Viking River Cruise - "Romantic Danube" false advertising refund in dollars vs. cruise credit

  • Hi Guest, welcome to the help forum. You can get fast answers to your customer service questions here. We have a dedicated team of advocates who are ready to help. Just go to the section that matches your question and ask us!
  • If you've posted a question or issue for our advocates to assist with, please be sure to check back frequently for responses and requests for clarification.
  • Did you know you can get email notifications when something new posts to your favorite forum? It's easy. Just click the "watch" link right next to the "post new thread" button at the top of your favorite forum. The rest is easy. Now you'll never miss another conversation.
  • Want to become an expert user? Drop by the How to use this forum section and all will be revealed. We'll show you how to make the most of your experience.
Oct 14, 2018
2
0
1
60
#1
My husband and I just returned from a very chaotic and unpleasant cruise on the Danube. Due to water levels being low, despite the fact we were told by phone they didn't anticipate any complications 5 days prior to departure, we only docked at 2 ports out of 6, lost one whole day in being bussed to another ship 4.5 hours away. Bussing daily for HOURS to reach the ports on the itinerary - spent 2 HOURS in Vienna, versus 2 DAYS, 4 hours in Budapest versus 1.5 days - Cancelled excursions, only 1 "enrichment lecture" onboard, no activities other than a strudel making class and lots of Chaos, daily and hourly changes, no transparency from the curt and arrogant Cruise Director, etc. Given that Viking has dealt with the Danube River being low for 4 MONTHS, you would think they would either cancel the cruise or be transparent about the changes. No - they kept passengers in the dark as though we were but cows moooving along where and when they told us to. Very disrespectful and greedy. COMPENSATION - for those passengers who complained, we were given 25% off A FUTURE CRUISE! Seriously??! This just goes to show that their arrogance and greed is not just a perception, but a reality!! Anyone have any experience with actually receiving US DOLLARS as compensation versus cruise credit from Viking? What does it take to make that happen?
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
14,700
13,757
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#2
Unfortunately, Viking is known as being the river cruise line with the most interruptions due to water levels.

That said, river levels can change from week to week and it impossible for them to predict what the levels would be if a good rain happened. Read your cruise contact - in it you acknowledge that the cruise line can change their itinerary or how they get you from point a time to point b.

You can use our company contacts to ask for a credit for a future cruise if they didn’t offer you anything on the ship but they are very strict with these kind of issues and usually don’t budge.

This is the difference between river cruises and ocean cruises- that they are subject to water levels. In doing homework, there are other river cruise lines that have ships built specifically with river levels in mind that have shallower draughts on their ships. There are some that are rarely affected by low levels. We sailed on one and we passed at least three Viking ships that couldn’t continue because of the river levels.
 
Jun 30, 2017
849
785
93
Maui Hawaii
#3
Unfortunately, Viking appears to have this problem regularly. I am now in Prague at the end of an 11-day cruise/tour with another tour operator. We spent 7 days on the Danube, on a new shallower draft ship, from Budapest to Vilshofen, missed no cities and our itinerary was exactly as advertised in June 2017.

I was told that if our tour encountered issues like Viking's we would be refunded or allowed to use the credit another time. Viking, however, busses people all over and uses hotels.

As Neil notes, the choice of cruise operator can make all the difference.
 
Last edited:

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
7,317
7,139
113
San Francisco
#4
I am so sorry your cruise was so disappointing; I can definitely empathize. I'm told that Viking has many more ships on European rivers than any other company, so of course there are more issues. Did you book through a travel agent? S/he should have explained everything that was available for your trip and offered you alternative choices. If travellers do their own booking, it's vital to read all the fine print before you make a commitment. You should know in advance what will happen if there are issues with the cruise.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
14,700
13,757
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#5
The only alternative choices even if booked with a travel agent is to go on another river cruise line that doesn't have as many issues as Viking has. Their ships are not made with shallow draughts for sailing on rivers when the water levels are low. Their terms also state, as do all cruise lines, that they have the right to make these type of changes. Their terms state -

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.

River cruising is very different than ocean cruising and all passengers should be aware of the many issues that have been happening due to low or high river levels. Many lines have pools that can be emptied if the levels are too low to make the ship lighter for low rivers. Many have bridges that can be raised or lowered so they can get under bridges if levels are too high. And the Captain is also key - some lines have more experienced Captains than others that know how to sail in low rivers. The key is knowing which lines offer those as that can make all the difference in whether you are going to be bused or not.
 
