Sailing into Antiquity on the Nile

Despite all the recent historical events in Egypt that stalled the country’s tourism activities for over a month, Nile River cruising is still sailing into antiquity, promising travelers an experience of a lifetime on a variety of ships where clients can enjoy a royal experience that rivals the lifestyles of the ancient pharaohs.

Alistair Ballantine, senior v.p., sales and marketing, The Americas, Oberoi Group, for example, promises an unforgettable experience for travelers seeking the utmost in luxury Nile cruising. “We have two boats on the Nile – Zahra, which is five-star plus, plus, and the Philae, which is five-star. What makes Zahra special is that it has 25 cabins and two suites for a total of 54 persons. The cabins are 50 percent larger than the average cabins on the Nile, they’re 300-plus sq. ft. as opposed to about 200 sq. ft. The two suites, he adds, are enormous. “They not only have a bedroom, they have a large bathroom with a bathtub and walk-in shower. There’s a sitting room and a large private deck area with jacuzzi.” In addition to the cabins, service, too, is at a premium with a staff ratio that’s about 2-to-1 with 100 staff on board. Plus, the Zahra is the only boat on the Nile with a spa with four treatment rooms and run by Banyan Tree.

Still another key feature for both ships is their own fleet of Mercedes-Benz minivans, which take only six people at any given time, all led by their very own Egyptian guide throughout the week. Exclusivity is also offered on the itineraries. “The way we’ve designed the itinerary, we visit as many of the sites as possible when the crowds are not there. In Edfu, for example, we arrive in the late-afternoon and we’re the only boat so we can visit the temple privately,” he points out. “So it’s all designed to be far away from the crowds.”

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has one of its own ships operating on the Nile, the River Tosca, which was redone after sailing for just six months and a charter, the Prince Abbas, operating on Lake Nasser. The company offers three itineraries: the 8-day Classic Egypt & the Nile, with a 4-day sailing on the River Tosca and a 3-day stay in Cairo (the Cairo Marriott or the Four Seasons Nile Plaza Hotel); the 12-day Jewels of Egypt, The Nile & Lake Nasser with four nights in Cairo, a 4-night sailing on Lake Nasser with visits to Abu Simbel and the Aswan Dam, and a 3-night Nile sailing; and the 12-day Splendors of Egypt & Nile sailing eight days on the River Tosca and four nights in Cairo.

“We have all the major inclusions in Egypt with the three itineraries, but the one outstanding feedback and selling point we get on the tours is the quality of our Egyptologists,” explains Guy Young, president of Uniworld. “We end up having very small groups in Egypt; I would say on average, maybe 20 people and sometimes smaller and we have on Egyptologist for each of these groups, so it’s highly personalized service. We get a lot of positive feedback in terms of what they do on the ground, taking the groups around to the sites and their whole recounting of history, so that works very well for us.”

Viking River Cruises uses the Royal Lotus on the Nile on three of its cruise-tours, as well as another ship on Lake Nasser. Its 12-day Pharaohs & Pyramids program includes a stay in Cairo, followed by a flight to Luxor for a cruise to Aswan where they fly to Abu Simbel and another 3-day sailing on Lake Nasser with visits to Nubian temples before flying back to Cairo. The 12-day Pathways of the Pharaohs includes visits to Cairo, Luxor with a stay at the Luxor Sonesta, a 3-day sailing to Edfu, Kom Ombo and Aswan and transfer to Lake Nasser where passengers sail to Wadi El Seboua and Amada, Kasir Ibrim and Abu Simbel, before flying back to Cairo. The 9-day Nile Explorer includes a 3-night stay at Cairo’s InterContinental Semiramis, before flying to Aswan to visit the dam, the isle of Phiae and the Nubian Temple of Isis before embarking on a sailing to Luxor.