I have cruised 3 times with Viking. My latest was booked over a year in advance, a 14 night Grand European from Amsterdam to Budapest, on the Viking Skadi. Our cruise began June 2nd. We watched the weather before leaving home, but had no idea of the massive flooding taking shape across central Europe.
We received an email from Viking on May 31st. It stated that "...as a result of a scheduling issue, your cruise will take place on the Viking Tor instead of the Viking Skadi." We were assured the Tor & the Skadi are sister ships, identical in amenities. There was no mention of floods, itinerary changes, re-routing, bussing, hotel stays, docks being under water, etc. We embarked in Amsterdam, on a beautiful sunny day. Passengers were told at our first meeting that the water was high & although it was receding, we might need to transfer ships at some point. On a Christmas Market cruise I had done with Viking, the water was too high for us to cruise the Main canal. I thought this was similar. I was not concerned. I trusted Viking.
On June 3rd as we sailed to Cologne, I was amazed at how high the river was. It was well beyond it's normal borders. No mention of flood in our passenger meeting. We were told the water was high, but was receding. The Tour Director wasn't sure if we would need to transfer to a different ship. He had no further information, but would tell us immediately when he heard something.
On June 4th as we approached Cologne, we pulled off the river & into an industrial recycling area. Huge piles of crushed vehicles, piles of garbage everywhere. We finally docked across from a nuclear cooling tower, next to a rusting old river ship. We shuttled into Cologne where I saw other ships docked in the old town area, on the river, by the cathedral. I became angry - why were we in a garbage zone? I found out our normal dock was under water. That evening we were told the water had not receded enough & we would need to transfer to Bamberg by bus on the following day. In Bamberg, we would transfer onto the Skadi. Now I finally was beginning to understand. The "scheduling issue" was actually a flood and the reason we embarked on the Tor was because the Skadi was stranded in Bamberg, & had been there since before our cruise began. One of the other passengers called Viking Customer Service to complain. He was told that he could leave the tour at his own expense and he would not receive any refund or cruise credit.
On June 5th we left Cologne in a bus caravan at 8:30am. We stopped to tour Marksberg castle & have lunch. We arrived in Bamberg at 6:30pm, exhausted, & had to find the ship. We finally found it in an industrial shipping area, surrounded by cranes, shipping containers, etc. At our passenger meeting that night, the Tour Director began to smilingly tell us the plans for the next days touring options, by bus. Passengers became very vocal in their complaints. The Hotel Manager was called to come speak with us. The 2 of them made a bad situation much worse, and the meeting became quite contentious. The passengers asked to speak with the ships captain. He declined to address us. The Hotel Manager finally agreed to call Viking corporate & said that he would let us know at breakfast what they said.
At breakfast on June 6th, the Hotel Director had not yet received a reply from Viking corporate. Some people chose an 8hr bus tour to Werzberg. My husband & I shuttled into Bamberg. Just before dinner, we had another meeting with the Tour Director where he presented Viking's offer. In part, it read "Should you wish to return home, you will receive full credit for unused cruise portion". We were also told at this meeting that the remainder of the tour would be by bus since river navigation was dangerous and closed. The plan was for hotel stays in Munich, Vienna & Bratislava, and one more Viking ship in Budapest. We left the ship for the nearest airport the following morning.
Tauck River Cruises had a similar cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest, also leaving on June 2nd. On June 4th they offered full refunds to passengers who decided to leave. Avalon Waterways and Uniworld canceled cruises in June & offered their guests not only full refunds but a $500 credit, per person, on a future cruise.
I fail to understand such a blatantly stupid business management plan as the one Viking has pursued. By failing to be honest & forthright with all information, in a timely manner, they have now created absolute distrust & very angry clients. Viking has created clients who will never cruise with them again & who will warn everyone of their bitter experience. Had Viking chose to adopt a plan of integrity rather than one of deception, those passengers would now be singing their praises. Mutual respect and trust would have been engendered & Viking would have gained many more loyal clients.
In short, Viking has now set the standard for how NOT to handle a PR nightmare.