Viking cruise on the Rhine

Old Oct 14th, 2009, 11:50 PM
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Viking cruise on the Rhine

Was anybody here on the forum with us on our recent Viking Rhine River cruise which started in Amsterdam on October 4? I guess I should say "which was supposed to start in Amsterdam on October 4".

The Rhine is so low that we spent most of our time on buses and in 5 star hotels, in Amsterdam (1 night), in Cologne (1 night) and in Basel (1 night). The Viking Helvetia was stuck in Amsterdam and couldn't sail far south, and our ship, the Viking Sun, was stuck between Koblenz (I think) and Mannheim. We actually spent 3 nights on the ship docked in Mannheim (or was it all 4 nights?). It's hard to remember - it became a blur of buses and hotels.

Viking didn't let us know in advance, and from our converstions with oncoming passengers for the cruise from Basel starting on October 11, they didn't tell them either. The time we spent onboard ship was very nice, but we spent soooo much time on buses....

As compensation, Viking has offered all passengers 40% off our "next cruise". From the other passenger's comments I don't think many will go on that "next cruise".

So, if you are headed for a Rhine cruise on Sunday (October 18) call Viking immediately(or whichever company you are signed up with) and ask them how the river level is.
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Old Oct 15th, 2009, 04:35 AM
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The Rhine was extraordinarily low this September, so this is simply bad luck.

In the meantime we got some rainfalls and the water level has risen about half a metre. This means better conditions for ships but not back to normal.
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Old Oct 15th, 2009, 10:13 AM
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SSSteve is right. Viking led us to believe that the low water was a temporary localized problem... at least until we passed the 24-hour money-back guarantee period. They had to know at the outset that the river would not rise enough for a meaningful trip but they deceived us into believing otherwise. Bad Luck indeed. But also... less than full disclosure by Viking.
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Old Oct 15th, 2009, 11:17 AM
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Gdon - were you on with us? (Amst-Basle Oct 4)
Viking kept telling us that maybe the ship would leave port each night, but now I know that even after heavy rains that it takes several days for the level to rise.

I didn't know there was a 24 hour money back guarantee... I just though that Viking would call the river level "force majeure" and that would be the end of it...
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Old Oct 15th, 2009, 12:34 PM
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Before I chime in, I should disclose that I work for Viking and that I am part of the team that makes decisions based on water levels. You can respond to me directly or send an e-mail to [email protected]. Now to the issue at hand: navigating rivers is a science, especially when it comes to water levels. The Rhine this year was unusually low and such extraordinary circumstances make predictions very difficult. We have nautical experts who closely follow water level reports around the clock and we do our best to prognosticate what happens next. Repeatedly, over the last few weeks, rain was announced and then failed to materialize. And quite often, all it needs is just a little bit of wetness - the difference between sailing and being stuck is measured in inches, not feet. And massive downpours or even a few hours of heavy rain can change a situation dramatically within hours. It does not take days of incessant rain to add the few centimeters that make the difference. If Viking sees ahead of time that a cruise is not reasonably salvageable, we cancel it. People plan their travels months ahead of time, so we do not do this lightly. If we believe there to be a reasonable chance that we can make an itinerary work with only a few modifications, we do so. Quite often, these adjustments to the itinerary depend on our predictions for the next 12-24 hours. We make a plan A, a plan B and if needed a plan C. When you feel that we are not particularly forthcoming, rest assured that we're providing you the information as soon as it is available in a reliable form. I am sure you'll appreciate that we cannot extend the speculation, planning and 'what-iffing' to all passengers on the ship. You rely on us to make decisions that are in the interest of our guests, that is, you. And we do so, even if the outcome is not always what you and we hope for.

As for our 24-hour service guarantee: we are proud of our people and we stand by their ability to serve you well - hence the guarantee that you will receive a refund of your cruise if that service is not up to par, in your view. However, we do not pretend to have any real influence over the vagaries of the weather, and we cannot extend our guarantee to situations created by high or low water.

Finally, we do provide these future credits to you in the sincere hope that you will give us another chance to show you what a great way to travel river cruising normally is. It is not a perfunctory mea culpa, and you will find that if you take us up on our offer, your next cruise will be very, very good value for your money.

I hope the above sheds some light on the issues raised here. We're always happy to talk to you and if you feel I have not addressed the issues in a satisfactory manner, please let me know. We welcome and appreciate your input !
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Old Oct 16th, 2009, 01:43 AM
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Thanks for that information Rivercruiseresource.

I have to say that all the passengers on this cruise were very disappointed. I can also add that the dinners at the hotels were very disappointing, and on that score, (as opposed to the river level) it depends completely on what Viking ordered.
On the other hand, I can compliment Viking on several things. Everything was very well organized, even considering the last minute change to buses and hotels although there were several days which could have been planned better. Also, the staff were very helpful and did the best they could under the circumstances.

I still think that people starting a cruise on this coming Sunday's cruise are entitled to know what the chances are that they will spend half the week in hotels and buses.
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Old Dec 6th, 2011, 01:35 PM
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sssteve: Your story is deja vu for my wife and me. Two Octobers ago we flew to Amsterdam only to find that our ship wasn't there. OK. Low water happens. But as the week progressed we became more and more disenchanted with Viking's approach to the issue. First, while we were still in Amsterdam and, per the contract, could have requested a refund and travelled on our own, Viking told us that we would be boarding the ship the next day. That proved to be untrue. The ship was waay down the river and they knew it. As you did, we spent three nights on a docked ship in Mannheim -- then on to more buses to Basel. In our case, the restroom on the bus didn't work which was extremely upsetting to my wife. It would take more than the 40% discount for her to do that again.

We realized that Viking knew this cruise was going to be a no-go days before we took off for Amsterdam. When we were in Basel at the end of the trip, the you Viking staff was there to meet new customers who were expecting to cruise to Amsterdam. When we asked if they were going to tell the new travelers of the low water, they sidled away from us.

While I appreciate the happy talk on this forum from those who are more frequent cruisers and would know to check water levels online before departing so as to be prepared, I ask that they cut a little slack for the less experienced. I have no doubt that Viking has calculated out the strategy that will result in the fewest cancellations possible.

In short, Viking cannot control water levels and is entitled to make a profit. But that is no excuse for a lack of candor.
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Old Dec 8th, 2011, 03:11 AM
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Lesson learned? Yes! No more Rhine cruises!

After the Rhine cruise, we did take advanatge of the discount and took the Paris-Normandy cruise. It was just fine. The Seine suffers from occasional flooding and not low level.

Our next cruise is on the Baltic Sea where I assume that water level is no problem.
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Old Dec 8th, 2011, 04:53 AM
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Does the Main also have a problem with low water level like the Rhine?
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Old Dec 8th, 2011, 06:55 AM
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I imagine it does, since it is a tributary to the Rhine. This November the Rhine reached record lows, (as did the Danube)and caused a lot of problems for commercial freight travel on the Rhine.
It also revealed a few unexploded bombs, resulting in Cochem being evacuated.

Low water can occur after a long dry period, and there is not much can be done about it. However is known about and predicted in plenty of time normally and it sounds like Viking could have handled these cruises better, and should imho have cancelled them.
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