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Could your European river cruise turn into a land tour? Summer drought leaves some ships high and dry

Could your European river cruise turn into a land tour? Summer drought leaves some ships high and dry
A barge sails on the Rhine River on Aug. 6 in Duesseldorf, Germany. Europe's continuing drought and low water levels are limiting travel by some cargo and river cruise ships. (Lukas Schulze / Getty Images)

It's every river cruiser's nightmare: There's not enough water -- or there's too much -- for your European river cruise to take place as planned. You won't be sailing down the Danube or Rhine or Elbe rivers. In fact, you may be on a bus or stuck in a hotel, your vacation ruined.

Unfortunately, that dream has come true for many in August.

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The Danube River has been particularly hard hit by drought in Europe, leaving cargo ships, day cruisers and river boats high and dry. River cruise operators have been forced to find alternative transportation, which usually means passengers will be traveling by coach and perhaps staying in hotels instead of ship cabins.

The Danube, which flows for 1,777 miles, is Europe's most popular river cruise itinerary, passing through eight countries. The Upper Danube, which is the most popular river boat destination in Europe, has been especially plagued by low water issues, particularly the area between Passau and Regensburg in Germany.

Budapest, Hungary, another popular Danube destination, has been closed to cruise traffic for more than a week. River boats aren't the only vessels in trouble; many cargo ships also are stranded, according to media reports.

Viking Cruises, the largest river boat carrier in Europe, announced on its website that: "Unseasonably hot and dry weather in Europe has resulted in low water levels on several of the European rivers ... To varying degrees, these low water levels will affect select itineraries. While ideally your ship would carry you along the full length of the river, due to water levels on sections where sailing becomes restricted, we may need to make adjustments."

Those adjustments may mean travelers will be touring on a bus instead of a ship.

Cruise operators are hoping for rain to ease the situation, but the weather forecast for the upcoming week shows no precipitation.

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