1. In our opinion, Viking Cruises is more a marketing company than a holiday provider. Marketing is what they do best, full of promises, fabulous photos and presentations to make you believe you'll be travelling with ... Read More
1. In our opinion, Viking Cruises is more a marketing company than a holiday provider. Marketing is what they do best, full of promises, fabulous photos and presentations to make you believe you'll be travelling with the best cruise line in the World. Comparing Viking's handling of our complaint with the volume of their marketing material sent simultaneously by email and post, Viking's priority is marketing.
2. Our cruise was ruined by loud mechanical noises which kept us (and many others) awake every night. Viking staff did absolutely nothing about it, other than to make us feel like fussy, inexperienced passengers. Instead of putting things right, Viking staff tried to cover it up.
3. The boat was new and clean, but many of the brochure promises weren't met, including WiFi available throughout the boat and in our cabin.
4. Apart from a bigger cabin, you get nothing extra for paying more for an expensive cabin (i.e. meals, excursions, etc. are the same for all).
5. Meals were mediocre and certainly not the treat one looks forward to on a cruise.
6. Excursions are good and well-rehearsed, with generally good guides.
7. Many crew were friendly, helpful and attentive, but a significant number were surly and somewhat unhelpful.
8. The impressive Viking "Service Guarantee" is virtually worthless and once we'd made a complaint, Viking made it clear that they weren't interested in retaining us as valued customers, but just wanted to get us out of the way as quickly as possible.
We had our cruise in April 2015, so you may wonder why this review is so delayed. It took us several months to agree compensation with Viking for our ruined holiday, without being gagged by their non-disclosure agreement (more about that below).
Before the cruise, our main concerns were on-board cleanliness and the weather. The Viking Var was very clean, although before entering the restaurant, we were not required to use the hand sanitisers provided. As for the weather, apart from the day travelling to Passau, we had fabulous sunny weather throughout the cruise.
So what went wrong?
We were kept awake every night by loud mechanical noises in the boat, which affected virtually all passengers. Despite reporting the noise problem every day to Viking staff, not only did they do nothing about it, but tried to suppress passenger complaints and make us believe that we were fussy passengers who didn't realise that such noises are just part of cruising! By the end of the cruise we were completely exhausted from lack of sleep, unable to enjoy the excursions, or anything else. When we got home, it took us several days to recover, so we made a formal complaint.
We were greatly reassured by Viking's "Service Guarantee" (which promises 100% refund if a complaint can't be resolved within 24 hours), until we tried to use it. To qualify, you must have left the cruise prematurely and made your own way home at your own expense! Clearly, not many passengers would choose this - imagine a group of pensioners disembarking onto the banks of the Danube with all their luggage. For us the journey home was about 1,000 miles, but much further for passengers from outside Europe. The Viking "Service Guarantee" is fatuous and provides no credible protection.
Initially Viking offered us a 25% discount off another cruise! In other words, their idea of compensation was to sell us another holiday, from which they would profit. Only when we threatened Court action did we eventually reach a cash settlement. Then after reaching an agreement, Viking said we would only receive the money if we signed their "acceptance letter", which they said was for our benefit. Their "acceptance letter" is nothing more than a gagging order:
"In consideration of the above refund referred to the above beginning as of the date of this Settlement Agreement 10th June 2015, neither this Agreement nor its subject matter shall be discussed with anyone other than the parties to the Agreement or their attorneys, except as otherwise required by law. We/I also agree to take all steps reasonably necessary to protect the confidentiality of this Settlement Agreement and to prevent the Settlement Agreement from falling into the public domain or public forums or into the possession of unauthorised persons or persons who do not work for Viking. We/I agree that, if asked about the status of any claims by or disputes between the parties to this Settlement Agreement, We/I shall not communicate the terms of the settlement except to state that this matter has been amicably resolved as this agreement is subject to a confidentiality clause"
In other words, we would have to remain silent about the matter for ever, except to be able to say that it had been resolved amicably! This seemed so onerous that we immediately rejected their offer, as they had changed the terms of our settlement after we had agreed it.
After further prolonged negotiations, we eventually received a full cash refund for the cruise, plus the cost of a supplementary excursion, without having to sign their disgraceful "acceptance letter".
The Cruise Itself:
We were in a cheaper, lower deck cabin (or "state room" as Viking annoyingly called it). Those in the more expensive cabins received exactly the same excursions, meals, etc., some having paid several times what we did. The cruise itself wasn't bad, greatly helped by the lovely weather, but it wasn't fantastic either, so paying considerably more wouldn't have made it any better. Passengers in the upper decks heard the same noises that we did (except perhaps not quite as loud).
The success of your cruise depends to quite a large extent on the quality of the Cruise Program Director, who in our case was George. While not terrible, he wasn't much good either, spending quite a lot of his time sucking-up to the more affluent passengers (presumably those who might give a bigger tip) and telling us uncomfortably personal "funny" anecdotes during passenger briefings.
The boat itself was new and clean and there was adequate lounge space. If you want to sit on your own for a quiet read, you may end up having to sit in one of the areas by the stairs, which is OK, but not ideal and hardly luxurious.
Viking say there's free Wi-fi on board, which you can get all round the boat and in your cabin. We found there was no Wi-fi when sailing. Even when moored, the Wi-fi was very slow and limited to certain public lounge areas and we certainly couldn't get any signal in our cabin - maybe that's something the more expensive cabins had. On a cruise we don't expect a fast broadband connection, but we'd prefer that Viking didn't promise what it doesn't fulfil.
Excursions were generally good and well rehearsed. We found the Quietvox units, provided to all passengers, very helpful. Guide quality was variable, but usually good. Buses were new, clean, reliable and punctual with careful drivers.
Meals were nothing to write home about. Holiday breakfast is something I look forward to, but here it was usually a bit rushed as we all had to get away for excursion departure. Instead of lovely fresh coffee, it was served pre-prepared in vacuum flasks, to enable staff to serve us quickly. The breads were always delicious and fresh, but otherwise the buffet, while OK, was nothing special. Lunch was mediocre, served either on the Aquavit Terrace and in the restaurant. The Aquavit Terrace lunch depended on good weather and was more-or-less a barbecue, or salad and limited choice. The restaurant lunch wasn't much better. Dinner was supposed to be the meal of the day, but was generally average, with some quite odd courses and small portions. There were some "standby" courses that remained the same every day (e.g. steak, salmon, etc.), but on a cruise one hopes for better than that. In the restaurant there were no tables for two. Sharing with others is fine, but sometimes it's nice just to sit as a couple. As a cruise progresses, cliques develop, who "own" their group table. We were told a number of times how the kitchen staff performed miracles in a very confined space, which is probably true. However, it should be remembered that the Viking Var was built for Viking to their design, so Viking chose to make the kitchen area small, to allow for more cabins for paying passengers.
Some crew/staff were fantastic, while others were quite surly and unhelpful. We had read how the crew's contracts of employment had recently been changed to their disadvantage, so that may explain why some weren't particularly enthusiastic.
Would we try Viking again? DEFINITELY NOT! Read Less