Cruising the River Nile between Aswan and Luxor.
For many people, their first experience of the beautiful and diverse country of Egypt is a cruise along the Nile. The reasoning behind this post is to provide, in one place, somewhere for people to share their experiences of Nile cruising (good and bad), which should provide a useful database for those contemplating this magica form of holiday.
Let us know the name of the vessel, its star rating and where you boarded, along with the name of the tour operator you booked with. What was the food like, were drinks expensive, in fact, anything you would normally put in a hotel review.
Here is a rough idea of how the Nile cruise works for those who havent been, along with a few comments from my own experiences.
You will normally join your ship at either Luxor or Aswan depending on the operator. For the purposes of this exercise we will assume joining the boat at Luxor. Sometimes you will spend a night in a hotel in Luxor before you embark. The treasures of the West Bank are usually the first visits made , Valley of The Kings, Hatshepsuts temple, Colossi of Memnon.. You will normally be accompanied on all visits by an english speaking Egyptologist who will answer any questions you may have..
When you sail from Luxor, the next stop is the lock at Esna. During June and part of December, the lock is usually closed for maintenance which stops the cruise boats from reaching Luxor. This does not affect visits to the West Bank as you are bussed between Luxor and Esna. As the cruise boats arrive at Esna lock, they are greeted by flotillas of small boats, all carrying vendors who are very eager to sell you an endless variety of goods.They throw you up something to look at and if you like it you do a bit of loud haggling and throw the money down to them.
There is a temple at Esna which isnt on most itineraries but is worth a visit if you happen to be moored at Esna overnight. The market is also quite interesting, the further in you walk, the less tourist shops and more “real Egypt.
Edfu is the next major port of call, often for an overnight stay, which means that the visit to the Temple of Horus is usually made early morning. Even in high summer it is advisable to take a light jacket or cardigan on this visit as the temple is in deep shade until the sun gets well up. The temple is regarded as being one of the best preserved in Egypt.
Leaving Edfu the next stop is Kom Ombo for a visit to the temple there. Very interesting nileometer and some mummified crocodiles! At night the temple is spectacularly lit up and can be seen from quite a distance on the river. Quite a few market stalls and a very pretty tea garden by the mooring point.
Arriving at Aswan the difference in architectural styles compared to Luxor is very evident. There are many interesting places to visit from here. Abu Simbel by plane is offered by most of the companies at extra cost but well worth it. Philae temple, the High Dam and the unfinished obelisk are all worth a visit. There are enough shops in Aswan to satisfy the hungriest shopaholic!
The order of visits mentioned above is only a rough guide as different companies have different ideas.
We all look forward to hearing about your experiences!
On a general note I am the worlds worst sailor - and was concerned about being on a boat (one reason why we did a three day not 7 night trip) but I was fine - no problem, the river is calm. I was even OK on the felucca trip to Banana Island. You are certainly not alone on the nile - there are countless boats coming and going and when moored its possible to have to walk through two or three others to get to shore. This didnt distract though, from what was a very, very enjoyable trip. I would recommend it to everyone.
Just got home from Nile cruise (03:40 this morning), 14th-21st March 2005 with Cosmos/Archers direct, (Egyptologist Shereen)
Luxor-Aswan and back again.
Covered all usual places, my own top 3 - Karnak, temple of Hatshepsut, and balloon trip, BUT all worth visiting, only slight dissapointment Sound and Light show in evening at Karnak, but even then the first part (which was under a crystal clear night sky, was very emotional).
This was our first visit to Egypt, and our site visits (included and optional)were considerably enhanced by our Egyptologist Shereen, who was not only very knowledgeable, but very, very, enthusiastic.
Boat. - I would class as a 4 star, and for anyone who has not been on a Nile cruise it is worth mentioning that you will probably 'see' inside quite a few boats during a typical 7 night cruise, because as riverside mooring space is in such short supply for the 400+ and counting Nile cruise boats, they invariably berth touching each other side by side six or seven deep. The reception is usually on deck 2 with one set of doors on each side. So if you want to go ashore from the outermost boat, you will walk through the receptions of all the other boats before setting foot onshore, so you certainly get a feel for the relative 'star' ratings, based in your perception of the receptions of course, maybe some boats lavish more/less on this area then the rest of the boat ?
Food was buffet style and excellent quality and there was easily enough variety to keep us well satisfied all week.
Both myself and my wife also ate some salad as starters everyday, and had no problems at all with stomach upsets, - the tomatoes especially being delicious. I am aware of the general warning about salads, because of the possiblity it being infected by being washed with contaminated water. But we had also been assured from a couple of sources that the reputable hotels/cruise boats only use known clean water for washing foodstuffs, so everyone has to make their own decision on this.
Cabin - this was on deck 2 and could best be described as 'compact and bijou' as the advert goes ! There was definately not enough storage space for clothes, but apart from this was adequate for us, there was a big picture window, but not sure about the value of this, I know this is made a big point of in all the brochures and on first thought might be a MUST have requirement, but 1) the trip is so event filled anyway that if you are anything like us the only function of the cabin is for bathroom/sleeping/changing. and 2) A surprising proportion of the week is spent berthed directly next (3 feet glass to glass) to another ship, so your curtains are almost always on anyway.
Most of our onboard time was spent either on the 4th floor sundeck, which is a very good size on one level with ample sun loungers (towels provided), a splash pool, and a reasonable sun shaded area with cushioned wicker chairs and a bar, or in the lounge bar on the 3rd floor.
Crew - brilliant, very courteous, and always with a ready smile.
- Oh I almost forgot the drinks and prices, this was an all inclusive cruise.
so drinks all in, well around 10:00 to 23:45 anyway, after this bar did not close just charged to your room number. Bottled water was always freely available from a chest fridge in the corner of the lounge, and this was always being replenished, just help yourself.
In summary, an absolutely magical 1 week holiday, I would recommend to anyone who is reasonably mobile and does not have very young children, - because of ship berthing system above.
Health warning ! We have come home absolutely shattered ! As well as the included excursions, we did a 'few' optionals as well, so one morning we had to get up around 02:00 (Abu Simbel, and yes it was worth it ), and another morning around 04:00 ( balloon trip - to be airborne at dawn, again yes), so the various holiday company's suggested 'addon's to the holiday - for a second week a Luxor/Cairo/Sharm hotel may well be worth condsidering.
Having said that, as a standalone it will remain one of our favourites, and we do not regret a minute of it !
Sorry I have rambled on. That's it, ought ive missed or confused - apologies & let me know.
Here's a link to my review of our cruise on the MS Grand Star last September which may be useful.
Also in the interests of Truth and Justice when a copy of this was also posted in the Cruise Forum there was a reply from a couple who were also on the MS Grand Star at approximately the same time and were very disappointed with the facilities so if you've any concerns you may want to have a look. Don't want to be accused of favouritism !
