What to do when your river cruise turns into a bus tour

By | September 22nd, 2013

It was supposed to be the vacation of a lifetime for Pat and James Frost — a river cruise in France on the Viking Europe, from Avignon to Chalon-sur-Saône. The retired couple from Concord, Ohio, even added three days in Paris to round off their bucket-list getaway.

But when they arrived at the port, a cruise line representative informed them of a change in plans. Flooding along the Rhône and Saône rivers had made the waterways impassable, and their cruise tour had turned into a bus tour.

“I understand that an act of God causing rain and the rising river isn’t Viking’s fault,” said a disappointed Pat Frost. “But they’ve been cruising this river for years, and I expected that they would have an idea when the river would be navigable.”

All she’d expected was a call to her or her travel agent before she left for France, offering her a chance to re-book the $12,000 cruise.

That didn’t happen. Instead, the Frosts felt that they had no choice but to take the modified motorcoach tour, which wasn’t quite the same experience.

The Frosts aren’t alone. Thousands of other passengers on river cruises were also affected by the worst flooding in recent memory on Europe’s waterways, including the Rhine and the Danube. The high water levels and resulting cancellations and re-bookings reportedly cost the major river cruise companies millions of dollars, and some of the complaints resulting from those rerouted vacations are far from resolved.

Like scores of other unhappy customers, Frost turned to her travel agency and travel insurance company for help. Viking apologized for the improvised road trip and offered the couple a 50 percent discount off a future cruise. Frost says she wanted a $2,000 refund to make up for some of the amenities she didn’t receive with a bus tour.

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“The flooding this spring in Central Europe was the worst seen in the region in centuries,” says Ian Jeffries, a spokesman for Viking River Cruises. “It is extremely rare that we need to modify an itinerary to the point where passengers do not experience any river cruising.”

Instead, in most of the cases where a cruise had to be rescheduled, Viking would reroute the tour, swapping passengers with a sister ship sailing in the opposite direction. By using that strategy, only “a handful” of cruisers weren’t able to experience any river tours, Jeffries said.

Viking, like other river cruise operators, doesn’t accept liability for “delay or inability to perform,” according to its terms and conditions. But passengers like the Frosts expected that the cruise they booked would actually be a cruise, not a bus trip. They also thought that the travel insurance they’d purchased would protect them.

It doesn’t, say experts. Priscilla O’Reilly, a spokeswoman for Grand Circle Travel, a tour operator that sells riverboat cruises, says she’s unaware of any travel insurance policy that would cover flooding. A “cancel for any reason” policy would cover a cruise, but only if a claim is made before the voyage begins. A Grand Circle policy would give you a voucher for a future cruise, but not a refund.

River cruise lines don’t seem to have a standard method of compensating their passengers. Several factors apparently come into play, including how much of the vacation turned into a bus trip, the amount customers paid for the tour and how much they complain after they return home.

Sometimes, the cruise line will offer nothing more than an apology. In at least one instance, however, a cruise line offered a family a do-over, covering the cost of a new sailing.

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When Al Chapper’s Vantage river cruise turned into a bus cruise earlier this year, the company cut several days from his itinerary, he says. Technically, it hit most of the planned places, but as with Frost, via a decidedly less glamorous roadway.

“The company did bus us to some of the sites we were supposed to visit,” he says. “But it had to cancel some others.”

In a letter to Chapper, Vantage explained the reasons for the rescheduling. “As you know, dangerously high water levels along the Rhône and Saône prompted French authorities to close all navigation along these rivers,” it noted, offering him a $500-per-person future travel credit as compensation.

Kevin Wallace, Vantage’s chief operating officer, says that the company tries to equitably compensate passengers like Chapper whose vacations are affected by flooding. But “we can’t control the weather,” he added. The company’s Web site, he noted, has a disclaimer specifically saying that “acts of nature are not under our control.”

Viking also stuck to its 50 percent compensation offer for the Frosts after I asked about their case, telling me that it prefers to work with guests directly, “and not in a public forum” such as this column.

Indeed, if there’s a common thread among these flooding cases, it’s that the riverboat cruise operators feel as if they are also victims of the extreme weather.

The takeaway for anyone planning to take a European river cruise is clear: Don’t expect it to actually be a river cruise if the weather won’t allow it. You can minimize your chances of participating in an overpriced bus tour by planning your tour during the fall, which generally more stable weather.

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Keep in mind that your cruise line may not even be required to tell you of the rescheduled vacation until you arrive at the port. (Some river cruise lines, including Tauck River Cruising and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, belong to the Cruise Lines International Association, whose new passenger bill of rights requires them to offer “timely information updates” as to any adjustments in the itinerary of the ship resulting from an emergency.)

