Terrible Viking Customer Service and Response

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Apr 7, 2021
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We have been trying to get the attention of Viking management on the issues written below. Over the past month we have had conversations with a customer service representative who can do nothing of essence for us. We have written twice to Mr. Hagen (the CEO of Viking) with no response. All we ever get is another phone call from the representative saying he is speaking for Mr. Hagen and there would be no change in their position. Its bad enough that they won't budge one bit but to not even extend the courtesy of a call from even a mid-level manager is terrible customer service.

Please see the below text (with obvious redactions) of our emails to Mr. Hagen....

I am writing to you with respect to Booking Number XXXXXXX, a Viking Ra trip in Egypt for Calvin and Vikki Switzer beginning December 17, 2021.

Our trip was originally scheduled to begin on December 25, 2020 but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus. We were offered a 125% voucher of the original cost if we would postpone the trip and allow Viking to retain the money we spent on the trip. We were committed to take the trip, so we agreed to take the offer and rebook the trip for 2021. The remaining voucher amount was for $3779.19 each after the cost of the rebooked trip.

We note that on our previous itinerary, we were to be booked at The Nile Ritz Carlton which is what is being shown on your website for other Egypt trips. However, our current itinerary shows us booked at the Sheraton Cairo Hotel and Casino. We have stayed at Sheraton and Ritz Carlton hotels and consider the latter to be far superior. We wonder why we are being booked into an inferior property. Please advise.

I want to point out that the trip and money paid included the highest level of cabin available on the Ra, using Viking Air for prepaid Business Class airfare and the Jordan extension. At the time we had not planned to do the Israel extension as we had little interest in it.

Now that the time has come to look at the upcoming trip, we find that the remaining voucher amount is of little use to us. We did use some of it for the spirits package, prepaid gratuity and one or two optional shore trips. At this point our current voucher remainder is $2847.19.

Unfortunately for us but good for Viking is we have no where to use the remaining amount. The Israel extension is sold out, and I as mentioned we had already paid for Business Class airfare, the highest level of cabin and the Jordan extension. I am told that the voucher cannot be used to pay for drinks exceeding the limits of the Silver Spirits package, and that due to Egypt’s liquor laws, there are no premium wines available. Due to the size of the vessel, there is no Spa whereby we might use some of the voucher for massages, etc. And lastly, even though there appears to be a small shop on the vessel, we have been told that it is not under Viking’s control and our vouchers cannot be used for gifts. In fact, it seems that only prepaid items can be paid for with the voucher.

We had a long conversation with our Service Specialist, Freya Lind about this and our cruise. She is very helpful and a credit to your organization, but can only explain policy not create them. Since she cannot assist further, we are writing to you asking for your help. We have some ideas and would hope that Viking would approve of them.

Let me explain that we live in the Denver area. When we travel, especially during the winter we always take in consideration the strong possibility of snow or aircraft maintenance issues delaying flights. So, we always plan to be wherever we must be a day early whether it be for a cruise or travel package departing on a specific day.

While we have spoken with Viking Air, and the options getting to Cairo and out of Amman are few. If we take the most obvious flights to Cairo, we will arrive at the airport at 6:40 PM most likely getting us to the Cairo hotel sometime around 9:00 PM. There is an excursion at 9:00 AM the very next day. We think it wise to fly to Cairo the prior day to get over jet lag, avoid the possibility of flight delays and get there rested for that excursion. We asked Freya if we could have Viking issue a voucher for an additional night at the hotel as well as a transfer voucher to the hotel from the airport. We were told no, but this seems to be a valid request and one in which Viking would approve.

Additionally, there is a bit of a problem with the last day of our trip coming out of Amman. It seems that we get booked into the hotel chosen by Viking, but our flight would leave at 2:45 AM the very next day (well, really night). In essence, we would not really be sleeping there and that flight option after so much time touring is bad. I understand that there is nothing Viking can do about flight options, but our hope would be that you would allow some of the voucher credit to be used to stay another night at that hotel. That way, we can get a restful night’s sleep and be somewhat refreshed to get up at midnight the following night for the flight back home. Of course, we would also ask for a voucher for the transfer to the airport.

