BUT FIRST -: on to the preliminaries:
JUNE and this is when the fat hit the fan – THE FIRST TIME.
June 21 -- and it’s the first day to pick side tours –
The first thing I discovered was that Korea had been eliminated????? We checked and yes indeed it had been…… apparently the day we were due there was a National Holiday and nothing would be available for tourists. YOU’D HAVE THOUGHT THEY WOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT WHEN THEY SET THEIR ITINERARY
AND MAILED OUT THE BROCHUES. NO?- no………
Wouldn’t you say this was FALSE ADVERTISING?
What’s more, how did they notify us? Not verbally , not by a letter - nonono – EMAIL, so they said. Maybe they think that’s sufficient BUT….. way too casual for such an important message…. too many ways to slip by: we never saw it.
I could say Korea was the major goal – if only for one long ago reason… a TV series we got from NETFLIX called “TOP CHEF” which was Korean even in language which I just loved. I can add to that the many books I’ve read…. So disappointed.
Ok - suck it up….. got a lemon, make lemonade… I set about making do with what I got by electing my tour choices.
Viking offers a free tour at each stop so we had nabbed them with the addition of two/three expensive sides selected and in my “CART”. Naively I expected, as in my past 5 cruises, that that was that. BUT NO.
THAT WAS JUNE……..NOW FOR JULY
And I discovered THAT MY “RESERVATIONS” HAD BEEN WIPED OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!WIPED OUT!
JULY 21 and I deemed it time to wrap up the side tour process, so I pushed RJ to help decide on a few strays. In so doing, of course, I went to admire what I already had going - AND THEY WERE GONE ----- (not the free ones, at least). And without any warning - NONE.
To add insult to injury, Kyoto, the major tour, was all booked up.
INSTANT REACTION… I commenced screaming…. All the way up the what tour agent line I could get to, TO NO AVAIL AND MORE OR LESS was TOLD TO “SUCK IT UP” OR THE EQUIVALENT. no suggestions for alternatives, not even a waiting list. I EVEN TRIED THREATENING TO CANCEL; AND CANCEL NORWAY AS WELL.
….the bottom line was “tough shit”.
THIS IS THE GHASTLIEST PUBLIC SERVICE I HAVE EVER SEEN!
I was not happy.
In all my years of choosing side tours I have never seen such a method.
We tried weaseling our way out of the trip entirely, but at this point it was 75% cost of the trip charged for cancellation.
Ah ha…they let it be known that we could use that 75% on a future cruise --- Norway? The plan was we’d convert the cancellation fee to pay for the Norway trip, then cancel Norway; I was really mad enough to do that. I woke up in the middle of the night and started sweating that plan… I figured we could end up being stuck with paying for both cancellations, so we got rational and chickened out.
I SETTLED DOWN FOR MORE LEMONADE MAKING.
We made an effort to rescue the trip to Kyoto, the gem we’d lost, by attempting to arrange to go there on our own. But truthfully, we’d be very insecure detaching ourselves from the auspices of the ship: we are too old for this kind of adventure especially in such a thoroughly foreign location. (I did meet someone who had suffered the same misfortune and had hired their own guide. It was cheaper than the ship’s tour and turned out to be at their speed and was thoroughly satisfying). But SERANDIPIDY and thank God we’d done nothing because::: RJ was quarantined and we couldn’t have gone anyway and at an additional expense. Further conversation with ship’s personnel assured us there would be cancellations – that’s only vaguely reassuring.
I was really sore that with all the care I’d taken with securing those side tours- I’ve done enough traveling to know the necessity of firming up tour choices early - and even with all that I’d come such a HUGE CROPPER. …. REALLY SORE!
The final analysis: it did a real job on my confidence in Viking.
WE SHALL ATTEMPT TO SAVE SOMETHING OF THIS FIASCO BUT IT’S GOING TO BE VERY HARD TO TRAVEL WITH THEM without there being some vestiges of resentment - NOT A GOOD WAY TO START A TRIP ……………………………………………………..
it’s AUGUST 21 - 3 WEEKS TO SAILING and
we receive final documents outlining all that has been agreed upon involving the trip - INCLUDING SIDE TOURS which indicated the presence of additional choices AND LOW AND BEHOLD
KYOTO was back??????
