First let me say, there are some things Viking does well and other things, as we've learned on this cruise, can be disappointing. This was a last minute deal that was too good to pass up although in hindsight, maybe we should have waited. Cruising during the summer in Europe is something we normally avoid and given all the airline problems, this would have been.a good year to not make an exception. The ship itself was nice although the French balcony cabins are pretty tight with decent closet space, but exceptionally limited drawer space. Bathrooms are functional, but again, pretty small. The food was good, but we would have liked to see the cuisine better reflect the surroundings. On other lines, there seemed to be more emphasis on the area in which you are sailing. That is not to say that Viking didn't offer a locally inspired tasting menu, but that was pretty limited to a few set items and only at dinner. There was a German themed buffet one night and we would have liked to see that offered more often or even at other meals.
The cities we visited were wonderful and the Viking included tours, for the most part, were very good. So much of that experience is dependent upon the tour guides assigned to each group and we were lucky that the ones we had, almost universally, were engaging and enjoyable. The one exception was our tour guide to the Black Forest, who decided that almost non-stop droning was what we wanted. He pretty much talked non-stop going and coming (1 1/2 hour drive to and 1 hour return). While I'd like to think this was an exception, after talking to other people who were on the same tour with a different guide, they also had that experience.
There is an adage that speaks to the fact that it is easy for a company to provide good customer service when things are going well, but the true measure of customer service is what happens when things don't go as planned. In our estimation, that is where Viking really failed. We had booked our airfare through Viking and we were among the many thousands impacted by the one day Lufthansa strike. We were set to fly home on Wednesday and learned of the pending strike on Tuesday morning. We immediately went to the Customer Service desk on the Einar and asked whether Viking was going to take care of us. They told us that Viking was aware of the situation and they were working on it. We continued to check back during the day to see if alternative arrangements had been made. We offered to call Viking ourselves to see what options we had and were told that would just muddy the waters. So we waited and went about our included tour. After dinner we thought we needed to check again as we were originally scheduled to head to the airport at 5:30AM the following morning. You can imagine our amazement when the Cruise Director said, sorry but this wasn't Viking's responsibility and it was between us (think there were 15 of us effected by the strike) and Lufthansa. So instead of us being able to proactively deal with the situation throughout the day, at the 11th hour, we were now responsible. He went on to say that we should all just head to the airport the following morning and contact Lufthansa. What it felt like to us was as long as you are off the ship, we really don't care. He said if we didn't go to the airport we would be "no shows" at which point we said you can't be a "no show" if your flight was cancelled by the airline. He remained adamant that we all needed to go the airport and deal with the non-existent Lufthansa staff. After returning to our cabin and trying to sleep, decided to try and contact Lufthansa at 3:00AM. You can imagine our amazement when we finally got through to Lufthansa only to be told that Viking had already made a change to our reservation and therefore, our one time free change was already made. With that piece of information, we called the Viking Emergency line and were told, yes, we did have new reservations. However, those reservations would not be until Saturday (we were off the ship on Wednesday). We said that wasn't an acceptable solution as couldn't just extend our vacation another 3 days. We were able to find some alternative flights that had us leaving Wednesday morning on a 7:10AM flight, but not arriving home until midnight. Given we were told the only flights we could take were the 7:10 AM Basel to London, the 4:15PM London to Los Angeles, and finally the 8:40PM Los Angeles to Denver that would get in at 12:15AM. As these were the only flights offered we raced to the airport to catch the first flight. When we arrived in London, there was a text saying that the flight to LAX was delayed by over 2 hours and we knew that we would never make our connection. Once again on the phone with Viking to try and preemptively deal with what we knew would be a problem. The response from Viking was to quote the airline contract of carriage saying that if we missed our connection the airline would need to deal with us. Once again, Viking's attitude was clear - not our problem. After that, we realized if there was a solution to be found, it wouldn't come from Viking. Decided that our best chance to make it home was to see if the United Desk at Heathrow could help. For the first time since this saga began, we finally found someone willing to help. To our delight, we learned there were non-stop flights that morning from London to Denver. The United Agent said she would put us on standby for a flight leaving in just 2 hours and if we didn't make that, we could be confirmed on another non-stop leaving in 4 hours. So the question is, why weren't we offered one of those flight to begin with rather than an inefficient routing. We did get on the first flight and made it home early afternoon. Whatever enjoyment we might have had on this cruise, was quickly overtaken by the very stressful ending.