We "sailed" with Viking October 12 through October 19, 2018 with a three-day extension in Prague, starting on October 9. In short, our "Romantic Danube River Cruise" turned into a "Stressful Danube Bus Tour".
Due to low water levels on the Danube, which we now understand has been known by Viking for many months, we were bussed to all our ports, except for Nuremberg (an industrial port with cargo "scenery"), Regensburg and Passau (another industrial port actually located in Sausburg). We never experienced the beautiful river sites of the Wachau Valley, the Danube bend, or Budapest's extraordinary architecture. However, we did experience a boat hotel/restaurant experience on three different ships (not the Var as originally scheduled)--the Tor, the Wilhelm and the Idun--having to unpack and repack our luggage several times and in time for very early bus departures to our next city.
A few of the "highlights" of our bus tour included:
- Absolutely no leisure time to explore Vienna or Budapest
- A lunch of overdone pot roast and tator tots at a Melk hotel restaurant
- Becoming experts in European bus companies and rest stops (After all, Viking does market itself as a "thinking person's" cruise company, and we certainly did learn a lot about bus travel!)
- Two cabin bathrooms that smelled of urine, one broken toilet seat, one clogged shower drain, three very dirty balconies
- Cancelled optional excursions in Budapest
- Balcony sites that included cargo, foul smelling water, other ships cabins (Many ships docked in tandem so that you can see into others cabins)
- A bus driver who almost got us all killed by challenging two tractor trailers to a skirmish (Viking does advertise an "exciting trip"!)
- Unorganized disembarkation -- oh, I mean bus departures -- due to unprepared staff; in fact, we almost missed our flights home due to miscommunication between the ship and the bus driver
- An Austrian bus tour guide who could not speak or understand English (Well, I guess Viking does advertise a truly “in-country” experience)
- A Tour Director who constantly touted the excellent service and scenery which should translate into gratuities for the staff. He was certainly laser focused on getting his tip!
- A farewell captain's speech that summarized why we should buy from Viking again (Can you say ‘tone deaf?)
Ahhh, but the most memorable highlight of all was the Tour Director lecturing us on why we should be happy with our circumstances, because "after all, you could be a victim of hurricane Michael." (I kid you not!)
Again, Viking has known for many months about the low river levels and chose not to notify their customers/passengers in a timely, honest manner. After some online research and talking with other Viking passengers, we have also learned that Viking consistently performs misleading advertising and unethical business practices. Basically, they lie to their customers in return for profits. Viking has offered us a 25% discount on our next cruise, but what about our current cruise? We did NOT get what Viking promised. Viking, why not start demonstrating some integrity and provide a minimum 50% discount on the "cruise" we just took? We're about to retire and thought we would be travelling numerous times with Viking. But based on the way they have mishandled this cruise, we will book with their competitors like Crystal, AMA or Avalon.
In short, #MYVIKINGSTORY: NEVER AGAIN!
Don't bother getting a balcony as ships dock in tandem and, typically, the only site you will see is another person's cabin in the ship next to you. Cabins were not well vacuumed and maintained.