In our opinion Viking pulled a bait and switch as they knew well in advance that they were not going to be able to deliver the experience touted in their advertising. This was affirmed by my conversations with crew members on all 4 ships and by the local tour guides. All admitted that it had been over 2 months since Viking had been able to provide what was advertised. The Program Director also admitted to me that Viking should have given guests a better idea of the changes planned for the cruise prior to sailing and given guests the option to reschedule or cancel. He agreed that Viking knew more than one ship change was going to be extremely likely-well we ended up on 4 different ships for sleeping and 5 if you include the 2-3 hour daytime cruise on 10/23/18. That means packing and unpacking 6 extra times in addition to having to get up very early and have our bags outside our door very early on 3 days. I do not do well on busses due to getting car sick and the extensive bussing we had to take left me either nauseated and with a migraine (on days I did not take any medication for car sickness) or fatigued and wrung out (as a side effect of the anti-nausea medication I took on other days). I would definitely have cancelled if I had known how much bussing was involved (3.5 hours Budapest to Vienna on 10/14, 1.5 hours each way for a total of 3 hours to Regensburg on 10/18, 3.5 hours to Nuremberg 10/19, 1.5 hours to a smaller boat for a couple hours cruising then 2.5 hours drive to Cologne for a total of 4 hours on 10/23). That meant that 4 of the 14 days were I felt crappy due to bussing.
I will recap the trip in our eyes:
10/12: Arrived in Budapest and boarded the Idun. The ship seemed "tired and worn". Informed no cruising to Vienna. They made it seem like this was a last minute change but the crew confirmed the ship had been there for weeks.
10/13: Budapest sightseeing
10/14: Up at crack of dawn to ride bus 3.5 hours to Vienna (sucked as stated above) and boarded boat #2, the Vili. Walked around Vienna sightseeing.
10/15: Sight seeing Vienna day 2 interrupted by ship leaving port early at 6:30pm instead of 11:30pm. Our evening plans were ruined. I got a panic text from my uncle at 5:50pm just as we were being served at the Sacher Hotel informing us the ship's plan had changed and we needed to be on board before 6:30pm. We threw money on the table (37 euro) to cover the bill and made a mad dash across the city back to the boat arriving at 6:29pm. My uncle informed the Program Director that we were high-tailing it back to the ship but they failed to inform us or him that they were making a back up plan in case we did not make it in time. So we were totally panicked. When we did arrive (just in the nick of time) the Hotel Manager and Program Director had the gall to actually yell at US because we were upset. They did not see a problem because "we had a back-up plan if you did not make the ship". They did not understand why we would be upset. They failed to communicate said back-up plan to us or my uncle for him to communicate it to me via text. You cannot imagine how anxious we were trying to race back to the ship. They also made no attempt to contact us when they made the decision to leave early-leaving that chore to my uncle. We missed out on our evening plans in Vienna, were out 37 euro for the Sacher tortes/Viennese coffee we never got to enjoy and were totally panicked on our way back to port.
No apology has been made or effort to offer us compensation for the money we paid for food we never got to enjoy in Vienna or the panic caused by Viking that day. Program Director and Hotel Manager stated to us it would be addressed and that they were emailing Viking corporate on our behalf but when I tried to follow up on this I was given very vague assurances (which I did not believe) that it would be taken care of after the cruise. I asked to be CC'd on the email and have not received any. I know 37 euro is not a large sum but it is the principle of the thing.
10/16: Pleasant cruise of the Wachau Valley to Melk. Sight seeing at the Melk Abbey. Nighttime cruising to Passau.
10/17: Woke up to a beautiful view (sarcasm here) of cranes, industrial tanks, bull dozers and dumpsters in Passau. Notified no cruising to Regensburg and that we would be staying in this industrial port until 10/19. Sightseeing in Passau.
10/18: Bussed to Regensburg, sight seeing in Regensburg (excellent tour guide). No ability to explore on our own as planned due to need for bussing back and forth. The lunch arranged was salty and substandard in quality. Bus ride back to the industrial port.
10/19: Forced to be up early to vacate the boat and board bus for 3.5 hour ride to Nuremberg. 1/2 day of sight seeing in Nuremberg with no ability to or time to explore on our own as planned due to bussing. Substandard lunch. Boarded boat #3 the Gefjon.
10/20: Sight seeing in Bamberg in morning followed by a pleasant cruise in the afternoon/overnight to Wurzberg through locks.
10/21: Woke up with pretty view of Wurzberg. Sightseeing on our own in the morning with a guided walking tour in the afternoon (very good guide).
10/22: Sightseeing in Wertheim (excellent guide), glass blower talk on ship in afternoon, cruising on Main River in afternoon.
10/23: Up to pack for the 4th boat change. 1.5 hour bus ride to a smaller boat for a 2-3 hour cruise and a substandard lunch. Excellent tour of Marksburg Castle. 2.5 hour bus ride to Cologne (nausea and migraine). Boarded boat #4, the Mimir in yet another industrial zone ("lovely" industrial piping, power plant and tank views) 4+ miles from town. Needed to change from an 8 person table to an adjoining 10 person table (to accommodate all those in our party who had returned for dinner that night at one table) while the waiter was in the process of taking our orders. He was visibly "pissy" and rude about the change.
10/24: Cologne guided tour was OK. Needed to walk 4+ miles from industrial dock to town to explore on our own in the afternoon/evening. Viking did provide a shuttle service but only between 2:30 and 5:30 pm even though the boat was at the dock until 10:00pm.
10/25: Cruising Waal River, very good tour of Kinderdijk windmills.
10/26: Disembarkation in Amsterdam was smooth.
When each bus ride was announced they underestimated the time spent on each bus by anywhere from 30-60 minutes.
General comments on service, food:
Idun: average service in dining room, average quality of food, very poor dessert quality (cakes very dry/overcooked), good cabin service.
Vili: excellent service in dining room and cabins, very polite staff everywhere, food quality was fair to mediocre at best, desserts remained poor
Gefjon: dining room service was substandard: many mistakes in orders, bread would be served but had to ask for butter, hot water for tea but no tea bag or sugar brought so had to ask, quality of food was better than on the Vili but not by much
Mimir: Maitre D was very attentive but serving staff was downright rude and surly, order mix-ups continued and the bread butter tea issues were the same, quality of food was mediocre but the desserts did improve
Bar service on the Aquavit terrace was spotty on all ships
Few vegetables were on the menus/came with meals. Some in our party routinely asked for extra vegetables and the waiters were visibly put out by these requests.
Only 2 meals the entire trip were what we would consider really good quality: the chateaubriand and the duck.
Lastly (I know this is very long winded), we never got to explore several of the ports independently as we had planned and Koblenz was skipped entirely in all the bussing and ship changes. If I wanted a bus trip of Europe I would have booked a bus trip (never going to happen). We did enjoy our traveling companions and other passengers on board.
Viking has offered 50% of what we paid for this cruise as a credit toward a future cruise, but that is off full price. Nobody pays full price and the standard actual price paid is 2 for 1 so they are not really offering anything to compensate us for this bait and switch trip. In fact they would make 25% more on a subsequent cruise fair with the "deal" they are offering. We paid over $9000 for the 2 for 1 so the full price was over $18,000. They are offering $4500 off so that would result in us paying $13,500 for a future cruise which is a ridiculous offer. As an alternative they offered $250 cash each if we signed a nondisclosure agreement. I have emailed 2 separate Viking representatives (Stephanie Maldonado and Larry Rice) and called one representative Larry Rice and left messages twice but have not heard anything back from them since the email offering the above.