And provisions for compensating passengers are as easy to forecast as, well, the weather.

Should a cruise line be able to reschedule part of an itinerary by bus without offering any compensation to passengers?

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  • Carver Clark Farrow

    This may be a travel law twilight zone but

    Viking, like other river cruise operators, doesn’t accept liability for
    “delay or inability to perform,” according to its terms and conditions.

    Is designed to trick people. Liability and refunds are two very different item. Not accepting liability means that you can’t sue it because you couldn’t stay at your prepaid hotel, but had to book a separate hotel.

    But notwithstanding the fine print, (there’s always fine print) the river cruise didn’t perform and should return the money

  • sirwired

    You’d think that offering insurance against such things would be a logical business opportunity for either the cruise lines and/or trip insurance companies. Maybe X payout if the mode of travel changes, Y pro-rated payout per port skipped, etc.

  • Raven_Altosk

    50% off a cruise that Viking knows these folks will probably never book? Wow, what a way to say “sorry.”

    While I’m sympathetic to the cruise line for the flooding, telling people, “You paid us, we have your money, you ain’t getting anything back, now get on the damn bus” feels really skeevy to me.

  • Cybrsk8r

    “All she’d expected was a call to her or her travel agent before she left for France, offering her a chance to re-book the $12,000 cruise”.

    Yea, like THAT’S going to happen. The cruise line isn’t going to do that. Who wouldn’t re-book a cruise that turns into a bus trip? The only vehicle that a bus is a satisfactory replacement for, is a car, and that’s only because you don’t have to drive. So the cruise line is looking at a pretty significant loss of revenue, so they’re gonna try to herd their customers onto the damn bus, as Raven would say.

    “Viking also stuck to its 50 percent compensation offer for the Frosts after I asked about their case, telling me that it prefers to work with guests directly, “and not in a public forum” such as this column”.

    I got a belly-laugh out of this one. They prefer to screw-over their customers directly, and not in a public forum.

  • disqus_A6K3VBf8Zn

    Should it? No. What will change this practice? Nothing. Or nothing until there is a mass revolution.

  • $16635417

    Is this case a repeat?

  • BillCCC

    Is this a different Bus instead of River Cruise that was done a couple of months ago?

  • cjbs98

    Thank you for this article. We have been thinking about booking a Viking River Cruise but based on this, I definitely will not. I cannot imagine spending that much money to be on a bus. Awful. I realize they have no control over the weather, but they have to do better than what was offered to their customers. And then to “prefer to deal with the customer than on a public forum”?? Give me a break. They just lost any future business I planned to give them.

  • Extramail

    These offers of vouchers is beyond laughable. Brings to mind the adage, screw me once, shame on you, screw me twice, shame on me! If you don’t provide the service, refund me CASH.

  • Bill___A

    So by the same token, if an airline has a weather delay on a flight from New York to Los Angeles, it is acceptable to throw the passengers on a bus instead? I realize this is an extreme example, but really the same sort of thing.
    A cruise is a cruise, a bus tour is a bus tour. The boat cruise people constantly espouse the reasons why river cruising is superior to a bus tour. Change the nature of the trip, it should be the choice of the passenger to get a refund or other adjustment.

    I’m sure they didn’t say anything about it until the passengers got to the dock because of course they would know that just about everyone would find it unacceptable.

  • jerryatric

    OH NO! You just gave the Airlines a way out!!!! Just think, weather’s bad, can’t fly? We’ll bus you there.
    All the lines are the same. Booked with GRAND CIRCLE TRAVEL & paid for insurance. Problem was they never told us we could not get their insurance, but kept our money anyways. Called to confirm a number of items as well as insurance & were told we don’t have it. Only then did they agree to refund our insurance money. Had we not called – 2 things 1) kept our money & 2) no insurance for the trip.
    Travel is becoming more of a con every year. The right thing to do, if there is adequate time, is to advise passengers of the issue & offer an alternative or refund, like that will ever happen.
    Horror stories abound in every area of leisure travel today.

  • Annie M

    This season was unprecedented with the flooding – take a look at what happened here right in the U.S. However, some river cruise lines handled it better than others. The river lines DID lose huge amounts of money through no fault of their own – many of the towns they dock in were washed away and had no place to dock.

    Weather is unpredictable regardless of where you travel, but I also would have been extremely disappointed if my expensive river cruise had been turned into a bus trip. I think that better compensation could have been offered by the cruise lines, but don’t forget they were victims too. But this has really never happened before so I think that each line did the best they could under the circumstances.

