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  #21  
Old June 21st, 2013, 11:01 PM
kdowneymd kdowneymd is offline
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@newfirsttimer, yes Viking and every company was trying to deal with a rapidly evolving scenario and yes local villages and people suffered severe trauma, one must be careful in absolving differences. Viking and other cruise lines are businesses that assume a level of risk in traveling rivers and providing a travel experience and purchase insurance to maintain their business. This should not be confused with the devastation members of the flooded communities have experienced. They do not have multi million dollar insurance policies protecting them. We should absolutely feel for these communities but that is completely different than absolving these river touring companies from responsibility
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  #22  
Old June 21st, 2013, 11:31 PM
Korkeyq Korkeyq is offline
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My first time ever on a board/community! I was on Viking Vienna the week of June 2! I expressed my concern to the tour director that I was shocked that Viking would take guests into an area experiencing a state of emergency and was assured they were not. I work with emergency storm response and know that locals have much more to worry about than a bunch of tourists.
I was in the flooded hotel in Budapest, and had to be evacuated. As a group we were lied to each day about what we would experience each day. We were herded, we were bussed one day for over nine hours.
Viking was wrong on so many counts including community responsibility, guest consideration and safety, (hours of sitting, no water on buses to drink OR for flushing). I suppose it they are not responsible enough to cancel, even after we asked, then how can we expect them to take responsibility now to do the right thing!
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  #23  
Old June 21st, 2013, 11:33 PM
Coastalrap Coastalrap is offline
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Sorry to hear about your experience, I'm surprised that Viking treated customers that way. It makes me less likely to book with them. We have a group of 6 that just booked on another line. River cruising is not cheap, we could have gone on a bunch of ocean cruises for that kind of money. This level of customer service will not entice cruisers to take the risk.

I'm sure anyone put in this situation would be just as upset as you were.
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  #24  
Old June 22nd, 2013, 10:50 AM
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This is awful - I am so sorry this happened to you! Sounds like a dream vacation quickly turned into a nightmare. I hope your post cruise plans were much better.
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  #25  
Old June 22nd, 2013, 07:43 PM
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Viking Cruises Viking Cruises is offline
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Dear Cruise Critic members,

We’ve been watching and listening to the many differing points of view shared here recently—and we’d like to offer some input to this conversation, for your consideration…

Timing and Making Assessments
Our Swiss nautical and operational teams rely on an extensive, established network of local authorities and port operators—along with decades of experience with past high and low water situations—to make assessments on navigability of all rivers on which we sail. Weather, soil conditions and water levels are routinely monitored and evaluated. This is particularly crucial under circumstances where a few hours or a few centimeters of difference can have an enormous impact on a ship’s sailing schedule.

Cancellations
Where conditions precluded us from being able to provide a modified itinerary that we believed would be worthwhile—we canceled those particular cruises. For these cancellations, we provided a refund plus a credit for a future cruise so that these disappointed guests may book another journey with Viking.

Modified Itineraries
If we believed that we would be able to continue operating an itinerary with some modifications, we did. Each of these modified sailings was considered individually. Partial compensation in the form of a voucher was provided. In most cases we contacted guests ahead of departure to let them know the ways in which we anticipated their itinerary would proceed based on current conditions. In some cases the rapidly changing navigational conditions prompted additional modifications to the itinerary and as a result we have re-evaluated the compensation provided for these.

Looking Back
Not all of our assessments were perfect and as conditions quickly changed, not all of our contingency plans always occurred exactly as we had planned them. But a good many of them did.

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. At the time we made decisions whether to cancel cruises or proceed with modifications, we always had the interests and safety of our guests and crew in mind. We have received many emails and phone calls from guests whose cruise did not go perfectly, but who still enjoyed themselves.

Departures in the First Week of June
We get the sense that many of the posts in which returning guests are voicing their disappointment, feedback and point of view, are from departures that occurred in the first few days of June. We understand that when these guests arrived they were taken by surprise at the conditions of the rivers; we were taken by surprise, too. Our Switzerland-based teams worked diligently and in good faith trying to make arrangements as needed and keep their guests informed. We’ve heard frustration over instances where a crew could not provide answers on contingency plans that were beyond the next day, and we apologize for this, to both our guests and our crew, as it was surely frustrating for both parties. With conditions changing quickly, we did the best we could to provide each crew with complete information as it became available. Again, a few hours or a few centimeters of difference can have an enormous impact on a ship’s sailing schedule.

