My husband and I had been planning a wonderful birthday celebration for him, so we decided on Viking. We had heard from many friends on how superb and excellent it was to travel with Viking. This was not our first cruise as we have done several cruises at least 1 every 2 years, fortunately enough with other very high-end lines - Oceania and Regent Seven Seas. We are lucky enough that we can afford high-end cruise liners so we thought Viking would be in the same category as our past cruise experiences! We booked the Eastern European cruise from Bucharest to Budapest from Aug 21-28, 2019. Boy were we SO wrong!!!
I am currently sitting in my hotel room on August 25, in Sofia, Bulgaria writing this review, we have been here since August 23. The reason I am writing this today and posting to all different websites instead of communicated directly with Viking is because we have already tried that. We had an extremely unsatisfying phone conversation with Viking customer service when we arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria after disembarking. The lady on the phone was quite rude and dismissive of our issues. She was unwilling to admit any fault with Viking Cruises or their services and told us that we “chose to leave” therefore, there was no compensation for our dissatisfaction and that we should of purchase travel insurance. Really?
Based on how we have been treated so far, we would not consider another Viking Cruise. We are on the younger side of their demographic, are active on social media, and have a wide circle of friends. If this is how we are treated, I cannot imagine how they dealt with the very elder members of the cruise.
This is how are travel story began: We literately got on the ship on August 21 and disembarked and left on August 23 (being my husband's birthday)- two days into our cruise! The last thing you want to do is pack again when you have only spent 1 night on a ship. But it was such an awful and uncomfortable experience and my husband was so unhappy, we made the decision to leave the ship and told the ship's hotel director that we were disembarking on the next port of call (Vidin, which by the way, the ship did not stop there, but instead we made it to Lum as the ship had some issues getting to Vidin! - not surprise, as we were late the day before arriving to the first port of call Russe, Bulgaria to pick up the majority of the passengers who got off for their tours in a different location).
Just think to have to decide to either deal with this awful experience for another 5 nights or cut your losses and leave ship, we chose the latter. We had to at least close the day of his 60th birthday in a place we would be more comfortable at.
To start, we arrived on Saturday, August 17 in Bucharest from the US as we wanted to spend a couple of days on our own touring the city. We are not big on group tours and prefer doing our own thing (this is another big problem if you travel with Viking but will fill you in on that part of the story later). We were told to speak to our local Viking contact at the Sheraton Bucharest hotel - where we were staying as part of their 1 day pre-cruise land offer (and at least it is a very nice hotel, and since I hold Platinum status with them, we were upgraded to a lovely suite).
Pre-cruise meeting August 20th in the evening – Sheraton Hotel: The Viking person there told us to have our luggage out by 7:30 am on August 21 and to meet in the lobby by 9 am. She indicated that there would be a scenic tour through the city on our way to a location for lunch and then a bus ride to the ship. What we were not told or even offered, especially for those guests that had already been in the city for days prior to cruising, was given an option to go straight to the ship from the hotel.
August 21, ship boarding day, what really happened:
Stop 1 - they bused us around the city again and took us to Old town (our 5th time there, remember, we arrived on August 17th!), then wanted to give us a walking tour of Old town, why??? We told them we had already been there 5 other times, so instead my husband and I sat around some bank building steps for almost 2 hours while the rest of the guest did their so called "tour" what a waste! At this time of day (9 am) all of Old Town restaurants are closed and only some coffee shops were open, we just had breakfast at the hotel as instructed!
We sat around from 9 to 11:30 am! I asked Diani (or Dina) our very confused tour guide on bus 14, if there was a better option for us that we could meet them at the restaurant, she actually threatened and said that if we did not arrive at the restaurant, we would have to take a private car to the ship and that was about 1 hour and 45 minutes ride, so my husband and I decided to tag along.
Old town tour is done thankfully, and now they tell us we are going to the Parliament building for a 10-minute picture stop and finishing up at the Museum of the Villages before lunch.
