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2 Durban to World Cruise Reviews

We just returned from "Along Africa's Western Shore" where we found ourselves joining (unwittingly!!) the last 4 weeks of a World Cruise, with a major impact on our experience! I have looked at many negative reviews of ... Read More
We just returned from "Along Africa's Western Shore" where we found ourselves joining (unwittingly!!) the last 4 weeks of a World Cruise, with a major impact on our experience! I have looked at many negative reviews of this cruise on cruise critic and I can assure everyone that they are all true!! This is a lengthy review but it's only a summary of the key issues we faced.: there is much more I could say! Although elements of our experience were first class, there were issues with the management of the cruise that fell very short of our expectations. The ship we sailed on, Viking Sun, is beautiful and the crew are excellent. The service experience on board is first class. Our issues mainly relate to the arrangement and subsequent management of the cruise itself. The cruise was not marketed to us as the final leg of a world cruise, which is very significant. We did not appreciate this at all until late in the booking process. Initially this meant that we were unable to book the excursions we would have liked, as all the really exciting ones were long since fully booked when we were allowed access!! It also meant that we found ourselves joining a cruise where most passengers were already starting to look forward to leaving when we got on board; where aspects of the passenger experience had become a bit stale; and where many passengers were very set in their routines and relationships (with other passengers, with the crew and with the cruise director, who barely acknowledged guests who were not ‘world cruisers’). A further issue in relation to the marketing of the cruise was the number of sea days, which was hidden in the correspondence. To exacerbate this, we then experienced additional sea days due to missing calls into Luderitz and Casablanca (see later) making a total of 16 sea days out of 28 days on the cruise - that's 60% of the time and nearly twice what we expected. Whilst it’s very nice to be on the ship, we did not expect to be sat around it quite as much as this! I laugh at the current Viking radio ads talking about how they spend ‘more time in port and less on the ship’! To expand on the on-board experience, many passengers exhibited a 'sense of entitlement' above those passengers joining in Durban for the final leg. Additionally the daily activities were really focused on an elderly American world cruise audience and we expected a far better on-board schedule. The daily schedule always included 3 sessions of bridge, 3 sessions with knitting or crafting, and several other 'non-events' that were all for the world cruisers. This is very poor: well below our expectations, and what we have experienced elsewhere. The cruise itinerary looked good when we booked, but it was only really the time in South Africa that met our expectations. There were issues all along after leaving S Africa: we were unable to land in Luderitz due to slightly rough seas; Walvis Bay was OK but there really isn't much to see there at all; in Dakar, Senegal we were told it was perfectly OK to take the shuttle bus into town, so that's what we chose to do. This could not have been further from the truth. A frightening experience!; Santa Cruz, Tenerife is a nice place but we managed to dock there on a holiday when 99% of shops were closed; Casablanca. Well what can I say! The Captain chose not to travel here due to a potential storm in the Bay of Biscay a few days later and he wanted to travel through the bay ahead of the storm. Whilst I understand this, in fact the risk appeared quite low and, as far as I could ascertain, the storm moved far to the north west by the time we would have travelled through the bay. This seemed to be an extraordinary and extremely ‘risk averse’ decision. In place of Casablanca the on-board team added Portsmouth into the itinerary!!! This caused ructions on board and I am not surprised. I truly suspect this decision was a 'lazy' one based around the fact that Viking Sun uses this port of call anyway, so it was easy to arrange a tour schedule, and because it was no doubt easy to find a berth in such a large port. Further, when we challenged this decision on board, there was a sense that the entertainment staff felt it would appeal to the largely US passenger base. But for the British passengers on board this was a poor decision again. We live around 90 minutes from Portsmouth and have been there many times: why would we go there on a cruise? We almost decided to leave the ship in Portsmouth and I believe some Brits did so. The outcome of the above change is that, as well as missing out a key port on the cruise, we then ended up with nearly 2 full days of excess time to 'lose' in the English Channel before the ship was due into Greenwich. At times we were barely moving. There are so many ports we could have called at along the French coast - in fact we could have easily managed 2 ports of call north of the Bay of Biscay in the time we had available. This would have taken a lot more work to arrange of course, but vastly improved the cruise experience! So, we spent the last 5 days of our cruise travelling only a few hundred miles, very close to the UK! Summarising the itinerary overall, the time in South Africa was great, but the rest of the Western Africa experience was a big let-down and for about the last 10 days of our cruise it felt like the ship was operating a ‘close down’ routine. We loved the ship and the core Viking experience, but we did not receive what we expected. As a British passenger on this cruise we were definitely second-class citizens overall, which is not what you expect at this huge cost! I am a few weeks