A – In preliminary stages of research regarding a likely river cruise with Viking in the south of France. All of these programs on Viking seem to include shore excursions and are, therefore, really not right for us as we consider ourselves independent travelers. We like to just get out and explore on our own and we’re prepared to do the necessary research to find our way around the towns. My wife and I are retired, live in Florida, and we are in our mid-sixties. We work out nearly every day and I would say we are unusually fit. Are there any of these lines you recommend that will take the cost of the shore excursions off the fare if we don’t use them? How should we approach getting the appropriate refund? I really don’t want to ever pay for anything I’m not going to uise and I don;t understand why these river boats can’t give back money for unused services.
A – Well we think you should write a letter to the cruise line’s CEO, Tor Hagen, pointing out that you will not be using the shore excursions, cabin, or food offered by his line. We are sure he will appreciate your note. Since you are fit, you might tell him that you only wish to dine at the salad bar and ask for a “meat and fish” refund. The best way to save the most money is to avoid booking a river cruise at all. They are inclusive of shore excursions.
That said, some lines include more touring options of better quality. Viking does not actually include significant cost upgrades for its included shore excursion. It tends to offer one basic shore excursion in each port, charging for all others. We think you will be fine with Viking and it will offer you the value you are seeking. The more inclusive lines that include virtually all shore excursions have to incorporate tour costs into their per diems.