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  #1  
Old September 5th, 2013, 09:14 AM
81mg 81mg is offline
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Default Viking River Cruise - Budapest to Amsterdam - Lock Strike & Poor Customer Service

My wife and I took the Viking Skadi Grand River Cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam during July 2013. Unfortunately, the rolling lock strike in Bavaria caused very significant problems during the last half of our cruise.

As per the numerous postings on the board, Viking was aware & had knowledge of the strike well before the ship even left Budapest and did not announce it until the day we arrived in Nuremberg. (I wish I would have been aware of these message boards beforehand.)

We docked in Nuremberg for 4 days by a bus terminal construction site with large & very visible waste bins. (Photos are available). We experienced this view, dust & noise for a 4-day period. The upper deck was also unavailable for at least 50% of our time here.

Unfortunately, Nuremberg (a beautiful city) could only be reached by a 20-30 minute ride. And after 2 tours of Nuremberg, we felt that our only choice was to take longer & longer bus rides (up to 3 hours for our last tour) on each of the successive days.

The bus rides were uncomfortable for us with long waits at gas stations for bathroom breaks.

Lunch was often hastily delivered en masse in over-crowded & over-heated restaurants. The quality of the food & dining experience was unimaginably sub-standard compared to our first 7 days, which was world-class. (The on board experience for the first seven days was first rate).

Upon returning from these long bus rides, we were overly exhausted from our day trips to fully enjoy our evening meal. In fact, on some days we arrived back onto the ship only 30 minutes before dinner.

On the fourth evening, the captain announced that we would travel non-stop for the next day on the Rhine-Main-Danube canal to get past the lock strikers. We covered the RMD Canal during the day with only a small & overcrowded outdoor lounge available to us. The area that we cruised is considered non-scenic as Viking normally covers this portion at night.

To add insult to injury, we were forced to disembark two days early and bused to Cologne and then on to Amsterdam only to find out that Skadi was docked in Holland at Kinderdijk on Saturday. Many passengers wanted to stay on the Skadi instead of facing two very difficult and long days on prolonged bus trips.

After long bus trips on these two days, we were offered a sub-standard buffet-style meal. On the last night, the hotel staff was closing down the buffet shortly after we arrived after approximately 8 hours on an uncomfortable bus ride.

We paid for a 14-day luxury river cruise and wound up with a 7-day river cruise and a 7-day bus ordeal. We did not pay thousands of dollars to take a poorly organized & uncomfortable bus tour.

We received an email (dated July 31) upon our return home offering a 25% voucher for future travel.

It took a long time to be able to take this trip and we felt their offer was very inadequate considering that our experience was quite different than what Viking depicts in their marketing materials. In fact, we believed the pamphlets and slick commercials that said that Viking would “take care of us”.

It was clear that we were not making progress with their customer relations staff so we asked for the name of their VP, Customer Relations to escalate this matter with Viking’s management.

We were shocked when Viking stated that they would not share this information with us. After receiving this surprising response to our request, it took a couple of minutes via Google to find out that the executive for Customer Relations is Joost Ouendag and to get his contact details.

We emailed Joost Ouendag 3 times in the course of the next 14 days without any acknowledgement of receipt from him.

Ultimately, one of Viking's customer service reps finally reached us via email and then phone and said that nothing could be done except for the 25% future credit.

It would seem that we would be throwing away good money after bad.

Also, Viking’s offer looks very stingy considering posts on this site that claimed “the June cruise received FULL refund of their cost even though they had been on the ship more than a week and a 75% voucher for future travel”.

In our email to Joost Ouendag back on August 14th, we stated that our satisfaction and future business seemed unimportant to Viking.

Sadly, we still feel that way since our experience with Viking has been extremely frustrating.