We would ask that some of the voucher amount be allowed for the bar tab (over the $15.00 allowable per drink), premium wines if available, and any items we may wish to buy from the gift shop.

We realize that you have certain policies and most likely there are good reasons for them. We are simply asking for some latitude in allowing us to use some of the large amount of the voucher credit for the items listed. We retired last year and plan to take several cruises in the years to come. We have a favorable view of Viking having taken your river cruise through Russia. On our recommendation, we have two other couples joining us on our cruise in Egypt neither of which have ever used Viking (they too are unhappy about the change of hotels to Sheraton). We also have recommended Viking to several our friends some of which have taken cruises with you. Approving our requests would go a long way in considering which cruise line we would use in the future.



Respectfully submitted….
 

Skippy

May 30, 2019
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Some thoughts:
- Viking is bleeding dry and having issues just booking people. You are pushing on minor points regarding a cruise later in 2021 *which may yet be cancelled*.
- If you've already corresponded with the CEO, you are not likely to get any further consideration.
- Letters to executives should be able to be quick to read. Your text is 1,013 words. Perhaps your could reduce it to 500 words or less and get directly to the key requests.
- Your tone comes across as negative and condescending. Even though you have every reason to be unhappy, your communication would come across as more sincere -- and therefore more persuasive -- if you avoid terms such as "Unfortunately for us but good for Viking"

Noting that, another alternative to research is if the excess credit could be applied to a second cruise in 2022 or even a bit later.
 
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jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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Some thoughts:
- Viking is bleeding dry and having issues just booking people. You are pushing on minor points regarding a cruise later in 2021 *which may yet be cancelled*.
- If you've already corresponded with the CEO, you are not likely to get any further consideration.
- Letters to executives should be able to be quick to read. Your text is 1,013 words. Perhaps your could reduce it to 500 words or less and get directly to the key requests.
- Your tone comes across as negative and condescending. Even though you have every reason to be unhappy, your communication would come across as more sincere -- and therefore persuasive -- if you avoid terms such as "Unfortunately for us but good for Viking"


Noting that, another alternative to research is if the excess credit could be applied to a second cruise in 2022 or even a bit later.
I have to agree with Skippy. Travel providers of all kinds are struggling to stay solvent. There's no staff available to deal with your request at this time. Your letter is so long and rambling that I was unable to finish reading it ... and I am interested in your problem. No travel provider will give you anything that costs them cash these days, they really don't have much choice. They don't have the cash. You may not be aware tht revenues to travel providers are nearly zero and operating expenses continue. I see your issue as one of sharing the burden of the virus disaster.

Their first responsibility is to keep the company viable. I have worked with Viking's Air Desk and they are great. But I am willing to pay for the extra service, and if I were to arrive a day early I'd not expect them to cover my expenses. A trip to Egypt is an experience of a lifetime. We were there in December as well, and that's a great time to visit Egypt. You're spending thousands on the most wonderful trip imaginable. It should be worth several hundred extra dollars to you in order to arrange things just the way you want them. I'm sorry we cannot offer more assistance at this time.

One thing that strikes me is that you could make a concise list of what you would like added or changed. Drop phrases like "let me explain the Denver weather to you" ... you are communicating with a busy executive; just state the facts. Be polite and appreciative, this situation is not all about you. Cairo hotels are fabulous, you'll be comfortable at either of the two offered. Do not expect Viking to issue vouchers for hotels not included on the program. I remember the flight to Cairo out of JFK was very convenient. We slept at an airport hotel the night before to break up the travel. You may want to look at alternatives, then call the Air Desk to see if they can put something together for you ... AFTER things start to come back to normal. After you've made your list, compose a polite, concise email to Viking making reasonable requests. The kinds of concessions you are requesting might be possible from an ultra-luxe tour operator, but not from a company like Viking. I would hope that by mid-summer things will stabilize and travel providers can re-hire good people to give good customer service, so I'd do nothing until then.
 
