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VIKING CRUISES: SHABBY AND HURTFULTREATMENT   21 comments

VIKING CRUISES: LOTS OF HYPE; LITTLE HEART; SHABBY TREATMENT – AND HURTFUL

We thought we’d found a gem in Viking – great cruise options, no nickel and diming, wine with meals, excursions included …Exciting new cruise options with fabulous new boats being built for specific purposes. Trustingly we jumped on the bandwagon. At my age there is constant awareness that the end is coming. (I claim I’ll leave this earthly mess at 104). There isn’t space to say, “Someday I’ll take that trip.” The time has come. So the promise of a new ship built specifically to cruise the Mississippi sounded wonderful. Doug and I were among the first – if not THE first – to sign up in March 2021 and pay in full for the maiden season – summer 2022. Some 100 people here in my senior living place have known how excited I was about it – even about celebrating my birthday on the cruise. Many had done river cruises with Viking and seconded my enthusiasm for the line. When they commented on my faithfully walking for a half hour every day my response would be, “I need to stay in shape because I want to keep on cruising.” They also heard me say, “I don’t want to wish my life away, but I can hardly wait for October 2022 to go down the Mississippi.”

And then came the hype this summer as local TV channels reported on the excitement in St. Paul when the “Mississippi” arrived to begin cruising the river. “That’s the one we’re going on” they heard from me – no doubt to the point where it was a bit boring. Excitement grew as we began to get emails that began “Dear Viking Guest, thank you for choosing Viking for your upcoming voyage along the Mississippi.” About a week-and-a-half ago we received the luggage tags and instructions for preparing to sail. Of course we’d been working all along to rearrange schedules so our time from October 15th to the 31st was free to enjoy the cruise.

With travel enthusiasm at its highest, on September 24 we arranged a Viking cruise for August of next year, talking with the agent about our excitement over all the upcoming cruises. Then , only two days later, on September 26 I received an email from Viking listing, as always, our booking number, warning, as always, “This is an automated email. Please do not reply.” and beginning “Dear Viking Guest, thank you for choosing Viking for your upcoming voyage along the Mississippi” It then went on as follows:

         As you may be aware, circumstances beyond our control delayed the construction and ultimate delivery of the Viking Mississippi earlier this summer. Since then, our team has been working around the clock to welcome our first guests on board and ensure that all are able to have the Viking experience for which we are known—and that you expect and deserve.

While the ship has now begun sailing her inaugural season, we are still refining the onboard operations and the overall experience along this great river. As we continue to ramp up service and adjust navigational details along these new routes, we must operate at a reduced capacity on your scheduled departure. To do so, some bookings need to be cancelled, and we are contacting you today because yours is among them. 

We share deeply in your disappointment and offer our sincere apologies for these unavoidable circumstances and for delivering this news on short notice.

That’s it! It goes on to describe our financial options for recouping our money.

No, we hadn’t been aware of the difficulties. Yes, we were glad to know they were working “to ensure that all are able to have the Viking experience for which we are known – and that you expect and deserve.”

Imagine the shock at– “some bookings need to be cancelled, and we are contacting you today because yours is among them.” Didn’t the author of the letter realize how hurtful that would be? A description of how hard they are working to make it the good experience we deserve, and then suddenly telling us we can’t have it. We don’t deserve it?  Imagine the feeling, like the time my little daughter went to join the party at the neighbors and was sent home, told she couldn’t stay. Like the experience too many minorities experience too often.

Missing out on scheduled cruises is not new to us given the cancellations due to COVID issues. But this time we were chosen to be bumped from a cruise that would be operating. No reason given. Nor was there an offer for placement on a future cruise. In fact, they are completely booked through 2024. We were just dumped. Calling the agent for information didn’t help. Our call was the first she’d heard of the situation. Just like everyone else, she could only guess why we were chosen for elimination from the trip.

Word has spread through my senior establishment and the common response is, “I used to think Viking was wonderful, but this changes my mind.”

OK: If I sound like I’m whining, I am. I’m hurt; I’m sad, I’m angry, and I’m mad. I’ve already complained to the Attorney General. Under the questions, “What do you want the company to do?” my number one request was “Provide a courteous explanation why we specifically were bumped.” For a company so good at hype, wouldn’t you think they’d know enough to be more personal in delivering such devastating news? And to offer us an option for doing it another time?

Finally, I asked for a guarantee we wouldn’t be bumped from future cruises, like the one we have scheduled for the Antarctic (also a new ship – hope they manage to finish it on time) in January 2023 and another in August of 2023. I confess, I’ve lost much of the joy in anticipating those. Can I even assume I’ll be on them?

By the way, in all the years we travelled Holland America we never experienced such shabby treatment.

Thanks for listening.

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