Water Levels


What effect will changing water levels have on your European River cruise? Simple, a foot can change your river cruise into a coach cruise!

Changing water levels have always been one of the biggest challenges facing the European Waterways. With modern times came the invention of lock and various methods used to control the water levels affecting the great rivers of Europe.

Typically, the rivers would suffer from high water in the early spring (March and April) and then again in late September and October as a result of melting snow in the Alps and heavy rain in the fall. In the heat of summer the rivers would drop and lower water levels would be the result.

Today the weather patterns have become increasingly unpredictable. The high levels in spring and fall can happen anytime and flooding becomes a greater risk. During the summer months low water levels drop to record lows and remain a problem well into the tail end of the cruising season. Low water levels have become such a great issue that the European Union has commissioned a study to look at new ship designs that could be used at times of severe low water.

When we first started cruising the European Rivers, every passenger ship was a two deck design* (*the number of cabin decks on a river boat). These vessels all had a shallow draft and had more space between the sun deck and the low bridges crossing over the rivers. This meant that they had more room to maneuver during high and low waters and are less affected from varying water levels.

As larger shipping companies started cruising on the European Waterways they decided to add a third deck of passenger cabins to increase passenger occupancy. To do this a three deck vessel* (*the number of cabin decks on a river boat) is built as high as possible, however due to the low bridges, they also have a much deeper draft and sit lower in the water as a result. As a result a three deck vessel will always be more susceptible to changing water levels.

One of the greatest attributes of a two deck riverboat, such as our Da Vinci, is the ability of these vessels to continue while three deck vessels remain affected by changing water levels.

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