Be forewarned, never take a Viking River Cruise.

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Sep 10, 2018
August 30, 2018

Viking River Cruises Via E-Mail:

Re: Randy and Mollie Schaffer’s Viking River Bus Cruise (August 11-18)


My wife, Mollie, selected Viking’s “Romantic Danube River Cruise” (or so the advertisement claimed) to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. We have never taken a cruise and, although I did not have an urge to do so, I deferred to her because this was to be her “dream vacation.”

According to Viking’s literature, we purchased a river cruise on the Danube where we would sail past castles, farmhouses, and beautiful scenery. We paid a total of $25,726: $17,498 for the cruise; $1,838 for the insurance; and $6,390 for the airfare. Had we traveled by plane, stayed in first-class hotels, and ate at good restaurants, we would have spent about $7,000 that week. Thus, in effect, we paid an extra $10,498 to take the cruise that was advertised.

Viking informed us by email three days before we left home that, because the water levels on the Danube were low, we would stay on the Hermod in Budapest the first two nights; take a bus to Vienna; transfer to the Atla; and, thereafter, possibly transfer to a third ship. Viking informed us by email the day before we left that we would receive a 25 percent discount on our next Viking cruise to compensate for the inconvenience. It was too late to reschedule the trip and, because the emails minimized the inconvenience, we did not even try.

We did not receive the cruise that we purchased. We had to pack and unpack three times that week. Instead of cruising down the “romantic” Danube past castles and farmhouses, we rode in cramped buses on the highway past cornfields and refineries. We were informed after we arrived on the Atla that, three days later, we would have to pack our bags by 7:00 a.m., ride on a bus to another town, and transfer to the Jarl. A spider web greeted us on the balcony of our stateroom. It was disgusting.

I was invited to a private session with the Captain in the wheelhouse on the Atla. I asked about the water levels on the Danube this summer. He said that they had been low all summer; that we were the eighth Viking cruise to be interrupted in this manner; and that Viking knew at the start of the summer that these ships would not be able to cruise uninterrupted from Budapest to Nuremberg. If this is true, Viking deliberately withheld this information from us until three days before the cruise was to begin to prevent us from rescheduling or cancelling. Withholding this pertinent information was deceptive, fraudulent, and amounted to a classic “bait and switch” tactic.

The passengers on the cruise bonded over their mutual dissatisfaction with Viking. Several passengers informed me that members of the Atla crew told them that the real reason for the bus rides and ship transfers was that Viking had a shortage of ships and staff. Additionally, we were informed that another large ship, the Bragi, sailed uninterrupted from Budapest to Nuremberg the same week that we traveled. This raises the question of whether we had to sleep on three boats and take two bus rides because the water levels were low or because Viking had overbooked its ships and could not accommodate all its customers.

Since returning home, we have read the complaints that other Viking customers have posted on the internet regarding their river “cruises” this summer. A clear pattern emerges. Viking knew at the start of the summer that it could not deliver what it promised; deliberately withheld this information from the customers so they would not cancel their trips; and did not provide accurate information once they arrived. Viking perpetrated a massive, summer-long fraud on its customers.

Where we come from, such conduct violates the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). Viking promised services of a particular quality for a substantial price but delivered services of a lesser quality without a rebate. A DTPA violation requires the defendant to pay treble damages and attorney’s fees.

We paid for a full river cruise and, at most, received half a cruise and a week made memorable only because of the stress. We never felt settled or relaxed. I respectfully request that Viking reimburse us $10,498. If Viking fails to do so within 30 days from the receipt of this letter, I will send a formal DTPA demand letter and thereafter, file a lawsuit; obtain the passenger manifest from our cruise and the other interrupted cruises and contact information for the passengers; contact the passengers to determine if they want to participate in a lawsuit; and, depending on the response, move that the court certify the lawsuit as a class action. Additionally, I will post copies of all pleadings and discovery on the internet and email it to the passengers on the interrupted cruises.

