Disappointing

Viking Sineus Cruise Review to River Cruises - Russia

Cruises: 7+ cruises
Review: 1
Helpful Votes: 38

Overall rating:

2.4 out of 5
Viking Sineus

10 Night Black Sea To Kiev (Odessa To Kiev)

Sail date: August 15, 2019

Ship: Viking Sineus

Traveled as: Couple

Reviewed: 2 years ago

Review summary

1. Although the ship was, generally, comfortable and well arranged, the main meeting/social area was too small for the number of passengers onboard and, consequently, chairs were laid out in rows, some hard backed, for any information seminars or social get-togethers, which was really inappropriate. 2. The evening entertainment was dreadful; apart from one evening when local musicians came onboard we were offered two poorly prepared quizzes. The other entertainment was the onboard keyboard players. Clearly Viking would rather you paid out for the expensive evening restaurant/opera/ballet trips. 3. The Viking Explorer Society cocktails event, ‘exclusive’ to previous Viking passengers, was made available to all passengers and, consequently, if there were cocktails and canapés we weren’t offered any. Instead a glass of sparkling wine was all we were given. On other Viking cruises we have also been offered the special Viking shot glass with Norwegian spirit. 4. Viking marketing really went to town on this trip with their use of descriptive adjectives. For ‘lush galleries’ at the Odessa Art Museum, substitute ‘shabby rooms’; for ‘beautifully manicured green spaces’ substitute ‘dusty and dry with few flowers’; for ‘long beaches’ substitute ‘no beaches’ as we were never taken to visit them; for ‘a city ideal for strolling’ substitute ‘uneven pavements with broken kerbs which were over-crowded’. 5. Three days in Odessa became four because marketing had made a mistake with the optional Opera visit which was a day late so all passengers had to stay on in Odessa which, quite frankly, had become quite tedious. 6. Generally the included tours were poorly chosen. The Odessa art museum visit was not to everyone’s taste, the Odessa catacombs excluded those with claustrophobia, the Dnipro historical museum visit caused many a yawn, the folk art centre was a long drive to see artists painting items and the emphasis was on Viking passengers buying said items, hence a visit to three different sales outlets! The home hosted visit involved another long drive to a villager’s cottage where about 30 passengers were crammed into a garden and offered wasp/fly covered sweet pastries and cordial. The dog chained up to its kennel in the heat of the day plus rabbits stewing in their metal hutches were other irritations; Viking could have chosen a more suitable host. Generally, tours involved long coach journeys and an emphasis on buying souvenirs. The Ackermann Fortress involved a 5 hour coach trip with only 45 minutes at the site - Awful ! 7. We had too long in Odessa where there was little to see but just one full day in Kiev and one included morning tour (but four optional afternoon excursions) where there were so many more possibilities but on our last afternoon we were shuttled into town and left to our own devices with no advice given on what to see and do. 8. If some of Viking’s optional tours had, instead, been included tours, we would certainly have felt more ‘enriched’ instead of believing we had been given the ‘cheap and cheerful’ tours. 9. Finally, Oliver Deak, Programme Director, was an unfortunate choice of a, supposedly, customer-focussed Viking representative. Apart from our initial extremely disappointing and concerning contact with him (outlined in our previous correspondence), he made little effort to enthuse his passengers (other than his overly-cheerful tannoy announcements) and customer contact was minimal. In our view this position is pivotal to an enjoyable cruise and we have had two previous Viking PDs who were exceptional and went that extra mile to make a passenger’s cruise memorable. ------------------------------------------------- Response to Viking's brush-off Thank you for your response to our recent communications which, based on the information provided by Viking’s website, cruise itinerary and documents, detail in our view the failure of Viking to provide a cruise that met our prior expectations. Sadly, we feel you have chosen to gloss over most of our observations and complaints. For clarity, we expand hereunder the specific reasons that this cruise failed to meet our expectations and this letter should be read in conjunction with our earlier communications. We invite your comment: • Excursions Let us commence with the Ackerman Fortress excursion, one of the serious failings of this Cruise, and which so many of our fellow travellers commented negatively upon. We were asked to pre-book this included excursion before joining the cruise. Our expectation was that this would be a highlight of the cruise which was strengthened by the description in your brochure which in part read: “At the Fortress, surrounded by walls stretching more than a mile and a 20 foot moat, you will tour three courtyards, the residential wings, the garrison and the arsenal. Use your free time to explore, perhaps taking some beautiful photographs of the serene Dniester lagoon from the heights of the fortress walls”. You must agree, as any reasonable person would, that, aside from in excess of five hours in a coach, 45 minutes would be insufficient time to tour the fortress as described above and be able to spend much free time taking photographs at all. Since you comment that this excursion is an integral site in The Ukraine, please explain how it is that, according to your Program Director, so many guests take the decision to avoid it at his suggestion. This was a serious misrepresentation in your brochure and relevant marketing materials. Yes, Viking does state in the Cruise Documents that the excursion duration is 5 hours but if Viking had added that only 45 minutes is spent at the fortress, we would not have booked it and possibly have decided not to take the cruise at all. The night before the excursion, the Program Director did tell passengers to avoid booking this excursion due to the travelling time and bad road conditions but that was far too late. He added that he could not understand why Viking had not withdrawn this excursion. We were left disappointed and annoyed right at the start of our voyage. Your comment that “guests do generally enjoy the site visit” is definitely not what those onboard the ship that undertook the trip commented to us which concurs with online reviews. Viking themselves have long realised the difficulties with this excursion and we therefore wonder why these seriously unfortunate issues have not been highlighted to potential guests earlier and why Viking’s efforts to improve it have failed for so long and why it has not been withdrawn. You mention that Viking’s UK