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Vantage River Cruises vs. Viking River Cruises

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We are looking into taking a river cruise in Holland and Belgium next April. Both Vantage and Viking Tours offer a ten day cruise. The prices are similar, but I believe Vantage includes airfare.
Anyone with any experience with either of these Tour groups, I would appreciate your thoughts both pro and con.
Thanks much!

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    We're considering the same options. There is a significant price difference in favor of Viking and the tours are quite similar. I noticed that you were inquiring last year. Did you make a decision and how did it turn out?

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    I have not cruised Vantage but have done Viking on the Danube and the Volga. The tours were great. The Volga cruise thru Russia was on an older boat, but still quiet nice. We are taking a China trip this fall with Viking and looking forward to it. We have previously taken a China cruise with Princess and it was just OK. Either way, enjoy the sights and just have fun.

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    I chose Viking over Vantage because of the boat's layout, location of stairs,etc. I feared the Vantage boat would be noisier with only one staircase and thus more people walking by my room.

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    We used Vantage last Oct-Nov for a Majestic European River Cruise: Castles, Cathedrals and Fairy Tales with a pre-tour of Prague, Czech Rep, Bratislava, Slovakia, and Budapest, Hungary and a post tour of Amsterdam, all with several other towns in those countries; then we sailed the Danube, the Main-Danube Canal, the Main and the Rhine Rivers, stopping in Vienna, Austria, many Medieval and modern towns in Germany.
    I can't begin to say enough or praise enough about Vantage; we got 2 for 1 air, sometimes it is free. They took such wonderful care of us with program managers and local guides. We had just enough time on our own to explore and try our own restaurants on our pre and post tours (some meals are even
    included there; all are included on ship and on tours off ship with no extra charge for the off ship trips. They do offer several optional tours that you can pay for if you want. We found everyone to be very accommodating, very helpful and friendly and every need was anticipated. We loved it so much we are returning for 2 River Cruises in 1 trip in The Treasures of France. We had a trip of a lifetime, but plan on more using Vantage. We have a bucket list that includes Princess in the Baltic. We have been on Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Carnival. Have a great time!

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    I think you get what you pay for. We just had a nightmare vacation on a Vantage cruise. Also note they advertise free wine and so forth with lunch and dinner, then charge it and take it off their website if you complain (my husband and I do not drink very often so not issue for us but we saw this happen). We were told,by others that vantage lowballs these trips to cut Viking out and then adds on a lot during the cruises to make up for the difference.

    Here is my review:



    The trip we took on the Vantage River Navigator was by far the worst experience we have ever had, run by a crew of people that just seemed to be inadequately trained to do their jobs. It is my opinion that their personalities do not lend well to the hospitality business. Our trip was a 15-day cruise on the River Navigator from July 15-30, 2014.

    This entire trip ended up being a minus star rating for us. It is truly a pity because the guy who cleaned our room is such a wonderful person, we hate to have to say this about the company he works for. Rose, in the dining room, was so truly outstanding, same story.

    But the captain, the cruise director (Tineke) the hotel manager (Christina), the concierge (Ivanka) and the other "front desk" people ended up doing some things which are truly unforgivable and absolutely dispicable.

    The first day on the cruise, we found out that our room, which we had paid for and which was supposed to be an "upgrade" was not what we paid for. When we found out that this was the cfor many people on our cruise and there were no additional rooms, we did not say a work to anyone working for the ship or to the people who put our cruise together. We wanted to have a nice time and complaining is not the way to begin a nice trip.

    That afternoon, water began leaking out of the ceiling of our cabin. My husband called maintenance, thinking this was the proper thing to do. The engineer came and removed approximately one gallon of water that was lying on the top of the ceiling tiles. He said this was normal and told my husband that it would happen every day. Water continued to leak throughout the day and the floor got wet. By the next day, I was sick from an allergy I have to mold and mildew. The engineer came again for us and removed water in the morning.

    We believe that this boat crew had reason to know before they placed us in this room that was uninhabitable based on further conversations with members of the crew of this boat. No one should be put in a room where they know that water will leak on a daily basis.