Oct 4, 2016
2
0
1
78
#6
Had a similar situation with Viking two years ago. They offered a $500 voucher toward a future cruise. However, Europeans (mainly Brits) on the cruise were given an immediate 25% rebate. Have been unable to find the European law that governs cruise ships.
 
Oct 17, 2018
1
0
1
54
#7
So sorry about your problems. That would definitely make me dissatisfied. We took a Viking Rhine river cruise in mid June of this year and didn't have any problems. I would love to go on the Danube but I would probably cruise earlier in the summer
Does anyone know if Viking is building their new ships to better navigate rivers with lower water since drought seems to be increasing?
 
Feb 13, 2018
8
25
3
65
#9
I am so sorry for the disappointing "river cruise" Neil Maley answers "unfortunately Viking appears to have this problem regularly" Please clarify...percentage wise or just sheer numbers?, because Viking has a fleet of over 60, which may make it seem more often "their" problem. I do realize that their draught is deeper than perhaps AMA, but in this case, even AMA has been affected. But l digress. When I book my clients on a river cruise, with ANY line. I also warn them of problems that can arise from Floods or Drought conditions. This year has seen extreme drought conditions both in the Rhine and Danube, in fact, record breaking lower water levels. As with Ocean cruises, the contract with river cruises addresses this possible interruption of the river cruise, which can easily turn into a bus tour (although most River Cruise Lines do their best to move you to a sister ship stranded on the there side of the impasse and Viking does the best at this maneuver ). And it's not just Viking that had problems this year. Some of the other lines have less draught, allowing them to perhaps pass where a Viking ship cannot, but also due to the sheer number of their fleet on a the Danube or Rhine, you are more likely to be transferred to another ship with Viking. And Viking has their own fleet of busses to help you get to a destination, albeit not by ease of river and more time consuming. Viking offers a cancel for any reason insurance at the time of the deposit. If you feel you may want the option to cancel because of river conditions, which can easily be seen by doing a goggle search, consider taking this option. In my humble opinion, it's a river cruise issue, not confined to Viking. In any case, even though they have no control over the weather, and to you it seemed like "chaos", all river companies have to take each day on a case by case basi, day by day and be flexible, so hence there may be no way to announce in advance what the "plan" is for the next day, let alone in a few weeks. Just like Ocean cruises, resorts. or airlines do not offer compensation for weather, Viking was not obligated to make any compensation, but made the 25% FC in good faith. As far as your disappointment with onboard activities, there aren't much to begin with on a river cruise. Lecturers or guest entertainers can be affected by their ability to reach an alternate docking area. BTW Viking has been very transparent about the low water levels, but since no one has a crystal ball, they cannot announce "plans" very far in advance as they are taxed to the limit with alternate options. I would have hoped that your travel agent had informed you before you left of the situation. Or perhaps you booked it direct. In either case, a diligent, expert travel professional may have better informed you as to what to expect, as it seems you were aware of the problem existing for months.
 
Jul 27, 2016
1,054
1,251
113
#10
I'm really amazed that the river cruise lines can get away with this. Maybe just my perception, but if the boats can't traverse anything vaguely approximating the promised route, that's not like a situation where Delta cancels your JFK-LAX flight, and reroutes you JFK-MSP-LAX, or where weather means your Caribbean cruise has to skip one of four ports of call. Rather, it would be more like your Caribbean cruise line substituted driving you to various locations in Florida on buses, and having you stay overnight there.

What's being offered (a bus tour that uses boats as hotels) is so dramatically different than what was promised that I can't see it as a reasonable substitute.

At very least, the cruise lines should be required to notify people in advance that there's going to be a problem with the cruise, so they can use their CFAR insurance, rather than having them find out when they get there. It's not like Viking doesn't know on Wednesday that river levels will be too low the following Tuesday.
 
Feb 13, 2018
8
25
3
65
#11
Ocean cruises have bussed people to different ports of disembarkation and embarkation due to wether, and have shortened or lengthened cruises due to weather....you cant bus though the caribbean, or they may have tried. There would be no river cruise industry if the lines cannot make allowances for impassable river conditions...and yes, it is quite possible that Viking did not know 5 days in advance that the river would be impassable .....it's a risk of river cruising well defined , in advance, and you either agree and take your chances or don't book a river cruise. I myself have done 5 and encountered flood conditions once, but was more than happy that I was bussed to see part of what was intended, and gladly accepted my $750 per person compensation
 
Apr 10, 2017
512
765
93
#12
So sorry about your problems. That would definitely make me dissatisfied. We took a Viking Rhine river cruise in mid June of this year and didn't have any problems. I would love to go on the Danube but I would probably cruise earlier in the summer
Does anyone know if Viking is building their new ships to better navigate rivers with lower water since drought seems to be increasing?
My husband and I cruised the Danube last summer at the end of June/ beginning of July and it was fine. While the cruise director told us on the first day of the trip that river levels could cause problems we were fortunate and didn't have to deviate from the itinerary. Two years ago we did a river cruise in the south of France (Rhône and Saône) and we were told that previous cruises on the same path right before our trip had been adversely affected. Again, we were fortunate but it's always a bit of a gamble.
 