Last edited by 81mg; September 5th, 2013 at 09:15 AM.
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  #2  
Old September 5th, 2013, 09:44 AM
pully8 pully8 is offline
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thank you for your frank and detailed review. it will inform others.

very disappointing for you to have experienced such an ordeal. we have enjoyed 6 river cruises, none with viking. their level of customer service is well below what we would expect, given what has been described by many on this forum.

as it becomes more competitive on the rivers people will be more mindful and selective of where to go for a quality experience. lovely new boats must never be secondary to good customer service.

sorry you had the experience you descibed. hope you next trip will be better. given it would not be hard to improve on your last.
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  #3  
Old September 5th, 2013, 11:42 AM
huntersyaya huntersyaya is offline
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My husband and I have done two river cruises in the last two years with Viking. He and I are both professionals and are fairly discerning about hotels, tours, cruises, etc. We have not ONE complaint about Viking after having travelled with them . I am sorry that the poster had such a bad experience but things happen on the rivers and I think most of the companies have to scurry to make alternate arrangements for their customers when the rivers become impassable. The service the poster has described would be frustrating and unacceptable to me also but it is just not what I experienced at all. His description of his one week on the ship "World Class" was what we experienced the entire time on both of our recent river cruises. I appreciate his wanting to make fellow cruisers aware of what happened to him but let's not assume that one cannot have a "World Class" cruise with Viking.
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Old September 5th, 2013, 01:37 PM
SeaTheWorldBySea SeaTheWorldBySea is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by huntersyaya View Post
My husband and I have done two river cruises in the last two years with Viking. He and I are both professionals and are fairly discerning about hotels, tours, cruises, etc. We have not ONE complaint about Viking after having travelled with them . I am sorry that the poster had such a bad experience but things happen on the rivers and I think most of the companies have to scurry to make alternate arrangements for their customers when the rivers become impassable. The service the poster has described would be frustrating and unacceptable to me also but it is just not what I experienced at all. His description of his one week on the ship "World Class" was what we experienced the entire time on both of our recent river cruises. I appreciate his wanting to make fellow cruisers aware of what happened to him but let's not assume that one cannot have a "World Class" cruise with Viking.
Thank you for your post. Hopefully next year there will not be floods or strikes when we take our first ever river cruise on Viking. If something out of the control of Viking happens, I am glad to know they will make every effort to get us to the sights we will have flown to Europe to see. You are right - things happen - no matter what mode of travel we have chosen.
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  #5  
Old September 5th, 2013, 05:17 PM
huntersyaya huntersyaya is offline
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The first time we cruised with Viking another couple picked the trip and Viking. I had read a bunch of "stuff" on cruise critic and wondered if we had made the right choice. It turned out to be a great trip as did the one we took (again with Viking) this year. If you read enough on here you will read good and bad about every one of the river cruise companies....I think Viking gets more hits because it is the biggest so there are more people to be happy and more people to be mad. My experiences have just been good and I feel it is only fair to present both sides. We are actually booked on the new Viking Ocean Liner in 2015 to do Scandanavia and Russia. I am sure there will be some wrinkles during their first season having Ocean vessels but this was a trip we really wanted to do and they just happened to be in the right place at the right time. We wanted to see the Fjords and do the more typical Scandanavian cruise, too. Their itinerary fit the bill for us. Hope you have a great trip(s) next year!!!!
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  #6  
Old September 5th, 2013, 08:10 PM
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Viking Cruises Viking Cruises is offline
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Dear 81mg,

We do apologize that the rolling strikes conducted by Germany’s lock workers impacted your sailing. We did send out email notifications and updated our website about anticipated modifications to upcoming sailings as lock closures became known to us, however, this was after your departure date and while you were already sailing – we weren’t able to alert you, as we too were unaware of the changes before you left. (It’s a bit difficult to explain, but the as the month of July went on the strikes became more unpredictable and often increased in length as negotiations became more contentious.)

It was challenging to make contingency plans at the last minute, in particular because the official statements from the parties in conflict proved contradictory. In an attempt to prevent guests being “trapped” between locks on the Rhine in Germany and unable to proceed to Amsterdam in time for the end of the trip, we did err on the side of caution and provided hotel stays for the last 2 days of the journey. We are disappointed to hear that the service and accommodations did not match that of the ship. And we understand that it must have been puzzling and a little frustrating to realize that the ship did not end up delayed in Germany after all.

As for your difficulty in reaching Mr. Ouendag, he was out of the country during the time when you sent your emails. We have shared this post with him and he plans to call you this week. In the meantime, if you would like to contact Viking directly please know you can reach us at TellUs@vikingcruises.com.

81mg, throughout your post what gave us hope was that your 7 days of the journey that occurred without interruption and as we had intended them were “world class.” We do sincerely want you to travel with us again and experience a full Viking cruise as designed – and we hope that you and Mr. Ouendag will have a conversation that leads to that outcome.

