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EatDrinkBeKeri Feb 23rd, 2016 06:47 AM

Viking River Cruises - A Negative Experience
This may be long, but I promise it is worth a read. I have never experienced something such as this in my life.

My husband and I have been professionals in the service industry for quite some time now, so we had high expectations for our first experience with Viking River Cruises. We had heard nothing but wonderful things from my in-laws, who had already been on five cruises. While, I do not have a single negative word to say about the staff aboard the Viking Tor, I wish I could say the same for their Customer Service Team at Viking HQ.

Prior to our trip departure on December 4th of 2015, there had been little to no communication between Viking and my family. We had not even received our travel itinerary until November (which they claimed they sent in July). After my husband and I dropped my in-laws off at their gate at Newark International Airport and made our way to ours, we were told at the Delta desk that my husband's passport expired in January of 2016 and he would not be able to travel. We acted immediately.. I was on the phone with the Passport Agencies and my husband was on the phone with Lola from Vikings Customer Service Team.

To make a VERY long and disappointing story short.. while my in-laws were en route to Nuremberg (where our cruise would begin), my husband and I were en route to Philadephia from Newark in order to obtain an expedited passport the next morning, and then make it back to Newark for a new flight that afternoon; in order to catch our ship leaving the Nuremberg port.

While, we know we could have been more aware of the Passport Policy; the Team at Viking River Cruises HQ, did not help our situation in the least. There was no communication - they were refusing to give us any new itinerary until we had proof of a new passport (but they must have known that you can not obtain a new passport with out proof of FUTURE travel!), their Customer Service team refused to give us pricing for the difference of what our NEW flight would cost since we now had to change our flight to the next day, and they were refusing to work with our urgent situation. My husband and I were not given new pricing until we finally had his new passport at 2:00pm that day, in PHILLY, (when the flight was departing NEWARK at 6:00pm). After being on hold with Lola for 30 minutes (again, ZERO sense of urgency), she returns telling us that the new cost IN TOTAL would be just under $3,000 USD and that we would be reimbursed for our flight the day before since we cancelled it. We bit the bullet and said ok, we just wanted to be with our family who had already made it to Germany. We sent the Credit Card Authorization form to them and immediately hopped in a cab that would take us 1.5 hours to Newark.

When we arrived in Newark, we did not yet have the confirmation that our new itinerary and flight was scheduled by Viking. I called and was told that the ticket administrator was OUT TO LUNCH! Wait.. you knew everything we were going through and how much we are paying in ADDITION to what our vacation already cost, and you are out to lunch when we need to catch a plane? Now, standing outside of the terminal to check-in, Lola informs me that the cost of our trip was not $3,000 USD in total.. it would be $3,000 USD PER PERSON AND we would NOT be reimbursed for our flight from the day before since we "missed" the flight (when they KNEW that we wanted to cancel because we could not even get on the plane!). I explained to them that this is not what we were initially told and I would love for them to go and listen to the phone recordings. Eventually, they just booked our flight, yet were still charging us for the flight from the day before. We thought, let's just try to enjoy our vacation and worry about this when we get home.

But it does not end there. Viking did upgrade us to Business Class, which was the least they could do at that point (however we had to de-plane at midnight after being on the Tarmac for 4 hours and on our next plane, we got bumped from Business Class). As my husband and I are finally sitting down enjoying ourselves, waiting to board.. we receive a call from Lola - "I apologize, but once you land in Nuremberg we are not going to be providing transportation for you to get to your ship." WHAT?! My husband just hung up the phone; and now, we have no idea if we are even going to make our ship because of our 4 hour delay and because we have never been to Germany and have no idea how to navigate to the ship which will be at a DIFFERENT port that the departing one.

Once we reached our family and finally boarded the Viking Tor (that is even a whole other story - how we finally got to the ship) the service was unprecedented. Which is such a shame considering how the HQ handles business. Unfortunately, I would NOT recommend Viking River Cruises to anyone! And my in-laws who were loyal customers.. will never cruise with them again. So if anyone has had a good experience with other river cruise-lines, please let me know!

I hope this review is helpful for anyone considering cruising with that company and gives you some insight on what to look out for!

tomfuller Feb 23rd, 2016 07:04 AM

This belongs in the Europe forum or the cruises forum instead of Alabama.