    At this point, the ladies who had put our trip together told us we should have gone to them so they could handle this problem and not have tried to handle this horrendous problem ourselves.

    They then apparently went to the cruise director (Tineke) and told her about this and she then came to us and rudely chastised us saying we should have immediately gone to her to take care of this issue. Rather than apologizing for our very unfortunate situation, we were spoken to very rudely. We noted that this whole crew and staff has an attitude that you do not normally encounter with people who are supposed to be serving you trying to assure that you have a nice vacation. She even complained that we were not treating her "like a person" because we referred to her as "the cruise director" and not by her name. At that point, I did not know her name. Regardless of the reason for my not knowing her name, I have never had a hotel staff ever expect me to know their names. Two other members of this crew also later made a complaint about me for the same reason. These were the hotel manager (Christina) and the concierge (Ivanka).

    After another day with this water continuing to pour out of our ceiling -- and with the water actually falling onto my clothing and hair after we were ready for dinner and ruining them, resulting in my having to redress and our being late to dinner -- and the concierge coming into the room and again seeing the problem, seeing the wet floor, smelling the nasty odor in our room, they hired an engineer from off the ship to come and fix this. That took care of this water problem. We opened our windows for the next two days (even if the weather was 90 degrees) and the ship put a fan on the floor -- of the approximately 8 feet by one foot walking area, half was now being used by a fan for a day -- the entire area where you have "floor" when you walk into this small room was now being consumed by an oscillating fan -- and eventually the odor went away. The cruise director asked to come in the room to see the problem and acknowledged the wet floor and the nasty odor. She said to me, aloud twice, it "smelled bad" and that "she could smell" it, it was "nasty."

    However, even after the wetness was stopped, my allergy problems continued. Mold and mildew do not just "go away." My allergy continued through the entire trip, only to get worse, with me missing two full days of activities, staying in bed with terrible stuffiness and breathing problems, headaches, nausea from the sinus migraines I get with my allergies. I had to sleep sitting up. The cruise director 's only offer of any compensation was to give me some extra pillows which she recommended that I used to sleep, telling me that sitting up would help and my nose would not be so stuffy if I sat up to sleep. She told me to get some "sticks" to put up my nose at the next port. Please note that we were offered no apologies nor any monetary compensation for these really bad problems. We were never offered to make a room change or find a hotel nearby to house us during the evenings so that I could sleep in a nonproblematic environment which they acknowledged they had been having.

    One pharmacist (we saw pharmacists each day, in each port, trying to find something to help me) told me that the only hope to get better was to get off the ship and get a hotel room. Again, this crew and its staff never came up with a solution or any compensation for a trip where I was sick for the entire 15 days due to a problem for which they were aware prior to this trip according to their engineer and other staff.

    Every single day, we ventured to another pharmacy trying to help a problem which just did not get better. I slept sitting up every night in order to breathe. I tried to make the best of things and not complain. Nothing made me any better.

    On day 12, I was so sick, I could not get out of bed. As my husband left the ship, he told the front desk staff that I was staying in because I was sick. About an hour later, I received a phone call, awakening me, from Ivanka, that a doctor was coming on board to see another passenger, would I like to see a doctor? Note that we did not ask to see a doctor and there was a Do Not Disturb sign on the door, which hotels customarily honor. Not Ivanka. I then told her I was not certain that I would want to see the doctor but that I had no money or the ability to pay since my husband was not "home" and she rudely told me "well, the ship cannot pay for this." (Actually, since I had to see the doctor because of an allergy I got on board due to their problem, I do think they should pay but that is another part of this story.)

    Ivanka then called me, again I had a Do Not Disturb Sign on the door and was again asleep, and she said that she was incorrect, there was not a doctor or that there had been a doctor and he was leaving. I was shocked she would call and awaken me to tell me this and disturb me yet again. She has clearly had no training in the hotel industry and I do feel this may be a big problem with these other people including the captain, the cruise director, the hotel manager and the restaurant manager.

