* 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.