Barbara Shurr’s European riverboat cruise was “wonderful” — until the very end.

That’s when she and her husband boarded a flight back home that they should have never been booked on, turning their dream cruise vacation into a nightmare.

“The flight home was from Budapest connecting through Rome to O’Hare to San Francisco,” she says. “The problem was they only gave us an hour to connect in Rome. This is an illegal connection since you need two hours to connect, and there was no way we could get between gates in different terminals in just one hour.”

The Shurrs had booked her entire vacation, including her airline tickets, directly through Viking River Cruises. She trusted the cruise line to make reservations that she could, you know, actually use.

When she received her documents, Shurr noticed the tight connection time in Rome, and contacted Viking.

I told a representative I wanted to change the flights, and she said cost $400. She tried to connect me with the reservations department, but she couldn’t get through.

She told me to try again later, which I did, but still couldn’t get through.

I assumed that Viking air dept was professional and knew what they were doing, so I finally gave up.

You know what happened next, right?

I’ll let Shurr tell us in her own words.

When we got to the Alitalia gate in Rome, we were there 20 minutes before the flight, and the gate agent told us the flight was closed and we would have to take the flight the next day.

We went out to the ticket counter, and they wanted to charge us $6,000 for the next day’s flight. I managed to talk them into honoring our tickets for the next day, but they would not pay for a hotel room or any food.

After we finally got home, I called Viking and they said, “Call the insurance company.” Which I did.

I filled out the claim form which said not to expect a response for four weeks. After 5 weeks I called them and was told the claim had been denied because the planes were “on time.”

She phoned Viking, explaining that she’d tried to get them to fix the problem before her cruise, and that her claim had been denied on a technicality.

Viking offered a $500 cruise credit, but that doesn’t begin to cover her out-of-pocket expenses, which total $1,213 for a hotel, rebooking her domestic flight and a cab ride to the airport.

“I would like to see Viking take responsibility for their air department error and reimburse us,” she says.

That sounded reasonable, so I contacted Viking on her behalf. A few weeks later, I heard from Shurr, who said a customer service representative had contacted her to apologize and offer two more $500 cruise credits.

She’s unhappy.

It’s empty gesture on their part which costs them nothing, and makes me mad.

The only way these vouchers are any good is if you take another cruise on Viking, which would end up costing us another $8,000 at least.

Why would we want to spend all that money for $1000 credit?

Why, indeed?

Here’s the bottom line: If Viking booked these airline tickets, then it should have made darned sure they were legal connections. It appears that at least two mistakes were made on these reservations: First, the illegal connection times; and second, the reservations don’t appear to be linked. (If they were, then they wouldn’t have had to pay for their domestic flight changes.)

The only fault I can find with Shurr is that she didn’t insist Viking address this obvious problem before she left. The rest, as far as I can tell, is on Viking.

Is its response to her, and to me, appropriate? I’m not so sure.