In a letter to River Cruise Advisor, Terra Travel’s Paul Seiferth writes that when Iceland’s ash cloud crippled travel to Europe — and the ability for 57 of his clients to get to the starting point for their river cruise last month, Viking River Cruises failed to do the “right thing.” Do you agree with Paul or does the responsibility for disrupted travel fall solely on the shoulders of the traveler?
Last month, we had 57 people booked on a 14-night Viking River cruise from Antwerp to Basil departing on April 18. Our group was to fly on April 17, but the flights were cancelled due to the volcanic ash.
On Monday, April 19, we contacted Viking River Cruises personnel and were told that our group would not be able to catch up with the cruise, as flights were still uncertain, and that the group members would need to go to their insurance companies for claims. What was striking about this was that other companies did the “right thing” and rebooked passengers for future cruises (Avalon, Uniworld, AMA Waterways, Collette Vacations to name a few).
We worked our way up the ladder and ended up talking with Milton Hugh, Sr. VP of Sales. He said they couldn’t get us out and wouldn’t reaccommodate us. He told us that the ship sailed and that it was not Viking’s fault that our group couldn’t get there, even though we purchased air through Viking’s air department.
We appealed, and Mr. Hugh told us that we would have an answer on Friday, April 23, a week after the flight cancellations. Of course, April 23 came and went with no answer, so I called and e-mailed on Monday April 26.
Mr. Hugh returned the call and left a message telling us that our clients were going to get their airfare back (actually coming from the airline) and a voucher for 50 percent off what they paid that could be used for a future 2010 cruise only. Not 2011, as some of our people were willing to do the same trip in 2011 that they missed in 2010.
I sent a letter and e-mails to the President (Tor Hagen ) and never had the courtesy of a return call or e-mail. I find the approach of Viking to be extremely poor. They have lost my company as a customer for the future. I would not recommend them for any future trips. If our clients choose to rebook them with the voucher, that is their decision.
Now for a completely different response: we had excellent communication and response from Travelex Insurance. Mike Ambrose was very responsive and worked with his people to do the “right thing.”
We will continue to use Travelex as a preferred partner. Also, to assist us with our group, AMAWATERWAYS and Kristin Karst stepped up to take care of our clients. AMA offered some great values on three future cruises as an option for our clients.
The point was not the fact that there was a problem with flying that made people miss their trip, but how a vendor handle the situation afterward. In that regard, I give thumbs up to Travelex and AMAWATERWAYS. I give thumbs down to Viking River Cruises.