Imagine booking your dream holiday, just to find out days before you depart that the trip has been cancelled – or that you'll be travelling on a different form of transportation to what you expected.

River cruises – an increasingly popular European holiday option – are facing problems as months of drought have left water levels on rivers like the Rhine, Danube and the Rhone at record lows.

This year, low water levels have disrupted travellers, including Erin Needham, who tweeted about her experience when her trip through Germany with Riviera Cruises was cut short by shallow waters.

However, all was not lost - Needham was able to see the birght side of things whilst stranded in Cologne.

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"Our river cruise was cancelled halfway through due to low water in the Danube. They transferred us to another cruise today with a fancier room AND we get to go to France! Now we are at the Chocolate Museum and our ship is docked in the background. Things are turning around," she wrote on Twitter.

Navigating such low waters had been rare in the past – the New York Times reported that it was more common for captains on river cruises to navigate spate waters, due to rain and melted snow.

However, an unusually hot and dry European summer has left parts of the Rhine at a record low, while the Elbe has fallen to its lowest water level in 80 years.

The Telegraph recently reported that the Danube highlights Vienna and Budapest have become cut off from each other, with passengers now facing a three-hour bus ride to make the connection.

As a result, cruise lines have posted warnings on their websites to let customers know if they may be facing delays, or if they'll be transferred to destinations by bus rather than ship.

As well as using buses, some companies are transporting customers from one ship to another when they reach a point where the water has become too low.

"Sometimes it's tough to decide if we should cancel before a trip starts," Jana Tvedt the vice president of Riviera Travel USA told the NY Times. "You think it's going to work one way and then two days later it's totally different."

An unusually hot and dry European summer has left parts of the Rhine at a record low. Photo / Getty Images
An unusually hot and dry European summer has left parts of the Rhine at a record low. Photo / Getty Images

While some passengers have been understanding, other cruise customers weren't quite as satisfied.

Talking to the NY Times, Avalon passenger Carol Milosch said she was notified of changes to her cruise three days before she was due to leave, with the option of a full refund if she decided to cancel.

Ultimately deciding to go on the cruise as planned, Milosch spent three days of her eight-day trip touring by bus, rather than cruising the Rhine.

"We still saw a lot and Avalon was good to us, but it just wasn't the trip I spent nearly a year imagining," she said.