We were planning a trip to Egypt when my wife discovered that she was expecting,
so our Egyptian adventure went on the on the list of places to visit. Our eldest
daughter is now 21 years of age and my wife thought that it was time to visit Egypt.
Because it was an early morning flight we decided not to as family or friends to
take us to Manchester Airport but to order a taxi for 4.30 a.m and get to Lime Street
Station for the 5.15 train direct to the Airport. Arriving at 6.15 we had booked
in by twenty to severn and then joined the queue for departures. It took two hours,
yes two hours, as there were thousands departing on early morning flights. I know
that security is very important and the harassed staff are working hard to prevent
a terrorist attack, but I am warning you not to leave it till the last moment to
get to the airport, as you may miss your flight.
The only benefit was that by the time we were through security there was just enough
time for a quick and much needed cup of tea, before our flight was called and we
were aboard. It is a five hour flight and as is the trend these days any food drinks
that you want have to be paid for, if you want a meal you have to order it in advance.
I just wish that there was a little more leg room on flights. I like Easyjet for
that reason, there is decent leg room.
We arrived at Luxor Airport in the early evening to be greeted by a glorious red
sunset. Egypt is famous for the sunsets, it is something to do with the sand and
dust in the atmosphere. We were through arrivals very quickly, you are required
to pay a visa fee of around £15, so it is advisable to have that amount in sterling.
You will be warned not to let anyone carry your luggage to the transfer coach, this
is because, if you do the person carrying your luggage will require paying. Now
it is up to you, you may think it is worth a couple of quid to carry your luggage,
depends on the weight, but if you don't, carry your own.
It only took about 20 minutes from the airport to the boat, the road system is chaotic,
cars, coaches, and donkey carts all jostle for space, you will see a lot of donkeys,
still a very popular means of transport in Egypt.
By the time we got to the “Serenade” our home for the next week, it was dark but
members of the crew were on hand to carry your luggage aboard, again have a pound
handy to tip the man who carry's your luggage.
The boat is small, there are only 136 passengers, but the boat is smart and not
short on character. Our cabin was the size of a hotel room with queen size twin
beds. A large sliding window gives you a fine view of the Nile and if not quite
a balcony a very decent alternative, though the boat is air-conditioned, you can
open this window, which is a great advantage for photographing those glorious sunsets.
The cabin is very well appointed and the beds are very comfortable. There is a compact
bathroom, ours had an excellent shower that does not disappoint, the picture on
the wall was of flowers, very nice, but I was expecting Pyramids rather than something
that would have been more at home in a Cotswold cottage.
The boat is small but well laid out so there is no problem finding your way about.
Back to the main staircase and it is down to the restaurant and up to the lounge
and the deck.
We went down to dinner, dress is smart but casual, there is no need for the men
to take an evening suit, it is not that sort of trip. You are allocated a table
and that is your table for the entire trip, the table seats eight and our fellow
travellers were very good company. The food was truly a gastronomic delight, though
there are waiters to get you drinks, the restaurant on the Serenade was buffet style
and there were no complaints from me about the food, the quality and the quantity
was superb. Starting with two choices of soup and breads, the Egyptian flat breads
proving the most popular. The salad bar has enough choice to keep even the most
selective diner happy. A mix of main courses, which were different at every meal,
from beef curry, chicken and fish dishes, as well as pizzas and pastas. There is
no portion control so you won't go hungry. If you have a sweet tooth again you will
be happy with the choice and the quality of the sweets. Drinks are extra and I would
say the cost would compare favourably with British pub prices. We signed for everything
and you settle up at the end of the trip. Our drinks bill only came to £35 and that
included our daily bottles of water that we took with us on all our excursions.
Breakfast is open from 7 till 10, but lunch and dinner are set times, but even if
you get down a little late there will still be plenty to eat.
But no matter how comfortable the boat or how good the food, this is Egypt, this
is one of the places that people want to visit, it is up there with the Taj Mahal,
Rio De Janeiro and the Grand Canyon on lists of must see places and the following
morning is when it all starts. After breakfast there is a short welcome meeting
in the lounge where our Egyptologists, our Tour Guides for the excursions introduced
themselves and outlined the available tours and visits. the excursions that are
available and the optionals. You can book all the trips in advance or you can choose
which trips you want to do as you go along, some of the trips involve an early morning
start, 3 a.m. But are well worth it and this is why you are in Egypt to see the
temples and the tombs.
The meeting is also to advise about simple things like, don't drink the tap water,
drink bottled water. No need to worry about the tea and coffee on board because
that is made with bottled water.
Now if you are expecting to see the pyramids and to be honest most people do, well
you won't. Luxor is 500 miles south of Cairo and the Pyramids are on the edge of
Cairo, but don’t let that put you off, there is still plenty to see on this Nile
Cruise from Luxor south to Aswan.
On the first afternoon is a trip to the East Bank of the Nile to see the Temples
and Karnak, the following morning it is off to the Valley of the Kings, were the
Pharaohs were buried, it was here is 1922 that Howard Carter discovered the tomb
of Tutankhamen and the famous gold burial mask. There were one hundred Pharaohs
and so far, 62 tombs have been discovered, so there are 38 still under the sands
of the Sahara. But as our guide explained, the Egyptian government is very reluctant
to allow Archaeologists to search for these tombs. There is an extra charge to see
inside Tutankhamen’s tomb, but well worth it. A female Pharaoh, Hatshepsut, she
grabbed the throne when her husband, Thutmose II died, ruled for twenty years and
was responsible for a hugh building programme and the economic expansion of Egypt.
Such an interesting Pharaoh with a very complicated love life, I am surprised that
she has not been the subject of a Hollywood epic, may have been eclipsed by Cleopatra.
