We are scheduled for this cruise beginning October 20th. Called Viking today and was told that all ports are going as scheduled. When I stated the problems encountered by others on this board (i.e., especially Joel in mid September on same itinerary), I was told that corporate knows nothing until the ground crew tells them. They have the authority to alter the ports and make any changes without telling anyone. It was suggested I call back closer to the cruise date. Despite the summer long problems and adjustments, I was told "we don't know anything".
The only bit of info was that the real problems are on the Elbe river in northern Germany.
I will have my travel agent call next week and see what they tell him - he's close to their headquarters and has done some business with them before. Plus we were going to do either the China or Russia cruises next year. I do not expect him to be able to "do" anything except be a witness and be a supporter if need be after the cruise. Additionally if his clients have negative feedback on a supplier he will discourage future bookings.
What irritates me is that we are very flexible and we would not cancel this trip despite the water problems even if given the opportunity. We really don't care what ports (aside from Amsterdam and Vienna of which we did the optional trip extensions) as we have been to Germany before. But we are death on bus trips. I just appreciate total honesty and would like to know what to expect.
We were on a Viking Amsterdam to Vienna cruise in July. We DIDN't cruise on approximately 2/3 of the river distance that we were scheduled to cruise on.
Communication is non-existent with Viking. I've since seen lots of posts here, most of them talk about bus trips, and many sound much longer than ours were. Be prepared for buses, lots of them.
The following excerpt from an e-mail I just received from a recent Viking cruiser is proof positive that the river levels on any given cruise at any given port on any given itinerary are unpredicable.
"We've just done the Amsterdam- Vienna (2 - 14 Sept). We appear to have got off very lightly. There was low water just past Regensburg (Straubing I think looking at the Wetteronline.de/pegel website) and we had to get off the Pride and onto the Europe but otherwise trip went ahead as planned. I presume they had had some rain just before we arrived which topped up the water levels. The only busing we did was to Passau. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Had great company, Fellow Brits as well as Americans and Rocky, Maitre D and Victor, House Manager on the Pride did a great job as did the staff."
Diane I hope that your upcoming cruise on the same Amsterdam Vienna itinerary fares as well--or even better.
You just never know...Wouldn't it have been unfortunate for everyone aboard--and Viking and travel agents, too--if Viking had cancelled the September 2-14 cruise simply because on the previous cruise the Pride or the Europe had gotten stuck in the mud!
One other thought, which no one has mentioned: When a ship doesn't sail, the crew members also suffer.
Don’t expect total honesty or any fragment thereof from Viking. Just returned last night. Had booked 2 cruises back to back Amsterdam-Vienna 9/26-10/8 and Vienna-Black Sea-Vienna 10/8-10/25 on Viking Spirit. We purchased the entire package with 3-night precruise, airfare, transfers, etc. from Viking. We were never told that the boats were not moving much before we left and neither were most others we spoke with on our first cruise. In fact, in response to direct questions regarding such we were universally told that there were no problems. Found out in Amsterdam on the night before we were to board that there was no boat in Amsterdam. Many passengers did not find out until Friday when they arrived at the dock to find no boat and no Viking rep. We would have done the same had we not been on the Viking precruise and had access to the local ground operator. The cruise director even lied to us about it that Friday morning the cruise was to begin. We asked her about it because the local ground operator who we called to confirm our transfers hotel to boat told us, no boat here it is in Frankfort and if we had not been to the Rijksmuseum or done a canal cruise we better get it done that day because they were providing buses to depart Amsterdam Hilton at 8:30am the next morning. Tip: See what you want to see in Amsterdam on your own, don’t count on any time there with Viking!
We were bused. We expected to be bused because we knew that no matter what Viking said to get us to go on over to Europe there was not enough water for cruising. We did not however ever expect to be treated the way we were treated. We have traveled under adverse conditions before and are patient and flexible travelers. We expect that when things go wrong that they will be handled well. Since Viking had dealt with problems river cruising in Europe in Fall of 2002 due to high water and Summer of 2003 due to low water we expected them to have substitutions running smoothly. We did not expect to be treated discourteously or with hostility 24/7 on vacation, lied to directly to our faces, receive budget substitutes, or no substitutes, for features of the trip we purchased, spend time without a guide, etc. (Crew was obviously tense and distressed and under instructions not to answer any questions, we did not get menu choices for meals at hotels or for a good number of meals on the boat and were served lots of “meeting chicken dinners” or nothing, our guide left the bus on the 3rd day of the trip and moved off the boat on the 6th day and our group, bus 2 never got a new guide with no explanation or excuse.) The cruise director told us each time that we lost something from day 1 that we would have to negotiate compensation with our TA. Had we wanted to just make our way through Europe without a guide or winging it hotel to hotel we would not have purchased a deluxe cruise, or a budget bus trip, we would have gone on our own.
