[Resolved] Viking River Cruises / romantic danube disappointment!
We took this Viking Var Romantic Danube River Cruise for my husband's birthday and our 25th wedding anniversary, from Nuremberg (well actually Erlangen) to Budapest. Having seen the beautiful Viking commercials on television for years, we were enticed. It was our first ever cruise and we wanted an 8 day river cruise due to the fact that we are both easily sea sick. However, the ads do NOT show the whole picture and the experience was also spoiled by no air conditioning for 3 days on our side of the boat, because they could not get the right part. No A/c in August meant 2 sleepless nights, as they could not provide us with a fan. One night we left the balcony door open for cool air but ended up with a cabin ceiling covered in black gnats! We went to the front desk as we did not know what to do with them and they brought a vacuum to suck them up expertly-obviously they had done this before!
Our Romantic Danube cruise actually starts out on the Main Am Danube canal which is not very attractive (although interesting when you go through the 27 locks) -certainly not the vine-covered hills we were expecting to be looking at as we sat on our balcony. The first day we were tied up at an industrial dock opposite a recycling plant-see pics at Erlangen-half an hour from the pretty city of Nuremberg. We had paid extra for the balcony room, but did not use it that day as we did not want to sit looking at a corrugated iron fence for a whole day. It soon became apparent that the balcony was a waste of money as we could not use it 4/7days due to being tied up next to another boat which were exactly aligned so you could see into each other boat's cabins and no doubt touch hands on the balcony-hardly private and certainly not Romantic!
The cabin was cosy but well appointed, with plenty of storage so that we could get our things put away. The bathroom was very compact, but again had good storage and sufficed for us, though we are not sure how large or tall men got into the shower! Although it was described in the brochures that wifi was available-it really was only available when docked and pretty sketchy at other times, although we did find one corner of the lounge (beneath the captain's bridge!) with better reception. Other indoor areas of the ship were attractive, which was fortunate as we were unable to sit on the sun deck for most of the trip due to the high water and the inability to get under bridges, unless they laid everything flat, which took the crew 3-4 hours to do apparently. Again something not really described in the brochure.
Meals on board were indeed fine dining, but as big time foodies, we could not really classify the dinners as gourmet. For example, they never asked you how you liked your meat and at the first dinner they overcooked everyone's steak and fish. Moments of excellence however were the pastry chef's creations for tea and dinner and the breakfast and lunch buffets, with interesting salads, fresh fruit, and freshly prepared egg dishes or sandwiches and soups. The first day buffet lunch was a particularly nice welcome. Service was generally good and we quickly learned who were the best servers and most friendly. There were a few who were obviously in training (reaching across your plate when you were still eating etc) Meeting new people at dinner was one of the best aspects of the trip. We had thought at first, it would rather be like middle-school, trying to find someone to sit with in the dining room, but we found nearly every passenger to be open and friendly and we could easily find a topic to discuss.
The tours were generally well run and interesting and we only had one guide (on a rainy day in Vienna) that was tiresome and confusing with his spiel about the Hapsburg dynasty (even for a history major like myself). Everyone else seemed to balance out the history and interesting facts about the area and country. The expensive optional tours, we chose: Cruising the Danube Narrows, Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna and the Apricot Dumpling making at the Gottweig Abbey, were excellent. However, we felt the organization of the first days' tours were poor: we would have liked to have taken the optional tour of the Nuremberg WWII history but it was at the same time ( Saturday morning) as the included City tour, because we had to sail in the afternoon to get to the next dock. However, if, as we reported, we had spent the first day tied up in Nuremberg and started the whole cruise there, instead of Erlangen opposite the recycling plant, we could have Saturday afternoon to do the optional tour. We could have then sailed in the evening and night. We know this fact as we met a couple from California on the Sunday who had missed the first 2 days due to their plane from LA being cancelled and they had to try and get to the boat at Nuremburg, but the boat was not there and they had to be bussed on again to Regensburg-and they might have been able to join the boat on Saturday evening in Nuremberg. It should also be noted most of the tours left at 8-830 which did not invite a leisurely morning. In addition, since the boat was not docked in center of city (except for Budapest), it meant a bus ride of at least 30 minutes to get to the attraction. Due to the high water one day we were bussed 1 1/2 hours to the city of Regensburg- and then another 1/1/2 hours to rejoin the boat which finally was able to make its way down to the correct dock after sailing all day. My husband was so frustrated to have yet another long bus ride-he actually picked the option of staying on the boat, but of course missed his already- paid for tour. In fact, the commercial’s voice over "Spend more time being there and less time getting there..." kept going around in our heads through out the cruise!
Entertainment on the boat in the evening was low key, but enjoyable with talks about the EU, the Canal, and coffee houses of Vienna, music and trivia quizzes and delightful musical entertainment from an opera group and Bavarian band, as well as the resident Sonya, singer and piano player. Tatiana, our program director kept the up beat spirit going through out the trip.
Our last night in Budapest was probably the epitome of the commercial, when the captain took us for a "romantic" cruise around the illuminated sights of the city, narrated by Tatiana. The views were spectacular and we were glad that we ended with Budapest, rather than taking the cruise in the opposite direction, otherwise we would have felt we had gone from the "sublime to the ridiculous."
We have travelled to Europe for over 25 years, due to having family still there, so have experienced many aspects of traveling abroad and while this cruise was enjoyable, it was certainly not the once-in-a lifetime trip that was advertised in their commercial and that we had long awaited. We feel that Viking should elaborate more on the exact details of the trip and the inconveniences of being tied up, alongside other boats, in industrial areas requiring a bus trip to the attraction. When we contacted Viking customer service on our return, they only would give us a future credit of a $1000 off another trip for the lack of air-conditioning for 3 days-so really not compensation for the most expensive and disappointing trip we have ever taken. We are not sure we will repeat it for my decade birthday next year…..
Customer care service did everything in their power to resolve this complaint. All attempts to contact the complainant have failed. Therefore, this complaint has been annulled and must not be considered where image of the company in question and it's services are concerned.
Viking River Cruises Customer Care's Response, Aug 31, 2016
Dear Mrs. Fannon:
Thank you for taking the time to detail your concerns. We are truly honored that you chose to celebrate such a special anniversary with us!
The issues you’ve described are understandably frustrating and we, too, are disappointed that your itinerary was impacted by unfavorable river conditions.
Although we do understand that your previous interaction with our Customer Relations team has left you dissatisfied, we are interested in further pursuing a resolution with you. Our records indicate that, since the posting of this review, a Viking representative has reached out to you directly to discuss your comments. We appreciate that you may have a busy schedule and hope you are able to connect with one another soon.
Mrs. Fannon, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to respond to your comments. We are confident that our representative will make every reasonable effort to restore your faith in Viking's commitment to customer service.
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