An Unfortunate Journey
As a retired advertising executive from the creative side and an agency principal, I have long been impressed with Viking's marketing. The branding is clean and well-targeted.
In retirement, my wife and I have done a lot of cruising --- fourteen trips so far and counting. Two of our favorite cruises have been with Viking. I'm sure that our Christmas Market journey down the Rhine on the Helvetia from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam this past December would have been equally enjoyable. There was snow, shopping, and hot mulled wine. What could be more festive than that?
Unfortunately, I developed food poisoning on the third day of the voyage. Ultimately, that situation developed into a much more serious condition requiring surgery and long-term hospitalization.
When people ask us about Viking, and they often do, we answer by saying that they have beautiful ships, visit fabulous ports and cities, offer excellent guided tours, provide outstanding cuisine, and are staffed with friendly, helpful crews.
But sadly, having to deal with Viking at the corporate level after our voyage has made my respect for this company diminish slightly. This is a shame, because both my wife and I have always looked forward to and enjoyed our Viking cruises.
We found that Viking's Customer Relations Department was not an advocate for us in dealing with their travel insurance provider Travel Guard. I was told by a Viking representative that the company could not and would not provide any assistance with our claim.
Travel Guard did finally pay us a small amount for "Trip Interruption Reimbursement." And just recently, we received payment for our out-of-pocket expenses at the emergency room in Cologne, Germany. But the whole process took over six months, numerous phone calls, and 80 pages of documents.
So what could we have done to make our insurance issues less of a hassle? Well, an individual at Travel Guard suggested that we should have contacted them from the ship, explain the circumstances, and let them provide a course of action. They would have made arrangements for getting me to a hospital, and for us to fly home if medically necessary. Apparently, this would have made claim settlement easier.
Our memories of The Rhine Getaway Cruise with Viking River Cruises will be of 30 days in the hospital, eight additional weeks on a wound vacuum, six months of struggling with Travel Guard over a pathetically small claim, and a lack of interest for customer concerns by Viking. Perhaps a phone call from the ship to our travel insurance provider would have left us with happier memories.
By the way, US Air was most helpful in assisting us on our trip home from Amsterdam to the USA. They went out of their way to make a very painful flight a little more comfortable. Thanks US Air!