As we were already in Europe on our own trip, we knew all about the floods that were being touted as the worst in 500+ years with several fatalities in May 2013.
We attempted to contact Scenic Tours/Evergreen Tours (“the Company”) several days prior to our trip with no response on phone (as waiting times of 45 minutes are not uncommon but are way too expensive via overseas phone). We tried to email the company in Australia, to their Switzerland office and even to the ship itself with no response. Eventually received a phone call late on June 6 asking if we received email advising of changes?
NO was my reply –as they had sent to my work email address, which I had requested to be changed previously. (And yet their advertising material was coming to the correct address!) Advised us to book into the Novotel in Budapest and all would be explained at a meeting and we would be bussed around.
Partner left a comment on their Facebook page on June 6 mentioning that we did not want a bus tour and received a quick reply “Please contact us directly” (Hidden message is don’t say anything controversial on here!)
Within 15 minutes we received a phone call from the Company that said we are to proceed to a Novotel in Budapest for at least the next two nights with the worst case being one week and we will bus you around. We responded and said we do not want a bus tour! We were told that it would be unlikely that we would be on a bus for that long. We said we’d rather have it cancelled. They refused to do so!
On May 26 the ship “Amadeus Silver” left Amsterdam for 15 day voyage to Budapest. This was to be our ship on June 8 in Budapest.
On May 30 the ship was stuck in Wurzburg and not being able to travel on the rivers, as they were closed due to unprecedented flooding! Passengers were bussed from there to Salzburg to a hotel arriving after 10pm. They also had the bus trip from hell for 10 days. Comments from passengers on that cruise aged 82 and 84 said “We were able to play lawn bowls 3 days a week but now I am lucky too be able to walk around the house”.
So, although the company KNEW on May 30 of the floods and that all their leased ships were out of position and unable to move for a long time, they insisted to continue with bussing people for long trips.
The company’s website showed nothing informative and was conspicuously inaccurate when it did have an update, as the information was erroneous and untrue about the state of the rivers.
They stated that “The water in Budapest is receding”. THREE DAYS BEFORE the river peaked!”
Day 1 Saturday
Meeting at Novotel in Budapest.
“Hi, I’m your cruise director and I will tell you the truth and not tell lies” said he at the gathering. “We are going to be here for two nights then a bus will take us to ship”. Omitted to say it would be in Vienna! Must have slipped his mind as well that the ship would be tied up and unable to move!
When he was asked why was the trip not cancelled he said “…You can go home if you want, but NO REFUNDS from the company…” This started a war of words. Many angry guests saying they were at Australian airport when responsible companies like APT cancelled cruise, and gave full refund PLUS a $500 credit towards the next cruise.
One woman (Let’s protect her identity and call her “Mss Evergreen” – a suspected recipient of a famil (free trip) from an unnamed Taree travel agency) - said “Evergeen is a great company, read your Terms & Conditions.” Hmm, we all wondered, how come she knows them so well? Being on a free or grossly reduced cost trip would help her bias as well, surely!
Later on we discovered that certain travel agents had been informed of the changes but not their clients!
This set the tone for this nightmare voyage to hell. A very fractious group was the result of this meeting. Many people wanted to cancel and either go home or do something/anything else for two weeks. The company refused to consider anything that would enable anyone to claim against their own travel insurance! Even to refusing to declare a Force Majeure. So we were stuck. With at least 50 people NOT wanting to go on an almost $1,000 PER DAY BUS tour, it is no wonder that the atmosphere was extremely toxic. Some of the guests had just completed a multi day bus tour and were so looking forward to NOT being on a bus again! (NOT having to unpack for two weeks is a feature of their advertising blurb)!
Missed out on the traditional Hungarian welcome dinner, complete with folk dancing and music and the evening cruise on the river. But it gets worse!
Overnight in Hotel.
Day 2 Sunday
Bus trip and walking around flooded Budapest and see the destruction of the river boat docks.
Missed out on cruising along the Danube River
Overnight in Hotel again.
Day 3 Monday
By bus to Bratislava for a walking tour and lunch, then off by bus (AGAIN) to Vienna to board a ship.
Did that excuse of a cruise director mention it would be a very long bus trip?
Did he mention that he could not communicate with the four bus drivers in a common language? Did he mention that the meeting place after lunch was changed by him, but not communicated to the bus drivers? (So another hour+ wasted searching for the busses).