Sincerely,
Viking Cruises


Quote:
Originally Posted by 81mg View Post
My wife and I took the Viking Skadi Grand River Cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam during July 2013. Unfortunately, the rolling lock strike in Bavaria caused very significant problems during the last half of our cruise.

As per the numerous postings on the board, Viking was aware & had knowledge of the strike well before the ship even left Budapest and did not announce it until the day we arrived in Nuremberg. (I wish I would have been aware of these message boards beforehand.)

We docked in Nuremberg for 4 days by a bus terminal construction site with large & very visible waste bins. (Photos are available). We experienced this view, dust & noise for a 4-day period. The upper deck was also unavailable for at least 50% of our time here.

Unfortunately, Nuremberg (a beautiful city) could only be reached by a 20-30 minute ride. And after 2 tours of Nuremberg, we felt that our only choice was to take longer & longer bus rides (up to 3 hours for our last tour) on each of the successive days.

The bus rides were uncomfortable for us with long waits at gas stations for bathroom breaks.

Lunch was often hastily delivered en masse in over-crowded & over-heated restaurants. The quality of the food & dining experience was unimaginably sub-standard compared to our first 7 days, which was world-class. (The on board experience for the first seven days was first rate).

Upon returning from these long bus rides, we were overly exhausted from our day trips to fully enjoy our evening meal. In fact, on some days we arrived back onto the ship only 30 minutes before dinner.

On the fourth evening, the captain announced that we would travel non-stop for the next day on the Rhine-Main-Danube canal to get past the lock strikers. We covered the RMD Canal during the day with only a small & overcrowded outdoor lounge available to us. The area that we cruised is considered non-scenic as Viking normally covers this portion at night.

To add insult to injury, we were forced to disembark two days early and bused to Cologne and then on to Amsterdam only to find out that Skadi was docked in Holland at Kinderdijk on Saturday. Many passengers wanted to stay on the Skadi instead of facing two very difficult and long days on prolonged bus trips.

After long bus trips on these two days, we were offered a sub-standard buffet-style meal. On the last night, the hotel staff was closing down the buffet shortly after we arrived after approximately 8 hours on an uncomfortable bus ride.

We paid for a 14-day luxury river cruise and wound up with a 7-day river cruise and a 7-day bus ordeal. We did not pay thousands of dollars to take a poorly organized & uncomfortable bus tour.

We received an email (dated July 31) upon our return home offering a 25% voucher for future travel.

It took a long time to be able to take this trip and we felt their offer was very inadequate considering that our experience was quite different than what Viking depicts in their marketing materials. In fact, we believed the pamphlets and slick commercials that said that Viking would “take care of us”.

It was clear that we were not making progress with their customer relations staff so we asked for the name of their VP, Customer Relations to escalate this matter with Viking’s management.

We were shocked when Viking stated that they would not share this information with us. After receiving this surprising response to our request, it took a couple of minutes via Google to find out that the executive for Customer Relations is Joost Ouendag and to get his contact details.

We emailed Joost Ouendag 3 times in the course of the next 14 days without any acknowledgement of receipt from him.

Ultimately, one of Viking's customer service reps finally reached us via email and then phone and said that nothing could be done except for the 25% future credit.

It would seem that we would be throwing away good money after bad.

Also, Viking’s offer looks very stingy considering posts on this site that claimed “the June cruise received FULL refund of their cost even though they had been on the ship more than a week and a 75% voucher for future travel”.

In our email to Joost Ouendag back on August 14th, we stated that our satisfaction and future business seemed unimportant to Viking.

Sadly, we still feel that way since our experience with Viking has been extremely frustrating.
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  #7  
Old September 6th, 2013, 12:48 AM
Marty156 Marty156 is offline
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Amazing!
A response from the company...
Now if only Scenic Tours / Evergreen Tours management could go to the same Public Relations course then perhaps many disappointed people would be placated and pacified.
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  #8  
Old September 6th, 2013, 03:53 PM
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remydiva remydiva is offline
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Default A question for the OP '81 mg'

I am sorry your trip went from bang to bust due to the unscheduled rotating strikes at the locks. It has been an 'anus horrible' to badly misquote our Queen after the June floods and now the strikes.

