My wife and I traveled with 16 friends on the Hermod. Our experience was a tale of two trips. During the time we were cruising and on the ship, our experience met expectations: a handsome ship, comfortable cabins, a choice of wonderful ... Read More
My wife and I traveled with 16 friends on the Hermod. Our experience was a tale of two trips. During the time we were cruising and on the ship, our experience met expectations: a handsome ship, comfortable cabins, a choice of wonderful dishes, pleasant service and a helpful staff. But as described below, the trip turned into a mediocre experience at best. Therefore, I must give the cruise a terrible rating for the failure of Viking to deal appropriately with the problems detailed below.
To give some context as to our expectations for the trip, the Viking brochure describes the "Portraits of Southern France" trip as follows:
"With its ancient towns, beautiful scenery and incredible food and wine, there is no place quite as evocative as southern France. On this magical 8-day voyage, sail the scenic Saone and Rhone Rivers, alongside some of France's most picturesque scenery. With its fabulous food and wine, you can look forward to a memorable journey of discovery."
Our trip certainly didn't meet this description.
We boarded the ship at Chalon-sur-Saone on Sunday, May 31 (Day 1). The ship did not actually leave Chalon until the afternoon of June 1 (Day 2) when it cruised to Tournus. Those who were on the afternoon bus excursion did not experience that cruising as the bus met the ship in Tournus. The ship then left Tournus at approximately 5:00 p.m., arriving at Macon at about 8:30 p.m. This brief period was the only daytime cruising we experienced.
The ship left Macon after midnight and arrived in Lyon the next morning, June 2 (Day 3). At that time, we were informed that the ship had hit something, at least one of the propellers was damaged, and the staff was assessing the problem. The ship never left Lyon. Thus, the ship cruised only on two days, Days 2 and 3, and the amount of time actually spent moving on the river was less than a day, most of it at night while we slept.
On Wednesday, June 3 (Day 4) instead of cruising to Vienne, we were taken by bus to Vienne for either of the two included, scheduled walking tours.
On Thursday, June 4 (Day 5) we were offered two options: 1) a bus trip to Tournon for the included tour or 2) a guided tour of a Lyon art museum. There were 60 people on the museum tour with only one guide—totally insufficient for the size of the group. The tour in Tournon was supposed to include either 1) a morning tour of Tournon with chocolate and winetasting or 2) a steam train tour. However, the steam train tour was no longer offered as an included option. Because of the long bus ride to Tournon, the “morning” tour took all day rather than the half day it was supposed to have taken.
And of course there was no afternoon scenic river cruising as shown on the original itinerary. By Day 6, we had not docked at Vienne, Tournon, Viviers, or Tarascon. Thus, we had no opportunity to view the scenery along the river or leisurely explore those towns as suggested by the original itinerary.
On Thursday, June 4, we were told that we would leave the ship on the next morning and be taken by bus to Arles and then to Avignon where we would stay in a hotel for the rest of the trip.
On Friday, June 5 (Day 6), after leaving the ship, we took a four and a half hour bus ride to Arles and were offered either of the two included tours of Arles. The afternoon was supposed to have been an optional tour to Les Baux and the St. Paul de Mausole hospital near St. Remy de Provence (which many of us had signed up for), but that optional tour was no longer offered due to the lengthy bus ride to Arles. Instead of having a wonderful lunch on the ship, we were taken to a large restaurant in a Best Western hotel for a group lunch of beef served over rice. We had virtually the identical dinner that evening in Avignon, beef served this time over pasta. In contrast to the meals on the ship, no choices were offered. Rather, one set meal was provided, and it was hardly the “Farewell Reception and Dinner” listed in our itinerary.
When buses took us to our hotels in Avignon, our particular bus had no Viking personnel on it. After a full day of getting on and off the bus, a large group of us were left on a street corner just outside the city wall for almost 30 minutes waiting for a Viking representative to take us to our hotel. Our driver and none of us had any idea of where we were staying. While most of us are fit, there were several travelers who could not handle the trek.
On Saturday, June 6 (Day 7) we had the scheduled walking tour in Avignon. A group lunch was provided in a nearby hotel restaurant, and again there was a fixed menu with no choice. Dinner was at our hotel again with a fixed menu, this time hamburgers.
The Viking personnel in Basel, who apparently were handling our situation, provided no additional support to the Viking staff who accompanied us to Avignon. Our hard-working and very over-taxed program director and hotel manager did their best in a trying situation. They, however, were not given logistical support required to move passengers to four different hotels, inform guests of the next day’s activities, or provide details on leaving Avignon at the end of the trip.
We want to emphasize that the problems with the ship were not due to low or high water levels, which would have been natural conditions beyond Viking’s control. Rather, our cruise was interrupted by a mechanical problem, and our ship never left Lyon where it arrived on Day 3. Viking put us in a hotel inferior to the accommodations on the ship. The meals that were provided after we left the ship in no way compared to the cuisine on the ship.
After the scheduled stop in Lyon when our ship no longer cruised, we were denied the amenities that accompany cruising -- the picturesque scenery; the comfortable lounges and sun deck; the cultural enrichment programs; the entertainment; the variety, quantity, and quality of cuisine; complimentary wine, beer, and soft drinks; the assorted coffee and tea available 24/7; the convenience of unpacking once.
The Viking brochure touts the benefits of river cruising as follows:
"Nothing compares to a river. How else but on a river can you journey into the very heart of the world's greatest cities and most charming towns, strolling off to begin your exploration.
How else but on a river would you travel with such ease, unpacking just once and enjoying the ever-changing scenery along the banks?
Comfortable and convenient, river cruising offers a greater variety of destinations than you can find any other way. Spend less time getting there, and more time being there. Small wonder so many people have fallen in love with this relaxing, immersive and thoroughly enjoyable form of travel."
Our experience falls well below these standards. We spent a lot of time “getting there” and much less time “being there.”
As for compensation, Viking has provided a voucher valued at 25% of the fare that we paid for the Portraits of Southern France cruise for another cruise. The future cruise must be booked within a year. This is inadequate compensation for what we experienced. The voucher is little more than a promotional ploy, not much different than the discounts Viking regularly offers.
Although there were good things about our trip, I must give Viking a terrible rating for mishandling the situation and not offering fair compensation. Read Less