River Cruises Respond to Austrian Lockdown, Impact on Sailings

As Austria announced a temporary lock-down that starts today, and Germany's Bavaria region is also shutting down some Christmas Markets, three more river lines have announced their plans for changes to what's left of the 2021 European river cruise season. 

Viking Will Sail Through Austria, Keep Operating

Viking River Cruises will keep operating on the Danube by bypassing Austrian ports. Here's the line's latest statement:

"In light of the lockdown measures announced by the Austrian government on November 19, we have modified the itineraries of all impacted river voyages. Ships that had been originally scheduled to stop in Austria during the affected time period will now just sail through Austria.

"In recognition of any inconvenience caused by the change, Viking has also provided guests on these modified itineraries with onboard credit to be used on their upcoming sailing, as well as a voucher to be used for their next voyage.

Viking River Cruises 
Viking's Longships will keep sailing the Danube, simply sailing through Austria during the temporary lock-down that starts this week. (Photo by Viking River Cruises)

"Should any further changes become necessary, Viking Customer Relations will notify all impacted guests and their travel advisors directly," the statement continued. 

Viking has strict health and safety protocols. For example, guests on all Viking River Cruises take daily saliva PCR tests that are processed ashore each day. 

Crystal Cancels Crystal Ravel's Voyages

Given Austria's country-wide lockdown, Crystal River Cruises has canceled Crystal Ravel's four remaining December 2021 sailings, which had an itinerary comprised primarily of Austrian ports. The company is currently advising affected guests and their travel partners; however, the line also said that Crystal Debussy, which operates seven- to 10-night Rhine River cruises departing from Amsterdam and Basel, is scheduled to continue to operate its published itineraries through the end of the year. 

According to Walter Littlejohn, senior vice president and managing director of Crystal River Cruises, the restart of its river cruise season that began in August has been successful with strong demand and some of the highest guest satisfaction scores ever.

Littlejohn said that's a validation of the company’s "Crystal Clean+" health and safety protocols, which, including the policy of 100 percent vaccinated guests and crew. Those protocols have now been extended through December 31, 2022. Crystal provides COVID-19 testing at embarkation before guests can board the river vessel.

“We’ve had an amazing season and our guests and crew have been excited to be back on board enjoying some truly special moments, including special wine tastings in the Wachau Valley, stops in Vienna featuring the Crystal Signature Event at the Belvedere Palace and visits to Budapest," Littlejohn said. 

He continued: “Such strong guest response to our resumption of service makes it even more disheartening that we were obliged to cancel the four remaining Crystal Ravel sailings.” 

Crystal Ravel will resume river cruising in March 2022, offering seven-night "Delightful Danube" itineraries sailing between Budapest and Vilshofen, Germany, joining Crystal Mozart sailing seven-night "Danube Dreams & Discoveries" itinerary sailing roundtrip from Vienna.

Crystal Mozart in Budapest viewed from the deck of Crystal Bach
While Crystal is canceling the four remaining 2021 sailings on Crystal Ravel this year, but that river vessel and Crystal Mozart are expected to return to the Danube starting in March 2022. 

Guests on the affected Crystal Ravel sailings have the option of transferring their reservation to a 2022 Crystal River Christmas Markets sailing aboard Crystal Ravel or Crystal Mozart on the Danube or Crystal Bach on the Rhine and receive cruise fare protection for the equivalent category. 

Alternatively, guests on the canceled sailings can receive a 100 percent future cruise credit valid toward any Crystal experience embarking on or before December 31, 2023, or a full refund. 

Scenic Cancels Remaining 2021 European River Cruises

Scenic Group, which includes Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours and Emerald Cruises, will suspend all remaining 2021 European river cruises, the company said in a statement. 

"With Austria announcing a full national lockdown from Monday and the Bavarian region of Germany canceling its Christmas Markets we are suspending six Scenic river cruises and four Emerald Cruises river cruises. All were due to visit Europe’s Christmas Markets.  

"We will be contacting affected guests early next week to discuss their options, including transferring to a 2022 Christmas Markets river cruise.

"Everybody at the Scenic Group has been left saddened by the abrupt end to our 2021 season, sailing in Europe. For the last few months, we have welcomed thousands of guests on board our river ships, providing them with fantastic memories of sailing through the heart of Europe’s villages, towns and cities. We now look forward to new adventures with our guests once we commence the 2022 European river cruise season in March."

Other Cruise Lines

When reached for comment, AmaWaterways did not provide any specifics towards its operations. In a statement, Travel Agent was told by a spokeperson for the line: "We are aware of the recent announcement coming from Austria and are providing updates and options to travel advisors and their guests with immediate travel plans affected by the current situation. We will continue to monitor the fluid developments and encourage guests and travel advisors to check our Travel Entry Requirements webpage for the latest information."

As previously reported on Friday, Avalon Waterways is cancelling the remainder of its 2021 European river season.

Travel Agent also has asked several other lines, including Uniworld Boutique River Cruises and Riviera River Cruises or comments and will post any updates when received.

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