Viking handles Elbe low water badly

Sep 12th, 2016, 03:15 AM
  #1  
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Viking handles Elbe low water badly

82 annoyed travelers learned the hard way that the Elbe river often is not navigable and that Viking cannot be trusted to treat its customers fairly. Viking's August 27 Prague - Berlin river cruise and ended up on a bus tour with stationary cruise boats as our hotel as did the same cruise going in the opposite direction. The on-board crew made the best of a bad situation but Viking management handled it very badly. Most on board said they would never consider a Viking tour again and would advise others not to. Please consider adding comments to this forum if you were also a victim of this situation on any of the many affected trips.

Low water on the Elbe was not Viking's fault but the way they handled it was a case history in poor customer relations.The day before we were to leave Viking sent out a vague email saying that the water level was low and that it could impact our cruise in an undefined way. It was too late for most of us to cancel or reschedule - options that were not offered. Apparently low water is commonplace this time of year so Viking had a obligation to let us know before booking along with an explanation of what would happen if that occurred. Rivers do not drop suddenly so Viking should have known what was going to happen. They appear to have put their financial interest ahead of ours hoping they would get away with it.

Since the cruise boats could not leave the dock they became stationary hotels with small rooms at inconvenient locations. The time we were to scheduled to be cruising became long bus rides - up to 4 hours per day. We had to change boats in the middle of the tour, a major annoyance. On a day when all were annoyed, Viking chose to send us all an email offering a $500 per person credit toward a future cruise - an insulting gesture that looked like they were trying to turn this situation into something that further increased their profits. Not one person expressed an interest in using the vouchers or ever traveling with Viking again.

Bottom Line: we paid for a river cruise and got a bus tour with small, cramped rooms and the need to return to an inconvenient location for meals. For thousands less we could have rented a car or taken trains, stayed in top-tier hotels in great locations and seen much more.Viking has chosen to offer tours on a river that can frequently not handle its boats and did nothing to inform us of the risk they knew we were taking. We bought travel insurance on their web site and they chose to not inform us in sufficient time to use it tp cancel or rebook The compensation offered was not remotely sufficient. In my opinion Viking has shown itself to be a business that can be trusted.
Stuckinthemud is offline  
Sep 12th, 2016, 05:06 AM
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>>Bottom Line: we paid for a river cruise and got a bus tour <<

Sorry about your bad experience -- but with even just a teeny bit of research you would have known this can and does happen fairly frequently w/ river cruises.
janisj is online now  
Sep 12th, 2016, 06:12 AM
  #3  
 
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Sorry about this experience. I am glad I became aware of this issue as we he considered river cruising but will never do it now.
jacketwatch is offline  
Sep 12th, 2016, 09:04 AM
  #4  
 
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Another unsuspecting river cruiser, same issue brought up again and again. I too am sorry you had such a bad experience. You are not the first to experience this. Water levels, both high and low, are on going problems (on some rivers more than others). I wish you had found Fodors before the trip to read about the problems, rather than after to write the complaint (which I am sure is valid). There are some long threads about it here on Fodors. If you had read them before hand, would you still have taken a chance on a river cruise?

When they work, river cruises are evidently wonderful. When they don't, you are stuck. If I wanted a bus tour, I would take one, which I never, ever will again. If I do not do research before I plunk down a bundle of money, then I take my chances and hope for the best, having only myself to blame if things go wrong. If after researching, something still looks good, then I can blame the company for Mis-representing the product and poor handling of things.
Sassafrass is offline  
Sep 14th, 2016, 04:55 PM
  #5  
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The big issue for me as I started this thread was to warn others that in this situation VIKING cannot be trusted to be open and honest. I also wanted others to know that the Elbe river is more susceptible to this type of disruption because there is very little room for error in ideal conditions. I had traveled in the past on Tauck and found them to be much more trustworthy, Their tours cost a little more but in hindsight seem to be well worth the difference. We did not book with Tauck this time because they do not offer trips on the Elbe - perhaps for good reason.

Hopefully this forum will halp others avoid the mistake we made and will perhaps help convince Viking to treat its customers more fairly.
Stuckinthemud is offline  
Sep 14th, 2016, 05:46 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
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In reading previous threads about the low water levels, I happened to receive a brochure (not sure whether from Viking but I think so) and in the very back of the brochure was all the information on what happens when water is low.

It also apparently takes 100 days for the spring weather (whether wet or dry) to impact the Elbe, Rhine and Danube.

Sassa is right, lots of stories on fodors.
jan47ete is offline  
Sep 15th, 2016, 06:26 AM
  #7  
 
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Nice point by the OP.

From reading this forum I became aware of river level issues and besides deciding to not take a river cruise can now caution people I meet who are thinking of one.
jacketwatch is offline  
Sep 16th, 2016, 12:36 PM
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I checked the Viking website,which states in its terms and conditions "Itineraries are subject to change and may need to be altered, or cancelled specifically because of water levels or wind or other factors” Clearly a statement that is intended to cover their legal backside, rather than actually provide useful information which could deter anyone from booking with them. And I do note that anyone that buys insurance from them receives no compensation unless they cancel 30 days or more before departure.