The cost was approximately £157 each [half price for children] and we got two cabins with no extra charge [we were two adults, one child]. The trip included stay on Thomsons cruiser, unfortunately cant remember the name, full board plus afternoon tea, entertainment on board, entrance charges to all the main attractions enroute, valley of the kings etc, plus a trip the following week to the Karnak light and sound. Our trip ended trip at Aswaan and got a coach back to Luxor [approx four hours]which was a very pleasant journey taking in the countryside and real Egypt. We had to sign for drinks while on board and I was pleasantly surprised at the end when I went to settle the bill... I went armed with my visa card just in case I didnt have enough cash, and found the bill came to just under £25!!!!
The food, service, rooms, entertainment were second to none and would have no hesitation in recommending this to anybody. I hasten to add I was a reluctant traveller to Egypt, it was my family's choice this year, and have got to say I cant WAIT to return. This year we are going to Sharm... to the infamous Coral Sea Resort at the beginning of July but am sure it wont be built in time by looking at the forum for this resort.
I am looking forward to the prospect of returning to the Nile/Luxor, hopefully next year.
As we were the only British people on board we were waited on hand and foot and nothing was too much trouble and the waiters made us (nobody else) special cocktails. We did get a little bit lonely at times but our guide and the waiters made sure that we had somebody else to talk to.
As the boats all moor alongside each other, four or five abreast, you get the chance to see the receptions of the other boats and they all look fabulous. Our cabin was nicely furnished and had patio doors, no balcony, just railings but was very welcome when sailing, even though we had air-conditioning. We had two comfortable armchairs, plenty of wardrobe space and the beds were very comfortable. We took a kettle with us which we used in the mornings as none of our trips were early calls. The food on board was excellent and could not be faulted. Our chef was interested in what was traditional English food and we explained about fish and chips and roast beef, guess what we got the next day, battered fish. It was lovely but we were happy with the food on offer. It seems that water hygiene on board is very good and we used the water to brush our teeth with no ill effects. We could not join in the party games on board as they were the first 4 days in Spanish and the second four in Italian. Cannot comment on the facilities on board as this was only the third cruise and certain things were not ready.
We arrived at our boat at 6.30 p.m. on the first day and sailed at 5.30 a.m. the next day so didn’t have time to see any sights at Luxor before we left. Seeing the temples at Edfu, Kom Ombo and Philea was out of this world. At Aswan we took an optional trip to the Nubian Village, what a disappointment, didn’t expect satellite dishes, washing machines and flush toilets in the houses.
Arrived back in Luxor at 1.30 a.m. on our last day so all the remaining trips (Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Memnon, Hatshepsut’s Temple, Karnack, break for lunch and Luxor Temple) had to be completed before being at the airport for 3 p.m. Quite exhausting and not enough time to do them justice We were very disappointed as we had been looking forward to the sights of Luxor for so long. We will just have to go again!!
Luxor airport was lacking in most things; hope the new terminal at will be better.
Our holiday was booked through Justegypt.com and the full price was £1130.00 for two. According to the Nilesun.com website the Royal Nile Ruby as an Ultra Super Deluxe ship.
VISA cost £8 sterling at airport They want sterling 10pp (U can use LE)and they give change in LE
WEATHER great time to visit 34/37c in the shade.
MONEY. I took £500 sterling in LE and struggled to spend it, you just can spend it. I would recommend take £50sterling and change anything else with your guide or boat (they will have it from tips) Pay for trips sterling/credit card you get a better exchange rate. If you do take a credit card I recommend Nationwide as they do not charge for foreign purchases some charge 2% per transaction
Having never cruised before I scoured websites for help and advice with Boothers review being very helpful. The only thing I could not find was a peak time tour, when kids off school (wife a teacher)
THE SHIP. The boat does not look the best from the outside but I thought it was a good standard inside with the rooms about the size of a travel lodge room.
ENTERTAINMENT was limited, a pool table and each evening a sort of theme but the Germans in the majority on our trip would not join in and generally were miserable. This of course brought out the best of British and the bonding of our group was excellent.
My daughter had couple of other young girls and got on great (Inever saw her), my son sat and read books. (GCSEs this year)
THE FOOD. Dress is smart casual for Dinner. It is mostly five star, I think one below average meal. My son is a picky eater, I mentioned it to the waiter and he produced a plate of chips, boring but if the kids are happy I am happy. My 13yr old daughter had couldnt get enough of it.
CREW. Very important our room porter HASSAN was excellent. In addition to the towel statues he sorted out 4 sun loungers each morning and kept the Germans from using them (therefore qualifying for an extra backsheesh)
TRIPS. Cost an extra £1000sterling. They are pricey and you could save quite a lot if you could book ashore but you are a captive audience on the ship and only they know the itinerary which is subject to change. So if you book a balloon ride and the ship stuck at Esna it is expensive loss or you miss a trip because they dont meet up. A few early starts Abu (which is a must)at 2.30am, but the payoff TAMER got us in the temple and we were the only ones in for about 20mins and that was plenty of time for photos and exploring the rooms, We were back on the ship by 9am. If you only do one trip the balloon ride is something else, the sunrise lighting HATSHEPSUT temple probably exceeded Abu.
ILLNESS. The table next to ours all had usual illness for a day or so. Our table had a day 2/3 days into trip which I put down to change in water because I had the same when we got home. I had a different problem, I never had diarrhoea but when I went to the toilet it just flowed which I put down to beer (my daughter thinks that is too much information) These issues did not spoil the trip in anyway.
SOUVENIRs As everyone says barter again and again. If you forget something no problem the bazaar in Airport departures is as cheap as the bazaars.
IN CONCLUSION Overall this was a superb experience and exceeded our expectations, the quality and size of the temples is breathtaking. We would love to go again.
Food was great and plenty of it, as far as I am aware no-one on the RA II got an upset tummy - a good sign of the standard of hygiene. You have the same table for all meals so soon get to know your dinner companions. RA II has about 70 cabins so it doesn't take long to get to know quite a few people on board as well. (If you aren't the sociable sort you might prefer a bigger boat, personally we thought this was great.) There was a 'Galibaya' evening and everyone was expected to wear one (sold all over the place so it won't be a problem picking one up, don't pay more than LE50 however posh the thing looks). Had a belly dancer one evening too, she probably needs to practise a bit more! I've never seen one with lycra sports shorts under her outfit and big black clodhoppers on her feet - entertaining nonetheless.
Did all the usual visits, getting up at 3am for Abu Simbel, worth it though, arrived there at about 6am before the crowds and while it was still relatively cool. Hot air balloon was a 4am start, also worth it although didn't get as high or fly over anything as interesting as we'd have liked.
Had a mini heatwave & temperature over 40 degrees, very hot when you're looking around temples! Sandstorm in Aswan followed by the first rain they've had in years (while we were having dinner so didn't affect our holiday in the least).
This was our first Nile cruise and was an absolutely FANTASTIC experience, a brilliant way to see some of what Egypt has to offer and I'd thoroughly recommend it. We did 4 nights beforehand in Cairo and 4 nights afterwards in Hurghada and feel that this ranked amongst one of our best holidays.
Anyone who has a Nile cruise booked - LUCKY YOU.
Cruise Boat: Sunray
Tour operator: Tradewinds (Tailormade)
Part 1 (I couldnt possibly bore you all senseless all at once !!!)