WHAT’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’’????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? and boy did we hustle.
You should have seen the hustle that bit of information initiated: I slapped payment on that thing almost before I took another breathe – being given a second shot at the tour I wasn’t about to take any chances.
(I WANT TO PUT this ON THE RECORD…. appended where you checked to put it in your cart, THERE had SUDDNLY APPEARED A (minimally visible) MESSAGE: “REQUIRES PAYMENT TO CONFIRM”.
FIRST I KNEW OF THIS RULE. Lori said on their trip she was nagged about confirming her tour choices – obviously they wouldn’t want to be taking any chances at losing that bit of lucre. Guess Viking didn’t care.
I CAN ASSURE YOU WE ARE STARTING OUT ON A MUCH BETTER FOOTING than we’d been the last 2 months. Reminds me of Trump and his “BAIT AND SWITCH” tactics: Take it away and when you return it, it seems to the crowd that you’ve done them a huge favour.
YUP – I fell for it… now I’m much more excited about the whole trip than I ever was even from the beginning.
Unfortunately, by this time I’d worked up a nagging suspicion, something was lurking in the back of my mind that things weren’t quite as they should be, and I was no longer quite as enthusiastic as I had been at the beginning. At the very least I was encouraged to start being a bit more judgmental.
And as to that “bit more judgmental”.
l took exception to the fact that Viking was billing itself as being on a luxury par with Seabourn – BOY, DOES THAT ever remain to be seen. if you’ve been following my progress, you’ll know I have fond feelings for Seabourn. I’d say right there they were asking for trouble. … Maybe the definition of “luxury” has suffered a reversal? But of course adding this soubriquet to a masthead is a very persuasive trick.
PS and an ironic aside: it was a Christmas card from Seabourn which was responsible for that vague desire involving Norway in the winter.
I’m also feeling a bit insecure about the size of Viking’s Ocean goers (930 passengers). I’m fully aware that change is inevitable and that I’m fighting a losing battle: in the future a small size ship is going to be 600 passengers, and with that we’re going to have to except the fact that the quality we’ve been experiencing with the smaller ships is long gone. Sorrowfully, if a 600 passenger ship is what Seabourn is working into limiting us to, and Silver Sea may be rather murderously expensive, there is no reason why we wouldn’t or shouldn’t sail with REGENT OR OCEANIA or maybe even VIKING, their competitors.
And just to disturb any sense of security that might have existed: Viking had a little problem in the North Sea last winter involving a hurricane, a becalmed ship, and passengers being ferried by helicopter across the raging waters. This did cause me to be a bit skeptical until I learned that it wasn’t all of the passengers, some of them remained battened down in the theater for 24 hours – that must have been gleeful but at least it was secure. (BTW this is the trip we are booked to take next February).
Descriptions of this episode led me to suspect that they’re not real organized. Perhaps they’ve taken on a bigger fleet that they’re ready for.
THERE is one good thing which came from all that aggravation…. I figured I’d better not count on anything. In other words, this trip by default would be entirely free of expectations. I shall replace that with something better; it would become AN ADVENTURE….HERE, HERE! And what an improvement that should be. If you’ve read any of my past stuff you’ll know that I’ve got a very negative attitude about both “destinations and expectations”; they both are just destined for disappointment (crappy weather, cancellations, mobs, ruined environments, etc, etc.)
ADVENTURE is a much more ratonal objective;
It leaves plenty of room for multiple definitions and therefore alternative impressions and interpretations of the same event; and is therefore more likely to be satisfactory and a success. Ie: positive outcome. We’ll see………. Sounds good to me and is certainly worth a try.
BOTTOM LINE: SUCCESS/SATISFACTION: All hinges on Viking
that ends the preparatory period of the trip ….. and it’s time to get down to business