Compensation for Impacted Sailings
We have extended compensation in the form of a credit voucher of varying percentages of the cruise fare paid for the impacted 2013 sailings. These sailings were provided alternative travel arrangements, dining, lodging, and excursions to destinations on the original itinerary (where possible) and substituted places of interest. However, based on sentiments expressed here and elsewhere online, as well as with our Customer Relations department, it is clear that some of those affected guests are unsatisfied with our attempts to make amends for a difficult and challenging situation. So, please do contact us directly if you would like to discuss your experience. Our Customer Relations team is starting to return to normal levels of incoming calls and emails after a few weeks of very high volume, and they would be happy to continue the conversation with any of our guests. We can be reached at TellUs@vikingcruises.com and will be pleased to put guests in touch with a member of our Customer Relations team.

Safety
The safety of our guests and crew is always our top priority; in every deliberation we had it was our primary focus. We are happy and grateful to report that no Viking guests were injured as a result of the flooding. However, we recognize that some of our guests have voiced concerns about their safety and we take those concerns very seriously; please contact us at TellUs@vikingcruises.com so we can further discuss your particular experience.

Updated Information
For guests on upcoming sailings, we continue to update our website: www.vrc.com/weatherupdate. We began providing updates on June 3rd when the situation became apparent—including email updates to all affected guests and their travel agents—and we will continue to provide updates until sailing on the affected rivers no longer requires modifications that are known ahead of departure. Please note (though we’re sure most Cruise Critic members who are actively engaged with this forum are already aware) current modifications are no longer a result of water levels, but of the recently announced extended closure of the Altenwörth Lock in Austria.

Contact Us
Even if you have already done so previously we ask that you contact us directly at TellUs@vikingcruises.com. We are re-doubling our efforts to address concerns with guests who may feel that they have not been adequately heard. We understand that there are members in this community who remain disappointed and we hope that each of you will contact us again so we may discuss your particular situation.

Thank you, as always, for reading and allowing us to have a voice within this community. We appreciate your time, patience and understanding.

Sincerely,
Viking Cruises
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  #26  
Old June 22nd, 2013, 09:54 PM
pully8 pully8 is offline
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some serious and disturbing stories being told on here and other social media. serious issues around consumer law and protection as well as duty of care.

with all these offers of vouchers for future travel...how much capacity will these cruise lines have to meet their promises and obligations?

social media is excellent to provide and disseminate information, but perhaps in view of this severe event the main stream media now needs to have a role to inform and warn about some of these issues and outcomes?

it has been a reminder to all to be mindful of the potential for things not to go as planned. to look beyond the glossy promotions.
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  #27  
Old June 22nd, 2013, 10:35 PM
cbb cbb is offline
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I think it is also a reminder that travel insurance is very important.

We are already spending thousands to travel, why get thrifty over spending hundreds? Buy the insurance for "cancel for any reason" and it should help in making decisions about commencing or continuing a trip.
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  #28  
Old June 22nd, 2013, 11:59 PM
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oysterdam oysterdam is offline
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Originally Posted by cbb View Post
I think it is also a reminder that travel insurance is very important.

We are already spending thousands to travel, why get thrifty over spending hundreds? Buy the insurance for "cancel for any reason" and it should help in making decisions about commencing or continuing a trip.
So very true.

I know I will now purchase a cancel for any reason travel insurance policy for my next river cruise.
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  #29  
Old June 23rd, 2013, 04:42 PM
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G.M.T. G.M.T. is offline
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You do realize that no matter how high the water gets your cabin would not go further under water. The boat floats.
.
Not always true. If the mooring lines are not properly adjusted, the non moored side could rise with the flood and so tilting the boat to allow water to enter on the moored side.

Ron
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  #30  
Old June 23rd, 2013, 04:46 PM
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G.M.T. G.M.T. is offline
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Engineer wise, your fear of being below the water level as it rises is irrational! Put a rubber ducky in the bath tub and see what happens when you add water. Ships float!
Not always true. A boat could loose power and / or the flood is too strong and the boat is pushed outside of the shippiong channel and be holed by an obsticle or rock. Then a boat would not float.

Ron
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  #31  
Old June 24th, 2013, 02:28 PM
alpinista alpinista is offline
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I began reading this message thinking it was from a shipmate from my recently competed Danube cruise. Imagine my dismay when I realized it was the same story, just a different ship, the Aegir. I, and a large group of equally unhappy people, were subjected to the same treatment from Viking on a "cruise" from Budapest to Bucharest. Instead, we were subjected to 6 hour bus rides on the first and last days with 6 more days of being tethered to another ship in Novi Sad sandwiched between, making the trip seem like being on a prison barge.