Feb 28, 2018
24
10
3
85
#13
We have taken several European River cruises, and on one of them drought conditions prevailed. Our shallow draught AMA ship passed numerous vesssels, many of which were Viking, docked at river ports. Our ship captain informed us of the conditions, and accurately predicted that we would not have any problems. We had zero information about European river conditions prior to the cruise, knew of no way to get it, and were not given an hint of Europopean river problems (which did not actually exist for us)when we called AMA for information the day prior to our USA departure. Although all ocean and river cruise contracts permit the operator to change ports/itinerary as conditions require, river cruisers do not have the kind of river information that ocean ( Caribbean, Mediterranean, etc.) cruisers can easily obtain online, on TV, etc.
When I informed our travel agent of the low Danube conditions, and the numerous vessels unable to navigate the shallow areas, he was surprised, and after he later checked with AMA, told us that none of the river cruise companies provide any warning or advance 'low water' information.

How can any river cruiser be informed of an existing problem if the river cruise company does not tell them?
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
14,700
13,757
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#14
We have taken several European River cruises, and on one of them drought conditions prevailed. Our shallow draught AMA ship passed numerous vesssels, many of which were Viking, docked at river ports. Our ship captain informed us of the conditions, and accurately predicted that we would not have any problems. We had zero information about European river conditions prior to the cruise, knew of no way to get it, and were not given an hint of Europopean river problems (which did not actually exist for us)when we called AMA for information the day prior to our USA departure. Although all ocean and river cruise contracts permit the operator to change ports/itinerary as conditions require, river cruisers do not have the kind of river information that ocean ( Caribbean, Mediterranean, etc.) cruisers can easily obtain online, on TV, etc.
When I informed our travel agent of the low Danube conditions, and the numerous vessels unable to navigate the shallow areas, he was surprised, and after he later checked with AMA, told us that none of the river cruise companies provide any warning or advance 'low water' information.

How can any river cruiser be informed of an existing problem if the river cruise company does not tell them?
They often can’t tell you about an existing problem because a good rain can change the conditions over night.

AMA is one of the lines that have very few changes due to the way they build their ships and the expertise of the Captains. We did an Emerald Cruise in very low water conditions and we felt that boat scrape bottom a few times. We also never saw the Captain because he insisted on being in the bridge the entire time we cruised.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
14,700
13,757
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#16
Yes it does and that’s proof the levels can change from one week to the next and why the cruise lines can’t tell passengers a week or two before.

And was would you do if you booked nonrefundable air? You are stuck with cancellation penalties if the cancel a week or two out.

This is similar to ocean sailing during hurricane season. Cruise lines rarely cancel cruises when a hurricane is happening. They just divert to other ports. There have been a couple out of NY that were supposed to go to the Bahamas that ended up doing New England instead. Can you imagine only having clothes for a warm climate and finding out you are going to New England?
 
Feb 13, 2018
8
25
3
65
#17
Neil, Viking offers free or extremely reduced air as part of their package and RARELY do people deviate from that and book their own air. But what you pointed out is good, never book nonrefundable air that is not included in your insurance, and when booking a river cruise it can be quite advantageous to take their cancel for any reason insurance option by opting for there insurance at deposit that also covers the air if this issue concerns you. AMA, as I stated prior, has smaller ships with less draught, so yes, they can operate in lower water levels than Viking. But to imply that the Captains have more expertise than on Viking is incorrect. I currently have clients that Viking cancelled for the Elbe, and the Rhine as of today is passable.....but low water is not always the problem. Sometimes it's high water. With the sheer size of Vikings fleet compared to the other river cruise lines, it is more likely that a ship swap is possible. But even that can not always completely solve the problem. I have been in the industry for 26 years, and Viking is just as reputable and fair as the other River cruise lines. I am not saying that the situation is not disruptive and disturbing to those it may affect when water levels impact a river cruise, but let's not bash Viking. Totally unfair. It is more fair to say that river cruising is unpredictable and is never guaranteed to move from point of origin to point of disembarkation without alternative options, such as bussing and hotels. For ANY river cruise company. And any professional travel agent should make that perfectly clear before the client books. Just another reason to use a travel professional who truly has the expertise to advise of situations such as these.
 
