In May, we had the distinct pleasure of being guests on board the Viking Tor Longship for a Viking River Cruise down the Danube river from Nuremberg to Budapest. We have cruising experience dating back to the mid-1980’s, but this was our first river cruise in Europe. Since river cruising has become a very popular form of vacationing around the world, and since Viking River Cruises is considered one of the top river cruise lines in Europe and is renowned for their large fleet of ships, in particular for their newer Longships, we were very excited to have the opportunity to enjoy this new luxury vacation experience. And “enjoy” we did. Here’s why …
End-to-End Customer Service
Viking River Cruises offers awesome end-to-end service both on and off the ship. That means, you can leave your worries behind as soon as you pick up your baggage upon landing because there will be some very friendly faces wearing bright red “VIKING” polo shirts to greet you after you go through customs. These smiling people will immediately take charge of your luggage and offer you a hot washcloth, a cold drink, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, ask you how your flight was and answer any questions you might have, and then escort you to your vehicle which will drive you either to your hotel (for a “pre-tour”) or to your ship to begin the cruise.
These same red shirted Viking Customer Service Representatives will also be there for you every day in the lobby of your pre-cruise hotel and post-cruise hotel at a special “Viking River Cruise” desk near reception to make sure that you are well cared for and that any problems you might have are appropriately addressed. They will make sure you and your luggage get safely onto the bus that will take you from your pre-cruise hotel to the ship, and not too surprisingly, these same red shirts will be responsible for getting you safely to your airport, either following the cruise or your post-cruise tour.
Given this first class level of passenger care exists from start to finish I would venture to say that the Viking customer service philosophy is that your ship is your private club and every individual passenger is to be treated as a VIP. The crew onboard quickly learn your name, greet you daily with a smile when they see you, and hustle enthusiastically to respond to your needs. For example, as we walked on board the ship the day of arrival, I was pulling my 20″ LiteGear carry-on bag which I had chosen to keep with me rather than stow in the van. The moment I walked down the gang-plank, the Hotel Manager Jodok quickly asked permission to take the carry-on to my cabin for me which he did as soon I accepted his offer. Our main luggage was whisked from the van to our cabin, arriving just moments after we did, and then a whole host of crew members greeted us and continued throughout the 8-day cruise to make sure that our every wish was fulfilled.
I really looked forward to Fayth’s warm greeting every morning and to her TLC during breakfast. As our server, she quickly learned what we liked and how to anticipate our needs.
Really personalized attention!
Chef Laszlo was very accommodating with my husband’s special dietary needs, and every morning the Dining Room Manager Tibor would make sure to stop by our breakfast table to discuss the menu for the day and make sure that any changes being made to accommodate my husband’s needs were to his satisfaction.
Our cabin attendant, Rosie, always had our room done impeccably with fresh fruit as needed, and she quickly learned which of the L’Occitane amenities were our favorites and gave us extras of those to enjoy. When we told her upon arrival that we drank a lot of water, she made sure that we had a few additional bottles of water in the cabin at all times.
Similarly, Sylvie who worked in Onboard Entertainment quickly discovered what songs pleased the passengers and kept us entertained with a most delightful ambiance as she played the piano during cocktail hours, at receptions, and quite often when there was a crowd in the main lounge.
Very caring Captain!
Even Captain Oskar was very caring. When he and his Co-Captain were seated at a table opposite us one night at the Aquavit Terrace restaurant onboard ship, they struck up a friendly conversation earnestly wanting to know how we were enjoying our cruise.
Perfectly organized tours
Viking also strives for perfectionism in the organization of their tours. Since almost 200 people have to exit the ship on a daily basis, Viking uses a system which facilitates traffic flow and avoids lengthy waiting in lines. Naturally, they always have bottles of cold water waiting for you at the exit as well as umbrellas if rain is in the forecast. The buses are always where they are supposed to be and the guides, assigned to you by letter of the alphabet, are always in position with their lollypop signs high in the air while crew members are always available to answer questions. Tours depart comfortably on time with everyone in a relaxed mood, ready to enjoy the day.