Last edited by alpinista; June 24th, 2013 at 02:30 PM.
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  #32  
Old June 24th, 2013, 03:38 PM
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Dear alpinista,

We hope that you will contact us directly at TellUs@vikingcruises.com so that we may discuss your particular concerns—even if you have already done so previously we ask that you contact us one again. Our Customer Relations team is starting to return to normal levels of incoming calls and emails after a few weeks of very high volume, and so we are re-doubling our efforts to address concerns with guests who may feel that they have not been adequately heard. We hope to hear from you soon – and also hope that you will share this message with the other members of the group you mention here. We’d be happy to speak with them, too.

Very best,
Viking Cruises



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Originally Posted by alpinista View Post
I began reading this message thinking it was from a shipmate from my recently competed Danube cruise. Imagine my dismay when I realized it was the same story, just a different ship, the Aegir. I, and a large group of equally unhappy people, were subjected to the same treatment from Viking on a "cruise" from Budapest to Bucharest. Instead, we were subjected to 6 hour bus rides on the first and last days with 6 more days of being tethered to another ship in Novi Sad sandwiched between, making the trip seem like being on a prison barge.
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  #33  
Old June 25th, 2013, 08:38 AM
alpinista alpinista is offline
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Dear alpinista,

We hope that you will contact us directly at TellUs@vikingcruises.com so that we may discuss your particular concerns—even if you have already done so previously we ask that you contact us one again. Our Customer Relations team is starting to return to normal levels of incoming calls and emails after a few weeks of very high volume, and so we are re-doubling our efforts to address concerns with guests who may feel that they have not been adequately heard. We hope to hear from you soon – and also hope that you will share this message with the other members of the group you mention here. We’d be happy to speak with them, too.

Very best,
Viking Cruises
I find it interesting that for the time we were trapped on the Aegir with mounting hostility between the passengers and crew (and even between passengers divided as to the extent of liability for Viking's decision to bus us to a point where they knew we would be locked in place), the apparent company policy was to stonewall the passengers. The tour director was arrogant, dismissive, and contemptuous; the hotel manager, when available, claimed ignorance of such information as water levels and rate of flow (something I'd expect a river cruising business to have at their fingertips); the ship's captain was simply invisible.

Only when faced with a petition from the passengers demanding action, did Viking offer grudging (and incremental) compensation, and even that remains undefined as to inclusive or not of expenses beyond the cruise (insurance, transit fares, compensatory expenses for those of us whose "balcony view" was of a ship tethered 6" away from us).

Yet, when this topic is raised on a public forum, it only takes a blink of an eye for the PR folks from Viking to show up. Yes, I will certainly be in touch, as I expect a very high percentage of other people from this cruise and we will have these questions: 1) When will we see TOTAL compensation and 2) Has the person who made the decision to create this unbelievably fouled up situation (my and my wife's 25th anniversary gift to each other BTW) been terminated?
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  #34  
Old June 25th, 2013, 12:06 PM
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So sorry to hear about your very not-fun experience. We considered ourselves incredibly fortunate that Avalon canceled our cruise (due to depart 6/10) with almost a week's notice, and reading through your report only reinforces that. Don't know what I would have done in your shoes, but certainly would have been very disappointed with my "vacation" as well.

I will say that it must have been incredibly difficult to accurately predict the day-to-day effects of the worst flood in >500 years - no one alive has personal experience with this, so I think we have to cut the planners / forecasters some slack if they were caught unaware, so to speak. It's hard to extrapolate when water levels go off the charts to levels that have not been seen before. It's difficult to know what tomorrow will bring, when levels change rapidly by the hour.

Consider, also, that the CD is certainly at the mercy of decisions made at the main Corporate Office, so if they aren't getting clear instructions from above, it's difficult for them to give clear direction to passengers. Is it possible that the CD's dismissiveness reflected their frustration with not getting clear signals from above? Who knows; they may have been just as scared as you were. Was the Captain's invisibility due to the fact that he was busy, closely monitoring the safety of the ship while it was tied up in a torrentially flowing river?

The conditions obviously changed very rapidly, and the full extent of the rising water levels must have been challenging to impossible to predict. There will be a lot of retrospective analysis, and hopefully much learning from this experience. I know that this doesn't change your miserable trip, and I don't blame you for being upset about how this turned out. But, consider that Viking was just as much at the mercy of Mother Nature as you were.