    Since they brought up the suggestion that I see a doctor, I began thinking that maybe I should and I then contacted a German doctor who is a friend and I was going to get him to recommend a doctor for me in Frankfurt which is where we were currently docked. Before I heard back, there was a knock at my door and a doctor and Ivanka were at my door. This is, again, with my having a Do Not Disturb sign on my door and my not, nor ever, asking them to come to my room. They did not call me on the telephone first. Please note here that all hotels I have been in, in the past, even if I ask them for something, if there is a Do Not Disturb Sign, they will NOT disturb you nor bring what you have requested. I was still in bed, because I was still feeling really badly, and I foolishly allowed them in without saying "how much money will this cost?" I expected it would be a reasonable sum. (It was not.)

    The doctor came into the room, smelling poorly and being very dirty, as though he had been in a gym. I was very sick and foolishly went along. I would have been too ill to leave the boat on my own if I had needed to go and see a doctor. I was so ill he saw fit to give me an IV so that should explain that I was not in the frame of mind to be making decisions such as asking how much his fee would be. I believe you have a reasonable expectation of what doctors charge and I certainly did, having used doctors in like situations in foreign countries, on boats, on Saturdays and on holidays during my 60 years traveling around the world.

    The doctor asked me some questions and told me that I had an allergy and it was because of the problems I had been having for the past two weeks on the boat. He asked me why I had not already seen a doctor and I said I had been getting medications at pharmacies and hoping it would get better since it was an allergy. Next he looked at some over-the-counter medications I had on the counter to assure himself that whatever he did would not hurt me because of something I was already taking.

    Next he told me to let him see my breasts. I thought he was going to use a stethoscope. No, not then. At this point he looked at my breasts and put his hands on either side of them. He then said, okay, and I asked him why he needed to look at my breasts because of sinus problems, breathing problems and my suspicions of allergy problems. He said it was to check my "energies." (I do plan to file a sexual harassment claim with the medical board against Dr. Med R. Chandra of Feuerwehrstr. 1, Frankfurt, Germany, and the Vantage ship line for calling a doctor who committed sexual harassment. This doctor then asked me how old I was. When I told him my age, he then said I looked far younger. He said "I would have guessed much younger."

    Next he asked Ivanka how often the boat came into Frankfurt and how often she was personally on the boat, and she answered him. He asked her a number of other personal questions including if she was from the United States and she laughed. She told him no, that she had a British accent. This was discussed for quite some time where he told her that he could not tell the difference between American and British accents and she again laughed and told him that she had nothing like an American accent and he was the only person who had ever asked her such a thing. I definitely felt this doctor was flirting with her and with me. I have never had a doctor comment to me about how much younger than my age I appeared. I have never had a doctor just look at my breasts for no reason.

    Next, he had me lift my blouse in the back so he could listen to my lungs. He did this. After that, he said he was going to listen to my chest and he placed the stethoscope inside my top without my removing it or my showing him my breasts again.

    The examination continued without anything else odd other than he and Ivanka continued to flirt by discussing where the boats she worked on stopped, and her adding her English lessons were all in "British" English and so on. I had a very uncomfortable feeling this entire time but I was stuck, so to speak.

    After this, he left and this woman took my passport to enable him to write a prescription for me. I gave this reluctantly as I certainly did not did trust her, knowing she had no position of importance but doing so since the doctor said he needed it to write a prescription. Oddly, the pharmacist who was going to fill the prescription was shocked and expressed amazement that a real doctor had even written the prescription. I assured him that the boat I was on told me this was a doctor, He told me I could not use the prescription. I asked why. He said it was for me to give myself an IV twice daily for a certain number of days. Of course I understood I could not do this so I did not fill it. He would not fill it. He asked more about the doctor and I told him that I had been stunned to discover that he had billed the boat 400 euros for this visit which lasted 10 minutes. I have seen doctors who were called on boats, to hotels, on holidays, Saturdays and all sorts of occasions. I was expecting an amount certainly not to exceed 100 euros but only because it was on a Saturday. Normally they bill you between 40 and 50 euros. The pharmacist, that afternoon, said, "yes, you were ripped off." I had, by now, gotten word back from my German doctor friend who told me that this was unbelievable, and he volunteered that even 100 euros would be high but indicated that was probably more reasonable. He said that, under no circumstances, should it have been more than 150 euros. He said he had suspicions that the boat is getting kickbacks from the doctor and urged me to immediately go to the police. Of course, he has recommended that, with his help I will make complaints to the press and to the area medical association, which I am in the process of doing. And I am, of course, reporting this captain and his staff to the Vantage CEO. Perhaps the CEO does not know what these people are doing to the Vantage passengers. This cannot be allowed to happen to anyone else traveling, sick, and at their mercy. This doctor was called by Vantage so they are responsible for his actions as well.