from our return home when posting this note. That’s because I took the trouble to write directly to Mr Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises, because I felt there were a large number of issues that the company should be aware of in planning future cruises. Having taken the time to write personally to an executive of the company (at the US head-quarters) I did not expect to receive a letter from a customer services agent a full month later. The response made light of the very serious concerns that we raised, IGNORED the key issues, and had the audacity at one point to refer to ‘force majeure’. I wrote again the chairman and, a few weeks later, received a further letter from customer services basically telling me to go away! Viking cruises have an astounding inability to listen and respond the like I have not come across with any other company. They are not listening to their customers and will thus not achieve their very high ambitions for the business! Responding to concerns should not be an exercise in ‘customer relations speak’: it’s an opportunity to turn a concerned customer into a real advocate, but right now they have succeeded in creating a significant detractor. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
We picked this cruise line based on reviews and reputation. We picked this cruise for the its itinerary and excursions. Viking missed the mark all too often, then when they had the opportunity to offer some accommodation for their error - ... Read More
We picked this cruise line based on reviews and reputation. We picked this cruise for the its itinerary and excursions. Viking missed the mark all too often, then when they had the opportunity to offer some accommodation for their error - chose to pour gasoline on the fire. Save your money and your sanity - sail another cruise line. I will acknowledge that the ship is lovely, but that is where the good news both starts and end. Our bed was like concrete and the towels were worn. The sheets were heavenly. Finally after a week, they had added enough mattress toppers and foam that we could sleep with waking up with aches and pains everywhere. Our pre-cruise extension to Victoria Falls, advertised as 4 days/3 nights was really 2 days as 2 days were spent in airports and on planes. The specifics of the travel arrangements were not disclosed until we arrived at our Johannesburg hotel. The transfers were to include all portage, yet we had to manhandle our luggage from the airport carousel to the bus for transfer to the ship. Daily activities: This cruise was 50% sea days. Normally, I am fine with that. But, this ship had very little to do day-to-day. There was one 30 minute exercise class at 8AM - go figure. Or you could sit with the knitting instructor for 2 hours in the morning, then repeat in the afternoon. Or you could make dolls from wood spools. If you played bridge - have at it for 3 or 4 hours a day, Repeat on every sea day! The food: Well, the starting ingredients are high quality. But the preparation is bland, tasteless and insanely inconsistent. The Chef's Table served tasty, hot food. But the main dining room, Manfredi's and World Café all failed on both those counts. We ordered the gnocchi at Manfredi's 4 time and it was different every time, proving that the kitchen didn't care about consistency or quality. And what should have been light, fluffy potato-based pillows where instead dense, lead pellets - they went back. Hot food was almost never served hot and we eventually gave up and simply ate from the cold tables. We spoke to all levels of kitchen and restaurant staff, each listened intently and empathetically and yet over 28 days - NOTHING CHANGED. If you have dietary restrictions, specifically Celiac disease, you will be hard pressed to stay healthy. We travelled with several people afflicted with this disease and can testify to the facts that wait staff and sometimes kitchen staff could not accurately provide ingredient information and no one took care to prevent cross contamination of gluten-free items as serving utensils were moved from platter to platter by uninformed passengers and crew. Excursions: This is where Viking really blew it. There was a nice selection of optional excursions including many opportunities to see the native animals of Africa, which frankly is the only reason we picked this itinerary. I spoke at length to the Viking representative about the tours and pricing prior to booking the trip. Unfortunately, every one of those excursions was sold out long before we were able to book any excursions, getting a waiting list was a challenge for us and Viking told my travel agent that there were no wait lists - which turned out to be a lie. Our segment was the last one of World Cruise and even all of them didn't get the excursions they wanted. Viking's response - a sharp stick in the eye and a terse "take the included excursion". Well, excuse me, but no one flies half way around the world and spends their hard earned money to sit on dirty buses, ride around filthy cities and look at buildings whose better days were decades ago. That Viking responded in that way illustrates a basic lack of customer service skills and no understanding of their customer base. In talking to on ship personnel who bore the brunt of wide spread discontent, there were approximately110 slots for safari and safari-like excursions across all African ports for 950 passengers. Really, Viking thought it reasonable to have capacity for just over 10% of passengers?? On cruises with Crystal, Regent and Oceania, we were rarely locked out of an excursion or suffered through a bad meal. For Viking this was the norm and at this class of service it is simply unacceptable. IN SUMMARY, SPEND YOUR MONEY WITH A CRUISE LINE THAT UNDERSTANDS AND VALUES YOU AS A CLIENT. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019

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