    I think Pat Frost determined a reasonable compensation that the cruise line should have agreed to. She just asked for compensation on what she didn’t get to see that was in her original itinerary. It would cost Viking a lot less refunding her $2,000 than to have them re-book at 50% off. But they all hope that the client won’t rebook and they won’t be out anything.

  • Annie M

    Insurance like this would bankrupt insurance companies and make insurance so expensive that it would be unaffordable. You would have people going to the Caribbean filing claims because it rained on 4 days of their weeklong vacation, etc.Ocean cruise lines do offer the port taxes back if the ships don’t make the ports of call.

    This was a totally unprecedented incident but I do like the way that Pat Frost determined what she thought fair compensation was and it would be less expensive for the cruise line to refund her the $2,000 than to offer her 50% off a future cruise. She was very reasonable in just asking for the things they did not get to see They offer the future cruise hoping that they won’t re-book and they won’t lose anything.

  • Annie M

    There are plenty of other river cruise lines out there, Uniworld isn’t the only one. Although they were all affected by this as well.

  • Annie M

    The airlines just cancel the flights and say “tough”.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    True, but at least you get a complete refund without too many hassles. Worse case you get a voucher for the entire amount.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Any chance I would ever go on something like this just evaporated.

  • Bettina

    May I ask why – when the flooding was plastered over every website, the travellers did not check prior to departing with their travel agent if their cruise might be affected?

    I am from Europe, and I see the news about the flooding in Colorado, so if I had planned on vacationing there as part of a river cruise (I know there are none in that area, but substitue flooding on the Mississippi for example), I would certainly call my cruise line or travel agent to get more information.

    A little bit of attention to what happens in the region or country you are planning to vacation in prior to going there is never a bad idea and while I do think it would have been great for the cruise line to inform the passengers prior to arrival in France, the passengers themselves could have preemted this by staying a little more informed.

  • Douglas Rice

    No question here. The cruise company can insure against its own ability to perform because of weather, floods, etc.. I’m not in the cruise business, but my company runs events in locations where things can happen (which is anywhere) that might prevent us from performing. We buy insurance to cover losses – including making our customers whole. Any company that doesn’t do that, doesn’t care about its customers and shouldn’t be in business.

  • LFH0

    I don’t know if Viking intended to trick people, but yes, there’s a big difference between a refund for failing to deliver the services sold and the consequential damages resulting from the failure.

    If I recall the background facts correctly in Ralph Nader’s action against Allegheny Airlines, when the carrier failed to deliver, Nader turned down statutory damages (denied boarding compensation) so as to go after the carrier for actual consequential damages in not being able to get to Washington, D.C. timely. It would appear as though it is this type of “liability” that Viking seeks to avoid.

  • LFH0

    My recollection is that most of the airline tariffs refer to substitute air transportation, not alternative transportation. In contrast, the Amtrak tariff does refer to alternative transportation, in which case Amtrak can substitute air or bus transportation. Perhaps some tariffs have changed and this is no longer the case. But it does seem to me that if flights cannot operate between, say, Milwaukee and Chicago, providing bus transportation does seem to be reasonable, and unless a very high air fare was paid, most passengers would probably take the bus transportation instead of waiting at the airport until air transportation could be provided. (If the air fare was high, then I suspect some passengers might opt for an air fare refund, and book an Amtrak ticket themselves between Milwaukee and Chicago.)

  • TonyA_says

    Tip: I have taken a similar river ‘cruise’ on those same rivers. Then I returned to redo the places that I liked by land.
    My conclusion – floating down an overpriced barge ain’t worth it. There’s not much to see from the river and you will be rushed from port to port. Besides most of the areas offer simple local boat day tours i.e. Lyon, Avignon, Arles, etc.
    Might as well rent a Citroen and stay in quaint towns and shop, eat and drink local.
    Seems to me river cruises are just a fancy way to extract money from non-savvy tourists. Sorry if I affected someone’s commission, but there are too many lovely French towns better done by road. Besides, who wants to go down the river where there are numerous nuclear reactors. I bet the brochures didn’t have pictures of those :)

  • TonyA_says

    Just don’t cruise. You wont miss much of France. Take the train or rent a car or bike. No need for a revolution.

  • kwbts124

    Any cruise can be interrupted by weather or non-navigable waterways and a cruise line should be able to rebook a “section” or “leg” of the cruise without compensation to passengers provided the passengers make all ports or equivalent ports and the cruise line only substitute a single leg of the trip. Cruise lines (or airlines) should NOT be able to turn a cruise (or flight) into a road trip or vice versa. Companies should be responsible to give customers enough warning so they can request refunds from trip insurance. Cruise lines that wait until boarding to tell passengers about a major itinerary change make it impossible for some customers to make an insurance claim because they have used airline tickets and taken time off from work which they cannot undo….thus “forcing” them into an unwanted vacation experience.

