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  #1  
Old June 29th, 2013, 04:06 AM
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Default Viking: the Good, the Bad and the Very Ugly

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19-29 June, Viking Idun and Viking Njord, Prague extension and Romantic Danube

The flights went according to plan. Transfers likewise. The Hilton Hotel in Prague was excellent. The Viking team were there if we needed them, but didn't push themselves on us if we wanted to do our own thing. The Viking reduction in rates for the Hilton car service was a welcome perk.

The first we knew of a definite ship swap came with a posting I saw online on Cruise Critic. No email or representative visit from the Viking Hilton reps. The Viking post on Cruise Critic said the ship swap would take place when we reached the Altenworth Lock, still closed due to flood damage. Our first ship would drop us off, luggage would be transferred and our second ship would be waiting a short distance away on the other side of the lock. For information, the lock is between Krems and Vienna. Thus we expected to leave the ship on day five, whilst we were at Melk Abbey, and collect the new ship on other side of the Lock, to sail onwards to Vienna.

This is what actually happened:-

Following the Prague add on, we left the Hilton for a coach journey to board the Viking Idun moored in Nuremburg. Journey uneventful and smooth except for comment by Viking rep that they can't turn the air con on, whilst the coach is standing because 'it costs us money'. We were waiting for 25 mins in 37 degree heat. Totally unacceptable.

Arrived at ship. Clean, beautiful, modern lines of the new Viking longships. Cabin spotless. Bathroom likewise. Dinner that first night was excellent, and all the meals were of the same high standard. However, being a non alcohol drinker, I tended to be forgotten, and on three nights had to remind the waiter to bring me a soft drink. When I asked for a virgin colada, he quibbled, and said I would have to pay. I explained that all soft drinks were included at lunch and dinner, and he replied he would have to ask permission. When he returned, and said yes it was ok, I felt his attitude smacked of penny pinching, and I was left uncomfortable asking for anything other than a diet coke with my meal. Despite asking each time for no ice, I was never served a drink without it.

Evening briefing with Ray, cruise director. He had to leave us part way through, and Anita took over. Along with Bojan, the concierge and Pavel the maitre d' they were all very pleasant and extremely willing. I cannot fault my interactions with these particular crew members who were the most visible to all the guests, and certainly a pleasure for me to deal with, personally. Anita in particular sourced a new suitcase for my dad after Viking damaged his transferring from Idun to Njord, and Pavel helped me plan a wonderful dinner celebration for dads birthday.

However, I felt that last year the evening briefings were far more informative. There were also quite a few blank faces at reception at times, more so in the Njord than Idun. Occasionally, there were sewage smells onboard the Njord, caused we were told, by being moored between two other ships. The heating/air con on both ships proved impossible to regulate. Even the crew thought it was useless. I resorted to downloading a PDF of instructions from the Siemens website site at 1 am, so desperate was I for some heating. On the Njord when you turned the dial to heat, hot air came out along with a strong smell of burning. Again, on the Njord, our room safe was only partially working: two buttons on the keypad having been ripped out.

We did notice a difference between the two ships: the Njord has these very odd frosted bathrooms. Totally unsuitable if you're cabin sharing with a friend or, like myself, with my father. Also useless at night when one person goes to the loo, and light floods the whole cabin through the glass walls.

Nuremberg. First class trip and guide. Sadly, the only good guide all cruise. Noticed a huge fall off from last year in the quality of guides Viking are using. The consistency of English speaking and knowledge just isn't there. Several guides omitted to take their groups into Passau cathedral which was open despite the bishops death. They missed out on seeing the stunning organ and interior.

Regensburg. Atrocious guide. Told us all about his favourite luggage shop and would wander off to talk to locals and leave us. Never took us over the bridge, but left us crowded round the empty museum. Walked at snails pace, and we were in one of the more active groups.