Jul 27, 2016
1,054
1,251
113
#18
Yes it does and that’s proof the levels can change from one week to the next and why the cruise lines can’t tell passengers a week or two before.

And was would you do if you booked nonrefundable air? You are stuck with cancellation penalties if the cancel a week or two out.

This is similar to ocean sailing during hurricane season. Cruise lines rarely cancel cruises when a hurricane is happening. They just divert to other ports. There have been a couple out of NY that were supposed to go to the Bahamas that ended up doing New England instead. Can you imagine only having clothes for a warm climate and finding out you are going to New England?
I get that their contracts allow them to do it, but I'm just surprised that they're able to put all weather-related risk on the customer. If there's a blizzard in Chicago that closes ORD, United can't just fly you LGA-MSP instead, and tell you, "OK, we got you to the Midwest, that's our substitute!" If they can't deliver the product promised (a flight to ORD), then you get a refund.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
14,700
13,757
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#19
Neil, Viking offers free or extremely reduced air as part of their package and RARELY do people deviate from that and book their own air. But what you pointed out is good, never book nonrefundable air that is not included in your insurance, and when booking a river cruise it can be quite advantageous to take their cancel for any reason insurance option by opting for there insurance at deposit that also covers the air if this issue concerns you. AMA, as I stated prior, has smaller ships with less draught, so yes, they can operate in lower water levels than Viking. But to imply that the Captains have more expertise than on Viking is incorrect. I currently have clients that Viking cancelled for the Elbe, and the Rhine as of today is passable.....but low water is not always the problem. Sometimes it's high water. With the sheer size of Vikings fleet compared to the other river cruise lines, it is more likely that a ship swap is possible. But even that can not always completely solve the problem. I have been in the industry for 26 years, and Viking is just as reputable and fair as the other River cruise lines. I am not saying that the situation is not disruptive and disturbing to those it may affect when water levels impact a river cruise, but let's not bash Viking. Totally unfair. It is more fair to say that river cruising is unpredictable and is never guaranteed to move from point of origin to point of disembarkationins without alternative options, such as bussing and hotels. For ANY river cruise company. And any professional travel agent should make that perfectly clear before the client books. Just another reason to use a travel professional who truly has the expertise to advise of situations such as these.
I fully understand how Viking works. I also didn’t say Vikings Captains have less experience either. You are reading into what I said.

Viking ships are at a disadvantage compared to ships that are purposely built for rivers. The most expert Captain can’t do a thing if the ship is built too deep to run in very low river levels. The Captains are responsible for any damage that happens to their ships. They can’t take a chance in very low levels no matter how experienced the Captain is.
 
Feb 13, 2018
8
25
3
65
#20
Ah, Just a Guy, but you are not comparing Apples to Apples. The river cruise lines are getting you from point A to point B as promised, but just using a different mode of transportation. And if the river cruise line or any travel related supplier had to assume all the risk of weather, than prices would increase DRAMATICALLY. Bussing people around and providing hotels is not free to the cruise line and certainly more of a hassle then just cruising up the rive or throwing their hands up and sending everyone home. Many people are prepared and understanding, although disappointed. but at least they still have a vacation and get to see much of what they came to see. And BTW the only reason the airlines offer refunds is that they are hoping many people will abandon their plans as they cannot accommodate everyone without severely backing up their entire flight plans for days. and they often do NOT offer refunds , but rather waive change fees and allow you to alter your plans and rebook you.
Think of it like this. You can book a fall foliage tour...fall foliage not guaranteed....or you can book a ski destination that does not make man-made snow...snow or ski conditions not guaranteed. You may not have the conditions that you hoped for when you arrive, and you will not receive compensation because just like river water levels, these things cannot be guaranteed. Yet people book them. I would say that statistics show that about 95% of river cruises float along as planned. It's an inherent risk of the type of vacation. One the I and many are willing to take because bus or river cruise, we really enjoy the destination despite disruptions.
Approximately 5 years ago Prague was absolutely flooded. I had two couples on the same river cruise(good friends at that). To listen to their accounts of how everything was handled you would think that were on two different trips. One couple had empathy and managed to stay positive and enjoyed everything except for lamenting for the poor residents of Prague. The other absolutely let it ruin his entire journey, even though it was at the end and the previous twelve days went without a hitch. One came back with praise of everything that was done to try to accommodate them, the other could not be appeased and was miserable. Sometimes it's how you approach the hurdles that may be encountered while traveling that makes all the difference.