  • OzJohnno

    I realise that the English language has different meanings for the same word but
    how can a discount on a future cruise be considered compensation. I thought
    compensation was returning cold hard cash back to the customer’s bank account as
    a means of showing real concern for the customers problems with the product.
    Offering a percentage off your next cruise with the same company you had a
    disagreement with is not in my eyes compensation but simply a discount, within a
    given time frame, for something you may or may not be able to afford or even
    want to use in the near future.

    Companies that continually offer
    discounts instead of real compensation to unsatisfied customers with a
    legitimate complaint would never make my list for future consideration of using
    their product

  • Alan Gore

    In cases like this the “Insurance woulda fixed everything” crowd keeps assuring us that the stupid traveler should have bought insurance, and all would have been golden. Except when, as in this case, the insurance flakes out on them too. Doesn’t Europe have consumer protections against this kind of treatment?

    The right way for Viking to have handled this would have been to refund the difference between a cruise of the Saône and the bus tour that was actually delivered. And few people scheduling a big overseas river cruise one year are going to take another one the following year, so the voucher idea is even less fair in a case like this than on our domestic airlines.

  • BobChi

    It seems to me that what they should have done was, as soon as they knew they couldn’t run the cruise, offer passengers the choice of a discounted bus tour, the opportunity to reschedule the river cruise, or their money back. Yes, they would experience a loss, but the way they handled it wasn’t honest.

  • Bill___A

    It is reasonable to substitute a short bus trip when there is a minor part of the journey affected or a short journey. However, to substitute a complete river cruise with a bus tour for the entire time is completely unacceptable. The types of plane tickets I generally buy to Europe are refundable with a $300 fee if I know two hours in advance. Furthermore, if I did arrive on a river boat tour which had changed to a bus tour, not only would I be quite upset but I expect I would demand a full refund of all expenses.. I know someone will likely comment that they can substitute as per their “conditions of carriage” however please note that although I was looking at river cruises, any chance of doing so has now been eliminated. People who treat their customers that way do not get my business. I am sure I am not the only commenter who feels that way.

  • Bill___A

    Well, they actually have always taken care of things for me, putting me on different flights, etc. However, I would take a refund rather than a bus for a couple of weeks..

  • LFH0

    I think what you’re getting at is that this journey was not so much a means of transportation (i.e., a means of getting from point A to point B) but rather it was the journey itself that constituted the end. Under this type of analysis, the substitution of a bus trip in place of an airplane trip is not very important (beyond the additional time that might be consumed), for the passenger still ends up at the ticketed destination. Here, however, the very purpose of the person’s holiday–to spend time on the river sightseeing–is disrupted.

    I think it is fair for passengers confronted with this situation to be refunded for the cancelled river cruise. I think the river cruise might have offered a bus trip to the intending cruise passengers, so as not to leave everyone high and dry, but it should make it clear that the passengers had a choice of a refund or a substitute bus trip (and if the bus trip had a lower value than the river cruise, a partial refund for the difference in value). There should not have been any compulsion for the passengers to take a bus trip. I don’t think that under these circumstances, an act of God, that the passengers should be compensated for all consequential damages.

  • Bill___A

    I agree with you. However, I might speculate that the cruise company, having not notified in advance, should correct this activity. Provide advance notice or have additional liability.

  • LFH0

    That is a bit disconcerting. If the flooding came up, suddenly and not reasonably foreseeable, and there was no time to provide notice, then that’s one thing, a pure act of God. But if Viking knew, or should have known, about the flooding in advance, then they owed it to their customers to let them know they could not perform (and in that case, consequential damages might be appropriate for that failure).

  • Bill___A

    Well, so far, I’ve always been treated quite fairly by any travel provider I’ve dealt with, and I am fair with them. Hopefully, that will continue. However, I do try to stay out of trouble by not booking river cruises when it is likely to flood or all inclusive vacations during hurricane season.

  • Annie M

    Bettina, even if they had contacted the cruise line beforehand they would have been in full penalty if the cruise line didn’t cancel the sailing. They could not at that point tell Viking they weren’t coming and they wanted a refund unless they had purchased a Cancel for Any Reason travel insurance policy.

  • Annie M

    Unless the clients purchased a Cancel for Any Reason policy, insurance most likely wouldn’t cover something like this.

