Can anyone guess how this Viking River Cruise case ended?

By | December 20th, 2016

Richard and Annette Hart had a terrible time on their Viking cruise. They asked our advocates for help recovering their cruise fares.

Did they get it? We don’t know.

The Harts signed a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) as a condition of settling their case with Viking, preventing them from discussing the outcome of their case with us.

Viking thinks that by forcing its dissatisfied passengers to sign NDAs, they can escape our scrutiny of their business practices. Nope, it doesn’t work that way. We’re still going to write about them – even if we don’t know how their passengers’ stories end.

The Harts booked Viking’s Elegant Elbe ten-day cruise on the Elbe River from Prague, Czechia (formerly known as the Czech Republic), to Berlin. They chose a cruise as their vacation because Annette Hart, a cancer survivor, “cannot handle long bus rides.”

Unfortunately, just prior to the departure date of the cruise, Viking notified the passengers, including the Harts, that the Elbe River’s water levels were low, potentially preventing the ship from sailing. Viking indicated that if it was not possible for the ship to sail, it would most likely execute a “ship swap,” moving the ship’s passengers to an identical sister ship docked in another city on the itinerary. Viking also offered the passengers a $500 per person voucher for a future cruise.

The ship never did sail, but remained stationary for the entire ten days. Viking never executed the “ship swap.” It substituted several bus tours, but unfortunately for the Harts, all the tours involved long rides — many of which Annette Hart could not participate in.

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The Harts had booked a cabin with a balcony, but upon embarkation, they found that their view from that balcony was of a dumpster. And because the ship was stationary, the fumes from the engine wafted into the cabin when they opened the balcony door. At night, the engine vibration was noticeable when they tried to sleep because the boat was resting on the bottom of the Elbe River.

When they returned from the cruise, the Harts complained to Viking about their experience. The following day, a representative of Viking offered the Harts a $500 cash refund and a $1,000 voucher for a future Viking cruise as additional compensation. Further calls to Viking resulted in an offer to increase the voucher’s value to $1,800.

That still wasn’t good enough for the Harts, who wanted, in addition to the $500 cash refund, the price differential between a basic cabin and the balcony cabin they had booked — $1,500 per person, for a total of $3,500.

At that point, although they might have escalated their complaint using our contact information for Viking, they contacted our advocacy team.

Viking’s terms and conditions disclaim liability for itinerary changes and cruise cancellations caused by weather conditions or acts of God:

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 … adverse weather or water conditions, … 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 guests by reason of any such cancellation, advancement or postponement except as specifically set forth in the Passenger Ticket Contract.

Neither Viking nor the Carrier or owners of the vessels identified herein shall be liable for delay or inability to perform any condition herein or any part thereof caused by or arising out of … adverse weather or water conditions, … acts of God, or other circumstances beyond their control.

So its unwillingness to extend the Harts any more compensation than the $1,800 voucher and $500 refund it already offered comes as no surprise.

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The Harts might have benefited from travel insurance coverage, but we don’t know if they had a travel insurance policy.

Our advocates reached out to Viking on the Harts’ behalf, but Richard Hart advised us that they “reluctantly signed a nondisclosure agreement so that we can get on with life.”

How do you think Viking resolved the Hart's complaint?

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  • sirwired

    Since the trip was not cancelled entirely, only a CAFR rider would help.

    I have to say, I wonder you are supposed to protect yourself from your river cruise becoming a very overpriced bus tour?

  • Altosk

    Couldn’t handle a long bus ride but a cruise would be fine?

  • sirwired

    I can buy that. There are plenty of people that cannot sit stationary for an extended period of time. A cruise lets you walk around easily and of course has laying down available at any time.

  • We had a slightly similar experience this year when the same thing happend on the River Douro in Portugal. We did get to cruise for most of our trip. But that wasn’t my Viking complaint–they can’t do anything about the weather. (But they should’ve given the folks that cabin differential and yes, long bus rides (we had a very long one) are quite different that a cruise. You can walk around a cruise ship, relax in bed or in a lounge, it’s not bumpy and cramped like a bus. Completely different.

