Lack of snow and dry conditions in some parts of Europe are raising concern about a summer drought that could affect river cruising. However, river cruise execs say they’re not sounding the alarm just yet.
France’s national weather agency Météo-France reported that this winter has been the driest in 60 years, with no rain or snow falling at all between Jan. 21 and Feb. 21. Researchers from Italy’s Legambiente environmental group said snowfall in the Italian Alps is down 53 percent from normal, and water levels in the Po River basin—which feeds the Venetian lagoon—is 61 percent below normal. These conditions point to a potentially serious summer drought.
Recent reports have shown dry canals in Venice, where the more common concern is flooding due to climate change-induced sea level rise. Experts said the dry conditions in Venice aren’t directly related to low levels of water in the Po River, but rather a combination of the lack of rain, a high pressure system, a full moon and sea currents.
“The phenomenon described as alarming is a seasonal low tide,” says Valeria Duflot, co-founder of Venezia Autentica, which promotes responsible tourism in Venice. “It only lasts a few hours and only happens a handful of times each year. The sensationalism around it is hurting local tourism and the community; the low tide itself has almost no effect.”
Some Good News When it Comes to the Current Drought
The weather forecast is calling for an increase in precipitation in Europe, and normally mild Mallorca was hit with 20 inches of snow this week.
“Western Europe is going through a wet period at the moment, even Spain has had snow,” according to officials from Scenic Luxury Tours and Cruises, which operates river cruises in Germany, France and Portugal. A company spokesperson said Scenic isn’t expecting any issues with river cruising but, as always, is monitoring water levels.
“Water levels on certain rivers can change quickly but we are well prepared and able to adapt quickly to any given situation to ensure our guests still have their long awaited vacation,” adds Rudi Schreiner, president and co-founder of AmaWaterways. “We have alternative ports of call, docking sites and excursions lined up should we need to modify an itinerary and we also purposely line up sister ships sailing towards each other on the same itinerary on the Rhine and Danube rivers which allows a convenient ‘ship swap’ for our guests should river authorities stop traffic at a critical point on those rivers.”