  • Annie M

    Allen, unless they bought Cancel for Any Reason insurance, insurance generally doesn’t cover something like this.

  • kwbts124

    yes…but by not informing all customers of the MAJOR changes, the cruise line destroyed most people’s ability to file for a refund if they had “cancel for any reason” insurance. Many people, myself included, buy that kind of insurance for big trips. I am going to China next summer and have the “any reason” insurance. If the company I am using changed my transportation method between cities (from air to a bus), I would be very upset. I only have so many days to see each city, the mode of transportation between cities is a MAJOR part of why I purchased this trip from this company. I would be furious if they waited until I arrived in China to tell me of any MAJOR change like that….especially if they were aware of a problem months prior.

  • Joanne Esler Firby

    I don’t think “high and dry” was the problem … (sorry)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    As a rule, consequential damages are not recoverable. It may be that Nader had other reasons for pursuing litigation. The trick people comment is that when people read language like that, it influences their choices, usually for the worse. Drafters of contracts know this.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Still no consequential damages :)

  • TonyA_says

    The biggest con is paying 12k to float down the river on a pimped out barge. The view from the most expensive cabin and a cheapo porthole is the same as the barge goes up and down the river locks. They both see cement walls with algae.

  • Sadie_Cee

    Have been on many river cruises and some bus tours, but if I was expecting a
    cruise and was given a bus tour instead, I would not be a happy customer.

    As I see it, the Frosts are unlikely to be tempted to book another river cruise with this operator so the offer of a 50% discount on a future cruise will be of little use to them.

    I really do not understand the principle that allows the operator to keep ALL of their money. The Frosts are asking for $2,000 in cash to cover some of the amenities they did not receive on the bus tour. This seems quite reasonable to me and this is the least the operator can do to compensate the Frosts.

    Should we be adding another item to our trip planning list – consult a climatologist early in the process? :-)

  • Bettina

    Annie, ahead of time, the cruise line might have offered them to rebook. Once customers are in country it gets a lot more expensive to send them home, so they tried to give them as much of the trip as they could.

    Thus, contacting the cruise line might have helped. At least, they would have known ahead of time what to expect and could have tried – through their travel agent, to get things sorted out.

    After basically accepting the altered trip once they were there, they didn’t have a recourse.

    I am comparing this to the person in a restaurant (it is not quite the same) who eats the entire meal without saying anything and then complains about one dish at the end that it wasn’t good to get it taken off the bill.

    If they had been informed and checked, maybe there could have been something done to change it, but they didn’t.

    In the end, in today’s information age, not checking on weather conditions where you are going to travel to is rather strange anyway!

  • Cam

    Part but not all.

  • jm71

    If I were ever to book something like this, I would make sure I had some backup plans in mind — a separate bus tour, renting a car, taking the train to visit some other cities, etc. Also know the breakdown of airfare vs rest.

    At the point that they couldn’t provide a river cruise, I would say “Great, I’ll pay for my airfare, and no thank you on the replacement tour” and demand they instantly refund the rest, escalating to the credit card company if there’s any resistance.

    While the cruise line may not be obligated to provide *extra* compensation if they can’t sail as scheduled, neither should the customer be required to pay for the original service not provide. That’s basic travel/consumer policy — airlines aren’t allowed to keep your money if they don’t fly or you don’t agree to take the replacement flight (but if you do take their alternative, then they aren’t always required to compensate more).

    And this doesn’t require “travel insurance” to handle; it’s the provider that’s not allowed to keep the money in that case.

  • jerryatric

    Did the Russian River Cruise, with 4 days in Moscow & 4 in St. Petersburg. Very nice & interesting along the way. Nowhere near $12000! No way do I drive in Russia.
    Drove throughout Western Europe & the former Yugoslavia. Trains in Hungary, Czech Republic & Slovakia. Car best way to go.

  • bodega3

    The OP, by paying for this trip, agreed to the terms and conditions that includes this:

    Itineraries are subject to change and may need to be altered or cancelled specifically because of water levels or wind factors.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Travel twilight zone. So if the itineraries are cancelled or altered, you’re just SOL?

  • jpp42

    The nuclear reactors aren’t going to hurt you (with any reasonable level of risk). Certainly no more than passing them in a car! Almost gave you a downvote for that silly remark… :)

  • WIncredulous

    I was to take Amtrak from ND one winter, but the tracks were “too icy” to get the train to Grand Forks. So they were going to bus us to Fargo to get the train. Wait, what!? Uh, no thanks!

  • $16635417

    What was your alternative to a 90 minute bus ride?