Stop 2 - We crossed through town again, and saw the same scenery, the arch, the revolution square, heard the same stories and finally arrived at the Parliament location again and after 10 minutes those that got off for “picture moments” got back on the bus, where the tour guide and her very valuable assistant proceeded to do a head count and appeared that they were short 1 person as she stated that we were originally 37 on our bus (#14) and now we were 36. She then told us that we could not leave until such person was found and asked us if we knew this person? How could we know such person as we just all boarded 2 hours ago, none of us have even met, let alone know all the passengers on board? She didn't even know if we were looking for a man or woman. After an almost 45-minute wait in the parking lot, they finally gave up and we headed to the Museum of the villages tour.
Stop 3 – Museum of Villages - What a dump, The is and old, mosquito infested open air museum that has the different house structures of Romania within its compound, we were forced to be there for 2 hours, so again we tried to find a decent place to sit while we waited for our 2 pm departure. We sat in an un air-conditioning hut where they Come to find out, that during this tour, the tour guide's quiet head sets and microphone were not working so no one could hear her talking about this 'wonderful museum'.
Again, my husband and I do not like group tours, and we made this clear to the agent when we booked our cruise directly with Viking, he told us we could also do our own thing, really?
Stop 4 – LUNCH - So now we are down to lunch, oh boy, it was at Pescarus by a local lake (why not Hard Rock cafe next door, at least the building is nicer, and they have real a/c and great food). The tour guide made it sound that this was an exceptional high-end restaurant with wonderful local food. This restaurant reminded us of an old 70 diner in Vegas, the food was some type of composition of lots of onions with some 3 pieces of meat, potatoes and bread, with some side salad. Wine, water and if you only asked beer, as they didn't voluntarily offered beer or told us it was included in our meal. My husband had already gone to the bar and paid for his as we didn't know it was also included. This was lunch – nursing home cafeteria!!! Oh, and some local folkloric dancing was provided for entertainment. Guys this is what you call luxury travel and superb top of the line service, read your advertisement, it is a SCAM, total SCAM!!!
Then finally we are off to the ship, almost 2 hours into the drive, the tour guide's information about Romania is focused on that people have their own gardens, grow their own vegetables and fruits, and have cows, chicken, and pigs in their lands, and indicates "to the left you will see some cows, to the right you will see how gypsies live. Coming to the right again are more cows and some chickens"? Really... ok so we finally arrive the ship....
Finally, on board - Room was quite small, but appeared comfortable at least, we had room 323 on the highest level with a Veranda (never got to use it). The ship has NO WOW factor, it is small, clean, but small. Our room had a mini bar but of course empty why would they want to even fill it up with sodas, juice and beer for you, like most "LUXURY" cruises do when you pay such a high-price, of course not, we are just cattle and their job is to hurry you up to the next port of call get you off the ship and put you on another awesome tour for the day, give you some petty lunch and bring you back for dinner. We could see this coming.
We had a decent dinner and some drinks at the bar and called it a night, we could not get much sleep as people were walking above our room, since we were on the top floor above us was the walking track! There is a taped paper sign by the railing asking guest that as a "curtesy not to walk between the hours of 10 pm to 7 am" did they see, read or listen, no! So between toilet flushes (oh yes, they have some type of vacuum system that is so loud, you can hear everyone’s flushes all night long - remember, the majority of passengers on this ship were over 70, I think we were the youngest, so they go to the restroom a LOT! And the guest walking above our room, we probably got 4 hours of sleep, but we thought when they all get off the boat tomorrow, we can relax and enjoy the ship and sleep in -- not!
We were told that for those that were not going on tours in Russe, Bulgaria the next morning, they could lower their room speaker’s volume so you would not be disturbed! Right!!! 7:45 am a loud speaker wakes us up, literately we both jumped out of bed, as they had to announce the departing time for tours!!! We tried to reduce the speaker volume, and were unsuccessful as it was broken, so we knew now that sleeping in would not be an option for the next days.