Departed Sunday 24.05.05 3 flights to get us there, Leeds/Bradford to Heathrow - Heathrow to Cairo and Cairo to Luxor. Arrived Luxor Sheraton Hotel at 1am Monday, tired but happy to be back on Egyptian soil. Hotel was OK for a 1 night stopover but wouldn't want to be there any longer. Up at 6am for breakfast, a walk into the hotel gardens revealed our frst glimps of the Majestic River Nile.
Colin and I were collected from the hotel, along with our bags, at 8am in a small 10 seater mini bus and taken to Luxor temple. Our guide was brilliant, his English excellent and his knowledge passionate. Unfortunatly we were so tired that most of his words went straight over our heads, but no books, photo's or TV documentaries can prepare you for the drama that unfold as you walk around these ancient sites. The all embracing sense of being enveloped in total unadulterated history is, at times, overwhelming. We walked along The Avenue of Sphinxes and were told that the ancient village at the end of 300yards or so of Sphinxes was soon to be demolished and the residents moved to a nearby area. The reason that Luxor temple and The Sphinxes is in such remarkable condition is that untill 1850 it was actually covered in sand, general debris and the village of Luxor, for 3000 years. Restoration work is still ongoing and the demolition of the village is expected to un earth approx. 3 km of Sphinxes,connecting Luxor to the fantastic Karnak temple. I loved Karnak, I spent most of my visit there looking up the length of the columns, amazed to see that some of the original colour was still clearly visible. The contrast of the yellow gold stone and the intense blue of the Egyptian Sky, punctuated with the green fronds of palm trees is incredibly atmospheric. Our first early morning, on the banks of the Nile, set the whole mood for the following 4 days.
The Sunray Cruise Boat
We boarded at midday, and I was very plesently suprised. Our boat was lovely, the reception lobby was black, grey, white and cappachino coloured marble, with lots of chrome, potted palms and comfy upholstered armchairs and sofas, the focal point being a magnificent staircase. Our cabin was larger than I had imagined, with a great marble bathroom, masses of storage space and a satelite tv, we had a huge picture window, but alas, no balcony. The Dining room had tables for 6, 8, or 10, and "bonding" was very much encouraged. On the 4th level was the lounge bar, once again very oppulent with overstuffed armchairs and sofas, marble and brass tables, clever lighting and potted palms. The sundeck had sturdy wooden loungers, heavy mock wicker chairs, lots of parasols to escape the heat of the sun (about 43-45 degrees) and a small pool.
The meal plan was full board, buffet breakfast and lunch and waiter service dinner. Afternoon tea of sandwiches and biscuits was served at 5.00pm with possibly the worst tasting tea and coffee I have ever encountered anywhere in the world! However, the quality and standard of all other meals was excelent and could't be faulted - but woebetide anyone who didn't show up for any of the meals!!! Colin and I don't eat lunch very often when on holiday and this resulted in a frantic phone call to our cabin, presumably to check we hadn't fallen overboard , been left at one of the sites or were suffering from the galloping "funny tummy"!
The staff were fantastic, but that is so typical of the Egyptian people, however I still find it remarkable to be in a place where every member of staff greets you with a genuine smile that lights up their entire face.
At dinner on the first evening we were informed that our wake up call the following morning would be at 4.40am , and after an early breakfast we would head out towards the West Bank.
The West Bank
Heading towards the Valley of the Queens I was fascinated to see the people going about their daily life, tending their crops, feeding their animals,and just living in a very similar way that their forefathers have for thousands of years. The land on the banks of the Nile is incredibly fertile, land is marked out with Giant sunflower hedges, there are so many shades of green everything is incomprahensibly verdant . Buildings are constructed of Nile mud bricks , palm leaves and anything else that can be used from the land.
The landscape changed dramaticaly to desert as we aproached the Valley of the Queens. As it was so early there were few other people there and a few things stick in my mind. Once again the stark contrast of the azure blue sky against the soft golden cliffs and sand, occasionally a hot air balloon wafted accross the sky. The eerie echoey silence of the vally itself and again the overwhelming sense of history, made even more believable when locals were seen walking around in traditional Egyptian garb.
Later we visited the valley of the Kings and I had what I refer to a a very strong "emotional moment" as I left the tomb of Ramses 4th - tears rolled down my cheeks just with the crushing emotion that I felt.
I will sign off now but will continue with my experiences in a few days time
NILE TREASURE BOAT
tidy looking boat although there were many more tidier boats be honest ours looked the cheapest of them all. cabins were a resonable size for two sharing but with 3 its a push. u will not be cruising for long about 28hrs and considering its suppose to be a 7day cruise people were very p***ed off.
well this was a problem with all of the cruise not just ours there was not variety in the food, breakfast was nice u had a choice of fruit cereal omelette, dinner was usually rice, potatoes, chicken and fish salad was avaliable, evening meals were the worst as again it was chicken, fish.salad rice pasta nown a again if you were lucky,to be honest the quality of the food was not brillant, probably why half the people on the boat were ill.
all drinks have to be paid for none of the passengers were aware of this until we have our first meeting the only free drink u get is at breakfast, all other drinks u wish to have at dinner or tea time have to be paid for, what will happen is u will sign for your drinks and then pay the bill at the end of the week usually sunday evening depending on when they have the bills sorted but BE WARNED!! after you have paid your bar bill any other drinks u want u will have to pay for in cash make sure u have the right change the waiters will not give u change!!! many people brought a drinks totalling 20 le (egypt pound) gave the waiter a 50le and did not get any change MAKE SURE U HAVE SMALL NOTES!!!!
there was none!! there was one party which was in traditional egyptian style u had to dress up and a few games were played,i forgot to mention the egyptian clothing had to be bought from the shop on board it wasn't supplied, there was a belly dancer for about 30mins one night that was it!!!
all there was to do was either stay in ur cabin and watch tv (no english channels) or sun bathe but you'd be lucky if u could get a bed.
staff are very friendly and helpful, just be careful if u have teenagers they will try to chat them up i found that out. at the end of the week once u have settled ur bar bill they will not be as reluctant to help u and they will not give u change when u buy drinks.
for me this was the best part of the holiday, although some of the times we went on them was stupid, tuesday afternoon the first day we were there we visited luxor and karnak temples at 2pm the heat u can imagine was extremely hot apparently it was 52c alot of people suffered with the heat including my mum. the temples were definately rushed u had about 1hr 30mins if u were lucky at each temple the tours were rushed as there was alot of other groups doing the same tours, the longest stay we had was at abu simbel we had just over 1hr 30 very enjoyable but u cannot take pictures inside any of the temples (this tour is usually around £70 per person extra this is not free).
valley of the kings u can go into 3tombs the egyptologist will choose which tombs he think are best preserved and take u in them, give him credit the tombs we went in were beautiful although i nearly passed out as it was so hot.
on a whole i enjoyed the excursions as i love anything ancient but they are rushed, u have to get up at ridiucous times in the morning as early as 3:30am just be warned.
at the ebd of the week u are expected to tip the staff u place ur money in a envelope and the money is apparenlt equally divided bewtween all 75 staff on board.
u will be expected to pay 30egyptian pound per person per night its alot of money so my dad left 300le which is £30. also the egyptologist does excpect something its not compulsive it depends if you feel he has earned his money, we had a great egyptologist so we gave him 300le. but at the end of the day its upto you what u pay. be warned that people will want tips for everything (referring to outside the boat)
*Smoking is allowed on the boat in all areas except dining room,
*age limit for drinking is 21 but were tourists so it doesn't apply.