Gretchen Feb 23rd, 2016 07:11 AM


Puhleeze. YOUR passport expired in a month and you are blaming it on Viking.
How can they give you an itinerary without knowing for sure you will arrive in Nuremburg (the passport could have been delayed a day?)
Did you REALLY expect your new itinerary would be only $3000 total for the two of you? How much was your original cost that this seemed correct. Just wondering.

Once we reached our family and finally boarded the Viking Tor (that is even a whole other story - how we finally got to the ship) the service was unprecedented.

I'm glad you added this since it IS the crux of VRC's business.

Tabernash2 Feb 23rd, 2016 07:37 AM

That is an unfortunate story, but it's really on you, to know about your passport expiration date. You were planning this cruise since the summer, so you had plenty of time to deal with a renewal.

Viking HQ could have been more helpful, but it's not their job to bail you out of a stupid mistake on your part.

Dayle Feb 23rd, 2016 07:44 AM

sorry, no sympathy from me either. You need to be aware of the most basic travel requirements which include passport rules.

janisj Feb 23rd, 2016 07:46 AM

You likely won't see any of the responses since you registered to post this - but just in case -- <i>why</i> Alabama? and . . . Why are you upset w/ Viking since it was your husband who didn't know his passport expiration date?

NewbE Feb 23rd, 2016 08:31 AM

I'm afraid I agree with everyone else. I've read your post twice, and I just can't see what more Viking HQ could or should have done for you.

Did they misinform you about the $3k per person charge, or did you mishear? Under the stressful circumstances, I suspect it's possible you misheard. I think the cost of the flight you missed could go either way; it would certainly be good of them to refund you, and if I were you I would ask for the refund, but you have to understand that that would be a favor they're doing you, since the mistake was yours.

Honestly, I'm impressed at how determined you were to make that cruise and that you did make it happen! It was an expensive mistake, to be sure.

I wish inexperienced travelers could be made aware of the fact that passports effectively expire 6 months before they say they do. This is just something I've known for ages, but I;m not sure how.

nytraveler Feb 23rd, 2016 08:45 AM

Agree that tour companies are not babysitters. One is responsible for one's own identification, passport, credit cards, money and luggage - everything you need to get on the train. They are not responsible for you until you get on the plane (assuming you booked it through them).

People sometimes think that a company they book a specific service with is responsible for their entire lives - not so.

I was on a package tour to london, amsterdam and paris. On the canal trip in amsterdam one person managed (I cannot imagine how) to drop his wallet, passport, tickets and every other valuable over the side of the boat into the canal. The hostess did everythng she could (reported to police, explained to him how to get info faxed from home for CCs and organized an appt for him at the american embassy to get a new passport and provided train info to get from Amsterdam to Paris). But, he was enraged that the hostess - and entire group - was not waiting with him in amsterdam until he got his new passport and credit cards.

No matter that his gross carelessness caused the problem - he complained constantly once he got to paris (where the hostess helped him pick up free tours to replace what he lost) and insisted he was suing because SHE was negligent. The rest of the members provided the hostess with a document outlining the situation - and that the "victim" had been out of control the whole time (found drunk in the hotel lobby creating a scene, packing his passport in checked luggage that they had to pull off the plane, delaying everyone, being late for every group activity).

EatDrinkBeKeri Feb 23rd, 2016 08:52 AM

While I do appreciate the replies, maybe I am not doing the unfortunate circumstance and timeline of events justice. My husband and I are frequent international travelers; he has actually traveled the world. From what I heard about Viking and how top-notch they were, I was surprised by our experience and the unprofessional-ism. I do not blame them for my husband and I not knowing of the 3-month passport expiration rule. I blame them for the miscommunication, the stress (which could have been avoided if they were even close to being helpful), the difficult situations my family and I endured and the extra costs that went along with that (including our own transportation to arrive at the Viking Tor, which is usually complimentary for the guests aboard their ships).

So while I am sure some of you make think I may be an ignorant traveler, I promise I am not. I just want other to know of what to be aware of when booking with Viking. That's all.

EatDrinkBeKeri Feb 23rd, 2016 08:57 AM

Also, it submitted to Alabama on accident. : )

NewbE Feb 23rd, 2016 09:09 AM

OK, I re-read your post for the third time. This is what I think you mean when you say Viking HQ was unprofessional and caused you additional stress:

--They wouldn't give you a new itinerary or pricing information until after you had your new passport in hand, nor would they book your new flights until then.