We decided to try and go to bed once again after everyone got off the boat and this is where the real meal plan begins. You see they offer breakfast from 7-9, because they don't expect any one to remain on the ship, why would they bother to extend breakfast time to maybe 10:30 for those that do want to stay onboard. All luxury ships provide some type of meal service throughout and 24 hours. This ship does not offer ROOM SERVICE, so you are screwed. You must eat at hours told, if not, you will end up like us with no breakfast or lunch for our first full day on board. By the time I got up on the first day of cruising (Aug 22), we both missed out on breakfast, tough luck! They had some breads and cold cuts, but forget some nice eggs or omelet, bowl of cereal or warm toast.
We decided to stay on board to see how the experience would be as we had decided not to join any of the "free tours" based on our pre-cruise tour experience we could see the quality and decided to just get off where we could at each port of call and do our own thing (of course we didn't get to do that as we permanently got off the next day!).
1st full and last day on board - here it goes, we have no real breakfast, for lunch we both napped again and by the time we woke up we had missed the light lunch they sat out for the maybe 12 passengers that stayed on board. So, we ate what was left before they picked up by 2 pm. My husband likes to smoke his cigars, and proceeded after lunch to go to the upper deck to have one and enjoy the river view, to his amazement, they had removed all shading in the designated "smoking" area at the back of the ship, he literately sat in the withering sun at 90 degrees F trying to enjoy his cigar, he could not and just got up and we ended up spending the remaining of the day in the a/c lounge area. There is absolutely no wait service in the upper deck. If you want to get a drink, you must go down to the bar and order one. You are on your own. By this time my husband was so fed up with how the services are on board and the limited staff that is available we were so disenchanted that I only wanted to be off this ship!
So, this is how the meals program works, breakfast is 7-9 am, lunch 12-2 pm, however, the restaurant is not open for those days where everyone or the majority of passengers our off on tours. So, the only day that lunch would even be available in the restaurant is the 24th as it was the only "Sailing day" to "enjoy the luxuries of this ship" a joke.
Dinner starts at 7 pm as per their program sent to us. Not true, on the ship we were told that if you did not make it past 7:20 pm in the restaurant, most likely you would miss out on your appetizer, and if you got there by 7:45 pm you would might not get your main course, so of course everyone like cattle, herd over to the restaurant right at 7 pm! What a joke, where is the luxury in this, the comfort, why work on your time vs. ours! We are paying for this service it is not a nursing home, but we sure felt like it!
We were so disgusted with this that we didn't even put in our dinner order we went back to our room and discussed our options, we decided to cut this trip short and leave! Didn't care where, just leave!
I spoke with the Hotel director on board and explained that we were so disenchanted with this whole experience we just wanted off the boat. We left August 23 at 9 am to never, ever turn back.
We ended up having to pay for a driver to take us to Sofia, Bulgaria $200 Euros. Booked a room at the Hilton in Sofia for 5 nights and booked two one-way plane tickets $1500 K to take us from Sofia to Budapest on the 28th as we already have the 2 post days in Budapest booked with Viking. We don't head home until the 1st of Sept so it would of cost us a lot of money to change our first-class seats back to the US for an earlier departure, plus Budapest has been on our bucket list for a long time.
So, to summarize our experience, if you are looking for true luxurious travel, with all the comforts of high-end cruising VIKING IS NOT, again NOT FOR YOU!
Our advice, please do your research, I failed to do this, and we relied on what people we knew that travel like us had shared! I didn't bother to read reviews, or investigate further, since their pricing and advertising is similar to those true luxury lines, we didn't think twice on booking. However, lessons learned, from now on it does not matter how experience travelers we are, we will always check. I am so upset about this, this cost us over $15,000 K, we could have done a beautiful resort in Hawaii or a luxury pent-house cruise in the Caribbean for this price, but no, we chose Viking due to their misleading, false advertising.
As I initially stated, I called their customer service number once we arrived at Sofia, Bulgaria to ensure that they would NOT cancel our hotel in Budapest as it was part of the package and to also request a partial refund for such an awful experience. They lady on the phone proceeded to tell me that we didn't buy trip insurance and therefore, we were not owned anything back! As we chose to leave, no lady, you gave us plenty of reasons to leave that is the big difference!! We didn't buy trip insurance, why would we, we are both healthy and had every intention to make this trip, it is my husband’s 60th.