*air conditioning in the rooms is poor our room was extremely warm.
* do not buy from the shop inside the boat haggle outside your'll get it cheaper.
*do not buy a tape from the shop which records footage of where u visited its £15 which is £150 egyptian trust me its NOT WORTH IT!!!
*don't buy fags from the locals they are offical and sealed but u can get them cheaper at the airport example 200 marlboro lights are £2.50!!!!! bargain all the shops in the airport are quite cheap consider buying from there.
i hope what i have said about the boat has not put u off ur holiday to be honest people on other cruise ships said they had the same problems e.g food entertainment. the temples are great the egyptologists know there stuff the tours were good but were too short and we went the wrong time of day. hopefully we just had a bad experience and ur holiday will be fine.
hope to hear what you think of your holiday. please ignore any spelling mistake my typing isn't too good. lucy
The cabins are all pretty much the same, quite roomy and again pretty comfortable, the cabin boys all work really hard and are excellent as are all of the staff. The food was great, a good variety and well presented. I only ever had one complaint from a guest, he wanted to know (in a very loud and agressive manner in front of the whole dining room, bless him!!) why he hadn't had any bacon all week, after all they had it every morning in the hotel they usually go to in Benidorm!!!!
Some people shouldn't be allowed out on their own, his wife was mortified!!
The entertainment is the usual cruise boat fare. There's a nubian group in Aswan, a belly dancer one night, the infamous Galabeya party, quiz nights etc. The nights there's no "professional" acts, the entertainment is usually hosted by the rep and it's as good as the people make it. The more into it they are, the more enjoyable it is for everyone concerned!!
When I was on the Commodore it was exclusively Thomson guests, all Brits. It was pretty well organised as you were put into groups with an Egyptologist for each group, this meant you were with the same people for the trips off the boat and it was a good way for people to get to know each other and form friendships. (And quiz teams!!)
The Egyptologists were all very good. Each one has their own style of relating to the group, some are very formal, some are absolute comedians, but it's very much horses for courses. They were certainly all very knowledgable and happy to answer any questions at any time.
The cruise boat always docked in front of the Luxor Sheraton, and I would imagine it still does. Plenty of taxis, calleches etc when you get off if you want to go into town or you could run the gauntlet of shop keepers if you fancy walking!!
I've been wondering how to diplomatically answer the question about the sunbeds/relaxing areas on deck!! It's pretty cramped when everyones up there, but cosy!! Depending what time of year you're going, you may find if it's hot, a lot of people can't really take it and head indoors for the A/C!!! Fab tip: head to the front of the boat, there are a couple of tables there and it usually takes a while for most people to discover them as they are not in the direct path of anything. A bit of peace and a great view of where you're going.
I'm going to leave you with this little gem: befriend the receptionists. They may appear to be a little stern when you arrive, but bear in mind, there's usually only 2 of them to check in the whole boat and deal with everyone's issues, real or imagined!!! Wait until the rush is over and get to know them. They are a wealth of information and they know everything that's going on, and I mean everything!!!
Most of all, have a fantastic time on board one of the best boats on the Nile IMHO!!!!!!
We recently returned from our cruise/stay holiday week on the MS Diamond and then a week at the Hilton Plaza in Hurghada.
We arrived at the ship in the early hours, the Flyjet flight from Gatwick having been delayed by 4 hours.
* Cabin smelt of damp, was tatty and did not have opening window
* Sundeck was adequate but scruffy
* Main public areas looked like they were designed in 1975
* Food got poorer as the week wore on - we both became ill along with many other passengers
* There was a fire on board - passengers were not informed what was going on, there was no fire drill!
* Although the guides were very good they apparently expected very large tips at the end of the week.
* Some of the 'excursions' turned out to be trips to shops where extremely pushy salespeople pounce on the captive groups - it does seem likely that the guides are on commission
Although I have raised all those negative points, the staff and crew on the ship were great. Also, the Nile itself and all the sights we saw between Luxor and Aswan certainly made up for the conditions on the ship. Egypt is breathtaking!
Our second week in Hurghada was also wonderful. The town itself is pretty awful, but the Hilton Plaza was excellent and the various snorkelling and fishing trips we took kept us busy, so we didnt really need to go into the town centre.
To sum up, anyone thinking of a Nile cruise should definitely try it but check out the ships AND the tour operator!
Forget the food or the size of your cabin, what is going to make or break your holiday is the conduct of your fellow passengers. Whilst most of them were pleasant enough we had several who were not, including the following:-
A man who chanted 'we know where your going' at passing women passengers leaving the upper deck.
A man who felt obliged to give the whole deck a 15 min dissertation on why he had moved from soap to shower jel.
A man gave explicit details, at the top of his voice, of an extremely personal operation he had received.
We also observed a bloke who stood on the top terrace of the Temple of Hatshepsut, threw his arms akimbo and screamed "Let my people go!"
This behaviour does not appear to be affected by the price of the holiday. As we drew alongside a top of the range cruise ship, a man on the upper deck felt constrained to shout "Oggi, Oggi, Oggi," at the top of his voice. Unfortunately most of my fellow passengers felt obliged to make the traditional reply.
These are an absolute rip off, have to be paid for in sterling, and should be avoided.
If I had taken every excursion I was offered it would have cost me an extra £290 per person.
Avoid all visits to 'The jewelry factory, 'The papyrus museum' and the perfume factory. You will find you are trapped there and they are in fact just overpriced retail outlets.
Now I know the argument is that the commission associated with excursions and shopping is how the Guides supplement their low incomes but what is wrong with giving them a reasonable gratuity at the end of the cruise, assuming they have performed satisfactorily, instead of perpetuating these activities?
The Sound & Light show at Karnak (£15) starts very well but is overly long particularly the section by the lake during which most people admitted that they nodded off. If you wish to see it and are spending your second week in Luxor, book it yourself directly.
The Nubian Village trip by motor boat (£10) is either a cynical exercise in the exploitation of some very vulnerable and poor people or a cynical exploitation of the tourists. On one hand I was disgusted to see tourists walking into a bedroom in the 'show house' and taking photos of a sleeping baby. On the other hand my traveling companion was approached by a traditionally and severely dressed girl who begged for money to feed her baby. She later appeared that night on the ship scantily clad and strutting her stuff as a 'Nubian dancer'.
The felucca trip was very pleasant with the exception of the communal singing of
"She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes" on the return leg.
There is no doubt that local unescorted trips are discouraged since it means that the ship isn't getting your money. Requests for change and information about taxies were met with blank looks. But dont be put off. Get down that gangplank, grab a taxi, go into town and stick your cash into the local economy where it will do most good.
On board entertainment
If your idea of fun is to have a potato suspended between your legs on a string and then crouching, use it as a pendulum to propel another potato along the floor to a lavatory paper finishing line you are going to have a cracking time. If not give it a miss and sit on the upper deck and enjoy the sunset.
