Viking River Cruises mum on latest accident: Travel Weekly

Following a series of accidents including a deadly collision of river boats on the Danube and a dramatic evacuation of passengers from a broken-down liner in treacherous seas, Viking has remained silent on reports that one of his river vessels would have hit a lock in Germany, closing part of the Main-Danube Canal to all traffic.

For river cruise lines, the closure has mainly affected what one executive estimated at around 25 sailings per week between Amsterdam and Budapest, forcing operators to change their itineraries, swap passengers between ships or put guests in buses.

According to reports in German media and field operations managers from other river cruise companies, a Viking ship was traveling upriver on June 5 when it hit the wall of a lock in Riedenburg, damaging it. so badly that the sluice could not be closed. The damaged lock is located between Regensburg and Nuremberg, which are stops on 14-day routes offered by most lines.

Local media reported it was the Viking Var. But travel consultant Ruth DeMuth of TripGuy Travel, who said she was in Var that day, said it was the Viking ship ahead of them, the Viking Tir, that hit the lock.

“They got stuck in the lock for a while, finally were able to free themselves and get out of the lock, and they ended up parking behind us,” she said. “I spoke with passengers on that ship the next morning and they reported that the blow was hard enough that it knocked over wine glasses but no one was injured. I did not come down to look at their ship but other guests have reported seeing damage to the Tir.”

Viking declined repeated requests for confirmation or comment on the incident. And on a Viking webpage offering passengers updates on its cruises, the company only said crossings between Regensburg and Nuremberg were temporarily restricted “due to ongoing repair work on the Riedenburg lock”.

DeMuth said at the crash site that there were different accounts “whether it was the ship’s fault for rushing into the corner of the lock or whether the lock operator had started closing the gate too soon, pushing the ship out of position and causing it to get “stuck” for a while.”

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 liner Viking Sky forced a long and dramatic helicopter evacuation in rough seas off the coast of Norway.

Just over a week later, the river vessel Viking Idun collided with a freighter as it passed through Belgium on April 1.

Last month, the Viking Sigyn struck a small tour boat during a stormy night cruise along a crowded stretch of the Danube in Budapest, killing 19 South Korean tourists and a Hungarian crew member. Seven people have been rescued, eight are still missing and the Viking captain has been placed under arrest.

Last fall, the Viking Tor failed to retract its wheelhouse sufficiently and struck the bridge at Riedenburg Lock, destroying the wheelhouse.

No Viking river cruise passengers were injured in the crashes, but two Viking crew members were killed in September 2016 in a wheelhouse accident similar to last year’s incident with the Viking Tor, according to the German media Cruisetricks.de.

It was unclear how long repairs to the lock damaged in the latest crash would take. Initial reports estimated repairs could take up to three weeks, but more recent reports said authorities hoped the canal would reopen as early as June 14.

Meanwhile, river lines were contacting customers and adjusting their itineraries to perform ship swaps or avoid the area until the lock reopened.

Cruisetricks.de said around 30 cargo and passenger ships pass through the lock every day.

Pamela Hoffee, chief executive of Avalon Waterways, said her staff estimated around 25 passenger ships made the 14-day voyage between Amsterdam and Budapest each week.

While some lines have been able to anchor ships on both sides of the lock and swap passengers to minimize route changes, Hoffee said Avalon’s schedules and ship positioning did not allow this. So, in addition to offering refunds or the ability to book later sailings, she said Avalon has developed options that involve a few nights in a hotel in Regensburg and slightly different sailing times to minimize disruption and maximize sailing time.

“We tried to make the best of the situation,” she said. “We have a lot of different options.”
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This report was updated June 13 with information from a travel agent who was on a Viking ship when the crash occurred.

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