Hatshepsut's Temple is not to be missed.
We sailed in the afternoon and it hardly felt as if the boat was moving. Time for
grabbing a sun lounger and getting a tan, even early in the year, January and February,
which is high season, it is warm so take care to avoid sunburn, it gets very, very
hot later in July and August, which is low season. There is something wonderfully
relaxing lying on a lounger and watching the world go by, I could never understand
what the attraction of lying on a sun-deck of a ship looking at the ocean was, until
I did it. Well sailing down the Nile is the same, there is so much going on along
the banks that you can relax for hours. Bird watching is easy on the Nile, large
white birds are Egrets, well that's what I was told and you see a lot of them. As
well as birds of prey and flocks of sparrows, funny to see so many in Egypt when
sparrows have all but disappeared here. There are plenty of boat sellers, merchants
who tie up along side and get towed along while trying to get you to make a purchase,
fun to watch and every one of them makes the contestants on “The Apprentice” look
like slouches, they sell, sell, sell. You may not be used to this very direct approach
and could find it intimidating, but this is the culture here and as there is no
welfare benefits, these people have to sell to eat and it is usually very good natured.
Remember you are the wealthy foreigner as far as the merchants are concerned, you
have to be wealthy to visit Egypt, none of them could afford to visit Britain, so
go with the flow and get a few souvenirs, they may end up in a charity shop but
you will have helped the Egyptian economy, which does need help due to the lack
In the evening there was a Captains Cocktail Party, again a very relaxed affair,
so relaxed in fact that the Captain never turned up, he was busy taking the boat
through the lock of Esna, so after a quick drink as the crew were introduced and
before dinner, we all rushed on deck to see the Lock, the most exciting thing about
passing through the Lock is the merchants selling there wares, towels being particularly
popular, the sellers are dab hands at throwing the towels to you from the key side.
If towel throwing becomes an Olympic event, the Egyptians will take Gold, Silver
and Bronze. As we pass through the Lock of Esna on the way back from Aswan, you
get to see it during the day also. It does not take long but the antics from the
sellers make it very entertaining. My advice is avoid eye contact, once you look
into their eyes, you are lost and the proud possessor of a towel, they are so cheap
that you may want to buy one or two to wrap the more expensive souvenirs in.
There is no excuse not to visit the Temple at Kom Ombo, we tie up next to it. You
can choose to take the organised tour with your Egyptologists, recommended, or you
can pay a couple of pound and wander about on you own taking photographs. Don't
miss visiting the Crocodile Museum, Since the Aswan Dam was completed in 1970, there
are no crocodiles on this side of the Nile, they are all on the other side of the
There are several excursions when you get to Aswan, the Temple at Abu Simbei involves
a very early start, 3 a.m. in our case, this is to avoid the heat of the day, but
is so worth it at £60 it may seem expensive, but for a once in a life time experience
whats £60? These Temples have featured in films from the James Bond “The Spy who
loved me” “The Mummy” “Star Wars” as well and the tomb is used in “The Sims 3”.
Much less expensive is the City Tour of Aswan at £15 this has to be among the best
value tours in the world. Starting by sailing across the Nile to Elephantine Island
and afternoon tea on the top floor of the Moevenpick Hotel, this alone is worth
the trip the food is so good and the views are truly spectacular. Back across the
Nile and then a coach tour of Aswan, passing the Old Cataract Hotel, the starting
point of Agatha Christies “Death on the Nile” the tour also takes in the local market,
were there was no aggressive selling, it was all very relaxed before we returned
to the boat, the tour lasted about four hours and was incredible good value for
The evening also proved to be enjoyable with an event taking place in the lounge
after dinner, the Belly Dancer, the Nubian Show with Nubian singers, dancers and
musicians. But the highlight is the “Galabaya Party” this is your chance to dress
in traditional Egyptian dress, the long flowing gown worn by men and women. For
the party the women wear very colourful galabayas and the men plainer galabayas
and headdresses. My wife’s costume cost around £4 and mine cost £7 including the
headgear. Not expensive for a huge amount of fun and the costumes make great alternatives
to onesies. Now you may not do dressing up or fancy dress, but if you don't you
will be in the minority and miss out on an experience. At dinner there will be traditional
Egyptian dishes to try before going to the lounge for the dancing and party games.
Again go with the flow, my wife wears her bright blue galabayas around the house,
I don't think she is ready to wear it going to Sainsburys.
Different cruises have different itineraries, but all do basically the same but
in different orders, depends when you start.
Is it worth it?
This is Egypt, the cradle of Civilisation.You can just relax and watch the changing
scenery as the boat makes its way along the Nile but if you have any soul, any interest
in history, art or architecture you will never regret the early morning starts to
see and experience the wonders beyond the Nile.
The weather is great, food and drink varied, plentiful and cheap. What's not to
Every where you go the locals ask you are you having a good time and welcome you
to their country. They need the visitors in Egypt, the economy is in free-fall and
there are many problems, there has been some bad publicity recently regarding Egypt,
unrest in Cairo and the tragedy of the Ballon flight, it is because these incidents
are so rare that they are news and I would not be concerned about visiting Egypt,
we are going again soon.
This was one of the finest holidays that we, as a couple, have ever had, I cannot
extoll the virtues of a Nile Cruise enough. There are some incredible bargains at
the present time, so now is the moment, book your Nile Cruise.
I have not expanded too much about the excursions, I don't want to spoil the wonder
or the surprise, or too much about the events aboard, again book your cruise.
For your piece of mind my wife and I paid for our holiday and we booked our Nile
Cruise with www.flightsandpackages.com which also included a stay in Hurghada on
the Red Sea coast.