Spent the afternoon on the balcony, one of only two occasions when we were able to use it due to us being moored between other ships. As this cruise has a lot of locks to navigate, we knew the upper deck would be closed and therefore booked a balcony. We got only two hours use of it. Other passengers were furious that Viking hadn't told them just how rarely the upper deck would be open.

Passau. Told the night before that we would be moving to Vienna. Shock amongst passengers. What happened to free time in Passau? The cruise along the Wachau Valley? Melk and the Abbey? We were told we would be taken back from Vienna to do these excursions. We were never given a reason as to why we couldn't do them as planned, and leave our ship near Melk. We saw Tauck and Avalon ships at Durnstein. If they had made it downstream from Passau to Durnstein we could have too. We pointed this out to Viking and were told they had sailed upstream from Vienna. They plainly hadn't as the lock was closed between Krems and Vienna. We were not being told the truth.

Likewise journey times. Vikings journey times are at least a third shorter than the actual ones. Passau to Vienna, three hours. It took over four. Vienna to Durnstein, one hour. It took 90 minutes. Melk to Vienna, 45 minutes. It took one and a half hours. It doesn't do to be economical with the truth about matters such as how long folks have to sit on the coach. People were rightly cross. It dented confidence in the information Viking was giving us.

The classical concert in Vienna had to be rescheduled to the following afternoon, and the Schonbrunn Palace excursion canceled. The concert was therefore offered to us gratis, as a good will gesture. It was appreciated. However, several people missed it, as Viking failed to make it clear enough when to meet and where. This happened in Passau too. Some guides dumped guests at the town hall, and left them to find their own way back through the town for lunch. We were told someone would direct us. No one was there. We used our initiative, others didn't and nearly missed the meal.

Twice, local restaurants were used for lunch, due to the ship being docked in Vienna. These meals were ok, but nothing like the food onboard and not what we had paid for.

The coach journey from Passau to Vienna meant all free time in Passau was lost, as was the sailing from there to Melk. Viking therefore put us on a public pleasure boat for the trip down the Wachau Valley. It was not the same as sailing in our own ship, with our own complimentary teas and coffees, from the comfort of our balconies and lounges. It was a poor substitute. The ship was not exclusive to us, but included other tourists.

The visit to Melk was curtailed due to the already lengthy amount of coach travelling we had to do. Over the entirety of the cruise, not counting transfer days or journeys, we did fourteen hours on coaches. This includes city tours, as many on the Danube are not within walkable distance of the ships dock. Viking need to address this, the non use of balconies and closure of the upper deck. It is not enough to mention it in the small print.

Daily programmes were not as informative or well set out as before. The organisation of tour tickets was ludicrous. Over 180 people queuing to collect and return in the small lobby. The volume of river cruises has increased dramatically over the years. Thus the number of coaches on the quayside has double, trebled even. And the incremental rise in the number of people all crowding on the same excursions to the same places is making a mockery of the once intimate and exploratory nature of these holidays. Viking bring another dozen ships online next year. It will only get worse.

And therefore, when things do go wrong, as they have done as a result of the European flooding, the logistics of making Plans B and even C become more fraught. Viking needs to work on its communication of those plans to guests, both before the trips and whilst on board. And if people don't want to take these alternatives, they should be offered a cancellation option or monetary recompense for not delivering exactly what was promised.

Viking have some good staff and try hard. I acknowledge that. But ... they are saturating the market with advertising and ships. New river cruisers make up the vast majority of passengers. And it was my very unfortunate experience to sit by such a group on the four hour coach journey from Passau to Vienna. Tanked up over lunch, twelve men and women from North Carolina boarded the bus and proceeded to open and drink six bottles of champagne in the space of an hour. The first bottle they sprayed the contents over the back of the coach, ceiling, floor, myself and my 85 year old father. We sat there for the duration stinking of alcohol. No apology was offered. As they grew louder and louder, the frat boy jokes grew more and more vulgar. When we finally arrived in Vienna, a fellow guest remonstrated with them. A few minutes later one of the women from the group approached me and said it wasn't their intention to spray us, and she hadn't done it anyway, it was someone else. When I explained the consequences of her actions, she called me very rude for spoiling their fun.