The belly dancer was hopeless and bizarrely wore knee length lycra cycling shorts, however, the whirling dervish was fantastic and put on an amazing performance
The food, served buffet style, was wholesome and plentiful. One evening the staff served us at our tables and that meal was absolutely first class.
We had to pay for all refreshments including water with the exception of coffee and tea at breakfast and afternoon tea which was only served whilst the ship was in motion. Prices varied from 60p for a softy to 2 quid for a 75cc bottle of local beer.
Wine and spirits were exorbitant.
Now dont be put off. Overall the trip was fantastic especially the historical sites which are jaw droppingly impressive but this is not a cruise as portrayed in Death on the Nile with beautiful people dinning at the Captains table. It is more a floating Hi de Hi in a hot climate.
As to the rest well you just have to observe, wonder and laugh at the extraordinary behaviour and lack of self awareness of Brits on holiday.
If anybody would like further information on the Cairo or Luxor phases of the trip please ask.
There was a mad scramble every day to get a sunbed on deck as there were not enough and the deck did take on the appearance of a refugee craft. Also it was 40 degrees up there....
The entertainment was poor but we set up a card school and enjoyed out evenings under the stars drinking red wine and cheating.
I was slightly concerned to discover that anyone with D & V was issued with a course of antibiotics by the crew, especially as many of the passengers were elderly.
We were convinced that there was only one shower curtain on board the ship as we only had it once during our 7 nights and we would eagerly await dinner to find out who was enjoying its benefits that evening.
Also, the evening cabin boy became bolder and bolder with his towel creations as the week went on and scared the beejesus out of me by positioning one of his creations just inside the cabin door. It looked like a midget and it was wearing my baseball cap and sun glasses... I was lucky; another lady found one of his 'midgets' reclining on her bed wearing her underwear and jewellery.
We had a great time and made some good friends but very pleased that we had a week after in the Jolie Ville Movenpick to recover from all those early mornings
I was worried about going on this holiday but the friendlyness of all the staff and holiday makers really made it one of the best holidays i have ever had just go sit back and enjoy
THE CRUISE DETAILS
Nile Cruise (7 nights) between Luxor & Aswan, return Luxor.
Cruise date = 14th September 2005 & 21st September 2005
Boat = MS Commodore ***** rating operated by Presidential Nile Cruises in Egypt
Dress code at meals = Smart casual
Booked through = Thomsons
Party = Myself & Mrs Tez
The flight from Manchester with Thomson Fly was on time and uneventful.
It only took us about 5 hours from take off, to landing at Luxor, due to a good tail wind.
The aircraft was a 757-200, which has a seating layout of 3+3 and we had a window + middle seat.
The service was a little slower than I remembered it to be when it was called Britannia, but after a couple of whisky & Canadas we soon settled down. Overall we had a pleasant flight and a smooth landing at Luxor airport. Just as a point of interest, I have always sat on the left side of the plane on all previous flights to Luxor and had always thought it was all desert on the actual approach. This time we sat on the right hand side and guess what? It was all green and lush. I think that the pilot must fly down the dividing line between the desert & the cultivation.
Luxor Airport was a delight! After that awfully run-down excuse that they had before, it was very impressive, and dare I say it, quite efficient. The only down side was the French designed carousels.
They are steeply inclined to the vertical, and the bags are discharged onto it from the top. This means that another bag landing on top of yours will wedge it down and make it difficult to remove, in addition they are moving too fast for easy baggage retrieval. I sustain a large scratch on my forearm trying to remove a trapped suitcase. Immigration and customs control is about the same as before.
On leaving the airport the security is reassuringly high, but not over the top. The taxis are no longer allowed to park outside but the tour coaches are allowed in to pick up. Taxi drivers have to sit on the grass to await clients, resulting in a lower hassle level when leaving the airport.
The transfer time to our boat was about 20 minutes; it was moored up by the Sheraton Hotel.
We were given some sticky labels with our cabin number on them, to attach to our cases; this was to speed up the check in procedure. Our duly fell off as the bags were unloaded so I wrote it on our flight labels in ballpoint pen. Check in was very quick and efficient, fill in a card and hand over your passports to reception.
Our cabin was on the upper deck and we were pleased with its location. It was on the Starboard? Port? Side of the boat? (On the right hand side if you look towards that pointy bit at the front). It had twin beds pushed together with side tables and lamps, a small dressing table & stool, a suitcase stand, a small wardrobe and set of drawers. This space was very limited and would not allow for full unpacking. A multi channel TV set, reception is often poor on the boats, and this was no exception.
A small fridge with a mini bar, a telephone for internal use only, plus a digitally coded safe. There was a large opening window approximately 1.5 metres wide by 1.0 metre high on the outer cabin wall.
In addition to this we had a reasonable sized bathroom, this had a toilet, shower, wash basin, shaver socket, and large mirror. There was an unpleasant drain smell from the bathroom when we first arrived but this soon went away. The shower also had a small leak somewhere on the cubicle, this resulted in a wet floor on occasions but a re-directed showerhead soon cured this. The cabin was pleasantly decorated and had good, quiet and effective air conditioning. The cabins were kept very tidy and were checked several times a day, there is also a bed turndown in the evening.
THE BOAT LAYOUT
The layout of the boat was as follows:
You entered via a secured & railed gangplank from either the Port or Starboard sides depending upon how the boat was berthed. Below the gangplank level and above the water line was the crew accommodation deck. As you board the boat from the quayside you enter the main reception desk and lobby area, this is located midway down the length of the boat. There is an identical door on the opposite side for use when moored along side other boats. A small jewellers shop and some seating completed this area. Corridors to accommodation cabins lead off in both directions from this lobby area. A wide polished wooden staircase leads upward in two pitches, to the next deck level. Again you enter another small lobby area with a single corridor leading to accommodation cabins towards the Stern of the boat. Also on this level is the large, air conditioned, dinning room located towards the bow section of the boat. There is also a small gift shop & another wide staircase leading up to the top deck. This staircase leads directly into the lounge and bar area, this area is well supplied with comfortable, upholstered chairs and sofas arranged in bays to divide the lounge into cosy areas. There were plenty of low tables for drinks and the cool but not cold air conditioning kept the temperature at a nice level. The low level lighting from cut glass & brass ceiling lights, reflected off the dark polished wooden walls and ceiling panels to give a pleasant ambience to this area. Doors at each end of the lounge lead to either a very pleasant casual seating area at the Bow end of the boat, where you can sit with the breeze in your face if the boat is moving (or do a Titanic with your arms out). Or at the Stern end to the sundeck and plunge pool area. There are also casual tables and chairs under the sun awning to sit and read or to have a coffee and just watch the world go by.
Full, Cooked or Cold Continental choices, Omelette chef.
Full, A la Carte self service, Soup, Meats, Vegetables, Vegetarian, Salads, Cooked or Cold choices.
Tea, Coffee & cake served on the sundeck.