Goody, we finally get on busses and ‘perhaps’ we get on the ship.
Alas! Not OUR ship of course! And as there was not enough room for all the guests, some had to stay in a hotel. All four busses were in a convoy to the hotel, then onwards to the ship. Three go left, one goes right, hence one of the busses got lost and took several extra hours to find the ship! Many views of the same roads and shops in downtown Bratislava were not appreciated!
Did someone say ship?
Ship? Yes, not just one, but TWO ships tied together for two days, with the only movement being caused by the banging of floating debris against the moored ships!
Of course many guests had paid for WiFi (an extra charge to use) and did not have much success with it. Oh by the way, the login process is the most complex one in all my time in the IT industry. It REQUIRES a random set of Upper and Lower characters and Numerals for the login name, and another set of random Upper and Lower characters and Numerals for the password. Very difficult for aged people to comprehend, let alone re-enter every 20 minutes regardless of whether one is in the middle of a conversation or email or not!
By the end of day two on board, NO WiFi was working successfully. On either of the two ships. Strange, but the reception desk computers worked ok for staff, which leads to only one conclusion, that it was deliberately disabled for guests to prevent contact with the outside world. More on this later!
So two days spent looking into the cabins of another ship next door. Watching the river water RISING still and knowing full well that our ship is still stuck in Wurzburg, between Amsterdam and Nuremberg (Nuremberg is only half way to Budapest)
Missed out on cruising along the Danube River and some places
Overnight in non-moving floating hotel
Day 4 Tuesday
Bus collects passengers from Hotel at 08:00 to go to the ship. Another bus trip, this time into Vienna for a walking tour, as we were moored many Kilometers out of town. Back for lunch and then “Free” time in Vienna. If you could get on a bus! Because some busses went to the pre-paid tour to Shoenbrunn Palace but many guests did not.
Oh, the cute little radios hanging around your neck used by the guides to talk to the groups whilst walking? We never had any success with those. They were mostly useless throughout the entire disastrous and nightmarish trip.
Missed out on cruising along the Danube River and some places
Overnight in non-moving floating hotel
Day 5 Wednesday
Still staring at the ship next to us.
Drag luggage out by 07:15 as we will go to our ship by tonight!
Early breakfast and pay your drink and water bill at reception before 08:00 (So you can get your passport back!) Oh yes! A bottle of water in your cabin costs 3.50 Euros, about AUD$5.00
Pile onto four busses again and off to Salzburg.
Walking tour and lunch in Salzburg. (We were never meant to go there). Then once more into the breach and off we go on busses to Nurembergto get on OUR ship. This is the ship that was stuck in Wurzburg since May 30 and was moved up yesterday to Nuremberg – as far as it could go on the river. (This is the halfway point between Amsterdam and Budapest)
Did our useless leader mention it was a 14+ hour trip on busses? (That is LONGER than the flight from Asia to Europe!!!)
How enjoyable was dinner finally at 22:00?
Then unpack suitcases. Again!
(Some people chose to pay an extra $2,000 pp to go onto the higher deck (which by the way has a so-called balcony which is only a window that opens half way) AND they also paid an additional $2000 pp to fly Business Class between Asia and Europe to prevent recurring DVT on long flights!
Any guesses what happens on a 14 hour bus trip with ankles and legs with blood pooling in lower extremities and feet???
Anyone guess as to how many people the doctor was called for to come to the ship. At our OWN expense? Want to guess at the charge per person for the doctor visit? No? Each person had to pay in cash 90 Euros, that is, AUD$125 which included a 20 Euro fee for the waiting taxi for the doctor for several hours.
Might I mention that the Swiss Air business class arranged by Evergreen/Scenic has a choice of menus for dinner? BUT one of the choices was NOT available “Ran out” when we were in the 5th row of business class being served!
(Might I add that the SAME issue occurred on the return flight? “Fish Critical” said the attendant- she actually meant no fish at all!)
By the way, people enquiring in Australia over the past few days were told that “Everything is all ok” and that we were on board ship. (What they were NOT told was that the ship was not the one we booked nor was it moving but just used as a floating hotel!)
Once again misinformation from management, “We will be sailing tonight” was the promise earlier today. This changed to “Sailing tomorrow” later on.
Go to the top of the class if you guessed that this would not happen!
Missed out on cruising on the River to Durnstein, Melk and visiting the Abbey of Melk.
