High Water Disrupts our Viking River Cruise in France
A very full Rhone River in Avignon, France. Click photograph for a larger view. ©2015, David A. Porter
High Waters on the Rhone and Soane Rivers Disrupt our French River Cruise
Oh the joy, the romance, the fun, the new things to see, do, and taste. Carol and I, along with roughly 150 others from around the United States, were headed to the south of France to enjoy Provence, and the Burgundy wine country of Southern France. We had been looking forward to this trip for quite some time.
Carol and I arrived in Avignon a few days early to spend a few nights in one of the luxury hotels in our Virtuoso Hotels Collection, and the day before we were to board our ship, we received the following urgent email from Viking River Cruises:
“Thank you for choosing Viking Cruises for your upcoming cruise. We sincerely regret this last minute notification, but our operational unit in Europe has just advised us that due to high water on the Rhône River, your ship Viking Delling will not be able to reach Avignon on May 6 for Day 1 of your cruise. You will instead be accommodated at the Hotel Novotel Avignon Centre in Avignon. The tours of Arles on Day 2 and Avignon on Day 3 will start from the hotel. Your Program Director will contact you at your hotel to provide further information.”
Rut-Row! Trouble in river city. Viking is sincerely regretting something. :O
As you can see in the rest of their email, our long-awaited embarkation was not going to happen as planned. What does this mean? What happens after the two days in Avignon? Will we be able to take our river cruise? Can we just board the ship in Vienne (where the ship is docked) and take our journey from there? So many questions, and so many fears of unmet expectations.
And just imagine the situation from Viking Cruises point of view. They’ve got 150 people coming their direction, and all of them with the very same questions and concerns.
Understanding River Cruise Ships and Rivers
Before I share with you the rest of our story, let me first tell you a little bit about these European river ships and the rivers that they sail upon.
Unlike oceans, rivers, because of their confined space, can be a little finicky. They can be prone to flooding in the spring as they distribute spring snow melt. And, they can be prone to low levels in the heat of the summer if drought conditions exist. And, in unusual situations, there can be extremes in either direction.
Now, the Viking River Cruises longships have each been designed to sail on specific rivers and to accommodate the potential challenges that might face them. They’re engineered to get under the bridges, to perfectly squeeze through each of the locks, and through the right amount of draft, accommodate the various waters that they might encounter. However, when extremes occur, this can prevent all of the major river cruise lines from sailing.
And my dear friends, that is what we encountered on our trip. Although there was no flooding, per se, the waters were too high to allow our ship to get under all the the bridges in our path. Therefore, our ship, and all other river cruise ships, were mandated by the French government to dock until the waters subsided.
And now, back to our story…
As you might imagine, people are all going to respond with different levels of anxiety about this situation, and here comes 150 of us descending upon a hotel that we really have no desire to stay in. Some were hopeful for lower water levels in the near future, some were completely aghast that Viking would allow such a thing to happen (like they can control the rivers), and some decided to take it all in stride and seek to make lemonade out of lemons.
We were in the later camp, and while we have no great love of Novotel Hotels, we decided to hope for the best.
To make a long story short, after two days in a hotel in Avignon, Viking bussed us all to Vienne where our ship was docked. We sailed for an afternoon from Vienne to Lyon (roughly 20 miles), and because we couldn’t sail any further north, we used our ship as a base-camp with Viking busing us to our shore excursions each day.
While this was not the desired plan, it was nice to get out of the Novotel and stay in our beautiful staterooms aboard the Viking Delling. And, no more packing and unpacking. Right?
As seasoned travelers, we know that unforeseen things like this can happen. And while we were certainly disappointed with the rest of our fellow travelers, we chose to avoid a conniption fit, make the best of our situation, and to focus on and enjoy the beautiful scenes of Southern France.
Oh, and I might add, Viking also gave folks the option of not staying with our group and receiving a refund for the unused portion of their trip. That was very nice of them. They didn’t have to do that. Further, as you might imagine, Viking was bending over backwards to make the best out of a situation that was out of their control.
So, other than the crappy Novotel hotel (which Viking may not have been able to control at the last minute), Carol and I enjoyed our time with Viking in the south of France, and we can’t wait to share our explorations with you in future posts.
Stay tuned, and thanks Viking (especially our Program Director Mia) for keeping your chin up in a difficult situation! As the French have taught us to say, “C’est la vie” (that’s life). 🙂
Disclosure: our experience was provided by Viking River Cruises. The Roaming Boomers maintains all publishing control and we’re happy to share our experiences with you without interference. We call ’em as we see ’em.
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Sorry for the problems you’ve encountered. We were able to complete the same river cruise, from Dijon to Avignon during the last week in April. River levels are always in question this time of year. We were lucky to have completed our river cruise as advertised. Other providers had issues due the design of their ships. We enjoyed our trip on the Viking Hermod.
Thanks for the kind note. We still enjoyed ourselves, and now have a good reason to go back! 😀
So sorry we didn’t meet you all until the last day as we have so much in common! I’ll be interested to read your articles about the cruise. We enjoyed ourselves even though we didn’t technically cruise anywhere! Viking did the best they could in a bad situation.
Agree. We would have liked to spend more time with you guys. And we too enjoyed ourselves in spite of the high water levels. Enjoy your travels throughout the rest of the year! 😎
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Still looking forward to our trip next year!
So glad to hear your trip wasn’t a bust!
Thanks for sharing!
The way we looked at it, we were in France, how could that be a bust! 😀
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So great to meet both of you. I must say that our fellow passengers certainly helped to make up for the non-cruising cruise. (We have laughed and told friends we almost cruised as much the evening we did a river cruise in Paris following our Viking experience.
You were very kind in your mention of that hotel and our meal experiences…As my husband wrote them, they can’t control the water level, but they can control where they send us and what they feed us.
We are currently in communication with Viking, as the “form letter” only gave us credit for the next cruise from the cash we paid-most of our trip was paid for by a voucher that was given to us from a similar flooding, three boats in two weeks, experience two years ago.
Happy Travels to you both.
Great to hear from you, and we too enjoyed meeting you. We hope that our paths might cross again in some wonderful place, but hopefully, not in a Novotell hotel. :chic: