NILE RIVER CRUISE OPTIONS
Drifting along Egypt’s legendary river has been romanticised to such an extent that it feels sacrilegious to not take a cruise. I did consider cutting it out but was vetoed by the husband.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A NILE RIVER CRUISE
Standard Nile river cruises ply in both directions, departing from Aswan or Luxor and returning the same way. Most ships offer three to four night itineraries that include the most important sites in Aswan & Luxor as well as Kom Ombo, Edfu & Esna along the way. They are all inclusive and cover all meals and standard beverages. A few offer two night itineraries.
The sailing is minimal, limited to a few hours on the first couple of days. It is anchored all night, and all day once in Luxor/Aswan until the next departure. Departures are staggered to avoid congestion on the route. (Be sure to tally your flights with exact day of departure).
THE BEST EGYPT NILE CRUISE BOATS
‘Best’ is relative. If you have deep enough pockets, high end boats like the Oberoi Zahra and the Sanctuary Sun Boats are top of the line. In the mid range, Oberoi Philae, M S Mayfair and the Movenpick boats are among the best rated.
Here’s a list with some newer boats.
We chose the Oberoi Philae since it is part of one of the best hotel chains in India and we were able to get a good deal from their India office. It lived up to the high Oberoi service standards but the boat was much in need of refurbishment at the time and the food as well as the ‘Egyptologist’ allotted to our group was sub par. It has since been completely revamped and is probably as stellar as its pricier sister ship.
Dahabiyas (twin-sailed river yacht) and steam ships “bring turn-of-the-century-travel on the Nile back to life.” They are slower and their smaller size allows docking at villages the larger boats cannot reach. So you get a more authentic, immersive experience. The slower speeds result in longer itineraries, however, and the more ‘comfortable’ boats might not be much cheaper than the regular cruises. Take a look at this drool worthy craft. Or this.
RELATED: DETAILED EGYPT ITINERARY FOR AN EPIC TEN DAYS THROUGH THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN EGYPT
IS A NILE CRUISE WORTH IT?
That depends a lot on one’s interests, travelling style and budget.
For those unwilling to take on the logistics of inter-city travel and daily excursions, a cruise is the ideal way to ‘do’ this part of Egypt. Everything is taken care of and one is living the age old romance of river travel that was the only means of transport up until a few decades ago.
Experienced travellers might seek more than romance, however. The group excursions can feel restrictive after a point. There is an option to hire private guides but that drives up prices further.
With hindsight, I recommend and would personally opt for overland travel if I were to return. Especially considering one can organise private transfers and sightseeing for less than the cost of a well reviewed cruise.
ORIGINAL LONG NILE CRUISE
A couple of high end companies offer cruises from Cairo all the way to Aswan or vice versa. Movenpick MS Darakum & Steigenberger Royale are the two main vessels plying this route. Termed the ‘Long Cruise’ the two week itineraries cover more sites along the way including Abydos and Dendera. Ideal for travellers who do not have the time or inclination to plan themselves. They don’t operate through the year, however, and chances of cancellations due to lack of demand might be high. Check directly with the respective companies or your local provider if interested. I’d appreciate feedback in case any of you use this route.
RELATED: FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL TO EGYPT, WHERE TO STAY AND EAT AND MORE SUCH DETAILS READ THE ULTIMATE EGYPT TRAVEL GUIDE
LAKE NASSER CRUISE
Few people consider taking the Lake Nasser cruise from Aswan to Abu Simbel or in reverse. I find the idea of approaching Abu Simbel from the lake very appealing.
The intimate La Flaneuse du Nil, Movenpick MS Prince Abbas & Steigenberger Omar El Khayam depart every Monday from Aswan and return on Fridays from Abu Simbel.
With the possibility of flying from Cairo to Abu Simbel (via Aswan), taking the 3 night Nasser Lake cruise option to return to Aswan might be a great way to maximise time in Abu Simbel. It would easily fit into the ten day itinerary above. Dates – and budget – permitting.