“We will sail tonight” was today’s major lie. Compounded later on that night with the statement, “We will sail at lunch time tomorrow”.
Overnight in a different non-moving floating hotel
Day 6 Thursday
Oh look! The same view as we had last night. The edge of a mooring and the non-moving river bank.
Instead of cruising to and visiting Linz and Passau with tour to Cesky Krumlov, we do what?
Use our free time to get on a bus since we are moored a long way out of town? Again.
If the person that could not organize a chook raffle had sort of understood that perhaps people did not want to stare at the same point on the river bank for days on end he would have organized something better than only 2 busses for 150+ people!
So no trip into the town. Hence many of the guests were stuck. On a non-moving object. Again! No cruising yet!
Free time? Well, instead of having hours in various places, due to the long distances to travel by bus, free time was often less than an hour!
Did I mention the entertainment? No? Well I shouldn’t really, but since this is a true story and not a fable, I will.
There are two guys ‘entertaining’ us by playing the piano and singing. Ok as far as background music goes. However, it is NOT appreciated when a staff member pretends she can sing. Sing? Well, making a noise off key and flat. Am I a judge? No, but my partner is a qualified music teacher and I believe her. I also believe my own ears!
Tonight a real special treat, a Bavarian night with Oom-pah pah music. Oh yummy. Ouch!
Did I mention that WiFi did not work? On this ship either? So the ‘entertainment’ had a rather captive audience, but most guests escaped early and went to bed. Can’t afford to get ‘happy’ with drinks at expensive extra cost!
Missed out on cruising to Linz and Passau and visiting Europe’s largest church organ with 17,000 pipes.
“We will sail by 3 PM tomorrow” was today’s major lie.
Overnight in non-moving floating hotel
Day 7 Friday
Another day in the same place. On the same non-moving ship. Looking at the same boring view. Paying almost $1,000 per person per day. For this????
For those desperate to get off this floating hotel, another bus ride to the town of Regensburg. Where we should have cruised to in the first place!
“We will sail tomorrow” –familiar refrain?
More of the same ‘entertainment’ as on other evenings.
Overnight in floating hotel
Missed out on cruising along the river still and visiting Regensburg by ship
Day 8 Saturday 50% of this Clayton’s Cruise is over without ANY cruising!
“We will sail at 6 pm” The betting folks amongst us are doing a roaring trade!
Bus tour to Nuremburg. For those that could stomach more busses!
Well! At last we cast off. Closer to 7pm rather than the 6 pm promised, but at last we are moving.
NOTE: 50% of the cruise has NOT happened.
So off we sail towards Bamberg.
Disco night……… No comment needed?
Day 9 Sunday
Finally we wake up to a different view, docked near Bamberg.
Off again onto busses for the walking tour. Need fewer busses by now, most folks have had it with busses and legs in poor condition.
12:30 pm, all aboard to have a moving view at last as we sail towards Wurzburg!
Day 10 Monday
A few decide to crawl onto busses for the walking tour of Wurzburg.
Tonight a special treat. A glass blowing ‘infotainment’ session where a local glassblower shows his talents to entice you to buy his very expensive glass at the next town.
Oh, a random volunteer was picked to assist with the blowing. Guess which Taree travel agent was randomly called by name by the glass blower? Well, we all know she did a great job blowing smoke at the original meeting in Budapest of the group and falsely singing the praises of this hopeless company!
Day 11 Tuesday
So many people wished they could get off this thing!
Walking tour of Wertheim, visit the overpriced glass blower. Don’t buy anything.
Busses to Miltenberg to meet the ship again.
Local entertainment by ship’s crew tonight.
Day 12 Wednesday
Same ole same ole.
Highlight today is to sail towards Koblenz past the Loreley Rock.
Day 13 Thursday
Already information being given about how to disembark when we reach Amsterdam in two days’ time.
Tonight a live music performance by a rock/folk two person band from Cologne.
They were good and enjoyable, interspersed with brackets from the normal entertainment duo.
Miss Evergreen (Her of the blowing fame) decided to grab a microphone and pretend she could sing along with the usual entertainment. Apart from being even a flatter singer (if that was possible) then that other staff member, Miss Taree did not even know the words!!!
Hopefully only for one bracket? But oh no! She was in her element again, centre of attention and all that.
This of course spoiled that evening as well, for all of us!
Day 14 Friday
Is this the end at last? No, we have to go onto busses in the pouring rain to join the canal cruise and walking tour. (Thank goodness, no walking due to rain- this time)
Pay your bill on board.