We only cruised on the Main-Danube canal. We skipped Amsterdam, bused 2 days to Frankfort with an overnight in Cologne. Spent 2 nights on board Spirit docked in Frankfort with 3 hour roundtrip bus ride to Rudesheim for only 1 ½ hours in Rudesheim so they could have the buses back to the boat for lunch and ditto for Mainz next day with sailing starting at 3pm. We boarded Spirit on the early evening of 9/28 and we were told on 10/3 that it was over after tomorrow. We were disembarked the morning of 10/5. We spent 7 of the 12 nights on Spirit, the rest in 4 hotels. We cruised intermittently, but mostly at night, from 3pm on 9/30 to 7am on 10/5, so about 4 days of cruising and the remainder of the 12 days were bus and hotel.
On 10/3 the captain began an emergency port talk meeting with the announcement that Viking HQ in CA had called him 2 hours earlier and told him to stop in Straubing and he had to follow orders though he would prefer to try to sail through to Vienna if allowed but he can only follow orders. When pressed he confessed that the ship had only sailed Frankfort-Straubing, or reverse, on the previous 2 sailings. The hotel manager took the microphone away from him at that point, but later confirmed that same detail. Like you, our TA told us before we left that Viking HQ only knows what ships’ crews tell them and so if Viking tells her boats are all sailing, no busing etc. that is all they know. Then on the boat, the captain admits that he has only been sailing Spirit on the Main-Danube canal for past 4 weeks and that he knew all along that we would not be cruising. (So why the opening ruse about the emergency phone call with disturbing news only 2 hours before?) Viking crew told us that they could do nothing without HQ authorization, that they have no authority. If they or the passengers want anything, they tell you it is being requested from HQ, or that you can contact your TA, but then answers never come or come too late. The truth is that all decisions are being made at HQ and they have all information and are directing, micromanaging, ship crews. It is a perfect loop of deniability if you structure it so that no one ever has to acknowledge being accountable for anything. In our experience, no one at Viking will tell you the whole truth, so you will need to be very flexible indeed to enjoy your vacation with them.
We were also told several times before and during our cruise that “we really only need one good day of rain.” I should point out that it rained on all but 3 days that we were “cruising”. German authorities have been saying for past couple months that it will probably be spring before the river levels recover. “With little rain expected in October and November, the river is unlikely to return to its usual levels until next spring, when the snow melts in the Alps.” See this article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/internatio...052942,00.html
Sadly, Mallon is correct when stating, “Communication is non-existent with Viking.” Shirley B is also correct when she states that Viking, travel agents and crew are suffering. And, she leaves out everyone else, like agriculture, shipping, river cities and communities, local tourism industries, etc. but frankly no one is coming to this message board to have those discussions about who is suffering what and how badly because this board was designed for cruisers seeking information from past travelers.
I think you know what to expect now. Before our trip, I found scant solid information on any of the river cruise message boards as I am sure you have found. If you can’t put together a true picture from them, you might do what I did and go through all the message boards and email directly anyone who said they were leaving and had returned before I did. Everyone I emailed replied and they all had very similar stories. Similar to each other and similar to Mallon’s and mine here.
Thanks much for informative description of your cruise - just exactly (along with earlier one from Joel) what I needed. We actually feel much better now because we know what to expect and any improvements over your experience will be highlights. I think realistic discussions prepare people much better to accept difficult situations.
Just parenthetically, we have gone on 1 other river cruise (Nile, about 9 years ago) and could not make last two ports as they were shooting at boats from the river banks and killing people for real. We stayed two extra nights in Luxor and loved it. You would never know there had been any schedule change - it was transparent to us. However, one woman in our group of 12 challenged the change in sailing, had to see the telegrams from the US and British embassies telling the ship not to move any further, and was never convinced even by newspaper articles that it was happening!
And I will be writing a trip report on this cruise.
My husband kept a trip journal and although he has not finished editing it and fleshing it out with details, if you are interested in receiving it let me know. You might be interested in things we did in our free time, highpoints, lowpoints, etc. Good luck.
My husband has completed his trip journal and it now has lots of links to many of the places and things we did, saw, visited, slept in, ate, etc. from Amsterdam to Vienna. If anyone is interested, email me, and I can send it to you directly as an attachment. It is about 50 pages long...
Reading with interest the continued half truths, "one good rain" - and the continued bad attitude of the crew - things have not changed since our cruise in August. No one expects miracles from Mother Nature, but one does expect the truth from Viking. As one who did not cruise not one single day - waiting for that "one good rain" - but sat by the riverbank with overgrown weeds for 5 days only to receive a "coupon" - no refund -especially when we paid for an upgrade - for that better view of the weeds, bussed our own tables on top deck, put up with surly staff - gee, I would do this again! No, I think not. Per my inquiry to the Consumer Affairs staff member on Cuisemates we should pursue this by any means we can, guess that's what we have to do.
We were not on Viking but on Uniworld which does the same trip from Amsterdam to Vienna or Budapest. We were bused for 2/3 of trip; it was not a good experience at all and that is putting it mildly. Our suggestion would be to put off trip until rivers fill up. Our trip started on 9/24 . Robert and Marietta Kahl