Aug 29, 2018
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Additionally, there is a bit of a problem with the last day of our trip coming out of Amman. It seems that we get booked into the hotel chosen by Viking, but our flight would leave at 2:45 AM the very next day (well, really night). In essence, we would not really be sleeping there and that flight option after so much time touring is bad. I understand that there is nothing Viking can do about flight options, but our hope would be that you would allow some of the voucher credit to be used to stay another night at that hotel. That way, we can get a restful night’s sleep and be somewhat refreshed to get up at midnight the following night for the flight back home. Of course, we would also ask for a voucher for the transfer to the airport.
Early morning departures from the Middle East are not unusual, the intent is for passengers on those flights to be able to connect to westbound trans-Atlantic flights without needing to spend a night in an airport.
 
Apr 7, 2021
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Thank you for your suggestions but based on what you saying I think I will go another route. The issue is complicated thus the lengthy note. I will say that I was far kinder in the first email. I became more pointed when I received no response from the original one. At this point I think the six of us involved will take our issues to social media and personal contacts to warn everyone of the poor treatment. You also suggested the possibility of a voucher for the remainder. There is no way any of us will ever cruise Viking again so that would be worthless.
 

Comicman

Jul 13, 2020
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Also remember asking for things like extra hotel nights, you are asking Viking to pony up hard cash to pay for these rooms. I am sure they would rather have you use the voucher for things they already pay for.
Will they let you use the remainder of the voucher to gift to a family member so they can enjoy a cruse?
 
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Jun 24, 2019
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It is not at all clear to me whether the excess credit can be used or is forfeited.

To our OP, you are complaining about stuff that has not happened. The cruise may be cancelled, the tour to Jordan may be cancelled, spots may open on the Israel extension. Hotels may change several times. The folks at Viking are dealing with disappointed customers every day; you want an executive to call you and deliver the same message the front-line staff have delivered.

Around the world lots of people have died from the pandemic. Tens of millions of workers in travel related businesues have been laid off. Viking is bleeding cash in the millions. The Egyptian economy is heavily impacted. Personally, I’m sitting on an $11,000 credit from Celebrity; and Celebrity just cancelled a cruise I booked. In fact, 4 of the last 5 cruises we’ve booked have been cancelled. And your solution to your problem is that you will go on social media and complain that you want a different hotel in Cairo? As you can see from posting here that you have not gotten much sympathy. I do not think that if you go to a different audience that landscape will change.

My advice is to sit back and see if this trip actually goes. If it does, go and enjoy Egypt and Jordan. Go with a positive attitude. Stop tying your stomach in knots over this. You’ve made your point to Viking. If the trip actually goes, you can follow up afterwards with the things that disappointed you.
 

Skippy

May 30, 2019
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Thank you for your suggestions but based on what you saying I think I will go another route. The issue is complicated thus the lengthy note. I will say that I was far kinder in the first email. I became more pointed when I received no response from the original one. At this point I think the six of us involved will take our issues to social media and personal contacts to warn everyone of the poor treatment. You also suggested the possibility of a voucher for the remainder. There is no way any of us will ever cruise Viking again so that would be worthless.
You are angry. I get it. I'm sitting on FCC from multiple cruise lines. One of them is from an itinerary that was of Bucket List caliber for us. That cruise has been rebooked twice. My FCC may be worthless to us if the cruise line doesn't keep the original itinerary in 2022 (which now seems likely), meaning I should have taken the refund. But that was my choice. Lashing out at the cruise line will not help.

The cruise lines including Viking are in survivor mode. You may not have received a timely response because they are focused first on trying to figure out where & when they can sail.

If you go the social media route, that can be analogous to upping the stakes at a poker game. If you post on social media that you will never do business with a company again, then there is absolutely no reason for that company to offer a Goodwill gesture. If your tone is as condescending as your email in Post #1 above, you are not likely to get consideration from Viking. In fact, be prepared for others in those forums to share the same opinions as people on this forum but with a negative tone more often found in some social media forums. Instead of offering alternative approaches & recommendations, you may be called "Karen" or worse.