Usually Five courses waiter service. Occasionally A la Carte self service
We found that the food on offer always allowed for a multiple choice option, I would say that it was impossible not to find a choice that suited your taste. We even had a whole table that jokingly said that they didnt fancy anything and could they have Egg & Chips. Guess what? Egg & chips soon arrived at their table
It is worth noting that the food and service on this boat is second to none. The chefs are better than in most 5* hotels. The food was plentiful, varied, well presented and really tasty. The sweets were to die for! Eleven out of ten for the chefs. The waiters were the most professional, friendly, cleanest and best turned out that I have seen for a long time, clearly the result of good management and a happy crew. Eleven out of ten for the waiters.
THE TOUR ITINERARY
Day (1) Wednesday = Overnight in Luxor
Day (2) Thursday = Visit the West bank, Colossi of Memnon, Temple of Hatshepsut, Valley of the Kings etc. sail for Edfu via the Esna lock. Overnight in Edfu.
Day (3) Friday = Edfu, Visit the temple of Horus, Sail to Kom Ombo and visit the temple of Sobek & Haroeris (another incarnation of the god Horus) then sail to Aswan. Overnight in Aswan.
Day (4) Saturday = Aswan, visit the high dam, plus a trip to Philae temple and Elephantine island.
Day (5) Sunday = Morning at leisure or an optional trip to Abu Simbel. In the afternoon sail for Esna, overnight in Esna.
Day (6) Monday = Sail for Luxor, on arrival visit the Karnak & Luxor temples. Overnight in Luxor.
Day (7) Tuesday = Sail in the opposite direction for Quena and visit the temple at Denderah, return to Luxor. Overnight in Luxor.
Day (8) Wednesday = After a late breakfast, leave the boat
WHAT WE ACTUALLY DID
As we have been to Egypt &Luxor many times, we decide that we would not do all of the trips so as to give us a more laid back holiday. The cruise itinerary can be very hectic.
On the Thursday we skipped the West Bank tour as we have visited it many times. We stayed on board the boat and after breakfast we visited some Egyptian friends in Luxor and then visited our hotel for the second week to look up some old friends.
On Friday we went on the organised tour, but left the guide to do our own thing. On the Friday evening we had our Galabya party, it was good fun but went on until 1 am. At 3 am we were getting up to go on a trip to Abu Simbel as the flight time had been brought forward from Sunday (thanks David). This was a special for us, as it was one of the few places we had never visited, it is spectacular! And boy did he love Nefertari; it shows in everything that he (Ramses II) built there for her, true love indeed.
On Saturday we were shattered after the early morning trip so we skipped the High Dam, Philae temple & Elephantine Island tours as we had done them all previously and had a lazy day. We then did ourselves a visit to Philae in the evening to see the Sound & Light show, excellent! And so atmospheric, it makes the hair on your neck stand up.
On Sunday we organised ourselves a trip to the Unfinished Obelisk as for some reason it was not included in the tours? We also included a visit to the Nubian Museum Aswan as we had a little spare time before sailing. This is also a must if you have the time; it is similar to the Luxor museum, cool and tranquil and beautifully laid out
On Monday we went on the organised Karnak tour but left the guide so as to visit the Red Temple of Thutmosis III & Queen Hatshepsut and other special bits that the guides usually leave out. We also did a similar thing in the Luxor temple.
On Tuesday we did the Denderah tour but again left the guide to do our own thing.
Note! It is important that you should inform your guide if you intend to leave them or miss a tour.
Was excellent and very knowledgeable and did not take offence when I explained that we would be doing our own thing on some occasions. He was also very sociable during the evenings on the boat.
OUR HOLIDAY REP.
David, what can I say, as a rep you would make a good plumber, but we all came to love you with all your faults. “What unfinished Obelisk'' was the reply to my question, “Where is it then? he asked. “Its here in Aswan I replied. “Well, I have never heard of it he replied. “When are we going to Abu Simbel? I asked. “Some time on Sunday (this was on Friday)“ Oh by the way you are going at 4 am tomorrow (this was on Friday at 9 PM, after I had downed a few pints). But having said all that you came over OK your personality shines through, you were a nice guy and as I said, we all loved you. Pity they took you off the boats and sent you to the Red Sea resorts for a few weeks. I hope you will be happy in Goa, Good Luck David. (I never did figure it out; did we dock in Bogdaddy or Bo Diddley?)
A lovely man who would not compromise on safety, If he thought that the gangplank was not secure! we did not us it! he would move to another berth or call up another boat to nudge us in a little. You honestly don't know you are on a boat, it's so smooth, you could be on dry land. To all you landlubber's its like being in a floating hotel. But best of all we drank mint tea together and he let me stear the boat. (well it looked as if he did )
On departure we were transferred to the new Luxor airport and what a surprise! It bears no resemblance to the old one. The baggage checks in & screening is quick and efficient. Immigration and Customs is the usual confused mix, but not too bad. Once inside the terminal it is another world, bright, airy, & spacious, with plenty of seating areas, cafeterias and duty free shopping. When your flight is called the departure lounge is just as good. I was well impressed, the only down side was a notice on all tables within the building that stated that you must buy at least one beverage in order to sit there. Another case of backsheesh for any service offered in Egypt, even parking your bum in an airport. I do hope that it is kept at this high standard, it is a credit to Egypt and makes a very good impression on tourists. The return flight was on time and again uneventful. The down side was a head wind that added another hour to the return flight making it six hours. Again the service on board was very slow.
This was one of the best cruises we have been on; I would recommend this boat to anyone. The boat has a five star rating with a smart, but casual, evening dress code. It is a very friendly boat with an established crew. The cabins are comfortable and on a par with most boats. The itinerary is very good and much better than some tour operators offer. As a moderate drinker (wine with dinner & a few beers in the day and in the evening) with the wife usually drinking fresh orange and coffee drinks, plus all bottled water for a full week, my total extras bill was less than £100 pounds sterling. It had a very friendly atmosphere and as usual we made some lovely new friends. I really do think that Brits tend to gel together when in this type of cruise environment, our reserve usually slips and friendships are easily made.
Some of the people on board were not British or European, as you would expect on a Thomson holiday booked in the UK. This resulted in some very young children being on board (7 or 8 years old). Most British tour operators will not accept bookings for children under 12 years old. These young children never left the boat and played table tennis all day, dawn till dusk, (probably out of boredom) much to the annoyance of people trying to relax on the sun deck. Fortunately they all left the boat at Aswan. Unfortunately they were all replaced by another small group from South America who seemed to think that squeezing every bread roll in the dining room with their bare hands before returning them to the tray for the rest of us, was an acceptable test for freshness. Cake tongs were obviously an unknown utensil, also their habit of lifting the serving spoons to within half an inch of their noses and sniffing the residue to determine the food on offer was also very off putting. Most of us ate early after that.
Note to UK tour operators! If you try to fill your empty places by selling cheap to other countries, you will lose your regular UK & European customers! People do not want to have short stay tourists with different cultural values, inserted into their holiday cruise just to make up numbers. Sorry for the rant but it must be said. What is acceptable in one culture is not is not necessarily acceptable in another. Viva La Difference! But not on my cruise thank you.
Having said all of the above, I am trying to give an honest opinion of our particular experience. We loved the holiday and would certainly recommend this boat and Thomsons Holidays. Hopefully we will do it again some day, Inshallah!
we have just returned from the most wonderful holiday of our lives ,namely a cruise on the Nile and a week in Hurghada .