And that is why I will never sail with Viking river cruises again. It may well have been a one off, but if these are the sort of people being attracted by advertising and promotions to travel with Viking, I will be staying well away. Because unlike on an ocean liner, there is nowhere to hide on a river cruise. And because £6,900 is far too much money to pay for a partial coach tour and to be insulted by your fellow guests. I shall take my money and custom elsewhere. I'm afraid to say Viking no longer offer a high quality product worthy of the prices they charge.
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  #2  
Old June 29th, 2013, 05:40 AM
Keith1010 Keith1010 is online now
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Thanks for sharing your review.

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Old June 29th, 2013, 09:06 AM
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Oh dear so sorry to hear all that. Although the sad story of bus trips and alterations to schedules is all too familiar from other postings, its a very useful point you make about the type of people now attracted to this sort of trip. You are quite right to comment on the effects of Vikings massive development (overdevelopment?) What a shame that some people just dont know how to behave. Your poor father (and you). I would certainly have struggled to remain civil to those boorish Americans from North Carolina.
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Old June 29th, 2013, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Nippy Sweetie View Post
Oh dear so sorry to hear all that. Although the sad story of bus trips and alterations to schedules is all too familiar from other postings, its a very useful point you make about the type of people now attracted to this sort of trip. You are quite right to comment on the effects of Vikings massive development (overdevelopment?) What a shame that some people just dont know how to behave. Your poor father (and you). I would certainly have struggled to remain civil to those boorish Americans from North Carolina.
Please don't put all Americans in the same category. There of many of us who would never think of behaving in such a fashion. I for one am appalled at such behavior. However, that is just plain rudeness and not necessarily indicative of any specific nationality, just poor manners and consideration of others. You can find that anywhere.
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Old June 29th, 2013, 11:42 AM
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Sounds sure sounds like Viking is oversaturating their market. I hope it does not end up affecting the other lines! We cruised from Budapest to Amsterdam last August on AMA Waterways and it was our best vacation ever. There was an issue with low water and the Danube being closed due to a barge grounding for a time and AMA handled it in an excellent manner. When we were holding on the river just up from Passau in Vilshofen for an extra day, a Viking ship pulled up next to us and a short while later bus loads of passengers came on board. The we're bussed there from Nueremburg where they were supposed to board. They were told they had to be bussed there due to the "low water" and not the true reason that the river was closed to a barge grounding so not giving out correct facts to passengers seems to be normal for Viking. We were able to proceed after a days delay when the river opened because AMA Boats have a very low draft, but some others such as Viking could not deal with the low water like AMA could so had to ship swap. We never even considered Viking when booking as we thought they were to mass market even back when we booked. The discounts we were able to find with one of the online cruise sites made the cost just about the same as Viking in the end.

If anyone is thinking about booking a River cruise for the first time, spend the extra money (and in some cases it is not even any more) and go with one of the smaller lines and you will be much happier if unexpected things go wrong like low or high water happens. I think the fact that most all of the complaints coming in about how the recent high water situation was handled is from Viking customers and almost nothing from the others says quite a lot!
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Old June 29th, 2013, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by tbrein View Post
Please don't put all Americans in the same category. There of many of us who would never think of behaving in such a fashion. I for one am appalled at such behavior. However, that is just plain rudeness and not necessarily indicative of any specific nationality, just poor manners and consideration of others. You can find that anywhere.
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Old June 29th, 2013, 03:56 PM
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Sorry that your cruise fell short of your expectations and that Viking's handling was less than acceptable.

Last edited by Shebely; June 29th, 2013 at 03:57 PM.
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Old June 29th, 2013, 04:10 PM
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I'll second that thought!
Being from North Carolina myself, I will third that!

The thing that differs Americans from many Europeans is the relocation. Americans move from state to state often, so just because you LIVE in NC doesn't mean you grew up here.