When I travel I do expect and accept that there can be minor changes to an itinerary, and have experienced these on a few occasions. But the Viking practice to fill its cabins with unsuspecting travellers knowing full well there is a likelihood that an actual cruise will not take place is just not acceptable and in my mind borders on fraud.
eliztravels2 is offline  
Oct 24th, 2016, 02:56 PM
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...... fill its cabins with unsuspecting travellers knowing full well there is a likelihood that an actual cruise will not take place is just not acceptable and in my mind borders on fraud.......

What a bunch of BS. I am guessing that the likelihood of an actual cruise not taking place is very low. All cruises have some risks. Over the years we have missed more cruise ports because of weather conditions.
fmpden is offline  
Oct 25th, 2016, 06:33 AM
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If I paid for a river cruise and got bused from one location to another and the only time I was on the boat was to sleep and was offered $500.00 off on a future cruise would I be happy with that? Hell no. That is an insult. This is not like an ocean going cruise missing a port. Suppose you are crusing Italy and are bused from Civitavecchia to Livorno then to Naples, etc. and get to be on the ship just to sleep. Then would you be happy with a $500.00 OBC for a future cruise? Not me. JM2C.
jacketwatch is offline  
Oct 25th, 2016, 08:37 AM
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In March, Richard Turin wrote a 2-part article about the issues of river cruises. He gathered as many logistics as possible from different companies. Most cooperated. Some did not. Between 1% to 10% of River cruises with different companies, in different rivers, were affected in some way by water levels enough to cause changes or cancellations.

Low water was just as bad as high, but affected boats differently. Even a difference of a foot in the draft can mean sailing or not when water levels are low. A difference of a foot in height of the boat can also make a difference when water is high and boats must go under bridges.

Some rivers are more prone to problems, and often cannot be predicted with accuracy until 3 or 4 hours ahead. So, no way for company to know far enough ahead to notify guests. That surprised me.

Some companies have built more boats than there are docks available to accommodate. That is why they tie up together, sometimes in not very nice areas. Some boats are built too big to easily navigate the rivers they are on.
Some companies are hardly ever affected because they have built smaller boats and navigate rivers which can accommodate their boats.

Before booking, the best assurance is to look at records for the company, the particular boat and the river.
Sassafrass is offline  
Oct 25th, 2016, 10:21 AM
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Very good info Sass. Thank you.
jacketwatch is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2016, 09:23 AM
  #13  
 
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My problem with Viking was that when my husband was hospitalized in Vienna with pneumonia, the concierge just said goodbye, and that was it. All my belongings were still aboard ship. I am nearly 80 and my husband is 87. I couldn't speak the language; I had nowhere to stay; I had no Euros, and I had only a light sweater with me. When the ambulance came to the ship to get my husband, I didn't have time to pack a suitcase. I was left adrift in a foreign country with absolutely no resources. I wonder if the people at Viking would have done that to their mother or grandmother and been satisfied with it.
Whittletree is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2016, 12:37 PM
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Whittletree, since you just signed on today to post your story, I wonder how accurate it is. I really find it hard to believe that the concierge just said goodbye. And all of your belongings headed into the sunset. Somehow you did survive.
fmpden is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2016, 02:44 PM
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So what was the outcome? Did your husband recover, did you eventually get you things from the ship and how did you get home? Also hope you had health insurance.
jacketwatch is offline  
Nov 4th, 2016, 05:15 AM
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I'm with fmpden.

So "All my belongings were ...aboard ship", how did you leave the country with no passport or ticket, "with no euros" how did you eat, a hotel? Etc, etc, etc. Questionable tale.
jan47ete is offline  
Feb 11th, 2017, 01:35 PM
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I wonder how out of 82 travelers, not one researched. It is a river. Everyone knows water levels get low and high. Luckily, they didn't leave you in one port, sounds like they did the best they could to accommodate in an unpleasant situation. You did see the places you were scheduled? And you had a place to sleep. I wonder, then, what is the complaint? Should they have tried to keep sailing through water that they are told they CAN'T sail in? So that you could be happy? Or should they leave you in the port you were stuck in the entire week or two?
I've also read several variations of whittlebee's story here on her husbands sickness. What did you expect? That the cruise director would come with you? Maybe she had a list but if you only had time, as you say, to grab toothbrushes, how could she possibly get you a list? And I doubt highly that she was saying some of the things you said she did, unless she didn't want her job. Maybe you were just flustered? Did you think Viking should've held your hand and the entire way? If you took a man nearing 90 to Europe, these things can and will happen, and it isn't any cruise lines responsibility to do anything about that. Like someone else said, you state you could only grab a toothbrush and were left with 3 euro after the doctor, so how did you pay for the hotel, food, transportation? How did you get around without an id or passport? Things don't really add up.
I've travelled Viking. They are very decent. I've travelled with other companies as well. I have travelled Europe with high water. Unfortunately, I had to utilize a bus for the portion of the trip. I was fine with that, because I don't want to sail when it isn't safe anyway. So thank you Viking for looking out for me. I still saw everything I had hoped too. Was it the best solution ? Yes, I guess it was. I never requested a dime back. I watched cruise staff move my entire belongings night after night for me. They did everything they could. Every need I had was still taken care of.
perhaps do some research and be grateful you weren't stuck in some small port with nothing to do for a week or two. Now that would be something to complain about.
jryan1170 is offline  

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