Sunday, January 29, 2012

I always keep a promise. Bet on that.
In early December I took a river cruise up the Rhine River on Viking Cruise lines. It was touted as 8 days, one each coming and going and the rest onboard the boat. But two days before our flight was scheduled to leave we learned that three days of our "cruise" was actually going to be a bus trip because the Rhine River was low on one end and the boat couldn't get that far.
Now this didn't happen two days before we were supposed to leave. It happened five MONTHS before we were supposed to leave. Viking didn't bother to tell us until it was too late to back out.
So I sent them the following letter:

Stephanie Maldonado

Viking River Cruise, Inc.

January 4, 2012

Dear Ms. Maldonado, 

My name is Donna Fielder. My friend Sherry DeBorde and I were customers on your Viking Rhine River Getaway cruise Dec. 3-11. 
The cruise was supposed to run from Basel to Amsterdam. We signed up five months ahead of time.
Two days before we were to fly out of DFW Airport in Dallas to Basel, we received e-mails from our travel agent notifying us that the cruise would be shortened by three nights because of low water on the Rhine. Instead we would be put up at hotels and bused to land sights that did not include some of the boat landings.
At that time we were offered our money back. Or, we were told, we would have E77 each to spend on the boat plus a 30 percent discount on a future cruise.
We did not feel we could change our plans at that late date. Our bags were packed, time off from work had been scheduled, we had bought warmer clothing for the trip than we need in Texas, and I had made arrangements for a house sitter. It was simply too late at that point to back out.
We asked at that time about different reimbursement and were told no. We were told we could take the trip and then if we were not satisfied we could ask again. That is the course we elected to take.
And for the most part we enjoyed ourselves. Once we arrived on the boat the room was nice, the food was excellent, the service was good.
But our land experience was not so wonderful. The rooms in Basel and Strasbourg were fine. But the hotel food was awful. Some of the worst I’ve ever had placed before me. It was not a difference in culture; we are talking bacon and eggs here.
Even though someone carted our bags to the buses, we still had to pack and unpack and get them outside our rooms in the early morning hours. By 6 a.m.
The credit on the boat was difficult to spend. We could buy alcohol in addition to the wine that comes with dinner. Otherwise we could buy cheap Viking souvenirs with it. Men’s golf shirts, caps, scarves and Christmas trinkets were the scope.
So any supposed reimbursement was not satisfactory. For people like us, that was a trip of a lifetime. We will not be taking advantage of any 30 percent discounts, which by the way didn’t seem so generous in the light of us having taken that trip at a supposed 50 percent discount that was simply a marketing device. I learned today that my credit will be $617. Since my cost was $3,000, I’m confused at the math used to come to this figure.
The bottom line is, a three-day bus trip is not three days of a cruise. We lost a lot of what we paid for in those three days. We lost destinations we didn’t get to visit. We passed the mid-Rhine castles just after dawn and missed half of them because we were still in bed and couldn’t get up to the deck to see both sides. We lost the much-touted ease of unpacking once and having a base to come back to. We lost the ambience of boat life, and that was the point of taking a cruise.
I researched after we returned home and learned that there were actually news stories about the low water situation on the Rhine that mentioned Viking in particular seven months earlier. Two months before we booked our cruise! You knew all along that you would not be able to keep the promise made in the advertisements and you withheld that information until two days before our flight left.
Your vague disclaimer in the back of our trip brochure may or may not be a legal out for you but ethically, you breached our contract.I believe you owe us some recompense for that.  If our disappointment was worth 30 percent of a future trip to you then it should be worth that much cash to us.
Before the advent of social media, it would not be very much of a problem for you if we told all our friends about our displeasure with your company. But since we have Facebook, Twitter, UTube and blogging, that represent a substantial number of people who will learn that you failed to make good on your promise to us, and that we are disappointed with Viking cruises. We both have social media contacts all over the world including most states, England, Japan, Baghdad and China.
Please rethink your decision and provide us a compensation that will show your good faith and honest business tactics to prospective clients.

Donna Fielder

The answer was, essentially, sorry. No.

I won't be using their cruise line again, even though the boat was great. They let us down and they knew the river was too low when they took our money. That's not the kind of company I want to do business with.
Just keeping my promise to them by letting your know.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

It has been a while since I posted to this blog. It could be that I have had no moments of lucidity since the last time. Or that I'm busy or lazy or uninspired.
It is all of the above, I'm afraid.
I could have blogged endlessly about my trip up the Rhine River in early December. Great trip with lots of wonderful stories.
I could have blogged about Christmas with all the family stories that are true insights in the human experience.
This last week I backed off from my real life and concentrated on a book that needed editing. The truth is, I needed the backing away more than I needed the editing.
Sometimes, in order to have those moments of lucidity, it is necessary to have moments of silence, moments of calm, moments of self-reflection. That is what I needed, and to some extent, that is what I did.
No great truths came from the week away. No epithemys. No "ah-ha" moments.
But at this moment I am serene, and ready to go back. To pick up my pad and pen and start recording the tragedy and pain the real world dishes out to everyone at one time or another. It is my job to absorb all that, translate it into something someone else can use, and get it in a clear, organized style that anyone can understand.
Sometimes all that uses me up.
But again, I'm ready.