I recently took my mother on a Viking river cruise from Basel to Amsterdam. This cruise was the 70th Birthday gift to my mother and was supposed to be very special. I did a lot of research before purchasing from Viking to ensure that the surroundings, program, activities and entertainment were superb, and certainly Viking US commercials did support this notion. My mother also was looking very much to this special occasion as she does not get out much and at her age the opportunities are becoming more and more limited.
Unfortunately this cruise was a complete failure. We only sailed two out of 8 days, missed at least a third of the planned attractions, and also had to switch ships after 5 days. While Viking on-board personnel did blame the weather and the rains, it is my strong opinion that the company should have been better prepared with the backup plans to avoid or minimize the disruptions. Viking has been in business for a long time and has beautiful commercials so anybody would expect that the company was well prepared for dealing with regular nature occurrences such as low water or high water. That proved not to be the case, however.
We were bussed to and from attractions most of the days always returning to the ship, spending very long hours on a bus “enjoying” highways views. While this did offer some sightseeing opportunities, it cannot compare to cruising on the river that we paid for. In fact there is a huge, several fold difference in price between cruise cost and analogous bus tour cost - it feels extremely unfair that we paid for the former one and got the latter one in return. In fact on a bus tour we would actually stay in different places, thus spending less time on the bus than we did on this so-called cruise.
The first three days the ship did not move from its updated location at Breisach where we were bussed on day 1. It was basically used as a floating hotel, far from attractions and requiring long bus rides. At least half of the time my balcony and big windows that I paid extra for were blocked by another ship. While we were on a bus on day 4, the ship moved from Breisach to Kehl.
On day 4 of the cruise the ship finally sailed with passengers from Kehl at midnight and moved for about 2-2.5 hours, stopping by the lock in the middle of nowhere.
Day 5 of the cruise we spent the entire day and night on the ship by the lock without any sightseeing. The Viking personnel kept talking about us coming through the lock “any hour” and continuing our journey but it never materialized. In the end the ship (Idi) went back to our original dock in Kehl where we spent the night and then were bussed to the second ship (Qvasir). We should have done this at least a day earlier to avoid skipping attractions but instead the time was wasted.
On day 7 we skipped more attractions because now the ship had to cruise non-stop to make it in time to Amsterdam – thus we “enjoyed” the industrial views with stacks and plants that were supposed to be cruised during the night. That was our second cruising day.
I would also like to comment on the attitude of on-board Viking personnel. Understandably the passengers had a lot of questions about backup plans so that they could manage their disappointment and expectations better. The personnel did not handle the inquiries well, in my opinion. I witnessed one passenger trying (very politely) to ask her question twice with no answer from Viking and having her microphone taken from her in the end. Apparently the captain was eager to talk about ship specifications and engine power but was not prepared to talk about when and how we would be sailing.
I can go on and on about our cruise but I think the points above describe the situation reasonably well. In summary this was a very disappointing experience for me and my mother who had such high hopes, and many other passengers of Idi. Viking did offer 25% discount toward FUTURE cruise with Viking but in my opinion this is not an adequate compensation for our already occurred and failed cruise. It presumes that we would actually chose another cruise with Viking which is highly questionable considering the very poor experience. Perhaps the company counts on that?
My advise to anybody thinking of going on a Viking river cruise - read more reviews before making a non-refundable payment and do not think that this is a rare occurrence that would never happen to you. It is not that rare and does happen regularly. I am hoping that this information will help my fellow travelers to make informed decisions not clouded by colorful commercials of Viking and manage their expectations well.