Nicole Edenedo
Nicole Edenedo

A great deal of river cruising takes place in the heart of typically cooler central Europe on the Danube, Rhine, Moselle, and Main rivers, as well as parts of northwestern Europe in places like France, Amsterdam and Belgium.

But there are still plenty of river cruise itineraries that take place in routinely warmer destinations in southern Europe, like Italy and Portugal.

I had a great time last August sailing on Uniworld's La Venezia in the Venetian Lagoon, and though nothing was going to keep me from exploring all that Venice had to offer by foot or by vaporetto during the day, it was hard not to notice just how hot it was.

River cruisers have a cool place to return to

A travel advisor I spoke to while I was on a recent trip with the Travel Corporation a couple of weeks ago -- in the noticeably cooler locale of Switzerland -- said the extreme heat wasn't stopping her land and river clients from enjoying their vacations, even if they were a little soggier with sweat than they would have liked.

"I just had a family of five in Italy with three kids, and I tried to mentally prepare them for the crowds and the heat," said Darlene McClung, a Frosch travel advisor based in Charleston, North Carolina. "There were times that they forfeited some tours because of the heat, but people aren't stopping their travels or river cruises."

McClung said the nice thing about river cruises and the extreme heat waves in certain European destinations is that travelers always have a cool place to return to.

"I haven't heard of any problems from my river cruise clients [this summer]. If the heat gets to be too much, they can always go back to the ship where there's air conditioning," McClung said, adding that on the flip side, she has heard more feedback from her land touring clients about how hot it's been, primarily in Italy.

'Custom-designing' a ship for Portugal's hot summers

And parts of Europe have indeed been extremely hot this summer, particularly in July when climate experts said temperatures around the world climbed to the hottest on record.

"The extreme weather which has affected many millions of people in July is unfortunately the harsh reality of climate change and a foretaste of the future," said professor Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization.

That's why some river cruise lines are doing what they can to ensure that guests are as comfortable as they can be.
Take Tauck, for instance, and its sailings on Portugal's Douro, a river that has seen increased investment from river cruise lines in recent years along with an increase in temperatures.

Tauck said it has started to adjust its offerings on the Douro by offering fewer departures during the hottest months, July and August, in order to better accommodate its older clientele.

"Generally, we're operating fewer departures in July and August, as many of our guests are retired and they naturally gravitate toward traveling during shoulder season," said Joanne Gardner, vice president of worldwide operations for Tauck. "So with fewer trips operating, it's easier for us to make adjustments more-or-less on the fly."

Tauck offers three itineraries on the Douro River, all of which sail aboard the company's newest ship, the Andorinha, a 263-foot ship that can accommodate 84 passengers and has a number of features specifically geared toward offering a cooler onboard experience.

Gardner said Tauck had benefitted by "custom designing" the Andorinha for Portugal's very hot summers.

"The Andorinha has an air conditioning system with twice the cooling capacity found on our 110-meter ships," she said. "In addition, windows on the Andorinha feature a special UV-reflecting coating that lets in abundant natural light while also blocking out 82% of the sun's warmth."

The pool on the sun deck of the Andorinha is larger than the pools on Tauck's other ships. That's in addition to the extra shaded seating areas, with Balinese daybeds for comfortable lounging.

Changing the daily program to beat the heat

Beyond ship design features, Tauck is also working to adjust its cruise programming.

It's minimized outdoor activities during the hottest part of the day by adding more sightseeing in the morning and early evening hours, and it's scheduling more onboard learning programs midday, such as lectures, cooking demonstrations and tastings.

There are also three Tauck director guides onboard, in addition to the cruise director, which provides more flexibility in executing programming happening on or off the ship.  

"Our Tauck directors also provide extra water, cool treats and cold towels, particularly on our river cruises but also on our land tours," Gardner added."

Cool treats and cold towel remedies are something I've also experienced with other river cruise lines. I find those efforts to be a nice touch when it's hot out, and it makes my overall river cruise experience feel like the right choice on a summer's day.


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