We chose Viking because of the recommendation of friends who'd previously sailed with them. We chose the Douro cruise due to interest in seeing Portugal. This review is not intended to slam Viking, but rather to simply share the facts about a very disappointing experience on many levels. The trip began with 2 days in Lisbon which were very good - beautiful city, nice hotel, good food, and good mix of tours and free time. Then Tuesday morning we boarded the bus to head to Porto to meet the ship, or so we thought. Halfway there, cruise reps informed us the ship was unable to make it to Porto due to high river levels, and instead they were diverting us to meet the ship in northeast Portugal.
This was the first problem - Viking had known about this for about a week and chose not to inform any of us before herding us on the bus. As it turned out the boat was moored in Ferradosa, which was EXTREMELY isolated - literally nothing nearby (within an hour), no cell service (AT ALL) and no wifi either. We were cut off from the world - might sound good but after a while it was very troublesome. They tried to make us believe we might sail within a few days, but members of the crew privately told us bluntly we weren't going anywhere - and the ship indeed never moved the entire week. They turned it into a bus tour with daily bus rides which were miserable due to the winding roads and long rides to get to places where we didn't stay long. One day we rode 1 hour 45 min each way (3.5 hours total) for a tour that lasted 40 min, and 20 minutes of that was spent standing in line for a very substandard toilet with no toilet paper. It was miserable.
The food on the ship was simply not good - there was one dinner that I would give high marks to - the rest were below average. Other passengers who'd sailed with Viking indicated the food was not nearly as good as other Viking cruises we've been on. We felt trapped and had Viking been forthright about the situation, we could have made alternate plans from Lisbon and done something different. But their intentionally delayed communication resulted in us being trapped. The daily long bus rides were truly brutal and not what we paid for or expected. We tried to make the best of it, but it was probably the worst vacation we've ever had.
One interesting thing we learned was that the ONLY Viking employee involved with the cruise was the cruise director. The ship and the entire rest of the crew are subcontractors. As all this was playing out they would not communicate to the passengers about what they were going to do for us in terms of compensation - we were told to individually call headquarters upon our return and speak to them. Nice! As it turned out, their offer of compensation was extraordinarily disappointing, condescending, and will guarantee I will never patronize Viking again. It was a total bust and very sad actually.
So I don't overlook the positives, the cabin was very nice, the ship was clean, there were some crew members who delivered excellent service (and some who didn't). But on one of these ships, when it is stranded there is NOTHING to do, and I mean nothing, unless you just want to drink. Sorry Viking, but this was an epic fail on your part, and your treatment of your passengers, primarily the deceitful communications, was inexcusable.
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