If you will never cruise Viking again, that's your prerogative; however, logically this suggests anything over 100% of the original cruise amount was worthless to you to begin with. So alternatively, you could see if that excess credit can be transferred. I personally know several people who would use it. NOTE: I'm not suggesting that I want it -- I don't transact on this forum -- my point is that it could potentially put to use.

I wish you well.
 
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Skippy

May 30, 2019
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Early morning departures from the Middle East are not unusual, the intent is for passengers on those flights to be able to connect to westbound trans-Atlantic flights without needing to spend a night in an airport.
My guess is that the OP was booked on LH 693 with transfer in Frankfort to UA 181 onward to DEN. The only other legitimate option that date would be RJ 263 departing at 9:40 am with transfer to AA 137 in ORD. I don't see any other flight options that are only 1 stop or have reasonable layovers.

Especially given Business Class tickets and OP's interest in adult beverages, I'd rather fly Lufthansa over Royal Jordanian for long-haul, but that's just MHO. #sleepontheplane ... and who knows if that schedule will stick 8 months from now?
 
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Apr 7, 2021
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Skippy says I am angry and SoCalTraveler asserts my stomach is tied up in knots. Neither of these is the case. I am more disappointed than anything. I thought Viking was a well-run, customer-focused organization and was mistaken. Mr. Hagen seems to find the time to be on CNBC, PBS and to draft bulk emails to customers but can't seem to find the time to have someone on his staff respond. As an example of a well-run organization, I had an issue with AT&T that went unresolved for months. I wrote to the CEO and within two days got a call from one of his staff. The problem was resolved in five minutes. Before retirement I spent most of my life very successfully dealing with C-Suite executives so I know how to deal with them. Some are responsive, some are not. My experience is that those that are not, really don't value their customers. But, as with all companies, there is competition. Viking isn't the only cruise company around. My wife and I along with our friends will enjoy our trip despite these issues. But, none of us will ever use Viking again. Will it force them into bankruptcy, no but I do have my principles. My thanks to everyone for taking the time to post. I really like this service.
 
Apr 7, 2021
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I thought I would give everyone on this thread an update. Today I received a call from a representative of the executive offices at Viking. She seemed to understand the issues and felt that our request made sense to her. Now that she has heard this directly from me, she asked to give her a week to work this out.
 

Patina

Verified Member
Dec 22, 2015
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I think that Viking runs a numbers game......they have many cruises with many customers. My guess is they think this way........."If we make one customer unhappy, oh well, there will always be another one to take their place." I have never been on a cruise much less a Viking one yet the number of brochures we receive would make you think we were their best customer! I am glad to hear that you received a response. It will be interesting to see if they grant you your requests. Please keep us updated.
 
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jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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San Francisco
I think that Viking runs a numbers game......they have many cruises with many customers. My guess is they think this way........."If we make one customer unhappy, oh well, there will always be another one to take their place." I have never been on a cruise much less a Viking one yet the number of brochures we receive would make you think we were their best customer! I am glad to hear that you received a response. It will be interesting to see if they grant you your requests. Please keep us updated.
I must admit, the flow of beautiful, expensive brochures has hardly lightened in the last year. I'm looking at a cruise/tour to Egypt in February 2022. I was amazed to see that on Viking's four ships, all the first-level balcony cabins are booked for the whole month. Most are undoubtedly booked with credits ... but bombarding travellers with advertising is definitely working for Viking. When we remodelled our garage a couple of years ago, I considered papering the walls with Viking cruise brochures.
 
Nov 11, 2018
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They mention arriving a day or two early before joining their ship/tour which is the plan my wife and I have whenever traveling internationally. But we also add a day or two depending if in a remote location to an international airport on the return. As pointed out in another response, flights leave a 0 dark 30 to be able to connect with flights returning to the US. They should fly out later in the departure day to the international connecting airport, spend the night and fly out the following day.
 
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