A true Southerner would NEVER engage in such rude behavior!
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Old June 29th, 2013, 04:15 PM
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Just a follow-on question.....to what do you attribute the drop in 'value'?

Would you think it has more to do with the current flooding (and associated confusion) or do you think it has more to do with economics? Many on the ocean cruise boards complain about cutting back and it has become obvious.

Just wondering what the prevailing beliefs are. (We will be cruising with Avalon next July, so I have a bit of a vested interest in knowing if my expectations are too high!)
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Old June 29th, 2013, 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by CaroleSS View Post
Just a follow-on question.....to what do you attribute the drop in 'value'?

Would you think it has more to do with the current flooding (and associated confusion) or do you think it has more to do with economics? Many on the ocean cruise boards complain about cutting back and it has become obvious.

Just wondering what the prevailing beliefs are. (We will be cruising with Avalon next July, so I have a bit of a vested interest in knowing if my expectations are too high!)
No, I dont think its got anything to do with the flooding, although I do think that has impacted on the overall product.

The drop in value is noticeable in: poor quality of local guides, probably due to over saturation of river cruise ships arriving day upon day at the same place. Declining food portions and quibbling over drinks - making economies where they can. Staff not as on-message, knowledgeable and professional - too many new ships coming on stream, not enough good staff to crew them all. Poor design of some features on the ships - see through bathroom walls for instance - maybe an attempt to be 'quirky' and 'different' which backfired, as it seriously impacts on passengers sleep when sharing cabins. Customers unhappy with certain aspects - such as inability to use upper decks and balconies. These are real bug bears when balconies cost an extra £1,000 per person per cruise, and you cant use them when the ships are docked next to each other, often three in a row and blocking one or both sides of the ship.

I shall leave you with those thoughts. They might not be much in themselves, but when added together, they do become important factors in considering value for money.
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Old June 29th, 2013, 04:46 PM
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I do know that the current laws in the EU forbid a bus to idle for any length of time because of pollution restrictions so when they said "it costs money" they meant the fines they would accrue.

Those of us who have cruised are trying to get the word out via CC that the top decks will be closed for several days in order to get under ancient bridges. That's why we purchase a balcony cabin.

There are boors in every state and country in the world but on behalf of North Carolina I'm sorry you met our portion. In my part of the Tar Heel state most people are hard working, kind, and engaged in occupations that have a huge positive impact on the rest of the world.

I hope your next cruise is wonderful.
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Old June 29th, 2013, 04:51 PM
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I do know that the current laws in the EU forbid a bus to idle for any length of time because of pollution restrictions so when they said "it costs money" they meant the fines they would accrue.

Those of us who have cruised are trying to get the word out via CC that the top decks will be closed for several days in order to get under ancient bridges. That's why we purchase a balcony cabin.

There are boors in every state and country in the world but on behalf of North Carolina I'm sorry you met our portion. In my part of the Tar Heel state most people are hard working, kind, and engaged in occupations that have a huge positive impact on the rest of the world.

I hope your next cruise is wonderful.
thanks, and I know what you mean, that group could have been anyone from anywhere, I only used the term North Carolinas as thats what they proclaimed themselves as and I didnt want to use the term American as it is far too wide ranging, and I have no axe to grind with Americans per se. Ah, its difficult to make ones point and not cause upset, but Im sure you know what I mean!!
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Old June 29th, 2013, 04:54 PM
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We, as consumers, do play a part in this. If we want low prices, companies will cut corners until we are happy. If we want more included perks, they will charge us more.

We certainly can vote with our feet. I absolutely refuse to shop at WalMart as the cost is great, but the quality is not what I want. For some that's fine, me I choose to spend my money elsewhere.

Only when WE vote and it hurts a company's bottom line will things change.....my 2cents (€/£)!!
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Old June 29th, 2013, 05:01 PM
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Phoebecat.....I do so apologize if I came across as "offended"!! That was certainly NOT the case....more just so you know (and I am sure you do) that travelers come in all types.