The cruise ship was called THE MOVENPIK RADAMIS 1 and it was great . The cabin was spacious with ample storage facilities even for the amount of clothes Mrs wee-john deems necessary to transport . there was a little fridge to keep the water cool and a large picture window the cleanliness was first class and a few bob given to the cabin steward on the FIRST day ensured that it stayed that way throughout the cruise . All the food was excellent both in quality and quantity some served Buffet style and sometimes at the table and as I have a very sweet tooth the sweets and deserts were to die for I reckon that I put on at least 7 Lbs .There were only around 55 pasengers in total on the ship (a Spanish Group and an Italian Group plus our group so it was fairly quiet and the extremely friendly staff from the deck hands right up to the cruise manager had loads of time to be pleasant to everyone and very friendly they were too. This was an excellent ship and we travelled with Longwood Holidays whoes transfer reps were excellent although none actually travelled on the cruise with us (I dont know if this is standard procedure this being our first cruise ) although they saw us safely onto the ship and registered at reception .We boarded at LUXOR early evening on monday Too late for the excursion to the Karnak temple and so the first excursion Led by our excellent guide HAMODA was on Tuesday across the river on a motor boat as there were only 14 in our English speaking group for a visit to the West Bank to the Valey of the Queens and the Temple of Hatsheput and then the Valley of the Kings . the place was totally awe inspiring .
The Itinery was similar in detail to Tez's so I wont duplicate it , with each site being more amazing than the previous one . we were totolly gobsmacked by everything we saw and did and Hamoda explaining everything in exact detail , he is a true Egyptologist , and had plenty of time to answer my multiplicity of questions . And he knew about the UNFINISHED OBELISK ( and why it was so ) . One optional extra excursion which we did while at Aswan was the trip to Abu Simbel . We did the trip by air which meant a 3AM rise and we were there before the busses and actually saw the sun rise and illuminate the statues of RAMESES 2 and NEFERTARI and were amazed and very humbled by the expeience . we also visited a Nubian village and were impressedby it and were invited into one of the houses by a lady all dressed in black clothing , sand on the floor no curtains on the windows , hard beds etc , when suddenly she pulled a mobile phone out of her robe pocket and proceeded to phone her mum .
the return voyage to Luxor was more or less a repeat of the outward one so we skipped most of the visits and just chilled out after all the early rises of the first few days enjoying the sights of the fishermen and farmers going about their bussiness as their forefathers had probably done for generatins .
The highlight on our return to Luxor was an evening visit to the SOUND AND LIGHT SHOW at KARNAK temple the effects and dialogue were truly out of this world . Next day , as we were not due to disembark till 2PM, our guide took us to visit Karnak again and also to Luxor temple and related the wonderful tale of how Amun used to travel from one to the other to have his conjugal rights with his wife .
The only thing which we missed out on was the hot air baloon trip which the time scale didn't allow .
This was our first Nile cruise to UPPER EGYPT and the memories of all the wonderful sights will live with us for ever , we wouldn't have missed it for the world .
Our secon week was spent in Hurghada which we enjoyed Even despite the 4and a half hour coach journey in the convoy through the desert and mountains to get there but thats another story.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this saga although words cannot adequately describe this experience
wee-john P.S INDY travellerAll excursions (except Abu Simbel and Sound and Light Show )were included in the origional price of the holiday. that includes entry to the sites (king Tut's tomb excepted)
We flew with MyTravel on an Airbus (the model eludes me!). It was a basic standard flight, with a reasonable meal. All drinks (apart from tea/coffee/juice with the meal) costs extra! The price of beverages is quite high, so you may want to bring your own snacks. The seats are cramped, but you get what you pay for! There are in-flight movies, but you need ear-phones (which cost £2), so again you may want to bring your own!
We landed at Luxor airport at about 8:30pm. We were received by a tour rep upon setting foot in the airport. He guided us through the visa process (costs £10), which was painless enough, although we had to fill out a form which the airline should have provided in advance. After another check (hardly any queues), we went to baggage reclaim, eventually we got out of the new terminal very easily and quickly! There was only one other passenger (as we were one the late ones in). Our luggage was loaded onto a Viking Travel van, and we made it quickly onto our boat - this was right in front of Luxor Temple what a beautiful sight!
The Viking Premiere is the fourth and I assume the best of the fleet. It is a little dated and shabby looking and I definitely saw better boats, although I did go through some awful ones too!! You may have to go through several boats to get to yours, but this is not really a pain although it is a little interesting to see other boats. The best lobby and possibly the best looking boat I went through was the Sunray. Anyway, on reception we were told that Discover Egypt had overbooked for the upper deck, and so we had been assigned another room on the middle deck obviously I was not best pleased, and was almost incensed by the room we were allocated on the middle deck! It was room 202 right near the front, and had a small porthole overlooking the deck which frequently has workers walking across it! The room itself was tiny! I told our guide that this was not acceptable, and was duly shown another room, this time it was a twin-bedroom, but they said that the beds cannot be joined together! The other late passenger kindly offered his room to us (had a double-bed), which we gratefully accepted from him (cheers Doug!), but we not happy with room size and the porthole windows, but I saw that we had not choice! Eventually after dinner, they sensed that we were unhappy, and showed us another room at the front of the boat opposite 202. This was in fact a huge improvement, and was quite big it had two porthole windows! One overlooking the deck and one the Nile! It had to do really! First night sleep was rather interrupted by personnel on deck (at Esna Lock) and various machine noises, but subsequent nights got better, and we also got used to the noises! I was grateful that we were not on the lower deck near the engine!
The food was really tasty, although the same meats were used each night, they were flavoured or made differently each night. I did enjoy the food a bit too much though! However, King Tut did take his revenge on a large proportion of passengers (hit me on the last day luckily!). My wife was OK though, and she is a veggie! The boat is Crystal certified, but that offers no guarantees! It may just be other factors and not the food that was problem. Like handling dirty money etc... As a veggie, it seemed like my wife got special treatment the chef prepared some delightful veggie soups and small dishes seemingly just for her, and probably the other veggies nice touch, I thought!
We were a bit unsure at first about the trip since most passengers were the wrong side of 50, and were are in our late 20s. This in the end did not matter, as we had a great time and met some wonderful people! The trip itself was amazing we learnt so much and were awestruck at what we saw along the way. My highlights were Philae Island temple and its wonderful setting, and we also paid extra (£110) for our trip to Abu Simbel this too was well worth the 2.5 hour trek down the desert on a coach. Luxor Temple at night was truly fantastic. We also paid extra for the Nubian village trip on a camel. We only went on this trip for the camel ride which was surprisingly long (~45 mins); like other reviewers, I was not impressed with the intrusive nature of our visit to the Nubian house. The camel ride did have its drawbacks, for male riders mainly!! Despite some early mornings and the resulting tiredness, we did have time to relax on the sundeck, and to take in local life along the banks of the Nile. This was a truly mesmerising experience, not only the beautiful scenery, but despite the large number of boats on the Nile, the locals would still shout greetings from the banks to passing boats! I would advise people to bring binoculars to get an even closer look at the nature and life along the Nile!
