You might have seen the piece in the New York Daily News that’s making the rounds around the web as of late. It involves a couple from New York who are suing Viking Cruises because their “dream cruise” turned into a “bus nightmare.”
The suit – which seeks damages of $25,000 for each passenger on the cruise – was filed by a passenger who is also a lawyer. It charges Viking with “breach of contract” and “negligence” for having to execute a portion of the cruise itinerary via motorcoach after the ship, Viking Magni, developed electrical problems.
The article states that, among other things, the couple in question were “forced” to take a tour of Frankfurt, which they had no desire to see.
That must have been a trying ordeal. “Having” to see one of the most prominent cities in Germany, if not all of Europe, sounds just terrible. I suppose they were forced to drink excellent German beers and indulge in the country’s legendary passion for good food too.
We’d be shocked if the suit is taken seriously at all. But it does serve as an excellent cautionary take not just for river cruisers, but for all vacationers: Things can and sometimes do go wrong.
We’ve written extensively in the past about fluctuating water levels on Europe’s rivers and waterways that can impact your cruise with little or no notice. We’re also covered instances of force majeure – or acts of God – and how they can impact your river cruise. You only have to take a look at the devastating flooding along the Danube this spring to see how something like months of heavy rainfall can dramatically impact operations.
Just as airplanes can develop mechanical issues, so can cruise ships of all shapes and sizes. When that happens, it is important to know what your rights are as a passenger – and that means reading the “Passenger Contract” found with your tickets. Or on the line’s website. Or in the back of the brochure.
Haven’t read it? You’re not alone. But you should read it, because it clearly outlines what the line is – and isn’t – responsible for, regardless of how much you wanted to visit Town X or City Y.
Viking’s 2013 Passenger Ticket Contract for Europe, Russia and the Ukraine – clearly listed in the back of each guest’s personalized itinerary booklet – outlines 26 separate Terms and Conditions for passage. These govern everything from the fare of the cruise to embarkation to your rights and Viking’s rights. And one of the cruise line’s rights, not surprisingly, is this:
4. CARRIER’S DISCRETION: As the Carrier, we reserve the right at any time, without notice, to cancel any cruise, to change or postpone the date or time of sailing or arrival, to change the port of embarkation or disembarkation, to shorten the cruise or substitute the Ship.
The line then outlines, in detail, what it will do for guests in the event one or more of those situations occurs, up to and including refunding passenger’s monies paid.
Haven’t signed a contract? You actually have – and you do so with any cruise line, airline, or hotel you may book with. By booking a hotel, checking-in for a flight, or embarking a cruise, you are agreeing to be bound by the terms of the passenger contract, in much the same way you agree to be bound to a contract when you install new software on your computer and have to click that pesky little checkbox off.
There’s a great phrase that is applicable to instances like the one mentioned in the New York Daily News article, and it goes like this: Experienced travelers know how to be flexible. It’s true; frequent or experienced travelers know what to do when their flights are cancelled or delayed; or how to roll with the punches when a port is substituted or an itinerary is swapped around. I know people who would give their left arms for an impromptu tour of Frankfurt.
By the way, we often enjoy when our cruises have unexpected circumstances. It makes the voyage more interesting, and tends to bond people quickly. But it always pays to know what your rights are – and that means reading, in detail, the Terms and Conditions on your cruise ticket.
Take charge; be informed. You’ll be a better traveller for having done so.