When we travel, we try to be especially conscious of our behavior as we feel others will lump us into the "ugly Americans" (besides the fact that we aren't rude people to begin with).

I know that you are above such lumping into categories, but I do apologize if I came across poorly......although I will NOT apologize for the behavior of others. What they did was just wrong!
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Old June 29th, 2013, 05:10 PM
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Phoebecat.....I do so apologize if I came across as "offended"!! That was certainly NOT the case....more just so you know (and I am sure you do) that travelers come in all types.

When we travel, we try to be especially conscious of our behavior as we feel others will lump us into the "ugly Americans" (besides the fact that we aren't rude people to begin with).

I know that you are above such lumping into categories, but I do apologize if I came across poorly......although I will NOT apologize for the behavior of others. What they did was just wrong!
No offence caused or taken!

I so understand what you say, and it happens to us Brits, too, categorised as beer swilling yobs or the like, and of course, we are not all of that ilk!

The interesting thing was ... I know, as did some of my travelling compatriots, that the Southern ladies and gents are renowned for their good manners and proper behaviour. After swilling us in champagne, one of their fellow countrymen appealed to their Southern genteelness and suggested they apologised to me and Dad. The result? the woman telling me I was rude, and spoiling their party.

I feel that manners have declined across the board, and indeed, geographical borders, and its a problem worldwide. So sad. After all, manners maketh the man.
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Old June 29th, 2013, 05:44 PM
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Phoebecat,
Just to set the record straight. I did not take offense with your post at all. I was appalled at the behavior of your busmates.
My offense was with Nippy Sweetie who categorized all Americans as boorish.

I am sorry you and your dad had to endure that kind of behavior from anyone. I live in South Carolina. However, I am not a southerner by birth, rather a New Yorker. If I were on that trip with an elderly parent and that happened to me, I would be just as upset.

My question is, where was the tour guide, and why wasn't it made clear that this behavior was not to be tolerated. It sounds like you needed a school bus monitor on that trip.

I am about to take a river cruise with Tauck. In our documents it is very clear that:
"Please note Tauck reserves the right to terminate the tour or cruise of any guest who is abusive to others or whose behavior disrupts the operation of the journey"
I am sure that this behavior would not be tolerated. Do your documents have a similar clause? If so, I would bring it to the attention of Viking that the tour director on the bus allowed this type of behavior to continue at your expense.
Terri
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Old June 29th, 2013, 06:10 PM
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Sorry to hear about the rude drunks from North Carolina. I am from Georgia and haven't run into this type of behavior down here in the South.

I have lived in Maryland, Virginia, Texas, Arizona, Saudi Arabia, and Germany and found rude people from many nations.

Having come from a recent cruise and land trip to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, I love those countries and the people we met.

If you visited North Carolina, you would probably have to search very hard to find rude people like this.

Last edited by 4774Papa; June 29th, 2013 at 06:10 PM. Reason: change
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Old June 29th, 2013, 07:19 PM
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Every country in the world has its share of "uglies". Whenever it is a member of our country, we are ashamed to admit that they are part of our nation. You are starting to see more and more comments on the boards about the boorish behaviour of several passengers aboard the cruises or on a tour bus. Their are unfortunately too many people who feel they are "entitled" to behave the way they are as they have paid to do so. Wishing all on this board, only pleasant polite cruise mates.
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Old June 29th, 2013, 08:11 PM
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I am grateful for your review of the Viking river cruise, but very disappointed by how they handled your vacation. We did a small barge cruise in Burgundy about 12 years ago and it was fabulous. Since then DW has been prodding me to take a river cruise, but from what I've read on these boards over the past month, I have little confidence it would be anywhere near the experience we expect -- especially with Viking.
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  #20  
Old June 29th, 2013, 09:24 PM
OceanPatter OceanPatter is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: San Francisco
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Thank you for taking the time to write such a thorough and well-balanced review. I think we all benefited from your comments.

Hoping that you'll be able to cruise again with your father, in a better venue.
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