--they misinformed you about the $3k being per person and not in total.

--they kept you on hold for long periods of time.

--they did not provide transportation from Nuremberg to the ship's stop at the next port.

--they did not refund the cost of the flights you missed at the beginning of your odyssey.

And still I say, having tried (really) to see this from your point of view, that they were under no obligation to do otherwise! Yours was a very basic error. They did rebook you, they in fact upgraded you to Business Class. They just didn't do everything super promptly and for free (or at least cheap).

Mistakes happen, even to experienced travelers, but it's not fair to shift the burden of responsibility for that mistake onto Viking.

Gretchen Feb 23rd, 2016 09:20 AM

Your second explanation is not a whit better. It was ALL your responsibility and you need to take it.
If he has "travelled the world", then he knows his passport needs to be up to date--particularly when you booked 6 or more months ahead. ;o(

nytraveler Feb 23rd, 2016 04:48 PM

Agree that your recap does not help at all. The mistake was your husband's. And onc ehe did that their hands were tied until he actually had a new passport. Don't see why you don;t understand - if he hadn't got the passport that day for some reason you would have had TWO sets of extra plane tickets.

As for transfers to the boat - since you were late (NOT their fault) they did not have any group transfers in place. Obviously you got to the boat - or are you saying it was their fault it hadn't waited for you?

historytraveler Feb 23rd, 2016 07:53 PM

Your passport, your problem not Vikings. You say you are frequent international travelers but obviously not that savvy if you let your passport expire. I believe there was nothing wrong with Viking's response. Travelers no matter how knowledgeable they may think they are must still follow the rules and accept the consequences if they don't. An expired passport is going to create consequences.

NewbE Feb 23rd, 2016 08:00 PM

I think the passport hadn't yet expired, but was going to in less than a month, historytraveler.

nyt, I think the OP wanted Viking to pay for their transportation to the ship's first stop--wherever that was, she doesn't say-- since transportation from the airport to the port in Nuremberg, the departure port, was included in the original price. I agree with you that there was no reason Viking had to do that.

I generally have sympathy for travelers over corporations, and I generally think it's good business for companies to bend over backwards to help people in bad circumstances, but in this case, I just can't see why Viking should be on the hook for such a big error on the part of the OP.

EatDrinkBeKeri Feb 24th, 2016 07:49 AM

Has anyone here been in a situation where, yes it was initially your fault for not taking care of your situation beforehand, but once you were live in that situation and with a VERY limited time window, the company you trust to help get you to where you need to go did not help you in the least?

These types of experiences are extremely stressful and rather than being assisted in the situation, you were given false information and were misinformed on next steps in the process while half of your family is across the Atlantic Ocean.

I understand what y'all are saying, I really do. However, if you were in this situation, I have a feeling you would be singing a different tune.

And yes, the passport was not expired at the time of our traveling dates.

sf7307 Feb 24th, 2016 08:11 AM

(but they must have known that you can not obtain a new passport with out proof of FUTURE travel!)

This is news to me.

elberko Feb 24th, 2016 08:16 AM

You need to prove travel plans for the expedited one-day service.

Tabernash2 Feb 24th, 2016 08:21 AM

I don't think that is correct, either, sf. How would anyone renew a passport in time, if they needed proof of FUTURE travel? Makes no sense.

Keri, it's not difficult to look up the rules on-line. From the US Department of State: "U.S. citizens traveling on passports that expire in fewer than six months have increasingly been denied airline boarding or been detained upon arrival in certain foreign destinations, including popular European travel destinations in the Schengen area. This is not a new requirement, but it is only recently that the requirement has been more strictly enforced."

Your husbands expired within one month of your departure.

This was a big miss on your part. I'm thinking the miscommunications which followed were fueled by panic and an inability to concentrate on the details.

janisj Feb 24th, 2016 08:26 AM

Yes, you generally do need to have specific travel plans to get the one-day service. But you HAD the proof to get the expedited service - no need to have the new itinerary 'in hand'. You had the details of the cruise, the denied boarding, and the passport. Total paper chain. I think you are just looking for reasons to be mad at Viking.

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