Ancient Egypt Up to Date

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Both properties have new competition with the recent opening of the Kempinski Hotel Soma Bay. Boasting 325 luxury guestrooms and suites, four restaurants, and three bars, the property will also woo new guests with dive facilities, various swimming pools, and a 6,000-sq.-ft. spa and health club. Guests have access to the championship golf course at La Residence des Cascades. Coming this month: the opening of 50 Laguna Club super-deluxe seaview rooms in a separate building with private services.

The leading resort for North American travelers has always been Sharm el Sheikh where CHI Hotels & Resorts opened a property last July. The newly built Tiran Island Hotel features 351 rooms and suites with sea and mountain views—on a clear day, guests can see all the way to biblical Mt. Sinai from the balconies. Facilities include two restaurants, three bars, an extensive landscaped outdoor pool and children’s pool, a kids’ club, business center and Internet cafe. A day spa with jacuzzi, tennis court, mini-golf course, watersports, and expert dive center round out the guest activities. And indeed for divers, the famous Ras Nasruni dive site lies just off the hotel’s private beach. Double rooms start at $120, and a suite for two from $234.

nile river cruises Director Khalifa points out that while there are wondrous sights and adventures in every corner of the country, “it is the Nile River Valley—running from Cairo south to Aswan—that makes Egypt the destination that every traveler wants to visit, at least once in a lifetime.” And last year, two new award-winning cruise companies, Uniworld and Viking River Cruises, expanded their waterway horizons to Egypt, adding increased deluxe capacity to the Nile River cruise scene.

Inaugurating a full cruise program this April, Uniworld’s new entry is the River Tosca to Upper Egypt, incorporating 4- and 7-night cruises into three cruise tour offerings. The River Tosca is an all-suite ship whose 41 cabins are all larger than 300 sq. ft. and are decorated with original Egyptian art work on the cabin walls and marble floors in the baths. Two presidential suites measure more than 650 sq. ft. each and have large private terraces. On board passengers will find a pool on the sun deck, a fully equipped gym, a library, and a rooftop bar for panoramic views and entertainment.

The river cruiser will sail year-round on itineraries, including the Classic Egypt & the Nile, priced from $2,249 (applying to summer cruises) and including a 4-night cruise and three nights at the Cairo Marriott Hotel. The Splendors of Egypt & the Nile, priced from $2,899, includes a full 7-night cruise (with Dendera and Kom Ombo) and four nights in Cairo, while The Jewels of the Nile, priced from $2,999, offers four nights in Cairo, a 3-night Nile cruise, and a 4-night cruise on Lake Nasser aboard the deluxe Prince Abbas, boarding at Abu Simbel.

Viking River Cruises’ new vessel for 2010 is the Royal Lotus, built to carry 130 guests in spacious outside suites (452 sq. ft.) and staterooms (236 sq. ft.) with large picture windows. Operated by Viking’s Swiss partner, Movenpick, the river cruiser accommodates guests for dinner in a restaurant with panoramic windows at 17 tables set for open seating of six to 10 passengers. Even broader views are available on the sun deck, fitted with umbrellas and lounge chairs by the pool and whirlpool, and elsewhere on board is a modest gym with massage services and an Internet cafe.

Viking is offering two river cruise itineraries, operating all months but June, July and August. The Nile Explorer is an 8-night program, with four nights aboard the Royal Lotus and four nights in Cairo at theInterContinental Semiramis with full city, Giza and Saqqara pyramids sightseeing; the lead price is $2,798 pp dbl. Viking’s Pathways of the Pharoahs trip combines a Nile cruise, a cruise on Lake Nasser and four nights in Cairo for an 11-night itinerary; the lead price is $3,548 pp dbl.

all the rage The latest rage in Nile River travel is cruising aboard a dahabiya, the traditional double-mast yacht used in the 19th century by the very upper crust. Many yachts have been refitted with attractive cabins furnished with panoramic windows and period furnishings; they now operate on regularly scheduled 5-night cruises between Luxor and Aswan, or are available for charter for six to 12 persons. And U.S. tour operators are beginning to incorporate this new cruise style in their programs. Country Walkers, for instance, offers a 5-night cruise aboard the Affandina, a dahabeya that accommodates passengers in eight luxury cabins (five twins, three doubles), and features a library, a sitting room, and a lounge. Meals are served in the dining room or on deck, and when the winds cooperate, the Affandina navigates by sail. Also featured on the company’s 9-night deluxe Egypt program are two nights in Cairo at the Mena House Oberoi Hotel and two nights at the Steingenberger Nile Palace in Luxor. Departures are scheduled March 17 and Oct. 27, and the all-inclusive land/cruise cost is $6,598 pp dbl; the program’s walking rating is easy—three to five miles per day.