We just returned from a Grand European River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. Since we had heard rumors about water levels being low and some itineraries were being changed we contacted Viking prior to our departure. Each time we were ... Read More
We just returned from a Grand European River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. Since we had heard rumors about water levels being low and some itineraries were being changed we contacted Viking prior to our departure. Each time we were told that our itinerary was NOT affected by low water levels and were assured that we would sail uninterrupted from Amsterdam to Budapest. We even called the night before boarding in Amsterdam and were told that our ship (the Mimir) was docked and waiting for our arrival the next day. Upon arriving at the dock our ship was not there, but a sister ship, the Vili, was. This was the first sign of trouble. Upon questioning the cruise program director we were again assured that even though this was an identical sister ship there was no change in the itinerary, and that no ship transfers were scheduled.
However, halfway through the trip we were told that we would be changing ships and would be bused to our new ship's (the Mimir) location. This entailed packing (avoiding this is a primary reason for us to cruise), losing a good portion of a day of the trip on the transfer bus and then unpacking on a new ship. Then, two days before we were to end the trip in Budapest we were told that the water level in the Danube would not allow us to make it to Budapest. So, we were docked alongside 3 other Viking ships in a run down, non destination, Slovakian town, spent 3 1/2 hours on a bus to and from Budapest, only to have to do it all over again the next day after disembarking the ship. We were informed from one of the crew on the first ship (Vili), that they had only made it all the way to Budapest one time in June, and that the low water levels and ship transfers had been occurring all summer.
We had an extended stay scheduled for Budapest, but if we hadn't, we would have hardly seen any of it, due to the time wasted from being bused to and from. We understand that Viking has no control over water levels, but they could have and should have been honest about the situation, so we could have made an informed decision as to whether or not to take advantage of our cancellation insurance, or at the very least, we would know what to expect and be ready for.
The ships' staff were excellent and real troopers about the whole thing, even though these situations demand a lot of extra work from them. The service was also very good. The ships were brand new, very nice and as advertised, and we saw and experienced a lot of wonderful scenery, villages, and cities. Food was nicely presented and plentiful, but not the best we've had on cruises. Unless you don't go on the "included" tours/excursions, free time in ports for exploring, shopping, etc, was far too short, sometimes only being 45-60 minutes...not enough.
It's unfortunate that we were intentionally deceived by Viking, and because of that, we're not comfortable with recommending using this cruise line. Once you've been obviously lied to, it's very hard to trust again. We may not be taking the ocean cruise we were planning to take with them because of this experience, but will be contacting senior management to see how they respond. If you're considering this or other river cruises, we strongly suggest that you to your due diligence in finding out about high and low water conditions, as they can really affect your experience. We don't anticipate doing another river cruise, and will most likely stick with ocean cruising, because we do love cruising. In summary, except for the deceit, ship transfers, and short time in ports, if the river levels are good, it's a great experience, but not cheap. We would have rated this cruise higher if not for the downsides mentioned above. Read Less