  • TonyA_says

    Yes you are SOL. This is the problem with (packaged) tours in general. The operator is free to substitute or alter the itinerary. Unless you are going to a strange or dangerous country, I suggest you DIY or get smaller local outfits that do day tours. You’ll have more control of your trip. Besides I have yet to hear savvy travelers boast that most of their accomplishments were done on packaged tours or cruises.

  • TonyA_says

    Yes. Well said. I wonder what kind of people are on the top of these companies.

  • TonyA_says

    I’ve noticed that the Russian river cruise is one of the most expensive and often the first to sell out. I’ve also been to Moscow and St. Petersburg but we flew there instead. This is one place I’ll be too scared to drive even if the car had a dozen dash cams. Actually Russia is in the top of my don’t bother to visit again list. The common denominator is places too hard to move around and DIY much of the stuff.

  • jerryatric

    Please explain to this old guy DIY, thanks. Only safe way to drive in Russia = TANK. In Moscow 2 things beside the obvious attractions – drunks & a lot of beautiful young women, well dressed. Told once a year they organize tours to Italy just for the special fashion clearance sales there. My favourite is St Petersburg & Catherine’s Palace. Oh & all those young “lovelies”.

  • TonyA_says

    Jerry, DIY = do it yourself.
    LOL about your comment about a TANK. I agree about how scary Moscow is.
    About those fashion clearance places in Italy. Well you can DIY those, too. Some in Milan and others just outside Florence.
    I’m not allowed to comment about “lovelies”, just look at them :)

  • jerryatric

    Ah the difference in ages. My wife could care less, she knows 2 things now. 1) I’m old & 2) No young lovely even looks my way anymore. She may even point one out.

  • bodega3

    It isn’t a twilight zone, as it is in the terms and conditions of the booking that you should read BEFORE placing any money on it. But let’s be real. Nothing is guaranteed. You hope your checked luggage gets on your plane. You hope your 20 minute drive to work won’t be 2 hours. Things happen that are out of the control of all of us and if you can’t bend with it, then stay locked up in your hours and let life pass you by. What did the OP really lose? Did they get to see sights? Did they get accommodations and meals? Were they safe? This wasn’t a bait and switch, it was a flood and they still got a trip. It may not have been the trip they thought they would have, and they are getting something from the company. I didn’t get to see Neuschwanstein is all her glory last year as they were doing work on the castle. I didn’t get to see Mt McKinley on our trip to Denali due to clouds. I didn’t get Zupspitze in Garmish due to rain, yet I paid for travel to get to these places to see all these sites of interest. What whiners travelers have become!!

  • bodega3

    The sight of them ruins the trip. I actually had a client ask for money due to them having to see them from their hotel….which they didn’t get the refund, but I did ask as that is part of my job!

  • Lindabator

    Actually, since the rivers had such an unusual season this year, most were caught with folks in last-minute boondoggles. The lines moved as quickly as possible to give their clients a European vacation, but no way to please everyone. And please, keep in mind, just because they were looking forward to a particular shore excursion, which they did not get, doesn’t mean they would be guaranteed even IF they cruised. The fact they still got a trip, plus a chance at doing it in the future for a substantial discount, was at least a way of seeing they did not lose an entire trip.

  • Lindabator

    Actually, we’re talking river boats here, so yes, you DO see a lot of France. Unlike the big ships. Just a shame the weather was so crazy, and the flooding was unprecedented!

  • Lindabator

    Actually, Viking has one of the best reputations out there, and prefer to work with a client to satisfy them. And Viking was NOT the only line affected by the FLOODING. Keep in mind that this was an unprecedented event on the rivers this year. SInce it was so close to the travel dates, at least they attempted to give them a European vacation, rather than letting them hang a few days before their vacation.

  • TonyA_says

    Sorry, I have taken both the Saone and Rhone river cruises.
    Actually you do not SEE much of France UNLESS you disembark from the barge (a nice one) and take a tour bus to the places you need to visit.
    This is one trip I can vouch for MYSELF since I have done it.

  • Lindabator

    Tony, be honesy – you just hate cruising of any kind – but a lot of other people DO like it, and river cruising allows you to see a lot more of a country than just the larger towns.

  • Lindabator

    But most people buy NONRFUNDABLE, do NOT take insurance out, and would have been left high and dry, as the cruise line owes you nothing in a case of ACT OF GOD. At least here, they attempted to give you a European vacation. Not ideal, but better than being left out in the cold.

