Viking River Cruising - by bus

Old May 14th, 2015, 10:24 AM
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Viking River Cruising - by bus

I recently took my mother on a Viking river cruise from Basel to Amsterdam. This cruise was the 70th Birthday gift to my mother and was supposed to be very special. I did a lot of research before purchasing from Viking to ensure that the surroundings, program, activities and entertainment were superb, and certainly Viking US commercials did support this notion. My mother also was looking very much to this special occasion as she does not get out much and at her age the opportunities are becoming more and more limited.

Unfortunately this cruise was a complete failure. We only sailed two out of 8 days, missed at least a third of the planned attractions, and also had to switch ships after 5 days. While Viking on-board personnel did blame the weather and the rains, it is my strong opinion that the company should have been better prepared with the backup plans to avoid or minimize the disruptions. Viking has been in business for a long time and has beautiful commercials so anybody would expect that the company was well prepared for dealing with regular nature occurrences such as low water or high water. That proved not to be the case, however.

We were bussed to and from attractions most of the days always returning to the ship, spending very long hours on a bus “enjoying” highways views. While this did offer some sightseeing opportunities, it cannot compare to cruising on the river that we paid for. In fact there is a huge, several fold difference in price between cruise cost and analogous bus tour cost - it feels extremely unfair that we paid for the former one and got the latter one in return. In fact on a bus tour we would actually stay in different places, thus spending less time on the bus than we did on this so-called cruise.

The first three days the ship did not move from its updated location at Breisach where we were bussed on day 1. It was basically used as a floating hotel, far from attractions and requiring long bus rides. At least half of the time my balcony and big windows that I paid extra for were blocked by another ship. While we were on a bus on day 4, the ship moved from Breisach to Kehl.

On day 4 of the cruise the ship finally sailed with passengers from Kehl at midnight and moved for about 2-2.5 hours, stopping by the lock in the middle of nowhere.

Day 5 of the cruise we spent the entire day and night on the ship by the lock without any sightseeing. The Viking personnel kept talking about us coming through the lock “any hour” and continuing our journey but it never materialized. In the end the ship (Idi) went back to our original dock in Kehl where we spent the night and then were bussed to the second ship (Qvasir). We should have done this at least a day earlier to avoid skipping attractions but instead the time was wasted.

On day 7 we skipped more attractions because now the ship had to cruise non-stop to make it in time to Amsterdam – thus we “enjoyed” the industrial views with stacks and plants that were supposed to be cruised during the night. That was our second cruising day.

I would also like to comment on the attitude of on-board Viking personnel. Understandably the passengers had a lot of questions about backup plans so that they could manage their disappointment and expectations better. The personnel did not handle the inquiries well, in my opinion. I witnessed one passenger trying (very politely) to ask her question twice with no answer from Viking and having her microphone taken from her in the end. Apparently the captain was eager to talk about ship specifications and engine power but was not prepared to talk about when and how we would be sailing.

I can go on and on about our cruise but I think the points above describe the situation reasonably well. In summary this was a very disappointing experience for me and my mother who had such high hopes, and many other passengers of Idi. So far I am still waiting to hear from the cruise line how they would make it up the passengers of Idi.

My advise to anybody thinking of going on a Viking river cruise - read more reviews before making a non-refundable payment and do not think that this is a rare occurrence that would never happen to you. It is not that rare and does happen regularly. I am hoping that this information will help my fellow travelers to make informed decisions not clouded by colorful commercials of Viking and manage their expectations well.
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Old May 15th, 2015, 12:36 AM
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Last year, I read of this happening also. It is terrible. I have read that flooding in Spring can affect river cruises, making the river too high for safe docking, etc. and droughts in Winter can make the water level too low for boats to sail. It must be someplace in their contract that they can do it, but still, to my mind, exchanging a cruise for a bus tour is not acceptable, especially when you still spend nights on the boat in one place, and travel long distances back and forth. Accidents and emergencies happen, but this is certainly known as they start the cruise. I don't have a clue what the solution is. I am sorry it happened to you and your Mom.
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Old May 15th, 2015, 10:41 PM
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I have yet to meet someone who's European river cruise was NOT disrupted in some way - either with flooding or low water levels necessitating a change of ships, docking sites being more remote from towns than expected, or rafting of vessels that meant there was virtually no 'view' from their rooms and being jammed tightly against other ships.

