Um no, no thanks. Never again.
I signed up for a Viking River Cruise "Christmas in Germany" cruise in April 2017 for my mother's 50th birthday on assurances we would see "tons of Christmas markets" in Germany ... Read More
Um no, no thanks. Never again.
I signed up for a Viking River Cruise "Christmas in Germany" cruise in April 2017 for my mother's 50th birthday on assurances we would see "tons of Christmas markets" in Germany - which was the ENTIRE point of the trip to Europe during Thanksgiving. Otherwise we'd have stayed home, it's cold, it rains, it's miserable but the Christmas markets are legendary and something my mother has always wanted to see. So for her birthday, I paid for this cruise.
I booked the most expensive room - one of two Explorer Suites on the third level at the aft of the boat. Our ship was set to depart Nuremberg on 25 November with everyone embarking on 24 November for a 7-day cruise culminating with a final stop in Cologne.
The brochure had the Nuremberg Christmas Market on it - one of the most famous in Germany. It spoke of all the Christmas merriment and smells of mulled cider and Christmas sights we'd see during our cruise.
During our first nightly port meeting - our cruise director, George, informed us that the markets in Nuremberg, Bamberg, and Wurtzberg were all not yet open and were set to open the following week (after we'd all gone home). This meant of all the sights we'd see and places we'd stop - we would see only two markets over seven days - Koblenz and Cologne. Instantly pissed off.
Now, during our cruise it rained and rained and rained. It was also freezing. So all our walking tours were miserable. And no markets. Also, because of all the rain, the water level was so high that our boat only barely moved once and we had to be bused long distances early in the morning from the boat. Hours on buses. Dinners in town at cheap places because we'd get back so late. This happened for about three days before we were eventually forced to disembark three days early (two nights left) and stay in a cheap hotel 40 minutes outside Cologne.
Essentially, I did not get to stay in expensive suite I paid for for two nights, I didn't see the Christmas Markets I paid for (as they were not open yet no one checked the calendar), I did not get the food I paid for for several days (breakfast, lunch and dinner two days in the hotel) and then when we ate in town due to the 3.5 hour one way bus rides we ate at places that ONLY served beef and brat and cabbage - for two additional days lunch and then dinner not to mention the fully stocked fridge and snacks in our room that are complimentary which we did not have at the cheap hotel. I eat very healthy and expected the various menu options on the boat (fish, veggies, etc.) Viking is not cheap and I expected to get my money's worth. I did not. Not even close.
Viking tried to make some things up to us - booking a stop in Miltenberg to shop (still no market) - and booking a cheaper option (fried chicken and soggy veggies for lunch) on a day boat to tour the Scenic Rhine - but it was too little too late for me as we'd spent HOURS on buses. You could also skip Wurzburg and the beautiful Wurzburg residence and go back to Bamberg for the Christmas market again another day - my mom wanted to see the historically rebuilt residence. Also, you could pay even more money (I'd already paid $10,000 for this cruise) to go on an extra excursion to Heidelberg and see their Christmas town (I don't think their market was open but they have an all-year store-type thing) which I chose not to do because, again, I'd already spent $10,000.
Apparently you get bused a lot anyway during these - sometimes 2+ hours each way to these places. I thought the boats pulled into the towns. No.
When I returned I demanded a partial refund - Viking initially offered me a standard $1100 in a future voucher. I said no. They then offered $3300 for a future cruise that I had to book in the next 12 months before it expired and wanted me to sign a non-disclosure. Are you kidding?! For a VOUCHER. They don't sell cruises that are cheap - so in order to see any compensation for this farce of a cruise I'd have to pay them MORE money. At this point - I never want to cruise with them again. Let alone give them thousands more. That is bad business and not a way to compensate customers for mistakes.