  • Daddydo

    This is one of those times that I would have talked the day before the trip to: the cruise line, the insurance company, (only a fool would not have full protection) and I would have definitely talked to the clients with possible resolutions. I think that there were many possible solutions, like change river destinations, dates, total cancellation because of the weather, all were know about and all needed discussed. This is not abnormal. It happens around hurricanes, blizzards, etc, so the travel agent need to be involved with advice and assistance. All of this does come under the travel agent’s knowledge and expert advise. Failure? I’d like to hear the response.

  • DavidYoung2

    Come on people, the rivers were flooded and the government prohibited the cruise lines from cruising on them. For their safety and the safety of the crew and equipment.

    Yeah, sometimes Mother Nature screws up your plans. Did Viking do their best? Did they do what was fair and reasonable? Sorry that there was flooding that was “the worst in centuries,” but that’s not Viking’s fault.

    The 50% offer is fair and reasonable. Nobody’s to blame for this, so take their generous offer and be happy that you returned from your trip safe and healthy, and remember what good moments and experiences you had instead of focusing on what went wrong. And hey, try again at half-off if you feel so inclined.

    But please, quit whining.

  • Lindabator

    But that’s true for most ANY destination – Even on a large ship – it can be over an hour to the destination – the POINT is you get more than just one city – PARIS – on a river boat cruise, which is why most people like them. And just for the record, most clients would NOT prefer to just drive for themselves, and try to avoid it even when I explain why they SHOULD. So for those – this is a great chance to see a bit more.

  • bodega3

    What happened to travel being an adventure? Our train in Germany broke down. Yes, it was a PITA and made for a very long travel day (nothing planned that day anyway except to get from point A to point B). We met some other American’s on the train and sat with them in the bar car (no seating anywhere else left on the train) and had a good time as what else could we do? Sulk? Feel sorry for ourselves? Once we got to our destination is rained and there was lightening. What was to be an afternoon of walking around seeing the city was spent doing laundry and having dinner. You better learn to adjust with the unexpected or go around life sucking on sour grapes, complaining things aren’t fair and being an unpleasant, unhappy traveler!

  • SierraRose 49

    We were booked on a Viking cruise on the Danube from Passau to Budapest with a pre-trip to Prague with a departure date of June 5. We monitored the unprecedented flooding and discussed all our options (including enacting our “cancel for any reason” clause in our trip insurance) with our travel agent, who called Viking repeatedly for several days to get updates. At 5PM the Monday before our departure, Viking called our agent and cancelled the trip. We learned that even conducting a cruise with a bus tour was unadvisable, as well as dangerous. We received a full refund within days and a cash incentive to re-book. Others did not have the same experience. I feel we were very fortunate to have a travel agent who put in countless hours helping us plan this trip for over a year and working many more hour to secure our refund.

  • TonyA_says

    Yes, full disclosure I hate most cruises :)
    But this particular one no – I didn’t hate it.
    All I am saying is 12k for this is more than a little bit over the top considering what you get. My comparison is one I took with a German company – Peter Deilmann, before they went bankrupt. They were an excellent company – not much hype – just German elegance and precision.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I agree with your sentiment in general, but I’m not sure it really applies to this case. If the flooding happened suddenly right when they arrived for the cruise, it’s just bad luck and they’d need to make the best of it. But if the cruise company knew well ahead of time and just didn’t tell them, that’s pretty lousy on the company’s part. I’m not entirely sure which is the case, but that detail makes a huge difference, in my view.

    Also, there’s dealing with obstacles in the spirit of adventure and then there’s paying for A but being delivered B. They purchased a fairly expensive cruise that turned into a crazily expensive bus tour. Easy to see why they’d be unhappy with that outcome.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I don’t see where sirwired is saying any of that, at all. Having it rain while you are on your cruise is far different than having the original mode of transportation change. These people purchased a cruise and never ended up on a boat.

  • bodega3

    Yes, that does make a big difference, but having worked in an office that sells these river cruises, I know that they do contact clients as they don’t want unhappy guests nor put them into harm’s way. But if the company had to make last minute changes, thinking this cruise could still go before the OP left the US, then the OP knew the terms and conditions and still got a trip, just not on the unsafe river. They still got a trip and they got a voucher for 50% off another river trip. If they could afford $12,000 for this trip, I am sure another trip wouldn’t be hard to muster up.

  • Charles

    It is not their fault that flooding prevented them from sailing. But, they did not deliver the product that was purchased, so they should have offered a refund. I’m sure the Frost’s could have found something else to spend $12,000 on in France that would been loads better than a bus tour.