    We then went to the hotel manager of the Vantage Navigator as we wanted a copy of the invoice they paid on my behalf to the doctor. Or that they said they paid. We were going to take it to the police. She said, "can we discuss this first?" My husband said yes, of course. She then asked if it was all right if the captain was present. We said certainly. There was literally no place to talk to them in privacy so we suggested our room. We went there.

    They then were very rude to us and said that if we reported this to the police, fine, the captain himself said he wanted us off the boat, that we had complained constantly all the time we had been on the boat and that he wanted us off the boat immediately, by 11:00 pm. There were to be three more days on the boat. No captain should be allowed to tell passengers who are not disturbing other passengers that they have to leave the ship immediately, which this captain did. We were, literally, at his mercy.

    To say I was stunned is putting things mildly. We never even complained to them about the leaking in our room. Then they brought in the cruise director, Tineke, who told me, to my face, that I was lying, that I had gone to her the first day and complained to her about the leaking water in my room. Christina said the restaurant manager said that I had gone to him ever single meal and complained about the food and service. This is totally false. We never even one time complained. We were very happy with the food and the service in the restaurant. She then said, all my crew has complained that you are "always complaining." I do not believe her because we never did. Not even one time.

    We tried to go over things again with the captain, Christina and Tineke, and
    explained that actually our trip leaders had complained to Tineke on our behalf and that she then actually complained to us because we had NOT complained to her. She then said I was lying and turning things around. We quickly realized we were in a losing battle. The captain had people who were willing to lie about us to help preserve their jobs.

    They then had Christina saying I had complained about all the crew to her. Never once did I ever do this. Not even one time. She said all her crew had complained that I did not treat them properly, that I did not even know their names. I referred to them by title only when I made my complaints to her. I never, not once, made a complaint about anyone.

    As to knowing any of these people by name, I am stunned that this is required of passengers. These people working on this ship should be treating us nicely. Passengers are who pay their salaries. Whether we know their names is irrelevant. They should be happy to do their jobs for us. The strange thing is, we were the ones being nice to them and not complaining.

    The captain told me that he sits all day at the front desk. he said he listened to me, going up to Christina, all day, complaining about everything. I never, even one time, did this. (And, yes, he does sit all day at the front day, talking to another girl who works at the front desk. He does not appear to do anything at all.)

    Now we had two complaints to them on this day, day 12, about this bill from the doctor: It was excessive. The boat, indeed, said they paid it on our behalf. We have no proof of this. We asked them why they did not call the room to say, listen, this is excessive, are you sure you want us to pay this? They just got angry. Christina said she takes her child to the doctor "all the time" and it costs her 600 euros so this was less so it was not much to her, apparently. The captain completely lost his temper because we were calm and insisted that we never complained even one time. Perhaps he may be a person who would benefit with a class in anger management. Having passengers complain, nicely, as we were, about an outrageous bill by a doctor, and have the captain get so insanely angry about this, to the point that he said he was throwing us off the boat seems a bit unstable. This is not the sort of person or company you want to place your lives in the hands of on waterways. They proved to us that they do not care about their passengers, not even a small amount.

    Next, since the allergy problems were caused by the leaking ceiling and mold issues on the boat, we think the boat should have been responsible. We should have received some type of compensation. They should have offered to move us into another room. They did not although the engineer and other staff told us that this room had been having this problem and that we would have it "every day." They could have put us in hotel rooms in each port to sleep if there was no room on the boat to move us.

    This brings up another complaint: every cruiseline, every hotel, I have been told by friends who either work for the companies or know and they say all these companies keep extra rooms for emergencies or when important clients unexpectedly drop in or want to take a cruise at the last minute. This boat obviously overbooks and does not make any arrangements for problems that might occur in unexpected situations.