Makes me very wary of taking this type of cruise, especially considering the cost and advertisements that portray such luxury. Di
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Old May 17th, 2015, 02:55 AM
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This happened to me on a Elbe river trip with Grand Circle. The trip was still delightful and we were compensated $500. I am taking another Elbe river trip with them for the Christmas markets. This time, I hope it is on the river.
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Old May 17th, 2015, 01:08 PM
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We had absolutely no disruptions of any kind on our Gate 1 Danube River Cruise which we took in May 2013. We were aware that problems could happen but were fortunate that nothing did.

I am sorry this happened to you and your Mother. I'm not sure what the solution is.
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Old May 17th, 2015, 03:01 PM
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This is unfortunate and is not the first time I've heard about River Boat cruise turning into a Bus tour.

I would imagine the weather would have a lot to do with it. If it is early in the year, the spring run off (after a heavy snow pack from the previous winter) could make the river flow much faster/higher and would create problem for the boat. Opposite would also be true if there is not enough snow the previous winter and the water level is too shallow at certain point.

Not sure what the alternative or solution would be but I have heard that earlier in the season would be more potential problems, and maybe that's why it is usually discounted; almost like cruising the Caribbean during hurricane season: you'll never know what the weather may do to you.
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Old May 20th, 2015, 08:15 AM
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So sorry to read of your very disappointing river cruise experience. I know it happens but it seems Viking could have and most certainly should have had a better contingency plan in place.

I have been on two river cruises in the last two years, my first was on Tauck, Paris/Provence. It was heavenly, no issues with water levels at all sailing from Lyon to Tournon and back again. Tauck is single supplement friendly, no charge at all, with cabins on the lower level of the ship, the caveat being two fixed picture windows rather than Juliet balcony with sliding glass door.

A Tulip Time seven day cruise on Avalon this Spring was also wonderful. This time the single supplement on certain dates had been dropped. I chose such a date for my cruise, then upgraded to a Juliet balcony cabin mid level for just a bit more money had I paid the SS. That trip I was able to enjoy the view from my cabin while sailing down the rivers and going through the locks.

I have researched many river cruise companies and find that Viking's prices are high to begin with and the SS charges are exorbitant. This is also true for Scenic Cruise Line. Viking might be better spending less on advertising and more on training their personnel and a better Plan B.

Itinerary is my focus when looking for river cruises, thus I am not loyal to any one company. This Fall I will be taking my third river cruise, this time on Uniworld to and around Bordeaux. Keeping my fingers crossed for another stellar trip without any ugly surprises.
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Old Jun 4th, 2015, 01:56 PM
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We did an Avalon cruise this May from Basel to Amsterdam. I had read the disclaimers about the possibility of high water affecting the cruise but we were fortunate in that we were not affected (although the water did look high from earlier Spring runoff or rain).

However, on the next to last night of our cruise, we were informed that there was a problem with one engine and instead of cruising directly into Amsterdam, we would head to Rotterdam. I think they knew of the problem several days in advance (possibly as early as Basel). In the next to last evening information session they explained the alternate plan to us--that we would travel by bus to Amsterdam, that we would still do the Amsterdam canal cruise in the AM and that the optional afternoon trip to Zanse Schaans would still take place. (One of the other optional trips may have been affected--not sure).

We therefore did not spend the last night on the ship but instead spent it in an Amsterdam hotel. Our luggage was sent ahead and we received a partial refund on our last day.

I appreciated that the crew took the time to work out a solution and then communicated it to us clearly. It worked out better for me in some ways because, with our transfer to the hotel already completed on Day 1 in Amsterdam, I was able to get an early start on Day 2 and make it to the Rijksmuseum at 9.

I sympathize with the OP, though, because it would have been disappointing to miss out on most interesting parts of the cruising experience (the Rhine gorge, the locks near Strabourg, arriving in Cologne at night). I suppose it could have happened to us, too, if we had traveled a few weeks earlier. I am not sure what the solution is or if the experience would have been any better on Avalon versus Viking given the same circumstances.
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Old May 10th, 2016, 01:04 PM
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My wife and I took a trip with Viking to the "Heart of Normandy".
Best of the best for us. They took extremely good care of us. The best Director, extremely informative and personally connected with every venue. Went well over the line to do a great Job. Name was Ken. A big hiker who didn't demand or presume that 75 older people who were slightly disabled could do what he could do, and made good plans for them to be able to get the best trip etc. Seriously a great trip.
We are booked now on a Mediterranean trip in January with Viking from Barcelona to Rome, any experiences there anyone?
Don
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