My question is for not only '81 mg' but for others like them who, only AFTER their cruise went bust, did they seek out more information and 'stumble upon' Cruise Critic. The OP said in part:

(I wish I would have been aware of these message boards beforehand.)

I wonder what brought them to find 'us' here on Cruise Critic now, after the fact. If you google 'river cruise', the first thing that comes up is Viking River Cruises, then Uniworld and then at number three 'Cruise Critic'.

We have seen countless sad posts here, particularly after the June floods, with ever so many first time posters telling their tale.

i'm feel badly for them that they didn't google BEFORE they cruised...they would've heard from seasoned travellers and on the ground members here who always provide valuable information and especially during times of crisis.

I hope the OP follows up with the Viking response and is able to negotiate a better compensation than the original 25% one offered.

ps Thought I'd better check my own very first post here on cruise critic....way back in 2006. I was asking for suggested shore excursions in Jamaica on a caribbean cruise with my daughter. The very next week the ship we were on 'Star Princess ' had a huge fire off Jamaica and so I followed closely here on cruise critic as passengers posted their stories and photos that never did show up in other forms of media.
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2001- Viking KD Deutschland- Rhine Cruise, 2002- Ocean Princess – Alaska
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2011- Emerald Princess – TA/Northern Europe,2011- Island Princess – Alaska
2012- Ruby Princess – Grand Med,2012- Viking Njord – Danube
2013- Star Princess – Coastal, 2013- Caribbean Princess- New England/Canada
2014- Star Princess- Coastal

Last edited by remydiva; September 6th, 2013 at 04:00 PM. Reason: added ps
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  #9  
Old September 6th, 2013, 06:44 PM
81mg 81mg is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by remydiva View Post
My question is for not only '81 mg' but for others like them who, only AFTER their cruise went bust, did they seek out more information and 'stumble upon' Cruise Critic. The OP said in part:

(I wish I would have been aware of these message boards beforehand.)

I wonder what brought them to find 'us' here on Cruise Critic now, after the fact. If you google 'river cruise', the first thing that comes up is Viking River Cruises, then Uniworld and then at number three 'Cruise Critic'.
In my case, it was pure chance that I went into the Cruise Critic web site after my Goggle search.

Once I started to browse the different forums & message boards, it was a true revelation.

Better late than never!
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  #10  
Old September 6th, 2013, 06:50 PM
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remydiva remydiva is offline
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Default Welcome!

You are right..better late than never! You will be so glad you found Cruise critic. But....
Once here however, you may become addicted! It happens

However, you will learn more about cruising around the world..free of charge...many posts with pictures that you just cant find anywhere else.

"Our" four german Ccers on the ground gave us up to the minute pics and info when the danube and other rivers were flooding this june. Very helpful to those needing accurate info NOW.

More accurate and more timely than the cruise lines themselves or TAs.
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1961 P&O Orsova -Hawaii- Vancouver, 1962 P&O Orcades -Hawaii-Vancouver
1974 – Island Princess – Coastal, 1996- Regal Princess – Coastal
2001- Viking KD Deutschland- Rhine Cruise, 2002- Ocean Princess – Alaska
2003- Sun Princess – Coastal,
2005- RCI Vision of the Seas- Coastal, 2005- Sapphire Princess – Coastal
2006- Star Princess – Western Caribbean, 2006- Diamond Princess- Coastal
2007– RCI Serenade of the Seas- Alaska,
2008 - Caribbean Princess – Eastern Caribbean,2008- Golden Princess – Hawaii Roundtrip
2009- Uniworld River Empress –Holland/Belgium
2011- Emerald Princess – TA/Northern Europe,2011- Island Princess – Alaska
2012- Ruby Princess – Grand Med,2012- Viking Njord – Danube
2013- Star Princess – Coastal, 2013- Caribbean Princess- New England/Canada
2014- Star Princess- Coastal

Last edited by remydiva; September 6th, 2013 at 06:50 PM.
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  #11  
Old September 7th, 2013, 09:39 AM
Ver50 Ver50 is offline
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Default Viking - poor customer relations

