The mighty river Nile: bread basket of the Pharaohs, delta of Alexander the Great, inspiration for Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Nile, and even James Bond paid it a visit in The Spy Who Loved Me. People have been sailing its waters for thousands of years, and Nile cruising is a very popular form of tourism. Many of Egypt’s ancient monuments are dotted along the Nile’s shores, and it’s one of the best ways to see the country.
Whether you choose to fly there or take the train, whether you are on a budget or have money to spare; you can tailor your holiday to whatever suits you. Most trips start and end in either Aswan or Luxor, though moving with the current is most popular, and you can see all the major sites in just four days. If you’d like to spend more time taking in the slowly lapping river, accompanying feluccas, countryside pastures and amazing sunsets, there are trips that will take you between the two cities and back to where you began.
Presidential Nile Cruises (or PNC) is one of the better known five-star cruise lines, offering four- to eight-day voyages in clean, modern and cosy deluxe suites or on a budget. Prices start at around 850LE per night in a double room for Egyptians, 970LE for foreigners, without the cost of transportation to the cruises’ starting points. The four-day itinerary includes Aswan, the High Dam, Philae temple, Kom Ombo temple, Edfu (temple of Horus), Luxor, Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut’s temple and the Colossi of Memnon. All entrances are included, as are on-board meals.
Take note that Karnak and Luxor temples are not included on this itinerary, though you will have time to explore them on your own. If you’d like more time on the river, their eight-day itinerary does the same trip and then back, including Karnak and Luxor temples, and adding a felucca ride around/to Elephantine Island, as well as the Dendera temple at Qena.
You can book directly through the cruise line, or, if you’d like your whole package arranged, travel agencies like Lovely Bazaar in Zamalek are used to planning trips for AUC students. The agency can get you a package including train tickets for around 1600LE, depending on the season. Call Ibrahim at 0118612219 for more information.
There are also a plethora of travel agencies Downtown at Tahrir that will offer you the same rates with flights instead of train tickets, but it’s tricky to find a reputable one so shop around for the best deal, and the one that makes you feel most comfortable. Destination 31 is a new website that’s launching tours all over Egypt , their founder, Omar, may also be a good person to ask and hook you up with a sweet cruise deal. And if you’re really into roughing it, we hear Memphis Tours offer felucca journeys around Aswan. Just remember, though peaceful and beautiful, they don’t include bathroom facilities– don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Even if the idea of being stuck with strangers in a confined space isn’t for you, floating down the Nile is a breathtaking experience that shouldn’t be missed– there’s nothing like it. Take some friends or go on a group trip. We decided to join a group tailored to our demographic and met people there, and had an absolute blast– jaw-dropping vistas and serene afternoons, awe-inspiring monuments, decent food (we won’t lie; the buffets are hit-and-miss but you can’t really complain about an all-inclusive great deal), and great company made for an unforgettable time.
How to Maximise Your Cruise Experience: take note of all your inclusions and exclusions, know what you want to see and make sure that you’re going to see it, or at least have the option to. Some cruises include a trip to Abu Simbel or dinner with the Nubians, for example, or they may offer it as an extra charge. Most on-board activities tend to be borderline cheesy, and unaccompanied women may get just a little too much attention; so dine with a friend. As mentioned, though, there are also different price ranges and not every cruise offers cheesy activities or even a buffet.
Some more pampering options may be Abercrombie & Kent’s very luxurious Zein Nile Chateau– a positively lavish dahabeya for you and eleven of your closest friends to sail from Aswan to Luxor on, with a marble master suite with Jacuzzi (which King Fouad II first tried out). You could also try one of the major hotel chains’ boats, like Oberoi, which offers two luxury cruising options– the Zahra being the newer and more posh – that rival their gorgeous Mena House Hotel.
Do some research and you’ll find what you’re looking for. Whatever you choose; you will definitely enjoy it.