Tag Archives: Danube low water

Low water blues, only two more nights on the Maria Theresa

After an exhausting but entertaining day, we were looking forward to  a special dinner in the Leopard Lounge and the next day’s stop in Passau. This Bavarian city had been the last stop on our previous cruise and something about the place had captivated us. However, we were just a little concerned about the possibility that we might not get there by boat. On the way to Regensburg, we saw that the river had receded from the banks several feet, exposing a rocky shore, and could only imagine what lurked underwater in the channel. Unfortunately if we couldn’t go any further, we would miss cruising through the Wachau Valley, On our Christmas Markets cruise, it had been cold and rainy, and we wanted to see this picturesque area when it was warm and sunny.

Thus we were a little apprehensive when we went to hear Chad, our tour director,  talk about the next day’s activities before dinner. We had enjoyed our voyage on the Maria Theresa very much  so far,and hoped it would continue all the way to Budapest.

As it turned out, our fears were justified. When we walked into the lounge, we found waiting for us not just Chad, but our Captain and Carmen, the Hotel Manager as well. This did not look good.

From left to right, our hotel manager, Carmen, our tour director, Chad, and Captain, Martin.
From left to right, our hotel manager, Carmen, our tour director, Chad, and Captain, Martin.

Captain Martin , despite his English sounding name, was a an experienced Dutch mariner who knew the Rhine river very well.

During the voyage, our Captain had been very forthcoming about the state of the river and his hopes that we might complete the voyage. However, this time, he explained that the water in the  channel was  now as low as he had ever seen it, too low for the Maria Theresa. Thus, for the safety of the passengers and crew, we would go no further on the Danube.

We would stay on board for yet another night but then we would travel to Vienna and Budapest by bus, staying in hotels for the last three nights.

Evidently there was a low spot between Regensburg and Passau that held the larger river boats and barges back when rainfall was scant. After we left, the Maria Theresa would tie up on the opposite side of the Danube and await its next group of passengers who would have to  board in Regensburg instead of Budapest. They would be staying in hotels the first three nights of their cruise and then board the Maria Theresa for the voyage to Amsterdam.  Both the shipping and cruise lines felt that if a lock were constructed between Regensburg and Passau the low water problem would be solved but so far environmental concerns had blocked its construction.

Chad told us that he was already working on our hotel assignments and would let us know tomorrow night just where we would be staying in Vienna.  In Budapest, we would be split into several hotels as the smaller city’s hotels did not have the capacity of Vienna’s.  At the same time,  he assured us that Uniworld would do its best to make sure we had the opportunity to  take all the tours that had been scheduled in our original itinerary. Carmen then explained that our gala farewell dinner would be scheduled for the following evening, and we would say  farewell to the Maria Theresa and its crew the next morning. The the riverboat part of our trip would end three days early.

Needless to say, the Ramblers were very disappointed to learn that they would have to leave the Marie Theresa three days early. However, Uniworld has an outstanding reputation for treating its customers very well, and we hoped that this would be the case for us. We need not have worried. Although the rest of our trip was different, it was very enjoyable in a totally different way. We would, however, miss the crew of the Maria Theresa who had treated us so well on our voyage.

That night the Ramblers were scheduled to attend a special , intimate  Hapsburg Dinner in the Leopard Lounge available to all the passengers.

Here is the senior Rambler all dressed up an ready for dinner.
Here is the senior Rambler all dressed up an ready for dinner.

All they had to do was make a reservation  in advance at the front desk as there was seating for only twenty. There were rumors that the dinner was only available to the passengers in the suites, but this was not the case. Anyone could attend if they reserved a spot in time. This was an evening to dress up a little and the senior Rambler even wore his sport coat,  but not a tie.

The dinner was a five-course tasting menu, which started out with a kir royale, and then moved into a five course meal with wines to match.

The appetizer course.
The appetizer course.

The alcoholic beverages were rejected by the senior Rambler, but I enjoyed them very much. No worries about having to drive home! Since it was a tasting menu, the portions were small, but you got a “taste” of a variety of foods, except for the main entree which was an excellent filet.  We had a great time, although there was a sense of concern as to what would happen next. The food was of the same high quality that we had enjoyed all along, but the presentation was extra special. Even the white-gloved butlers were part of the wait staff for the special dinner.


I haven’t talked much about the evening entertainment available on the Maria Theresa, but that is because for the Ramblers, evening entertainment wasn’t necessary. The senior Rambler would miss it entirely, spending his time somewhere on deck, enjoying the scenery and the night air. That is not to say that many people did enjoy the evening entertainment. Most times it was low key but fun.

Every evening  an excellent pianist played a variety of requests, and even a small dance floor for those who enjoyed dancing. This came into play several nights when a band came on board. The band was so popular with a number of the passengers that they were invited back for an encore.

The Bavarian Optimum in concert.
The Bavarian Optimum in concert.

This night a 4 man German band, Bavarium Optimum came on board to play a variety of German songs. They were dressed in traditional costume, lederhosen, suspenders, etc. , very appropriate as we were in Southern Germany where these costumes are popular. They were a great group of talented musicians who seemed to enjoy playing as much as we enjoyed hearing them.

After a very  long day, we Ramblers headed to our cabin, hopeful that the last days of our trip would be as good as the rest.

Danube River Blues, our river cruise gets cancelled!

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.

Hopefully we would eventually get to board the Maria Theresa

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.