Like 81mg we were also on the Budapest to Amsterdam cruise in July which was badly affected by the Lock keepers strike and wholeheartedly agree with their comments.
Our response from Viking contained the same platitudes as those sent to 81mg and completely ignored many of the points raised. What is in question is, ironically, not the strike but Vikings culpability on how they handled the situation. They were obviously aware of the conduct, duration and probable effect of the strike but chose not to make this known to their customers prior to departure. I wonder how many people would have chosen to travel had they been advised that they would lose 50% of their cruise to an extended bus tour. Viking must have known that there was an extremely high probability that this would happen but chose the option which suited them best. Comments such as “We did send out email notifications and updated our website about anticipated modifications to upcoming sailings as lock closures became known to us, however, this was after your departure date and while you were already sailing – we weren’t able to alert you” are completely misleading. Having been supposedly unable to alert us, they kept us in the dark for the first seven days of the “cruise”. What about comments such as “..and we understand that it must have been puzzling and a little frustrating to realize that the ship did not end up delayed in Germany after all”. Please solve the puzzle for us.

The 25% reduction offer on a future cruise by Viking unfortunately seems to be the norm for the travel industry. At best, for Viking, this will be a no cost option as many customers will decide not to holiday with them again, or at worst, again for Viking, they will have future business with a little impact on overall profits. Indeed, we were offered 25% of the original booking cost, which if we decided to take the same cruise next year would, given 2014 prices, equivalent to 22.5%. I could be cynical and suggest that Viking were more than a little afraid to broach this subject on board and this may be why initial letter from Viking was waiting for us when we arrived home which was less than a day after the cruise ended.

The Viking brochure states “ Discover the highlights of Europe on Viking’s Grand European Tour, and Still enjoy time to relax. This 15 day journey carries you gently along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers, through the most spectacular landscapes, medieval towns and imperial cities” or in Viking speak “ this may be substituted by autobahns and bland countryside”

Customers lost 50% of an expensive cruise and were extremely inconvenienced. Viking should accept this with good grace and recompense passengers accordingly.

I have one slight disagreement with the comment about the “world class” standard for the first week. This was an expensive holiday and as such the cost should reflect the standard expected. For the amount paid, it met requirements, no more and no less.
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  #12  
Old September 9th, 2013, 06:45 PM
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DIST-THDR DIST-THDR is offline
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Default Viking Nightmare

my wife and I are at this moment on the Viking Forseti. On our 4th night out our ship ran into the back of another causing us an 18hr delay, missing our time slots for the locks which led to even more delays, then was involved in another collision,(more delays) and since we have been bused to every port stop since, on the average 1-1 1/2 hr each way. we are still behind by a day getting to Vienna and onward to Budapest. 80% of passengers upset and protesting the problems. Now we have to deal with rotating lock strikes and not sure what is going to happen the rest of the way to get us to Budapest on time. Most want full refunds and are sending off emails and letters to Vikings head office. We have only river cruised 4 out off the 10 days so far. Never again and will make sure the world Knows how bad Viking is at responding.
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Last edited by DIST-THDR; September 9th, 2013 at 06:47 PM.
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  #13  
Old September 9th, 2013, 07:34 PM
81mg 81mg is offline
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Default Update

As promised, Joost Ouendag did contact us this morning.

Our matter has been amicably resolved.
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  #14  
Old September 9th, 2013, 07:38 PM
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remydiva remydiva is offline
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Default Wow

Quote:
Originally Posted by 81mg View Post
As promised, Joost Ouendag did contact us this morning.

Our matter has been amicably resolved.
Glad to,hear you went from " 25%coupon" to " amicably resolved",

Hope DIST-THDR takes your lead and contacts them too.
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1974 – Island Princess – Coastal, 1996- Regal Princess – Coastal
2001- Viking KD Deutschland- Rhine Cruise, 2002- Ocean Princess – Alaska
2003- Sun Princess – Coastal,
2005- RCI Vision of the Seas- Coastal, 2005- Sapphire Princess – Coastal
2006- Star Princess – Western Caribbean, 2006- Diamond Princess- Coastal
2007– RCI Serenade of the Seas- Alaska,
2008 - Caribbean Princess – Eastern Caribbean,2008- Golden Princess – Hawaii Roundtrip
2009- Uniworld River Empress –Holland/Belgium
2011- Emerald Princess – TA/Northern Europe,2011- Island Princess – Alaska
2012- Ruby Princess – Grand Med,2012- Viking Njord – Danube
2013- Star Princess – Coastal, 2013- Caribbean Princess- New England/Canada
2014- Star Princess- Coastal
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  #15  
Old September 9th, 2013, 09:25 PM
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burrma burrma is offline
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Oh my gosh DIST-THDR: ; what a terrible trip; was searching to see if lock strike was still on but you certainly answered that. Hope Viking compensates you well so you can experience a great river cruise another time.

