instead of 8, but again starting in Budapest, and ending not in Passau but in Amsterdam. Yes, the cruise cost twice as much since it was twice as long, but we thought, as long as we had to fly to our destination, we might as well get our money’s worth.
August seemed like a good time to go, although we didn’t know then that Austrians take their annual vacation in August. We expected the weather would be warm and the days still reasonably long.
In late spring, we booked our European Jewels cruise with a starting date of August 9, leaving from Budapest and ending in Amsterdam.
At this point, we never thought that our cruise might be cancelled because of low water levels. We had deliberately avoided spring sailings because of the chance of flooding, and also because the weather tends to be chilly, but August should be just about right, OR so we though.
2015 has been a year of contrary weather worldwide; the climate seems to be changing and sometimes Mother Nature has something unexpected in store. Early in July, we started to hear about low water levels on some European rivers, mainly the Elbe at first. But then the Danube was mentioned. We were about 40 days out when we heard from our travel agent and Uniworld that we had been upgraded to a cabin on the middle deck. This was exciting news.
This Ramblers had gambled on getting an upgrade, and consequently booked a cabin on the lower deck. These cabins while just as luxurious as the ones on the middle and upper deck, have small windows just above the waterline. The Senior Rambler agreed to my plan, as we felt that even if we didn’t get an upgrade, it wouldn’t be too bad. How much time would we spend in our cabin after all? Let me just say that after checking out the windows in the “aquarium” cabins as they are sometimes called, the Ramblers were really glad we got the upgrade.
We were thinking about packing, when, about 10 days before we were due to leave, we heard from Uniworld, through our travel agent, that our cruise had been cancelled due to low water. This was really disappointing to say the least. We got the news on Friday and on Monday I headed over to AAA to see if we could re-book on another date.
Uniworld refunded all of the money we paid for the cruise and airfare. This is another reason why it makes sense to buy your airfare from the cruise company if the cruise is cancelled. It is not easy to deal with airlines on your own. I had also bought extended comfort Economy seats for the long flight directly from United and this turned out to be quite difficult to get back. At least for this Rambler, I found United the hardest airline to deal with. Lufthansa, the other carrier, refunded the money as a courtesy which was great.
To cut to the chase, we re-booked on the August 24th sailing of the Maria Theresa; this was the only suitable time available for us. As it turned out, due to the hard work of our travel agent, the new booking involved no additional costs to us. The airfare and upgrade was still included. However,booking this particular date was still a gamble as there was no way of knowing whether the water levels would come up in three weeks. By this time, the low water had affected many river cruise lines on the Danube and they, along with Uniworld and the Ramblers were busily doing the rain dance.