With unusually dry rivers still plaguing popular European itineraries, cruise companies have come up with innovative ways to give guests an equally memorable holiday.

AmaWaterways, operated by APT and Crystal Cruises have re-routed their Amsterdam-Basel journeys to the picturesque towns of the Netherlands and Belgium – the spring tulip route without the tulips.

APT is flying guests to other destinations in Europe so that they can still experience an amazing holiday.

“Water levels can often drop with minimal warning, which makes managing them a difficult feat but with 12 years’ river cruising experience and an extensive fleet across Europe, APT has developed procedures to help manage the various situations that may arise. Our action plans vary depending on the severity of the situation and the amount of notice we receive, to ensure we are always offering our guests the best possible option available.” – APT CEO, Steve Reynolds.

“We have multiple contingency plans, if needed, including a Moselle itinerary that features a number of picturesque villages and cities that have some of the most charming and atmospheric Christmas markets in Germany,’’ said Susan Robison, a spokesman for Crystal Cruises.

Uniworld’s CEO Ellen Bettridge told Travel Weekly in the UK: “We always proactively share updates with guests and partners, and in most cases, for the limited number of cruises impacted, are able to seamlessly alter small sections of the trip to offer an equally rewarding itinerary.”

Some river cruise lines have also made “generous compensation offers” to guests as well as changing the routes to include towns and villages which they otherwise might not experience.

Low water levels on the Danube and Rhine Rivers have affected some Avalon Waterways itineraries “with changes including ship swaps, hotel stays, itinerary modifications or alternate embarkation and disembarkation locations.

Avalon Waterways is committed to constantly reviewing and reworking plans to maximise opportunities to adhere to original itineraries, Avalon said in a statement.

Cruise lines usually offer customer compensation for “lost days” either as a cash refund or as a future cruise credit.

Steve Born, chief marketing officer for the Globus family of brands which owns Avalon, said: “When there are conditions that compromise a portion of a river, we create an alternative on land that still gives our guests all of the included destinations and experiences. In these cases, our Globus operations base comes in very handy… to allow us to quickly react.

“If the conditions require that we are forced to overnight in a hotel as opposed to the ship, we make those arrangements and work out guest compensation at that moment with the guests directly on the cruise.’’

CroisiEurope said that it spent most of its summer swapping passengers between ships running from opposite ends of the unpredictable and extremely low Elbe River.

Most cruise companies focus on developing alternative itineraries to keep guests sailing, sometimes to unexpected ports of call. As back-up plans, they use coaches and hotel stays to keep the itineraries moving on their scheduled routes.

A record hot, dry European summer has continued into autumn and the start of the Christmas sailing season. Water levels in the Danube, Elbe and the Rhine have hit record lows.

Passengers on a recent AmaPrima cruise which rerouted its itineraries through the Netherlands because of the falling water levels, were pleased with the line’s compensation offers and the chance to visit towns they might not have otherwise seen.