As an ironic postscript, we received an email from Viking the day after we returned home attaching a voucher for $2,187.25 that we can use on another Viking cruise for one year. This amount is less than half of the 25 percent promised before the cruise. I can assure you that we will not take another Viking cruise unless we are reimbursed for what we spent for services that we did not receive on this cruise.

I read on Wikipedia that Torstein Hagen, the founder and Chairman of Viking Cruises, has an MBA from Harvard Business School and is worth $2.2 billion. A man this smart and successful should recognize that it is better to pay $10,498 to make this right than to incentivize me to do everything I can to ensure that no sensible consumer will take a Viking cruise in the future. Indeed, the cost of defending our lawsuit will exceed this amount.

The ball is in your court.


Randy Schaffer

Neil Maley

Staff Member
Dec 27, 2014
New York
Unfortunately, river cruises are very different than ocean cruises because they are affected by river levels. If this was your first cruise, you also may not be aware that you also agree to Vikings terms and conditions which specifically state that itineraries can be changed due to river levels.

This is the Passenger Ticket Contract you agree to by booking -

Advanced, Cancelled or Delayed
Viking reserves the right to withdraw and/or cancel a tour or to make changes in the itinerary and hotel accommodations whenever, in its sole judgment, or in the judgment of the vessel Carrier or owner, conditions warrant it. In the event of charters of the vessels, adverse weather or water conditions, mechanical or other issues with the ship, docking issues, government or other authority actions, truces, lockouts, riots or stoppage of labor from whatever cause or for any other reason whatsoever, the Carrier or Owner of the vessels identified herein may, at any time, cancel, advance, alter, substitute or postpone any scheduled tour and may, but is not obliged to, substitute another vessel or itinerary and shall not be liable for any loss whatsoever to passengers by reason of any such cancellation, advancement or postponement except as specifically set forth in the Passenger Ticket Contract Terms and Conditions.

Did you use a travel agent? Many agents will tell you that Viking tends to have the most ships that have to alternate their itinerary and be bussed because their ships are not specifically made with shallow draughts for the river cruising. Other lines have to do this much less than Viking because they specifically build their ships differently. AMA Waterways is one that rarely has to alter their itineraries due to low river levels and I've never heard of a line that doesn't have enough ships or personnel to run a cruise.

The problem with your letter is that you have threatened a lawsuit. Once you do that - the cruise line will most likely not reply to you because anything they say could be used in court.

I would suggest perhaps you use our company contacts and re-write this letter removing the threat. You want to have them do you a favor - due to their terms you agreed to, they can alter the cruise so it doesn't quite fall into deceptive practices.

But read this on the best way to try to get a resolution:


Verified Member
Oct 2, 2014
@Randy Schaffer I hope you didn't send that letter. If you did, I wouldn't expect a response. As you said, the ball is in their court but the contract you signed and agreed to allows them to do exactly what they did. You don't really have any leverage. By threatening a lawsuit and stating you'll never sail with them again, they have absolutely no reason to do anything for you. Your letter will be filed. Beyond that, this happens almost every year with Viking at some point. The river levels drop and they can't sail. You need to go back to whomever researched this cruise for you. They did a really poor job.


Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
San Francisco
I'm so sorry that your trip was ruined, Randy, I can really empathize with your disappointment. We've done several river cruises and I am always happy to find out that river levels are "normal" ... because I know what the contract that I signed states about altering the trip that I bought. Late summer river levels, as well as in the spring, are most subject to highs and lows. It's unfortunate that you're threatening legal action because Viking won't be moved to make it up to you. Using a travel agent can really make a difference on this kind of trip. John is correct, this trip should have been planned to coincide with your expectations. Please let us know how things go.
Oct 14, 2018
I feel your pain, Randy, having just come back from a similar experience on the Danube. As I noted in my post, the lack of transparency is what makes the trip so difficult to deal with. I had low expectations going into it as I read the reviews online prior to leaving, but the cruise didn't even meet those! I am in touch with many of the passengers from our ship....keep up the noise!