Last edited by burrma; September 9th, 2013 at 09:26 PM. Reason: left out a word
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  #16  
Old September 10th, 2013, 08:40 AM
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Cary Cruiser Cary Cruiser is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burrma View Post
Oh my gosh DIST-THDR: ; what a terrible trip; was searching to see if lock strike was still on but you certainly answered that. Hope Viking compensates you well so you can experience a great river cruise another time.
I think the lock strikes are only in Germany. They are is Austria heading toward Hungary, so I don't think they need to be concerned about lock strikes, but having your boat involved in a collision certainly is worrisome.
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  #17  
Old September 10th, 2013, 05:55 PM
Marty156 Marty156 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 81mg View Post
As promised, Joost Ouendag did contact us this morning.

Our matter has been amicably resolved.
Congratulations!
Seems like enough bad publicity has made Viking sit up and take notice in responding favourably.

Can you now please also persuade Viking to buy out Scenic Tours?
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  #18  
Old September 13th, 2013, 01:36 PM
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Viking Cruises Viking Cruises is offline
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Dear DIST-THDR,

We understand your disappointment and hope you know that we are also disappointed in the way your cruise has been impacted by a series of unforeseen events, including further delays caused by the German lock workers’ strike. It is our hope that some of the complimentary amenities offered have helped to lessen the disappointment. As promised on board, all guests will hear from our Customer Relations team upon your return; it is our goal to make amends and keep you and your fellow guests as Viking travelers. If you would like to contact us directly before returning home, or anytime thereafter, please email us at TellUs@vikingcruises.com.

Kind regards,
Viking Cruises



Quote:
Originally Posted by DIST-THDR View Post
my wife and I are at this moment on the Viking Forseti. On our 4th night out our ship ran into the back of another causing us an 18hr delay, missing our time slots for the locks which led to even more delays, then was involved in another collision,(more delays) and since we have been bused to every port stop since, on the average 1-1 1/2 hr each way. we are still behind by a day getting to Vienna and onward to Budapest. 80% of passengers upset and protesting the problems. Now we have to deal with rotating lock strikes and not sure what is going to happen the rest of the way to get us to Budapest on time. Most want full refunds and are sending off emails and letters to Vikings head office. We have only river cruised 4 out off the 10 days so far. Never again and will make sure the world Knows how bad Viking is at responding.
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  #19  
Old September 13th, 2013, 03:04 PM
ingo_e ingo_e is offline
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In an attempt to prevent guests being “trapped” between locks on the Rhine in Germany and unable to proceed to Amsterdam in time for the end of the trip, we did err on the side of caution and provided hotel stays for the last 2 days of the journey.
I think you do mean "on the Main river", as there are no locks on the Rhine (well, there are, but not downstream of the Main/Rhine confluence).

Last edited by ingo_e; September 13th, 2013 at 03:04 PM.
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  #20  
Old September 18th, 2013, 09:11 PM
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DIST-THDR DIST-THDR is offline
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Originally Posted by burrma View Post
Oh my gosh DIST-THDR: ; what a terrible trip; was searching to see if lock strike was still on but you certainly answered that. Hope Viking compensates you well so you can experience a great river cruise another time.
We were affected by the rotating strikes on the last two locks in Germany, which caused us even further delays besides the 2 collisions our ship was involved in. We would have cleared Germany before the strikes if we had not had the collisions. I will be waiting for the letter or call from Viking before I take this further. We missed the relaxing mornings, enjoying the passing scenery cruising to and from our ports of call, instead spent the time on a BUS, missed our free time in ports because we had to get back on the BUS, missed Krems at Leisure, and again because we had to be on a BUS. I could go on and give you a day by day itinerary of how bad the BUSING became. We also missed the Wachau Valley, which as a Photographer, was going to be the highlite of our 25th Anniversary trip. We had to sail through at night.
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Last edited by DIST-THDR; September 18th, 2013 at 09:28 PM.
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