The view of the Nile Valley from its river helps inform you both of the
history and the modern challenges facing Egypt. Moreover, sitting on the sun
deck of one of the river cruisers and observing, reading, or sun bathing while you are traveling between
attractions is a relaxing treat. At night, most boats offer some modest
entertainment in the form of a DJ, a modest musical show highlighting the
Nubian culture, or a night for travelers to party in their
newly purchased galabias, a traditional Egyptian outfit.
Besides the enjoyment of river cruising other advantages of this mode of
travel are that you do not need to change hotels, unpack and pack
luggage frequently, or make
arrangements at each location to see the attractions of interest.
There are many choices to make when considering a Nile cruise and among
them are these:
Quality levels – how important is the boat and its service levels to you?
Service level and the quality of accommodations vary and you need to
research which company provides the quality that you are willing to accept
at a price with which you are comfortable.
Duration – how long do you want to be on the water and what pace do you want
to take visiting the attractions? Most Nile River cruises start in Luxor or Aswan and
take in the attractions at one location and then head for the other with a
few stops in between. More leisurely cruises start in Luxor, cruise to Aswan
and then make more stops on a return to Luxor. The choice is really
dependent on how much time you have, what you want to see, and the pace at
which you are willing to travel. Many tours have aggressive itineraries that
can be quite a active and require early rising, so be sure your choice reflects your
In the summer of 2012 Egyptian authorities announced that cruises would once
again be allowed to navigate from Cairo to Luxor and beyond. Previous
to this announcement, cruises along this stretch of the Nile were not
allowed due to political sensitivities in the areas between Cairo and Luxor
related to local opposition by Islamic fundamentalist to non-Muslims
visiting this area. Whether major river cruise lines will add the option to
tour between Cairo and Luxor/Aswan is not yet clear.
Except for time on the river and the pace
of touring, there is little differentiation between the itineraries of
cruises on the Nile. River journeys start in Luxor and end in Aswan,
or the reverse There are a number of
temples, monuments and attractions at each location that you will be able to tour
at the start or end of your tour.
In between you will be offered the opportunity to tour Edfu Temple and Kom
Obo, as well as a few other sites on longer cruises.
Pricing – varies widely based on amenities desired, the level/deck
of the ship on which the stateroom is located (higher decks generally cost
more) and the types of tours you desire. Although the major
attractions are part of all tour packages, extras such a hot air balloon
flights and light shows at the temples are additions to the normal fare.
Tipping – it is customary to leave a tip for the crew when departing the
boat. This can be settled at the ship’s desk and is usually in the range of
5-7 (USD) per night, per person. Consider compensating bus drivers
$3 (USD) per day, per person, carriage drivers $3,
guides/Egyptologists $7 - $9 (USD) per day, per person. On other issue you
need to know is the concept of Baksheesh, which we cover
somewhat like tipping, but the level of service may be more difficult to
Many boats carry multiple groups touring under the guidance of different
tour companies. You will be expected to join with your touring comrades for
meals at tables that will be set aside for your tour group,
although mixing between the groups is allowed.
Your meals will usually be buffet style and the lines for food can be long
during high season. An occasional lunch or dinner will be from a menu, but
these are the exceptions rather than the rule.
Meal service usually includes wine, or soft drink, although bottled water and fruit
juices are usually available at one of the buffet tables.
Sightseeing is, of course, the main reason to take one of these cruises and
you will usually see several attractions each day. Be prepared to rise early
If you opt for additional tours, as these usually take place before the set
Most boats have a lounge where beverages including alcohol are available.
Most Egyptians are Islamic and do not drink, so do not expect your mixed
drink to be one of the best that you have ever had, as the bartender likely
has never tasted a properly made mixed-drink, such as a martini.
Entertainment is usually limited to music provided by a DJ. On some lines
there will be a night featuring live Nubian music. A common theme is a Galabia Party, in which visitors to Egypt dress up in an authentic Egyptian
outfit. Most participants buy these at one of the stops and they can be
expensive if you want quality merchandise. For most, you can find a suitable
outfit for under $10 (USD), if you are willing to bargain.
When you are not touring, the upper deck usually has a small pool, a bar and
deck furniture to spend some time in the sun, or in the shade playing cards,
reading or just watching the lovely scenery as your ship navigates the Nile.
You will spend the majority of your onboard time catching up on your sleep
and preparing for the next day’s adventure, so it is often useful to think
of and evaluate your river cruise boats as a floating hotel.
Boats do much of their cruising at night , so you will not see large swaths
of the countryside, which is predominately agricultural between Luxor and
When you dock, the traffic on the river may be quite heavy and the cruise
boats often dock next to each other. It is not uncommon to depart
your boat and cross through two or three others on your way to the landing.
Things to know
Boarding – Most lines will issue you an identity ticket when you leave the
boat for the day’s touring and require it back when you board. This is a
simple measure to ensure that those re-boarding the boat are actually paying
customers and on the right boat.
Laundry - We found laundry prices to be quite reasonable and service prompt.
This is a great way to refresh your wardrobe at the midway point of the
Electricity - Egypt uses the round plug-style (European) 220V power system,
so you may need a travel power converter if you are from a non-220 volt
country (the US is 110v) and a plug adapter to use with it. Many bathrooms
have shaver plugs that accommodate U.S. style plugs, although they do not
always work. Note some of your electronic equipment may be dual
voltage. If this is the case, the device can run on the more than one
power level, but you may need an adaptor plug to mate you plug with the
sockets used in Egypt. If your device is dual voltage it should
not be used with a voltage converter, which may damage the device.
Weather - Although we often think of Egypt as a warm, arid
country, it can be quite cool in winter and you can expect rain in Cairo during the
winter and early spring. Be sure to take a light jacket just in case. Also,
note, that the temperature in the desert drops quickly at night and it can
feel quite cool. after sunset
Toilets while touring. You will find many of the toilets,
especially the facilities for women, not up to your standards.
Attendants will expect a tip (baksheesh) when you enter the facility and for
this they will dispense two sheets of
tissue that will feel as if it was petrified wood only a few days ago. The
toilet stall will often be filthy, so take a
package of toilet seat covers and a packet of tissue, because the two sheets
dispensed might not be adequate for your needs. Public toilets seem to be
cleaner in Nubia, but in Lower Egypt, even Cairo, they leave a lot to be
In many of the more popular tourist locations you may see portable trucks
trailers that contain a number of toilet stalls. Usually these portable
toilets are cleaner than the alternatives. Of course, you will still have to
pay the attendant so have some Egyptian coins at the ready.
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