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Viking Bragi/Tor sailing from Budapest to Amsterdam, Jun2 – 16 2013
I’m writing this as a letter to Viking in response to their posts asking for feedback. As the title suggests, I was on the Bragi/Tor sailing during the 2013 floods. There is nothing fancy here, just an account of the trip with my opinions on the good and bad. You can go to the web and see what the itinerary was supposed to be. Below is a condensed version of what we did. I’m going to skip some of the tour details since I can’t remember all of the names and exact order.
* Sun-Wed: On Bragi docked upriver of Budapest. We did a bus tour Monday and Tuesday from the boat to areas that could be reasonably reached by bus. Typical bus travel time was 1 to 2 hours one way.
* Wed: Bused to a hotel near Vienna with a stop (tour) along the way. The bus travel took about 7-8 hours plus tour time and lunch.
* Wed –Fri: At hotel near Vienna. We did bus a tour into Vienna on Thursday from the hotel. Bus travel time was 1 to 2 hours one way.
* Fri: Bused to Munich. There, we were put up in the Hilton just north of the city center near the English Gardens. The bus travel time was about 8 hours plus the time it took for lunch and a stop for a tour.
* Fri-Sun: Munich was a late arrival on Friday and an early departure on Sunday so we had a Munich city tour on Saturday and a lot of free time.
* Sunday: We were bused to Frankfurt where we boarded the Tor (Bragi sister ship) with a stop (city tour) in Nuremburg. Total bus travel time was about 7 hours plus lunch and tour.
* Sun-Tues: The Tor remained docked in Frankfurt while we toured Frankfurt and had options for tours back along the route on Monday.
* Tues-Sun: Resumed the scheduled cruise onboard the Tor down the Rhine to Amsterdam with no more surprises. Note that this Tuesday is the first day we were on a moving boat.
If you count Sunday to Sunday as 15 days of touring, we spent only 5 of those days cruising on water (Tuesday through Saturday). During the “unscheduled” portion of the trip there were several things that Viking did well andone major thing that they completely missed the boat on.
* The hotels were all adequate or better. Half of the group stayed in the St. Martins Resort near Vienna for 2 nights. That was a very nice hotel. The other half didn’t fare so well in a ski resort since most of the amenities were shut down because it was off season for a ski resort.
* Of course all of the hotels and meals were picked up by Viking. Bar tabs during the meals were also picked up by Viking.
* The tours that would normally have to be paid for as extras all along the cruise were paid for by Viking for the entire cruise.
* We were kept reasonably informed of what was on the schedule for the next day and mostly for two days in advance.
* I’ll bring this up later but the Viking people that we had to deal with on the boat were excellent. They listened to us and tried their best to respond with what information they could.
Did not do well;
* The Viking corporate response to passengers was totally absent.
* We could tell that the arrangements in general were, at best, rushed. In some cases we got the second and third string tour guides and some meals could have been better.
Now for a little more detail. First off, this trip could have been a lot worse. There were a lot of unhappy people the first few days. We all understood that the high water levels and the need to change the itinerary were not the fault of Viking or the crew but we questioned why the cruise was continuing when everyone knew that it would turn into a bus trip. The biggest problem that we were running into was that Viking corporate or travel simply would not respond to inquiries concerning what options we had or help in arranging flights. A good example of this; my wife and I considered cutting the trip short and going home during the first half of the first week. I emailed Viking at their Travel, Customer Service, and one other Viking email address that I got off their webpage starting on Monday asking for assistance with travel plans and help understanding what options we had. I did not receivethe courtesy of one reply from those emails while on the trip or after. I would be more understanding of this if I hadn’t arranged the entire trip from air fare to travel insurance through Viking. Because of that, I considered Viking as my travel agent for this trip and expected their help. Other passengers that used travel agents did not seem to fare any better. I gathered from conversations with the other passengers that Viking wasn’t talking to anyone. So there in lies my one big bitch. At the corporate level, the passengers on the boats did not exist. Between trying to give Viking a chance to answer the emails and a coming down with very bad stomach flu on Tuesday we stretched the trip out till about Thursday when our Program Director gave us some info on what Viking would do. At that point we had the option of continuing with a 75% credit of this cruise towards another one or cutting it short with a pro-rated refund. It’s just as well that we decided to stay with the cruise because I don’t know how we could have even taken advantage of the going home offer since the Viking travel department would not talk to us. During all of the arrangements and preparation for this trip we never expected that we would be abandoned by Viking when we needed them the most.
