Viking Sun Cruise Review by DuncanPB
- Sail Date: April 2019
- Destination: Around the World
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.
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