    If they can’t deliver, they should have to refund. It’s that sample. I don’t care that “it’s not their fault”. I worked in radio for over a decade. If a storm took down the power line and we were off for hours, we could not charge for advertising that did not run, nor could we run it on an internet site as a “substitute”. Many businesses have had to shut down because flooding made them unreachable. But, did they go ahead and charge customers? No. We lost the revenue. These other companies lost the revenue. We could not deliver, so we could not charge. Many, many businesses deal with lost revenue due to weather on a regular basis. Weather is a risk for many more than a few cruise companies. The only difference for these cruises is they have crummy language in their contracts that let’s them rip people off by passing the risk on to their customers.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    “it’s that the riverboat cruise operators feel as if they are also victims of the extreme weather.”

    These riverboat cruise operators should purchase insurance against flooding and droughts so that they can offer full refunds to their clients when these extreme weather events occur. If they can’t purchase coverage from insurance companies then they should self-insure themselves. Either way, it will add costs to these cruises but at least their reputation, brand, etc. will be NOT be negatively affected.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Bodega3: I agree with you that you can’t control the weather when you are traveling.

    Yes…they saw the sites and etc. but we have been on bus tours and cruises (including a river) and there are differences and it is not the same experience.
    My issue with this situation is the compensation…credit for a future cruise. You or I might travel on a regular basis but the average person doesn’t. It could be a celebration of their 20th25th30thetc. anniversary; to celebrate their retirement; to celebrate that their last child is out of their home (at least temporary); etc. And the travel providers (i.e. airlines, cruise lines, etc.) know this and that is why most offer credit not cash because they realize that most of these credits will not be used.

  • bodega3

    They were spending $12,000. I think they could take another river cruise.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Charles, you are correct that businesses are affected by extreme weather conditions (i.e. floods; hurricanes; snow storms; etc.) and they lose money. The smart ones will have business interruption insurance to cover a portion of their losses.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    People that will be probably be visiting Hades in their future.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    You could be right or they could have saved that money up throughout their marriage, etc…we don’t know. Looking at the stories in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, stats from the federal government, stats from private companies; etc., I think that there are a lot of people that make those once-in-their-lifetime trips than what I used to think a few years ago.
    What if one of them develops a health condition that prevents them from traveling again? The credit is worthless.
    The OP is asking for $ 2,000 but Viking wants to give them $ 6,000 as a credit…it tells me that either 1) the $ 6,000 is pure profit and no hard dollars are associated with it and/or 2) they expect the OP not to take another cruise.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    “It doesn’t, say experts. Priscilla O’Reilly, a spokeswoman for Grand Circle Travel, a tour operator that sells riverboat cruises, says she’s unaware of any travel insurance policy that would cover flooding. A “cancel for any reason” policy would cover a cruise, but only if a claim is made before the voyage begins. A Grand Circle policy would give you a voucher for a future cruise, but not a refund.”

    I am surprised to read that a spokeswoman for Grand Circle Travel refer to their travel protection plan as policies since their website calls it a plan (http://www.gct.com/ways-to-save/travel-protection-plan/video-travel-protection-plan.aspx); their product is NOT licensed as an insurance product; etc.

    As I have written before, there are BIG differences between a travel protection plan and a travel insurance policy. One example is that all of the travel insurance policies that I have purchased and researched would give a CASH refund NOT a voucher for a future cruise if it had a ‘Cancel for Any Reason’. Another example that a travel protection plan is not regulated by the State Insurance DepartmentCommissioneretc; whereas, a travel insurance policy is.
    As I have written for years: 1) Never purchase a travel protection plan from the travel provider since they are written to benefit the travel provider and 2) buy a travel policy from a site such as InsuredMyTrip, SquareMouth, etc.

  • John Baker

    Hey … I know we sold you Kobe Beef but here’s a Canner grade steak. Go away.

    Sorry no. A river cruise and a bus tour are now where near the same product.

  • Annie M

    I totally agree with you. My point was so many people are saying they should have bought insurance yet most policies wouldn’t cover anyway. That’s where the cruise lines need to step up and do the right thing.

  • WIncredulous

    Crept a mile back home over icy roads and stayed in ND!

  • Leslie B

    Just curious – what happens to all the employees on the cruise ship? Do they get paid or receive some compensation? My guess is probably not but the passengers are still supposed to pay full price for an altered trip.
    Leslie, Merced

  • Tad

    A 50% off voucher is no compensation at all unless it specifies that it is in addition to all other applicable offers. Viking is constantly running “two for the price of one” sales – in cabins that require double occupancy. Most if not all people are traveling in couples anyway and take advantage of 2 for 1.

  • Michael

    Agree. Passengers should be given a choice : to cancel with a full refund, or to take an alternative tour at an adjusted price.

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