She told me that if we would have purchased it, there would have been a partial refund. NOT TRUE, their trip insurance does not refund you for dissatisfied services only for the following as per their brochures:
CANCEL FOR ANY REASON WAIVER DETAILS
What We Will Do: Under the “Cancel For Any Reason” Waiver, we will waive our cancellation penalties and reimburse you in cash or travel vouchers (depending on the reason for cancellation) for the nonrefundable portion of your Viking trip cost, provided that you cancel before your scheduled departure.
We will also waive any additional fees you would otherwise incur for a change in your per person occupancy rate if a person booked to travel with you cancels his or her trip and you do not cancel your trip.
How You Are Reimbursed: If you cancel for one of the “Specified Reasons” listed in the Protection Plan document, we will reimburse you in cash. If you cancel for any other reason, we will reimburse you with a travel voucher that can be used for future voyages with us. The maximum amount covered under this “Cancel For Any Reason” Waiver is the cost of the travel arrangements provided by Viking Cruises.
TRIP INTERRUPTION AND DELAYED ARRIVAL - Provides You with a reimbursement for the unused prepaid, non-refundable Payments or Deposits for Your land or water Travel Arrangements for Your Trip, plus the additional airfare cost to return home, if Your Trip is interrupted for a covered reason.
MISSED CONNECTION - Provides You with a reimbursement for the unused portions of Your land or water Travel Arrangements, plus the additional costs to join Your trip, if Your arrival at the Trip destination is delayed for 3 hours or more for a covered reason.
TRAVEL DELAY - Assists with additional travel expenses incurred when You are delayed at least 12 hours due to a covered reason. In the event of a covered delay, You will be reimbursed for additional expenses for hotels, meals, and transportation.
AIR FLIGHT ONLY ACCIDENTAL DEATH & DISMEMBERMENT - Provides coverage up to the maximum benefit payable for loss of life, limb or sight resulting from an Accidental Injury.
MEDICAL EXPENSE/EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE - Provides Medical Expense benefits for a covered Sickness or Injury incurred while on Your Trip. When required, We will evacuate You to the nearest qualified hospital and will then return You home when You are safe to travel.
POLITICAL OR SECURITY EVACUATION - Provides coverage for all reasonable evacuation expenses incurred for Your transportation to the nearest safe haven, if You must leave Your Trip for a covered Political or Security Event. Evacuation must occur within 10 days of any Political or Security Event.
BAGGAGE & PERSONAL EFFECTS - Provides reimbursement when Your baggage or personal belongings are damaged, lost or stolen during Your Trip. Personal belongings include such things as loss of luggage, jewelry, passports or travel visas.
Ms. Viking Customer service or better yet, Mr. Hagen (CEO and President of Viking) tell me where you would reimburse me if we were unsatisfied with your services if we would have even opted to buy your so called “travel Insurance” oh but yes, another scam.
Things to know, the main drive of Viking is to sell you tours, to get you off their ships like cattle herding as they now don't have to entertain you with drinks and meals on board. They put you on buses and bus you around and give you nice bottles of “warm” water and some type of lunch meal, then bus you back to their ship and feed you again to put you back to sleep in your corral and do this all over the next day. I call Viking a low-class glamping service, that really is what they are.
There is absolutely no way to reach out to those higher up in the Viking organization, but one wonders if they are possibly well aware of these selling methods and activities. It is all about driving profit. I feel that as a consumer is my right to advocate for us travelers, and if publishing my review throughout all travel sites will have my voice heard, I will do until I have someone in the Viking organization try and appease this situation with us and reimburse us partially for such a disappointing and disastrous experience. I will also be disputing this with my credit card company. Also, anyone would be so kind, please share this review.
Again, thank you for taking the time to read my review and feel free in reaching out to us, united we have a bigger voice.
August 25, 2019 Read Less