I’ve been reading the posts on the forums and have seen a lot of complaints about how people were treated by the Viking personnel on the boats. The one thing the stands out for me since I was on Bragi/Tor is that there are very few people, if any, that are complaining about that sailing. I think there’s a reason for that and I will name them, Gary and Marcela, the Program Director and the Concierge. They were part of the crew from the Bragi and stayed with us to Amsterdam. They listened to our complaints and we all believe they actually tried their best to do what they could for us. You may see complaints about Viking on this sailing but I doubt that you will see any about those two. Do I think they told us everything that was happening? No. They are still Viking employees and what they were passing along was controlled by Viking but I believe that they passed on honest information and controlled a potentially bad situation very well. A special note to Viking management: If they don’t get recognition out of this you guys need some serious management overhaul.
As far as the compensation that we are all offered from Viking, 75% of this cruise price towards another cruise; is that adequate? When it comes down to the fine print, I doubt that Viking owes us a thing. I think that it is spelled out clearly that they have the right to change the itinerary as necessary if the rivers will not allow passage. But with all the negative comments that are coming out on the forums and our own experience that demonstrates Viking’s total disregard for their passengers, the 75% does not go far enough to do the damage control that they need.
There are a lot more things that I could comment on from the boat crew to the quality of the tours and food but quite honestly most of that was as expected for the circumstances. The one important question that I think should be asked after a trip like this is; “Would I do it again?” Honestly, I don’t know. It depends on what kind of mood you catch me in. Sometimes I think yes and sometimes no way. It just depends on if I’m remembering the last 5 days of the cruise and friends we made of if I’m remembering the total frustration with trying to contact the Viking travel and customer service groups.
If upon further reflection, you do not feel the 75% credit for a future cruise adequately compensates you for your lost cruise and lost trust, then re connect with viking at email@example.com and have them phone you to discuss.
Others here have felt better when actually speaking with a person and explaining in details, after the fact, what happened to them. Many here have stated that once they spoke with Viking, Viking promised to phone them back and did, and a better compensation arrangement was the outcome. As one poster summed it up ' I was a dissatisfied traveller; now I'm a satisfied Viking customer'.
That would be the best possible solution in this difficult situation.
1961 P&O Orsova -Hawaii- Vancouver, 1962 P&O Orcades -Hawaii-Vancouver
1974 – Island Princess – Coastal, 1996- Regal Princess – Coastal
2001- Viking KD Deutschland- Rhine Cruise, 2002- Ocean Princess – Alaska
2003- Sun Princess – Coastal,
2005- RCI Vision of the Seas- Coastal, 2005- Sapphire Princess – Coastal
2006- Star Princess – Western Caribbean, 2006- Diamond Princess- Coastal
2007– RCI Serenade of the Seas- Alaska,
2008 - Caribbean Princess – Eastern Caribbean, 2008- Golden Princess – Hawaii Roundtrip
2009- Uniworld River Empress –Holland/Belgium
2011- Emerald Princess – TA/Northern Europe, 2011- Island Princess – Alaska
2012- Ruby Princess – Grand Med, 2012- Viking Njord – Danube
2013- Star Princess – Coastal, 2013- Caribbean Princess- New England/Canada
2014- Star Princess- Coastal
2015-Viking Odin 'Rhine Rhapsody'
My wife and I were on the same trip with you (not sure we met), but I second your evaluation of the trip. Very well described, including the special mention of Gary & Marcela. Even when they had no information for us, they made a point of getting with us and collecting our feelings to pass back up the ladder.
When actually cruising and operating from the Ship, the experience was fantastic. When in Bus Tour mode, it really sucked for us. I also blame the extensive Bus rides for the nasty Head Cold that got passed around.
We're also not sure if a credit suits us. We're looking at Vikings other itineraries to see if one gets our attention.
Just a side note. We found the "Fit & Finish" of the TOR to be lacking compared with the BRAGI. This had no effect on the trip, but I wonder if the Tor was rushed through that stage or had a different outfitting crew.
It's hard to say if we met. We probably did but.... Anyway, good to here from some one on the cruise. Yes, there was a difference in the two boats. The Bragi was much nicer than Tor. It seemed newer and less worn. Also, the wireless worked. On Bragi I got a good signal everyplace on the boat, including my room. On Tor the wireless only worked in the common areas up front and even then it was flaky. It didn't help matters when they parked the sat dishes under the bridge in Koln.
What happened to Bragi after we left the boat for the bus cruise. We were told two different things. First story was that Bragi was going to move by 10 that morning because the dock we were at was getting unsafe. If that's the case I certainly have to question Viking's decision to leave you guys there. The second story was that the boat stayed there and crew was rowing back and forth to shore.
I did send a copy of the post to Viking's "tellus@" address. I'm not sure what good it does but it was done.
I'd like to add something to the "Did Well" category.
Viking picked up the room bill at the end of the trip.
In our case, it included maybe 10 or 15 bar drinks, a huge Laundry bill and a couple of their Fleece jackets. I didn't see it, but I think it was four or five hundred dollars.
That took me by surprise.
But I will say that the Schnitzel, Bratwurst, Kraut and Strudel bombardment wasn't up to Viking standards.