    My cruise issue was that I had a complaint about the maitre d that was pretty valid. We handed in our evaluation forms before disembarking and apparently she’d read it. She came over to our lunch table and accosted me in front of other guests, defending herself loudly and protesting my complaint. It was–rude. Horrible behavior. Not customer service. We did get a 25% discount on the cruise we had already booked with them this year in France. We loved our Christmas markets cruise and thought Viking was superb. Not so much in Portugal. One more try, this early booked France cruise, and then we’ll see if we want to use Viking again.

  • Mel65

    I’d be pretty furious if I booked a river cruise and it was basically a hotel that sat on the river bottom while I bused everywhere… I do hope they got just compensation. That totally sucks. Insurance might have helped, but in this case, THEY did nothing wrong; they showed up for the cruise, they were fully intent on taking it and Viking (big surprse!) let them down.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Why not? Or do you think there’s no difference between spending a night on an airplane and spending the night in a hotel room?

  • Annie M

    Do any other river cruise line with low river levels and waive to the Viking ships tied up in odd areas because the ships aren’t built to withstand low levels. Other lines have shallow drafts so they can accommodate low levels better.

  • Annie M

    Insurance wouldn’t have helped. A better river cruise line would.

  • Annie M

    You are free to walk around on a ship, sit on lounge chairs on the deck and not be cramped at all. It is nothing like a bus ride.

  • Annie M

    Research river cruise lines and see which are least affected by low levels. Several cruise lines purposely build their ships with shallow drafts that can get through low levels.

  • Rebecca

    I get your point. The OP added it to make their claim somehow more valid. It’s just a bs statement thrown into an actual valid complaint for effect. Irritating.

  • Jayne Bailey Holland

    I had the same exact experience with a River Cruise, on Avalon Waterways. The river could not be navigated, and we stayed in Port for several days, then took an hour bus ride (which turned out to be a 6 hour bus ride) to another ship that had the same problem. I am handicapped and I understand the writers problems with bus riding. Avalon dropped the ball with us in being upfront while we were onboard about what was happenning. But in the end they gave us a credit when we left the ship, we did not pay for any bus tours, and a month after we got home the entire cruise was refunded to our credit card. I would probably do a river cruise again, but not in the spring, during the rainy season.

  • greg watson

    Surprised by a few ‘cold cold hearts’ comments, but then, perhaps you are not cancer survivors, as I am.

  • Molly

    In this particular instance, I do not consider it a bs statement. It had direct bearing on why they could not avail themselves of the bus tours offered by Viking as compensation/distraction/entertainment as the tours involved lengthy bus trips. This resulted in their choices being essentially limited to the ship or whatever was in walking distance of the dock. Unless of course, they spent their own money for taxis, etc. In this particular instance, the limitation on bus travel directly impacted their experience and was relevant.

  • Bill___A

    Without supporting information as to why she could not take the bus, it does sound like a BS statement. I would expect that people would say what the constraint was if it was valid rather than just a distaste of busses.

  • jim6555

    My best guess is that they received a refund somewhere between the $500 that was offered and the $3,500 that they asked for. Because of the NDA, we will never know the terms of the settlement.

  • PsyGuy

    I voted that I think they got what they wanted, but what i really think they got was maybe $2,500 on condition of the NDA, since the LW’s cited they just wanted to move on with life.

    Why does anyone use Viking River Cruises?

  • Rebecca

    Exactly what Bill_A says. And also the way it was worded. Most people don’t look to take a bus tour in the first place. They considered a bus tour, but then somehow decided against that and a cruise instead? It adds a layer of bs to a perfectly valid complaint.

  • LonnieC

    How can anyone decide if this is a bs claim?