Their customer service is awful and I have been put off by the entire experience. I expected better. They told me that they were only "offering" four Christmas markets during this cruise. News to me and everyone else I spoke to on the cruise, most of who flew on Thanksgiving night specifically for the Germany Christmas markets and were devastated not to get to see them and had verified with booking agents and customer service they would see ALL of them in every town we visited. Instead, we saw where they were being set up and would be open the following week for the next cruise. I mentioned that the most famous of the trip, Nuremberg, was on the first page of the cruise booklet and the agent, Rayna, who I spoke to, informed that the photo was simply for marketing purposes and we were never going to see that one, despite embarking and spending two days in Nuremberg. That is shameful. Well, of the four they "offered" - I got to see two of them. Even had they all been open, the schedules were so packed with bus rides, lunches, and walking tours of the cities, at best we had a hurried 30-60 minutes to walk the town by ourselves anyway. So the Christmas markets were never the main attraction - they were simply an afterthought. Extremely disappointing to my mother and I who planned the entire trip ONLY on the markets since she has wanted to see them her entire life. Otherwise, I could easily have visited Europe during warmer and less rainy and windy months when I could've enjoyed it.
From Googling the company at this point I see this part of Germany has issues often with low or high water and clients being removed from boats and swapping to others. What a pain. Also, many complaints against Viking for cruises with issues where they refuse to try to make it right. I for one, plan never to use this company again and I would strongly encourage no one else to either.
Viking continues to hold onto the flooding as my main concern in any interaction we've had - when really - it's more about misleading me about the Christmas markets and the calendar. I'd never have booked had I known I was only ever going to see 4 Christmas markets to begin with - they let everyone think the theme of the cruise was that and book according.
Acts of God are one thing - but messing up Christmas market schedules and misleading customers then claiming they got to do "most of what was promised" (a direct quote from a snarky customer service agent who told me I had no recourse and they would not be discussing with me further) is simply not OK. Most of the individuals I saw on the cruise were elderly - extremely so - and probably take the vouchers for future cruises - don't complain - and don't go posting reviews all over the internet. I'm 33 years old and and I LOVE to travel and I travel 5x or more annually on luxury trips. I had hoped this experience would foster some loyalty for me with Viking and offer another way to travel for me and my friends and family. I had high expectations for them. I even had high expectations they would make this right when I got home and so far I have been nothing but massively disappointed.
Bottom line - Viking River Cruises misrepresented what this cruise was about and is now refusing to offer compensation aside from vouchers (which will cost me more money to use and I am not accepting that) for my missed Christmas markets, two nights of missed accommodations and missed food services on a restricted diet.
**Update 29 December 2017: I just spoke to the very polite and apologetic Viking agent who has been trying to contact me about this issue - I was now offered either 50% off a future cruise - or $500 in cash but both will require an NDA be signed. I'm not signing an NDA for a voucher Viking River Cruises. You owe me a cash refund and much more than $500. You misled every single passenger into thinking they were going to see all those Christmas markets and you are trying to cover the mistake up. There were a ton of elderly people on that cruise and most of them traveled on Thanksgiving day to be there. You should be ashamed. My mother and I spoke to dozens of people who were all furious and upset as they had only done this particular cruise for the markets. Now I'm being told Viking was only ever "offering" four. News to me. Even still, I only saw two. Do better. I appreciate the apology - but asking me to spend more money with you after a mistake this big - is nothing but bad business.
**Update 30 December 2017: BUYER BEWARE - Viking River Cruises has shady social media, PR and customer service tactics involving having employees leave 5-star reviews and having multiple reviews left to push down bad ones. I have refused to sign an NDA as they will not refund my money - today they disabled their reviews on their Facebook site which seems a response to this review I posted on 27 December 2017 about a recent Christmas in Germany Cruise I took where they mis-represented the scheduled events - they can't delete it however - so the link below shows the original review - I've also posted it on my own FB page, on Yelp, here and made it public for all internet searches so it can be found. Bc it had so many comments and likes it was still at the top of the "Most Helpful Column" and they couldn't have that....
Original review link for Viking River Cruises on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alison.mccombs/posts/10104486688307539:0 Read Less