Posted June 22nd, 2013, 07:43 PM
Dear Cruise Critic members,
We’ve been watching and listening to the many differing points of view shared here recently—and we’d like to offer some input to this conversation, for your consideration…
Timing and Making Assessments
Our Swiss nautical and operational teams rely on an extensive, established network of local authorities and port operators—along with decades of experience with past high and low water situations—to make assessments on navigability of all rivers on which we sail. Weather, soil conditions and water levels are routinely monitored and evaluated. This is particularly crucial under circumstances where a few hours or a few centimeters of difference can have an enormous impact on a ship’s sailing schedule.
Where conditions precluded us from being able to provide a modified itinerary that we believed would be worthwhile—we canceled those particular cruises. For these cancellations, we provided a refund plus a credit for a future cruise so that these disappointed guests may book another journey with Viking.
If we believed that we would be able to continue operating an itinerary with some modifications, we did. Each of these modified sailings was considered individually. Partial compensation in the form of a voucher was provided. In most cases we contacted guests ahead of departure to let them know the ways in which we anticipated their itinerary would proceed based on current conditions. In some cases the rapidly changing navigational conditions prompted additional modifications to the itinerary and as a result we have re-evaluated the compensation provided for these.
Not all of our assessments were perfect and as conditions quickly changed, not all of our contingency plans always occurred exactly as we had planned them. But a good many of them did.
Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. At the time we made decisions whether to cancel cruises or proceed with modifications, we always had the interests and safety of our guests and crew in mind. We have received many emails and phone calls from guests whose cruise did not go perfectly, but who still enjoyed themselves.
Departures in the First Week of June
We get the sense that many of the posts in which returning guests are voicing their disappointment, feedback and point of view, are from departures that occurred in the first few days of June. We understand that when these guests arrived they were taken by surprise at the conditions of the rivers; we were taken by surprise, too. Our Switzerland-based teams worked diligently and in good faith trying to make arrangements as needed and keep their guests informed. We’ve heard frustration over instances where a crew could not provide answers on contingency plans that were beyond the next day, and we apologize for this, to both our guests and our crew, as it was surely frustrating for both parties. With conditions changing quickly, we did the best we could to provide each crew with complete information as it became available. Again, a few hours or a few centimeters of difference can have an enormous impact on a ship’s sailing schedule.
Compensation for Impacted Sailings
We have extended compensation in the form of a credit voucher of varying percentages of the cruise fare paid for the impacted 2013 sailings. These sailings were provided alternative travel arrangements, dining, lodging, and excursions to destinations on the original itinerary (where possible) and substituted places of interest. However, based on sentiments expressed here and elsewhere online, as well as with our Customer Relations department, it is clear that some of those affected guests are unsatisfied with our attempts to make amends for a difficult and challenging situation. So, please do contact us directly if you would like to discuss your experience. Our Customer Relations team is starting to return to normal levels of incoming calls and emails after a few weeks of very high volume, and they would be happy to continue the conversation with any of our guests. We can be reached at [email protected]
and will be pleased to put guests in touch with a member of our Customer Relations team.
The safety of our guests and crew is always our top priority; in every deliberation we had it was our primary focus. We are happy and grateful to report that no Viking guests were injured as a result of the flooding. However, we recognize that some of our guests have voiced concerns about their safety and we take those concerns very seriously; please contact us at [email protected]
so we can further discuss your particular experience.
For guests on upcoming sailings, we continue to update our website: www.vrc.com/weatherupdate
. We began providing updates on June 3rd when the situation became apparent—including email updates to all affected guests and their travel agents—and we will continue to provide updates until sailing on the affected rivers no longer requires modifications that are known ahead of departure. Please note (though we’re sure most Cruise Critic members who are actively engaged with this forum are already aware) current modifications are no longer a result of water levels, but of the recently announced extended closure of the Altenwörth Lock in Austria.
Even if you have already done so previously we ask that you contact us directly at [email protected]
. We are re-doubling our efforts to address concerns with guests who may feel that they have not been adequately heard. We understand that there are members in this community who remain disappointed and we hope that each of you will contact us again so we may discuss your particular situation.
Thank you, as always, for reading and allowing us to have a voice within this community. We appreciate your time, patience and understanding.