  • pauletteb

    Wasn’t it just last year that some river cruises turned into bus tours because water levels were to high for vessels to pass under bridges? Since I despise buses, that would not be a good trade-off for me.

  • LonnieC

    Just guessing, but perhaps she was a little shy about her need to be near a bathroom on a regular basis? And there may be several other valid reasons as well. I don’t think her specific, detailed reason need be a part of the facts of the matter at hand. And there was no indication that Viking disagreed – they settled, in some way.

  • greg watson

    I can’t see where they considered a bus trip. I read that she “cannot handle long bus trips”. What article were you people reading ? & why does she need supporting info. They booked a cruise………..not a bus trip ! Lighten up !!

  • michael anthony

    The OP has cancer and cannot tolerate sitting for long periods. That’s not uncommon. Why is that BS?

  • michael anthony

    It does say.

  • joycexyz

    Congratulations to Avalon for refunding the entire cruise. They sound like a class act.

  • joycexyz

    Well, you don’t have a problem until you have a problem. We’ve taken 3 Viking cruises and been very happy. But I wouldn’t dream of booking a river cruise when the river levels might be low. And I use a genuine, live, in person travel agent.

  • SierraRose 49

    The ship never did sail, but remained stationary for the entire ten days. Viking never executed the “ship swap.” It substituted several bus tours, but unfortunately for the Harts, all the tours involved long rides — many of which Annette Hart could not participate in.

  • SierraRose 49

    Great to read your outcome with Avalon. We booked a Danube cruise with Avalon for August 2015. Very low water levels. Their ships are built with a very shallow draft which allowed us to complete the cruise from Budapest to Passau, which was not our final stop. Avalon’s cruise director and captain worked in tandem with several alternatives for the remainder of the cruise and actually delivered far more in terms of excursions and experiences than we would have had if the Danube’s water level was safe for sailing. We have also cruise with Viking, but after our experience with Avalon we will definitely book with them in the future.

  • SierraRose 49

    We have taken 2 Viking cruises and were very satisfied with both and yes, we did use a live, in-person travel agent for both. In fact, our first booked cruise was cancelled the day before departure by Viking due to very HIGH water levels. Our agent spent a day on/off the phone with Viking and within 7 days we had our entire trip refunded, plus a $1000 credit toward a future cruise. That was in 2013; not sure how Viking is now. We did an Avalon cruise in 2015 and found it to be equally enjoyable – but Avalon seemed a little more passenger oriented and caring than Viking. Just an opinion.

  • Jayne Bailey Holland

    The only problem we had was the cruise director. She was the worst I have ever seen. She never told us what was happenning.

  • gpx21dlr

    You can get up and move around on a cruise. On a bus, you’re stuck in your seats 90% of the time.

  • e santhin

    This is only the latest of the many horror stories heard about Viking River Cruises. Best to steer clear of that organization.

  • Annie M

    It happens every year but one line has many more problems than the others because their ships aren’t built for low water levels. We were on a river cruise where the river was so low that we could actually feel the ship bumping the bottom of the river but we got through.

  • Mel65

    A CFAR policy *might* have helped once it was clear they weren’t going to actually cruise… but that’s pure speculation on my part.

  • greg watson

    I didn’t feel that any part of the problem was bs, but some of the comments were. They booked a cruise because the lady ‘cannot handle long bus rides’. Whatever cancer she was dealing with, may have affected her ability to sit comfortably for any length of time, & just in case you didn’t really know,………………………..there is a really big difference between a bus trip & a cruise ! DUH ??

  • JewelEyed

    Well, one of the things I’ve learned as a reader of this site is that I should never go on a European river cruise. Thanks for the heads up, guys! lol

  • greg watson

    what part of this story indicates they ‘ considered’ a bus trip ?? or is this some special insight you would like to share ?

  • greg watson

    as I replied to michael anthony, Where does it say that they ‘considered’ a bus tour ? Do I really need new glasses ??

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