What I found most appealing about the Viking tour organization is the Whisper audio guide system used by all their tour guides to communicate with passengers (each passenger ship cabin comes equipped with two Whisper receivers and earphone sets in a charger unit). The Whisper system is supposed to have a range of up to about 100 feet. I tested this out and found this range to be accurate but not really necessary since tour groups are always small enough for all of the passengers to stay in close proximity to the guide. However, since Whisper is extremely effective, it permits passengers to move about freely as they like while simultaneously hearing a perfectly clear talk from the tour guide, with no reception problems.
Round the clock customer satisfaction
Viking’s round-the-clock focus on customer satisfaction includes a 24-hour beverage bar that provides snacks and treats throughout the day, including delicious home-make cookies. For passengers in a hurry to get into town, both breakfast and lunch include a buffet to complement the a la carte service, and the beverage bar offers a continental breakfast.
Dispensing information well is also considered a necessity onboard Viking cruises. The Program Director Daniel held a daily briefing every day before dinner to explain the details as well as the highlights of the schedule for the following day. Of course, after he finished talking he always opened up the floor for Q & A.
The TV in the cabin was more than just an entertainment system. It too provided information with interesting videos about our various ports of call that actually were filmed in the places being discussed and narrated by the talented marketing person who takes you from place to place in the video.
But the most impressive attempt we saw to provide the ultimate in customer service was the offer of a 2:30am cooked breakfast for passengers who had to depart the ship at 3:30am in order to make early morning airport departures. This was a first for us!
Continuous improvement system!
How is Viking so successful in passenger satisfaction? One way for sure is through the use of the very detailed survey all passengers are asked to complete at the end of the cruise. It is evident that Viking River Cruises pays attention to and follows up on the feedback it receives. This is generating a continuous improvement system which produces a truly top-quality cruise. With Viking River Cruises, you are really exploring the world in comfort!
To be Continued in our next blog: “The Best of Viking River Cruises Part II“
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Debi Lander says
Jealous. I really want to take a cruise with Viking.
Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru says
I’m jealous, too! Thanks for a comprehensive look at all there is to enjoy about Viking. They’re the vanguard in European river cruises for a reason.
Tom Bartel says
Denis, I couldn’t agree more. We’ve done one Viking cruise and it was just as you described. The service, the food, the crew, and the tours were all outstanding. We’re going to do another as soon as I lose all the weight I put on during the first one.
Looks like the service standards are so well done with this cruise line. I would love to do one of these cruises some day.
OK, I’m convinced! Will look forward to a Viking cruise one of these days…sooner rather than later!
Kay Dougherty says
I am a huge fan of Viking – they really do everything right! I did the same cruise you did but at Christmas and we saw all of the Christmas markets. Next month my sister and I and two friends are doing one of their cruises in Portugal. I’d like to do every cruise in the catalog!
Paula McInerney says
That’s lovely to feature the people who looked after you. They are a huge part of any successful trip. Well done you and Viking
Irene S. Levine says
We were on the exact same Danube cruise with Viking and also were wowed!
Marilyn Jones says
What a fantastic voyage you had on this Viking River Cruise down the Danube river from Nuremberg to Budapest. I appreciate too that most of your photos feature crew members, the heart and soul of any cruise!!
Cathy Sweeney says
Enough can’t be said about the importance of customer service in any situation. Wonderful to hear about your positive experience with Viking. They’ve got a great reputation and looks like they intend to keep it that way. I’ve never heard of a 2:30 a.m full-cooked breakfast for early departures — anywhere!
Suzanne Fluhr says
I guess there’s a reason why “jealous” is in the first sentence of every comment by all those who have not (yet) had the pleasure of experiencing a Viking river cruise. Your comprehensive blog post does an excellent job of pointing out what we unfortunate souls are missing.
Dennis and Sylvia Chinner says
This was our ship Sept 2015. Loved Viking! Loved Sylvie. Loved Fayth, and most of all loved KC Condes and Jason Aquinaldo!
Thank You for featuring us in your blog Ms. Lyn! We are glad you and Sir Dennis enjoyed your Viking experience with us! Hope to see you again. I’ll be in joining Viking Tor again for this Season 2017. 🙂