With great anticipation and after considerable research we booked a suite on the Viking Njord in May of 2012 for the Romantic Danube River cruise in August of 2013. We have cruised on ocean liners many times but this was to be our first river cruise and we were influenced by the excellent marketing campaigns and reputation of Viking River Cruises.
Prior to our cruise we were sent notification that we would not be boarding the Viking Njord in Nuremberg as originally planned but instead would board the Viking Bragi for an undetermined amount of the trip and would (at some time) be transferred to the Viking Njord “during the journey”. The reason given for the required ship transfer was “roving dock strikes” We later learned that there were no “roving dock strikes” to be found and were even more stunned to see the Viking Bragi travelling the same itinerary with us as we continued on the 2103 Romantic Danube cruise. Several times during the cruise we asked the cruise director and staff about the reason for the inconvenience of the transfer and we were given either vague statements or blank stares and a shrug. It was very frustrating and confusing.
When we arrived in Nuremberg we transferred by cab to the Viking Bragi as indicated. The staff and crew welcomed us aboard with smiles and pleasant greetings. Based on the pre trip itinerary we went back into Nuremberg to explore the city, have lunch in a local restaurant and come back to the ship sometime in the evening because the itinerary indicated that the Viking Bragi would overnight in Nuremberg. Fortunately, we decided to return to the ship in the late PM and, much to our surprise the Viking Bragi left Nuremberg around 7:00PM in the evening and cruised through the night to a dock somewhere several miles outside Nuremberg. There was no notification that the ship was going to leave the night before and we felt fortunate to make it back prior to the ship sailing. This was just the first of several communications errors/omissions during the cruise and certainly not what we expected from a cruise line with the reputation and experience of Viking.
The early departure from Nuremberg required a long coach (bus) trip back to Nuremberg for us to experience the city and then a return coach trip back to the distant docking location. This was just the first of many such long coach trips.
We enjoyed the cities on the itinerary and saw some truly magnificent sites. However, we did not anticipate spending more time during the day on coaches than we did on the Viking ships. Given the limited time during the day on the ships we did not find that paying the extra amount for a suite with a balcony that went most unused was a good value.
I think another important item for you to know is the difference we experienced between the staff on the two ships. The staff and crew on the Viking Bragi were exceptional in every way. They were friendly, helpful and made our cruising experience onboard a real pleasure. When we arrived to board the Viking Njord the staff and crew were lined up outside and greeted us warmly. However, the onboard sailing experience was not nearly as professional and pleasurable as we had experienced on the Viking Bragi. Almost to a person on the Viking Njord the staff seemed harried, distant and did not provide the expected level of service. The contrast between the two staffs could not have been more stark.
I saw another Viking River Cruise commercial this morning and noted that the marketing campaign is “A feeling only a river can give you”. My closing comment about our recent experience would be “If we wanted a coach trip of the cities along the Danube River we would have booked a coach and not a Viking River ship”.
Based on our Romantic Danube River Cruise we will not be recommending Viking in particular and river cruises in general to our family and friends. This was a major disappointment for us. Also, the poor communications from Viking management in our attempts at constructive criticism of our experiences is another reason that we would not recommend booking with a cruise line that exhibits the arrogance and lack of concern for their patrons that we received from Viking.