Captains’ Farewell Gala dinner. We dress up a little for this occasion (of course, there are no ironing facilities except for paid ones, so many a dress/pants were crushed and creased after so many times packing and unpacking of suitcases over past fortnight)
So, would anyone like to guess which members of the whole shipload of people got invited to the Captains table?
Congratulations if you spotted a travel agent sitting there with a big smirk on her face!
This did not go over well either with the long suffering guests!
Did I forge to mention that her husband started a ‘blue’ with one of the guests who did not appreciate her original comments about how great this company is? No? Sorry, must have slipped my mind with all the excitement of this non-cruise!!
Oh, did I mention she had a suite as well? The top suite. With a real balcony?
Day 15 Saturday
So we escape from this disastrous most expensive bus tour from hell at last!
Lets talk to our travel insurance. Their response? Sorry, if the company had cancelled you would have received a refund.
That’s what we wanted to do in the first place!!!!!
Was it too much to have it cancelled?
What about giving US, the PAYING guests a choice?
Ok, then what is this poor excuse for an Australian company going to do?
Firstly, let me add to the WiFi sage, this was ship number 3. Owned NOT by Evergreen or Scenic, but only leased from Luftner-cruises. Again the WiFi did not work for guests. Ok for staff though! And this is on ship #3! Reinforces my previous statement that WiFi was deliberately disabled for guests. We were told on several separate occasions days apart that “someone” was coming on board to ‘fix’ it.
The problem was that the story changed depending on what member of the crew one spoke with! There was nothing wrong with the WiFi on ship, just the access to guests or certain guests was deliberately denied!
There are NO staff members of Evergreen or Scenic on the ship. There is only one useless contractor masquerading as a cruise director. (Who could not even direct the busses)!!
Oh, we did get a visit from the Switzerland office representing Evergreen. He just sprouted the same rubbish. Although he did pass on a scathing email to the General Manager at Evergreen, not that it did any good whatsoever!
Oh, and when do we receive our refund cheque of that wonderful $550 according to the General Manager as told to the NSW ombudsman? Why, it’s been delivered he said. Well, actually no. Have been told by the company that it was sent to my old address (that was changed over 6 months ago) and the kind person there rang up EverUselessGreen to tell them.
So, still no refund. We have since discovered that some people received $500, some $550 and some $800, with others receiving $1000 per person. Nowhere near the 50% of the non-cruise part. Not even 25% if we deducted a 7 day bus tour off the cost of the ‘cruise’. But a measly 5% or 6%! Or less than the commission paid to agents!
Strange though, how I have been receiving untold advertising material from this company at my CURRENT address to which also the travel documents were sent!
Reminds me, they also sent me an email regarding the change in cruise to old email address –which was changed months ago! Yet they managed to send reminder to pay the balance to the correct email address. And invite me to free seminars about their cruises!
Now its just on three (3) months since the supposed start of the buscruise, and NOTHING has been heard or delivered to us.
Inefficient company? Yes
Unreliable company? Yes
Trustworthy company? NO
Ethical company? NO
Will we accept anything like a credit towards or even ‘free’ days on a future cruise or trip with them? NO
Will we ever recommend this Company to anyone?
Perhaps if the next two trips were free and in addition the total amount it would cost was credited to our bank account in advance as well and hell and all of Europe’s rivers froze over! Maybe, but don't hold your breath waiting!
If you want a very expensive bus tour go ahead and book a cruise with Scenic Tours or Evergreen Tours!
If you want a ‘surprise grab' of disasters one after the other, go ahead and book with this company.
If you like a disorganized and frustrating non river cruise, go right ahead and book!
A 14 night /15 day 'alleged cruise' for $16,000 turned into a bus nightmare at around $1,000 per day. And that’s NOT counting air fares!
Having paid extra $1,995 for the upper deck and a better cabin, we still had the same bus seats and the same mediocre hotels as the lowest paid cabin!
Add to that two doctors visits due to the above of $125 + $210 = $335 it was a very expensive and disgusting trip.
If Scenic / Evergreen had cancelled like most other companies, we would be now singing their praises instead of condemning their shocking and inexcusable behavior and disseminating this as far and as wide as possible.
Very disappointed/disgusted ex-users of Scenic Tours /Evergreen Tours
(PS: Evergreen Tours is a subsidiary of Scenic Tours)