    We also discovered that this cruise we were on, which was a continuation of another one, had people who were very ill with viruses and no one getting on the ship in Budapest, such as our group, was told that there were contagious people on board. Nothing was ever done to see that we did not get ill. We were all sent into the dining room together, no one separated. The people with viruses were never told to stay away from healthy people. Indeed, more people did get ill, including members of our group. It became obvious to my husband and me that there were at least some people with some type of having coughs of board but we never knew until much later that it was contagious. This is unacceptable and another example of incompetency among the staff, particularly the captain, concierge, hotel manager and cruise director.

    In the end, after we calmed the captain down, he ended up agreeing to allow us to remain on the boat but we had to agree to repay them for the doctor and say that they were right, that we had been complaining (again, we had NEVER done this even about the item we had reason to complain about) and would stop complaining, so we agreed so we could stay on the boat. Of course, we will refuse to pay this bill with our credit card company since it was paid under duress.

    The advertising for this cruise stated that there was to be wine and soft drinks available at no charge during lunch and dinner. We do not drink at meals so this was not an issue for us. However, the first evening of the cruise, people did ask for the house wines and were then presented with bills to sign. They complained and showed the concierge that, indeed, on the website, this information was clearly stated. The next day, this was removed from the website. People on the cruise were told they had to pay for these items and they did. Now, for future cruises, it again says they are gratuitous but beware that this may happen again on future cruises. Reduce your expectations if you plan a Vantage trip.

    Early on, about eight people on the ship wanted me to teach them bridge lessons and I told them I would do so the next day at 4:30. I went to the cruise director and told her that if "it would not be a problem, if you have a white board, could I please
    use it for bridge lessons." She told me that they do not have bridge lessons on board, they had in the past but no one liked them and she would have to clear this with the captain as to my getting a white board. She was quite rude about this. I told her these were to be free lessons and had been requested by people who knew I played bridge and that I was knowledgeable. She said, very rudely, "do what you want."

    So we had the lessons and, each day, we had two to three tables of bridge playing most of the time the ship was moving and when people wanted to -- most of day and night. Most "activities" which the board provides in the afternoon consist of the hotel manager or the cruise director discussing the schedule for the following day, or Tineke reading about the history of the various areas over the intercom with few, if any, people listening, and giving them the opportunity to discuss "someone asked us about tipping the staff" and how to access the online catalog, how to get discounts on future trips, etc.

    Another very big complaint by many people is the fact that, constantly, particularly by Christina the hotel manager, they ask for tips. This is no exaggeration: This is part of each activity, each time Christina particularly had the opportunity to address the passengers such as at dinner to introduce her staff (saying things such as "they work for you, give up their lives with their own families to be here with you and we hope you show your love for us with big tips at the end of the cruise"), any time any of the staff had the opportunity to talk to a group of passengers. The topic of tips was constant by particularly Christina and Tineke. Even when the staff put on a "show" for the passengers, Christina again discussed how they were doing this for the passengers in their free time, not getting paid for it and were not professionals but doing it to make us happy and they hoped we would show how happy we were at the end of the trip - "there are envelopes on everyone's beds for tips to show how much you appreciate and love us" -- many talks which began "so many people have asked about tipping so we want to explain tipping" -- I know of no one who asked them about tipping. We were given a long letter on our bed about the answer to passengers' questions about tips and what was advised. Most passengers felt that they discussed this so often because you are billed automatic tips of 70 euros per person but this is only for the cruise director and the concierge and the crew wants to be sure that the passengers realized they would get no tips if we did not leave more. Sadly for the actual people who do work hard, the crew, if you do not personally give tips to those people, the tips they stick on your bill does not go to them.

    While neither my husband or I ever once complained about activities, we know for a fact many other people did, such as how bad these speeches were and how boring (by the hotel manager and the cruise director), how inconsiderate and unpleasant various staff members were (while we certainly did see this, we never brought it to the attention of anyone working for the boat nor any of the other passengers, only to each other in the privacy of our room. Many of the wait staff were rude until the day before they knew tips were to be given out. We saw this. We gave tips only to the staff members who had always been nice.

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