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Sunday, August 18, 2019
Main-Danube canal

There are one-hundred or more hotelships engaged on the Amsterdam-Budapest river cruise service. The size of the vessels is dictated by the dimensions of the 68 locks that are passed through. The designs also take consideration of the minimum clearance under the many bridges traversing the route, and rather tight bends in some sections of the rivers and canals through which the hotelships navigate. Extremely well fi tted out in every department, they are limited to around 160 passengers.

One such vessel is the MV AmaBella owned by Ama Waterways Limited of Los Angeles, California, USA. The vessel was built in 2010 at the Grave Shipyard in Holland and is 135 metres’ length, 11.45 metres’ beam, with a draft of 1.65 metres and a displacement of 2,200 tonnes.

Leaving Amsterdam, the ship travels along the Amsterdam–Rhine canal, a distance of 72 kilometres. During this phase the AmaBella passes through two locks before entering the Rhine River. There are no locks on the section of the Rhine river plyed, a distance of 418 kilometres.During the passage along the Rhine, there are a number of stops and sightseeing tours. Leaving the Rhine, the cruise travels along the Main River for 384 kilometres through 34 locks before entering the Main-Danube Canal.

The Main-Danube Canal was completed in 1992 following many attempts to link the Rhine-Main river system with the Danube. The modern canal is 172 kilometres long, from Bamburg on the Main to Kelheim on the Danube. There are 16 locks on the canal; these being 625 feet long, 40 feet wide and up to 81 feet deep. The numerous locks are necessary to maintain the river levels for navigation; also to eventually carry the traffic over the Swabian Alps at a height of 406 metres above sea level. With the completion of the modern canal, river traffic is able to navigate from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea, a distance of 3,540 kilometres.

From the junction of the Main-Danube canal at Kelheim, the cruise continues east on the Danube River and passes through 16 locks on its way to Budapest in Hungary. There are stops and shore excursions at main centres such as Regensburg and Passau, which is known locally as “the town of the three rivers” because of its situation at the junction of the rivers Inn, Danube and Ilz. Leaving Passau, the Danube enters Austria just east of the city. It then flows through Linz, Melk and Durnstein, that are important stops before arrival in Vienna for an overnight stay. Vienna is a city of 1.8 million habitants and was the capital of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. Leaving Vienna at 4:00 pm on the second day, the ship cruises downriver, crossing the Austrian border. As it travels east along the Danube, the river forms the border between Slovakia and Hungary. Further on the river turns south until the cruise terminates in Budapest arriving at 9:00 the next day. In the evening, a short cruise is taken up river and back through the city where the passengers see the major buildings illuminated in a grand display. The following day, passengers depart the ship for their onward travel or to return to their homes, after the cruise of 1,811 kilometres.

To meet their schedule, the ships are often required to sail at night, preferably through uninteresting sections of the voyage. The crewing arrangements are dictated by the trade and, while varying considerably from oceantrading ships, the arrangement is very efficient. Heading up the ship handling personnel is the senior master who navigates the ship during the day, while the assistant master covers the 12-hour night shift. An engineer is signed on, but does not watchkeep as the engine room is unmanned and the machinery is controlled from the bridge. There are four seamen who are kept very busy with the constant docking and undocking. The hotel staff are under the supervision of a manager, while the accounts are supervised by the Purser and two staff.

The navigation bridge is mounted well forward on the upper deck. A unique feature of the bridge design is that it can be lowered two metres when required to pass under low bridges. As can be observed in the photograph of Captain Leunis on duty, the larger handwheels on the port and starboard consuls are the individual controls for the port and starboard main engines packages. The small vertical levers in the middle of the circular style handwheel are to control the speed of, and to reverse the engine, while the handwheel rotates the propeller package mainly for undocking purposes. There is no separate rudder, and with the vessel underway, the steering is controlled by the lever in Captain Leunis’ right hand, such that moving it either side of centre the propellers can be angled to control direction. During sharp turns on the canals, the bow thruster motor is used and controlled by the inner handwheel on the starboard side consol.

Read the rest of this article with additional pictures in Sea Breezes Magazine - April 2019 Issue
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