We did manage to pack a hell of lot into the trip: Caleche rides, Felucca rides etc the evening entertainment was poor, but this was just a gap filler, and not a big part of the trip. We were truly taken in by the magnificence of the Ancient Egyptians way of life and achievements, and if you want to experience culture and history, then this is the place to visit! The so called hassle from locals did not pose any problems for us, in fact I got more attention than most people for being of Indian appearance (I wear a turban and beard - I'm a Sikh). Everywhere I went I got friendly greetings of “India and an invitation to shop or go on a felucca or caleche ride!! It did not bother us one bit, and it was actually interesting to compare this with my experiences of travelling to India. In India the attention you get from beggars is far more incessant and depressing than any attention from the locals in Egypt. IN fact the poverty on display in India is far more prevalent there than in Egypt.
All in all, although the Viking Premiere experience could be better, this was secondary to what was on show outside of the boat we hardly spent any time on the boat (mostly on trips and on the sundeck); we thoroughly recommend Egypt and a Nile cruise to anyone who appreciates culture and the genius of Ancient Egyptians, it was a truly amazing and humbling experience, and we will definitely be going back to see the Pyramids!!
Booked through Fast Track, flew Man to Luxor with My Travel and boat booked with MedHotels.
Arrived at the boat at about 19:30 on Monday 20th Feb 2006. It was dark so unable to judge the outside of the boat. The reception area was small and uninspiring. The cabin likewise, small but clean and reasonably well appointed. A t.v. (never did find ANY English speaking station), a dashboard style radio (limited stations), a small but effective fridge and a double bed. Bathroom was OK and clean but no hair dryer. Limited number of power sockets for wife's own hair dryer. Wardrobe and drawer space was quite good.
Upon entering the restaurant on the first evening we were shown to a table with two remaining places - the other 6 being occupied. we were informed that we would retain these positions throughout the cruise - for all meals. Fortunately, our fellow diners were a great bunch and I'd like to think they all felt the same.
The food wasn't great however. Every meal was self-service buffet. At dinner, there was usually a carvery although the beef was way overcooked and dry, the turkey cold and dry and the lamb practically all skin and fat. The one day we had fish I enjoyed it although fellow diners complained of many bones.
Breakfast was enlivened by a chef able to prepare two eggs either as an omelette, fried or presumably, scrambled. No poached eggs. This was accompanied by salad (yes, even for breakfast) but no hot meats such as sausages or beef patties. Some cereals, fruits and a selection of cold pressed meats and local Egyptian style cheeses (about three varieties - ever present). Breads and Danish type pastries were available as well at each breakfast. Fruit juices and tea/coffee available although the coffee was Nescafe sachets and the hot water was in a thermos flask on the table. Only one tea and one coffee per person - had to ask each day for any additional. I kept one coffee for later in the day (see below).
Lunch was predictable. 4 or 5 tureens warmed, containing such delights as fried chicken wings, spag. bol., steamed vegetables etc. Cold meats and fruit and a wide selection of tasteless breads. No tea/coffee.
Dinner, much the same as lunch. Again, always self-service but with the addition of a carvery. One night it was lamb (or goat ?) and whilst tasty, this is only reported to be the case. There was none left by the time I had finished my salad-style starter. Other nights we had turkey (very dry and cold), a large fish (tasty, but full of bones and pedigree uncertain) and beef - way overcooked, tough and minimal taste. On several occasions the food was cold especially when a tour group, departing early evening were "foddered" at about 6:30pm. We ate later than normal at 8:30 and "enjoyed" the remains of the same turkey carved earlier.
On two nights liver was offered. Both overcooked and the second night slightly more curled than the first.
Lettuce was only seen at one meal, tomatoes at every meal (inc. breakfast) until they ran out whereupon none available for two days.
Tea and coffee not served at dinner either. Cheese only available at dinner if you asked (I did) but after 3 days this also disappeared. One knife and fork at the outset and these had to be used for salad course, main course and sometimes for the dessert. If you forgot to "keep" these the staff pounced and removed finished plates and cutlery. Meals were far from leisurely affairs; there was a need amongst some passengers to secure their desserts prior to finishing the starter course as there was a limited amount available.
Many passengers (25% of our table) suffered 36-48 hour bouts of sickness and their plight was made worse, when, in the middle of the night all electricity on the boat was turned-off. I experienced this at about 3:00am one morning when attempting to visit the bathroom. No lights, no toilet flush (electric water pump) and no water in the handbasin sink (same lack of power). I queried the safety aspect next morning with reception as it was my belief that smoke detectors, fire sprinklers, emergency lighting would all be out of action. Their response seemed evasive. This happened at least twice and would have occured more frequently I believe except we needed to travel during the night several times and hence power was available.
There was a lack of sun loungers. I'd estimate no more than 60 for a complement of perhaps 90 passengers. You needed therefore to rise early to claim your position. They ran out of towels on one occasion.
At 4:00pm they served complimentary tea/coffee, buscuits and slices of cake. The coffee was extremly weak and needed the sachet saved from breakfast to enliven it.
Drinks on board were not expensive. Red wine was acceptable (Obelisk) and was priced at £8.50 per bottle. White wine was best used as a replacement for TCP - it all tasted disgusting. Beer choice limited to Stella - a local Egyptian canned beer sharing a world famous name (that's all it shared). Entertainment was poor (we never partook) and consisted of a belly dancer and folk dancer (one night) and a bit of a disco on other nights. The best that can be said, it didn't keep us awake.
Trips via MedHotels were generally expensive compared to local Luxor or Aswan prices as offered by travel agents in the town. Jolley's and other located near the old Winter Palace in Luxor were always cheaper for trips. Balloon flight £45 compared to about £90 with the tour op. Cairo by plane (one day from Luxor) or by train (2-3 days from Luxor) again cheaper with locals. We arranged a trip to Valley of the Kings, Queens, Hatchepsut temple and Colosii of Memnon for £5 each plus £6 for temple entrances. This compares favourably with £90 for "official" trips to these sites. We did not get the promised tour guide for the day however so that was a downside.
The MedHotels rep's were good and we did enjoy the several trips we'd pre-paid when booking. The two guys (Hassan and George) were great.
The staff on the boat were friendly. The dining room staff worked hard at removing our plates - we did the rest ourselves.
When the boat docked and moored next to others it was sometimes necessary to walk through upto 4 other boats' reception areas to reach the Etoile. I considered stowing-away on several other boats. Apart from the occasional tug boat most were clearly better appointed than the Etoile du Nil III.
This boat was originally named "Le Scribe" and It's my guess that a regular name change deflects the effect of negative publicity.
Irrespective of it past, current or future names I would never sail on the boat again....there are many others which were reported to be excellect when we met other travellers in the Sonesta St. George Hotel during out second week in Luxor. The poor quality of the boat was reinforced by the excellence of the Sonesta.
I have posted a review of that hotel in the relevant section here on H.T.
Just booked up on Saturday to do a 7 night nile cruise on the MS Miss Sara and just wanted some information on the boat !
We were doing the Wonders of the Nile itinery.
All help and information on the cruise itinery and the MS Miss Sara boat is much appreciated
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