River Cruise Lines Eye Security Measures after Paris Attacks

(3:30 p.m. EDT) — River cruise passengers could see the introduction of airport-style security scanners following the Paris bombings.

They are among increased safety measures being discussed by river lines in Europe following the attacks in Paris and subsequent police investigations in Belgium.

The United States State Department issued a worldwide travel alert Tuesday, cautioning citizens to be vigilant when they go overseas because of terrorist activity from ISIS, al-Qaida and other radical groups. The German government has announced that increased security will be put in place as a precaution at public buildings, at major events and Christmas Markets, which are popular on river cruise itineraries.

However, river cruise lines will continue to offer calls at Christmas markets this winter. We reached out to Viking River Cruises for the following statement “At this point we have not altered any sailings in Germany out of security concerns, but we are continuing to monitor the situation closely. Should any itinerary modifications become necessary for upcoming departures we will notify those guests directly.”

Talking to Cruise Critic at last weekend’s Cruise Lines International Association U.K. and Ireland River Cruise Convention in Amsterdam, various lines stressed rigorous safety procedures were already in place to safeguard passengers, but there was no room for complacency.

The organization’s chair, Lucia Rowe, who is also a member of the European Tourism Association, said, “On our line, A-Rosa, we have security around the clock. Not only is our reception continually manned, but our nautical staff are also trained to patrol the vessel and notice who is going on and off.

“We take security very seriously, and as an industry we need to address it. This could mean discussing whether we need additional security such as luggage checks. People expect this in airports and on ocean ships, so possibly it is something we should adopt.”

Kathryn Beadle, U.K. managing director of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, said the company was not planning to alter itineraries or withdraw from cities like Paris following the attacks. She added that river vessels are exceptionally secure environments.

“Of course we monitor every situation, as we have done in the past with other destinations, such as Egypt and Russia,” she said. “However, river ships are extremely safe and they are not like hotels where anyone can wander in and out. There is one entrance, we carry a small number of passengers, whom the crew get to know very quickly, and everyone has to check in and out at reception with a card so we always know exactly who is onboard.”

Steve Spivak, Tauck’s vice president of global sales, said CLIA — which has 18 river cruise line members — should lead by example and pave the way for a uniform code of safety.

“We are confident about our safety measures and constantly evaluate the safety and security of our passengers, particularly in the light of recent events, but we are only as good as the vessel that might be moored alongside one of our ships,” he said. “We all have a shared responsibility to work together and develop an organizational standard.”

During the terrorist attacks and subsequent lockdown, river cruise lines such as Viking changed excursion schedules and disembarkation locations. Lines including Viking and Avalon have posted updates on their websites and social media, and they have given passengers the option to rebook planned cruises in the affected regions without penalty.

On the Cruise Critic boards, while some members have said they are nervous about traveling to Europe or have cancelled planned cruises later this year and in 2016, others say they will not bow to the actions of terrorists.

“They will be super vigilant now, so soon after the attacks. It is when people start getting lax is when we need to worry,” wrote Got2Cruise. Hydrokitty added, “I think you’re probably safer on a river cruise than anywhere else because you’re not as high profile.”

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