Richard and Annette Hart had a terrible time on their Viking cruise. They asked our advocates for help recovering their cruise fares.
Did they get it? We don’t know.
The Harts signed a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) as a condition of settling their case with Viking, preventing them from discussing the outcome of their case with us.
Viking thinks that by forcing its dissatisfied passengers to sign NDAs, they can escape our scrutiny of their business practices. Nope, it doesn’t work that way. We’re still going to write about them – even if we don’t know how their passengers’ stories end.
The Harts booked Viking’s Elegant Elbe ten-day cruise on the Elbe River from Prague, Czechia (formerly known as the Czech Republic), to Berlin. They chose a cruise as their vacation because Annette Hart, a cancer survivor, “cannot handle long bus rides.”
Unfortunately, just prior to the departure date of the cruise, Viking notified the passengers, including the Harts, that the Elbe River’s water levels were low, potentially preventing the ship from sailing. Viking indicated that if it was not possible for the ship to sail, it would most likely execute a “ship swap,” moving the ship’s passengers to an identical sister ship docked in another city on the itinerary. Viking also offered the passengers a $500 per person voucher for a future cruise.
The ship never did sail, but remained stationary for the entire ten days. Viking never executed the “ship swap.” It substituted several bus tours, but unfortunately for the Harts, all the tours involved long rides — many of which Annette Hart could not participate in.
The Harts had booked a cabin with a balcony, but upon embarkation, they found that their view from that balcony was of a dumpster. And because the ship was stationary, the fumes from the engine wafted into the cabin when they opened the balcony door. At night, the engine vibration was noticeable when they tried to sleep because the boat was resting on the bottom of the Elbe River.
When they returned from the cruise, the Harts complained to Viking about their experience. The following day, a representative of Viking offered the Harts a $500 cash refund and a $1,000 voucher for a future Viking cruise as additional compensation. Further calls to Viking resulted in an offer to increase the voucher’s value to $1,800.
That still wasn’t good enough for the Harts, who wanted, in addition to the $500 cash refund, the price differential between a basic cabin and the balcony cabin they had booked — $1,500 per person, for a total of $3,500.
At that point, although they might have escalated their complaint using our contact information for Viking, they contacted our advocacy team.
Viking’s terms and conditions disclaim liability for itinerary changes and cruise cancellations caused by weather conditions or acts of God:
ADVANCED, CANCELLED OR DELAYED
Viking reserves the right to withdraw and/or cancel a tour or to make changes in the itinerary and hotel accommodations whenever, in its sole judgment, or in the judgment of the vessel Carrier or owner, conditions warrant it. In the event of … adverse weather or water conditions, … or for any other reason whatsoever, the Carrier or Owner of the vessels identified herein may, at any time, cancel, advance, alter, substitute or postpone any scheduled tour and may, but is not obliged to, substitute another vessel or itinerary and shall not be liable for any loss whatsoever to guests by reason of any such cancellation, advancement or postponement except as specifically set forth in the Passenger Ticket Contract.
ACTS OF GOD, STRIKE, OR OTHER
Neither Viking nor the Carrier or owners of the vessels identified herein shall be liable for delay or inability to perform any condition herein or any part thereof caused by or arising out of … adverse weather or water conditions, … acts of God, or other circumstances beyond their control.
So its unwillingness to extend the Harts any more compensation than the $1,800 voucher and $500 refund it already offered comes as no surprise.
The Harts might have benefited from travel insurance coverage, but we don’t know if they had a travel insurance policy.
Our advocates reached out to Viking on the Harts’ behalf, but Richard Hart advised us that they “reluctantly signed a nondisclosure agreement so that we can get on with life.”