We booked passage for a “Romantic Cruise of the Danube” aboard the Viking Freya from November 7 – 14, 2015. In the event, however, there was little cruising or romance to be had. Rather than a cruise our vacation turned out to be mainly a bus excursion during which we stayed aboard ships. Water levels forced us to disembark and travel to other ships by land transportation twice during the week. We did not receive from Viking what we paid well for and we are very dissatisfied by the way the company communicated, or rather failed to communicate, with us. Clearly conditions for cruising on the river had been deteriorating for months and yet they did nothing to alert us in advance to the probable and serious disruptions, let alone offer us the option of canceling or postponing.
We appreciate that Viking has no control over the weather or river conditions. It does, however, have control over the information it provides and it communicated badly with its passengers. Caveat emptor? Perhaps we were naïve in expecting more from the Viking Line.
The distance from Nuremburg to Budapest is about 755 km. That is aroad measurement but the river distances should be at least proportionately similar. We sailed about 112 km from Nuremburg to Regensburg and about 87 km from Melk to Vienna during our trip for an approximate total cruising distance of 199 km, or only about 26% of the total distance we expected to sail. The other 74% was traveled by bus. Having to change boats twice during the week deprived us of one of the most attractive advantages of cruising, not having to pack and unpack repeatedly.
The “cruise” was kept from being a complete debacle owing only to the competence and friendliness of the Viking staff and crew on the three Viking ships we were on during our trip. They were uniformly courteous, competent, pleasant, and helpful. The ships were nice and well maintained, the food was good, and the staterooms smallish but well designed and laid out. We wish that we were able to focus this review on those aspects of the river trip. Regrettably, Viking’s mishandling, in our view, of its obligations to its customers denies us that option.
We wrote to Viking expressing our dissatisfaction with its treatment of us then followed up with a phone call. Viking refused to offer us any compensation beyond a 25% discount coupon on a future cruise with them, basically an enticement to us to spend more money with them rather than any real compensation for the inconvenience we experienced at their hands. Their standard contract basically says that they can change any aspect of a cruise they want without incurring further obligation to their customers. Legally, they probably are covered. Morally, in our view, they are not.
If you are planning to take a Viking river cruise in Europe, we recommend that you do due diligence concerning river conditions beforehand and not rely on Viking to keep you informed. We do not expect to be utilizing the company’s services again in the future. If we want a bus tour of Europe, I’m sure that we can find one that is much less expensive.
P.S. - An aside but probably one of interest to those considering this cruise. A strong sewage odor emanates from the water at Regensburg and along other stretches of the canal from Nuremburg and also along parts of the Danube. Something that is not mentioned in the cruise brochures.