Cruising the rivers of Europe as I have done four times now, I have noticed one thing in common with the passengers on each of those cruises. When the ship enters that first lock, everybody flocks to the outer decks, balconies, or lounge windows to watch. Shutter bugs jockey for the best vantage spot on deck and click photo after photo. Conversation between passengers is a lively affair, and everybody is amazed and enthralled by the process. Smiles all around!
As the cruise continues (and the ship has entered lock after lock), less and less passengers casually meander out to the decks to have a look. Several photographers still bring their cameras (just in case), but less of them actually use them. There is some passing interest, but not quite the enthusiasm exhibited during that first lock experience.
By the final lock (in our case on this cruise, lock number 71! on the Main River), nobody budges. For passengers who happened to be out on deck already, they may watch, but with little interest. Card players continue with their games in the lounge, readers don’t bother looking up from their books, and conversation between passengers is about everything except the lock.
Photographers? Pfffft. Why bother? It’s just another lock.
On this cruise, we passed through a LOT of locks! Locks 1 thru 16 were on the Danube, locks 17 thru 37 on the Main-Danube Canal, and locks 38 thru 71 were passed through on the Main. By the time we arrived at Kostheim Lock, the 167 passengers on board were lock-ed out!
Just how do those locks work anyway, and why did we have to pass through 71 of those darn things? I will plagiarize from www.someinterestingfacts.net and quote: “Locks were invented to let boats travel up and down gradients on water. They work like an ‘aqua lift’; the boat is enclosed in a chamber, which is either filled with or emptied of water. This commonly carries the boat up or down a height change of several metres.
Where there is a steep gradient to climb, there are numerous locks spaced across the gradient. These can either be individual locks separated by a lock-free waterway, or a ‘staircase’ – these are faster as the ‘upper’ gate of one lock is the ‘lower’ gate of another.”
The largest height difference (81.92 feet!) we experienced in locks was on the Main-Danube Canal at the Hipoltstein, Eckersmuehlen, and Leerstetten locks. It was an amazing feeling to see those huge concrete walls surrounding us!
During our cruise on the Danube, the River Voyager climbed to the top of the Continental Divide, 1,331 feet above sea level—the highest point in the world a boat can climb! Over the course of our 106 miles, we passed through 16 locks climbing 220 feet up, and 574 feet down.
Here are some scenes during our cruise to Vienna: