Following a series of accidents that included a deadly river
boat collision on the Danube and a dramatic evacuation of passengers from a
broken-down ocean liner in dangerous seas, Viking has gone silent about reports
that one of its river ships hit a lock in Germany, shutting down part of the
Main-Danube canal to all traffic.
For river cruise lines, the closure mostly affected what one
executive estimated are about 25 sailings a week between Amsterdam and
Budapest, forcing operators to alter their itineraries, swap passengers between
ships or put guests on buses.
According to reports in the German media and from
on-the-ground operations officials from other river cruise lines, the Viking
Var was sailing upriver on June 5 when it hit the wall of a lock at Riedenburg,
damaging it so badly that the lock could not be closed. The damaged lock is
located between Regensburg and Nuremberg, which are stops on 14-day itineraries
that most lines offer.
Viking has declined repeated requests for confirmation of or
comment on the incident. And on a Viking web page offering passengers updates
about its cruises, the company said only that sailings between Regensburg and
Nuremberg were temporarily restricted “due to repair work being performed
on the lock at Riedenburg.”
The incident was the fifth involving one of Viking’s ships since
last fall and the fourth involving a European river vessel.
In late March, engine failures on the Viking Sky ocean liner
forced a lengthy and dramatic helicopter evacuation in rough seas off the coast
A little more than a week later, the Viking Idun river ship
collided with a cargo vessel while sailing through Belgium on April 1.
Last month, the Viking Sigyn hit a small tour boat during a
stormy nighttime cruise along a crowded stretch of the Danube in Budapest,
killing 19 South Korean tourists and a Hungarian crewman. Seven people were
rescued, eight were still missing last week, and the Viking captain was under
Last fall, the Viking Tor failed to retract its wheelhouse
far enough and hit the bridge at the Riedenburg lock, destroying the
No Viking river cruise passengers have been injured in the
accidents, but two Viking crew members were killed in September 2016 in a
wheelhouse accident similar to last year’s incident with the Viking Tor.
It was unclear how long the repairs to the lock damaged in
the latest accident would take. Initial reports estimated that repairs could
take up to three weeks, but more recent reports indicated officials hoped to
have the canal reopened as early as June 14.
Meantime, river lines were contacting customers and
adjusting their itineraries to do ship swaps or avoid the area until the lock
The German media outlet Cruisetricks.de said about 30
freight and passenger ships pass through the lock every day.
Pamela Hoffee, managing director of Avalon Waterways, said
her staff estimated about 25 passenger ships making the 14-day sailing between
Amsterdam and Budapest use it each week.
While some lines have been able to anchor ships on both
sides of the lock and swap passengers to minimize itinerary changes, Hoffee
said Avalon’s schedules and ship positionings have not allowed for that. So, in
addition to offering refunds or the ability to rebook on later sailings, she
said Avalon has developed options that involve a few nights in a hotel in Regensburg
and slightly different sailing schedules to minimize disruptions and maximize
“We’ve tried to make the best of the situation,”
she said. ” We’ve got a lot of different options.”