BTW, we also were in Regensburg on June 10th - what a coincidence! When our cruise was canceled, we extended our planned pre-cruise stay in Nuremburg until June 11th, and used the extra day to make a day-trip by train to Regensburg. Nice town - we watched the raging power of the Danube from the Steinerne Brucke, and saw that the waters had receded quite a bit from their previous levels, though the flood barriers were still in place just in case.

Best of luck with appropriate compensation, and I hope that you get to see this beautiful part of the world again under more cheery circumstances! Thanks for sharing your experience.
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  #35  
Old June 25th, 2013, 12:08 PM
franski franski is offline
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Originally Posted by alpinista View Post
The tour director was arrogant, dismissive, and contemptuous; the hotel manager, when available, claimed ignorance of such information as water levels and rate of flow (something I'd expect a river cruising business to have at their fingertips); the ship's captain was simply invisible.
Hi -

Just wondering who your tour (cruise) director was? We were on the Aegir in late April, and our CD (George) was outstanding. We have been on 6 river cruises so far - and he topped the list.

Now, I wasn't impressed with the hotel manager - and did voice my concerns and impressions with Viking - so would be interested to know if he lingers.

I have always said the the CD can make or break a river cruise.

Fran
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  #36  
Old June 25th, 2013, 12:22 PM
mathladyca mathladyca is offline
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I

Y1) When will we see TOTAL compensation and 2) Has the person who made the decision to create this unbelievably fouled up situation (my and my wife's 25th anniversary gift to each other BTW) been terminated?
I didn't know that there was a person who was responsible for act of nature? Are you talking about a god?
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  #37  
Old June 25th, 2013, 08:52 PM
alpinista alpinista is offline
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I didn't know that there was a person who was responsible for act of nature? Are you talking about a god?
The boats we were tethered to had canceled their trips for the prior week, the current week, and the coming week, so think their management made the proper decisions. Our issue was not with the river or any act of God, it was with Viking attempting to meet the letter of their contract so that we could be charged as if the cruise took place. The idea that a river company and the river authority can not read water levels and rates of flow is not going to wash with me. Viking had canceled the trip immediately before us and should have canceled ours also. The conditions were not a surprise to anyone, other than Viking. The captain was invisible for 6 days. I don't think he was on the clock that entire time. The waters were not flowing torrentially, just widespread flooding with a current slow enough that people and their dogs were swimming off the embankment in Novi Sad.

The ship dissolved into factions in open conflict with each other as the problems mounted. George, referenced above, made it very clear that he was an inconsequential cipher at the bottom of the chain of command with no interest in doing anything other than charming the women who would be determining the size of his tip.

Viking made a reckless decision that should cost them both in terms of compensation and in future good will. If they had canceled the trip, my wife and I would have been disappointed, but we would have rescheduled for next year and probably enjoyed ourselves. I was an executive manager during my career and I found that if mistakes were made the simple path of being open and honest and telling the truth made things a lot better. It was very clear that Viking wanted to string us along from day to day until they could discharge us with either a 12 hour bus ride to Bucharest (if we didn't move at all) or a 6 hour ride if we did manage to get onto the river. The latter is what happened and they then expected us to thank them that we spent less than 24 hours under way out of an 11 day itinerary.

Viking made a huge mistake and then compounded it by treating us like idiots. The final straw for us was a tour guide in Romania responding to a comment "This must be really unusual to pick up passengers here" with "Oh, no....this happens all the time..sometimes the water is too high and sometimes it is too low" (as opposed to Viking claiming that all of our problems were of the once in a lifetime type).

Last edited by alpinista; June 25th, 2013 at 09:01 PM.
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  #38  
Old June 26th, 2013, 03:29 AM
Mark_T Mark_T is online now
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The final straw for us was a tour guide in Romania responding to a comment "This must be really unusual to pick up passengers here" with "Oh, no....this happens all the time..sometimes the water is too high and sometimes it is too low" (as opposed to Viking claiming that all of our problems were of the once in a lifetime type).
The Guide was correct though, high and low water events are relatively common on river cruises.

Viking would not deny that either, but they would have been keen to emphasize that the extent of the problems you were facing was exceptional.

Either way, I hope you have responded to the request from Viking to get back in touch so they can try to resolve matters to your satisfaction.

Posting on here may be cathartic, but speaking direct to Viking is the way to get things resolved.

Last edited by Mark_T; June 26th, 2013 at 03:29 AM.
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