office staff are always happy to answer any specific questions prior to departure. Are you seriously suggesting that potential customers should check with your office that there are no hidden nasties with the cruise before booking? … Really? Contrast this with Viking’s website which states “All you need included, with no surprises or hidden fees”. This was so far removed from what we expect from a Viking River Cruise, and we had undertaken three Viking cruises prior to this. Generally, the included excursions on this cruise were unsatisfactory in content and not a patch on those on the previous cruises we have taken with Viking and other cruise companies. It is apparent to us that The Ukraine is not in a position, yet, to accept foreign tourists and that really there is little of interest within a reasonable distance of where the ship docked. Consequently there are long coach journeys to visit something of debatable interest and which often turned out to be just another opportunity to buy souvenirs, which is not what we came on holiday for (indeed, Kherson ‘free time to explore the market’ was actually a contrived market; half a dozen stalls set up specifically for the Viking tourists visiting the memorial). This is the opinion of many online reviews too. ‘Poetic licence’ really is the order of the day on this cruise. Focussing upon your comments relating to the excursion to the Opera, please could you expand upon your statement that the date of the opera was changed for “operational reasons”. The news from guests was that it was due to a mistake by Viking. We should have left Odesa in the late afternoon, but we were kept in Odesa because of another unplanned optional visit to the opera which considerably shortened our planned visit the next day to the port at Kherson. We chose not to apply to join any of the optional excursions on this trip for, in common with all Viking cruises, the cost is totally unreasonable. Examples are: • The Opera. Viking charge £68 per guest. During that day, we walked to the Opera and found that tickets were available that evening for around £12 per person. • The Besarabsky Market. We also took the 20 minute walk to the Besarabsky Market which was obviously free to enter whilst Viking chose to charge £38 per person. The Metro system is very inexpensive. • The Shustov Cognac Museum. The most expensive ticket on the Museum’s website is around £20 per person. Viking charge £68. The museum is just a short drive from the ship. Viking have stated that excursions are sometimes provided by third parties. Just looking at the small sample above, we consider that either they or Viking are making hefty profits at the expense of guests. Viking say that there are no “hidden fees” which is debatable when considering over-charging. Is this something that Viking’s guests should expect? • The Ports In general, the ports themselves were unpleasant. Odesa terminal was deserted and we felt quite unsafe when walking in the early morning or evening. The ports were generally dirty and shabby with many hazards for guests, particularly the elderly/infirm. At one, Dnipro, we had to traverse steps leading up to a walkway on a half-built block, avoiding dog poo/human excrement and litter and then walk down crumbling steps to access the coach. It was dreadful and a health and safety nightmare. Not what we expected of ports used by Viking. • Entertainment After dinner there was very little to entertain us and when in port, we certainly did not wish to leave the ship and wander in the dark, particularly when the pavements were so poor. At Dnipro, our guide told us there was a pleasant walk along the illuminated river front. To get there it would be necessary to bypass a building site and walk quite a distance in the dark. Do Viking seriously expect their guests to put themselves at risk? We have enjoyed some great evening entertainment on Viking and other ships which is an integral part of our expectations. When there has been a free evening, at least it has been safe to walk from the ship into a town. When sailing in the evening, there has always been something happening onboard. Could we not have expected the Program Director to have organised more than the two pathetic quizzes? • Inappropriate behaviour by Viking employee We have previously made clear our view of the abysmal attitude of **********, your Program Director. In our view, he is not a company man, complained about Viking’s service in relation to excursions and his comments to my wife should have resulted in his immediate dismissal. We were both left upset and disappointed at the very beginning of our holiday. This regrettable action is definitely something that would be far less than we could ever have expected upon a Viking River Cruise. • Medical Services During the cruise, my wife had cause to visit the onboard Doctor. The service she received was cursory and not helped by the fact that the Doctor did not speak English. Surely that would be a drawback when discussing detailed medical issues. We would have expected that guest safety should be paramount for Viking. We cannot imagine how this Doctor would handle an emergency. • Viking’s follow up to complaints In your position as Senior Guest Services Executive, you will undoubtedly be aware of feedback posted on the internet and not just the feedback provided directly to Viking. Given your comment that Viking take all feedback very seriously and that it “is always followed up with action where necessary” we would be grateful to learn if you could have allayed any fears we may have had should we have read the negative reviews before booking this cruise. Conclusion This trip was a terrible disappointment, far from Viking’s usual standard and perhaps why the marketing is so low key in the UK. Generally speaking, we have lost faith with Viking, especially after your deplorable response of 3rd September which left us with the belief that you just don’t care about customer service. We are unsure if we will ever book with Viking again which is a shame since we were considering Viking’s new ocean cruises.

Embarkation

3 out of 5

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

2 out of 5
Food not the best!

Onboard Activities

1 out of 5
Where were they?

Entertainment

1 out of 5
Very poor

Service and Staff

3 out of 5
Program Director very, very impolite

Ship Quality

3 out of 5
Its old an refurbished but not too bad. Not a patch on European river cruise ships though,

Cabin / Stateroom

3 out of 5

Ship tip

Avoid paying for excursions - a rip-off

Ports of call

Odessa, Ukraine

2 out of 5

Kherson, Ukraine

2 out of 5

Zaporizhia, Ukraine

2 out of 5

Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine

2 out of 5

Kremenchuk, Russian Federation

2 out of 5

Kiev, Ukraine

4 out of 5

Disembarkation

3 out of 5
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