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The Pro's and Con's of a Nile Cruise
A Nile Cruise between Luxor and Aswan is an excellent way of seeing the sites like Kom Ombo and Edfu on the way down to Aswan (a beautiful town and a lot more relaxed than Luxor) and makes a must do trip to Abu Simbel easier to organise than from Luxor.
As the boats are quite small compared to the larger ocean cruisers (around 120 passengers) you get to meet some new and interesting people (though this can also work out as a con)
Relax on top deck and watch life on the riverbank glide past - women washing their clothes, children playing in the river and waving at you, donkeys braying, farmers harvesting their crops (rarely a tractor in sight) watching the scenery change from lush palm trees to large sand dunes the further south you sail.
Having everything (excursion wise) taken care of if you choose a package with excursions included.
Your guide will (hopefully) shield you from the majority of the hassle and help you out with your haggling in the stalls when you exit the temples. They are usually available through the day (even after excursions) to answer any further questions you may have and help with any further sightseeing you may be doing on your holiday.
Some people find it quite regimented in the fact that meal times are all at set times i.e. breakfast will be served between 6am and 9am, if you are not on an excursion and fancy a lie in - you go hungry, lunch between 1 and 2 and dinner in one setting between 8 and 9. Afternoon tea and cake is normally served on sundeck around 4pm.
Excursions - if you are part of a large tour group the time you can spend at the sites may be limited. You do get free time after the guide has given his talk and the groups I've been in have always been asked how much time they feel they want, this can be a bit of a disadvantage when you are stuck with a bunch who would rather be back at the boat swilling a few beers - so where I would like an hour or so they may only want 20 minutes - majority wins.
If you decide to do DIY excursions it is your responsibility to ensure you are back on board the boat at the correct time. failure to do so may disrupt the sailing schedule. There will be a notice-board in the boat's reception area with sailing times / itinerary - check this carefully before you head out, on days where the boat is sailing remember and ensure you have a 'disembarkation pass' - if you head out without collecting one and are not back on time the boat may sail off without you!!!!
You have to share a table with your fellow guests for breakfast, lunch and dinner sharing the same table for the whole week. Hopefully you will get on with them like a house on fire, I suppose if you found them not to your taste you could always ask to move to another table which is not always possible if the boat is full.
Alcohol served on board can be very expensive.
If you don't like the food that's on offer it's not as if you can choose another restaurant.
If on a seven night cruise you will probably find yourself sailing only about three days out of the seven (some sailing may also be done through the night), the rest of the time you will be docked in Aswan and Luxor.
You may find yourself moored between three or four other boats obstructing any view of the Nile you may get from your cabin window / small balcony (if your cruise boat has them) This may make your cabin seem a little dark and dingy. When the boats are all moored up together you will have to walk through reception of other boats to get to shore / back to your boat. Often where there are many boats moored up together smells of diesel fumes can be quite high.
Entertainment - Not to everyone's cup of tea, apart from the Bellydancer and Whirling Dervish there is also Nubian Dancers. An Egyptian Party night where you have the opportunity to dress up in traditional Egyptian dress (Galabeya) alternatively if you are feeling a little brave you could opt for a bellydancing costume and I have even seen a Pharaoh's outfit complete with head-dress and false beard. There will be party games such as a bellydancing competition and wrapping the mummy in toilet tissue and a disco at the end. Unfortunately the entertainment never seems to get underway till around 10pm with the wake up call the next morning around 5am so if you like your 8 hours sleep a day you may end up pretty tired.
Have look at the Top Questions About Luxor over on the right hand side of the forum page regarding hotel and cruise boat accommodation (What do the hotel and cruise stars really mean) because although British Tour Operators may give your boat a 4 or 5 star in reality it may only be around a 2 star UK standard. The ones that are truly Luxurious and to a 5 star UK standard will be around 4 times the price (Cruise boats are rated 5 star, 5 star deluxe and 5 star ultra-deluxe)
Most boats do not have tea and coffee making facilities in the cabins, this is down to Health and Safety reasons / Fire regulations. If you do take your own travel kettle on board keep it out of sight when you are not using it. Same rules can apply for hair straighteners / curling irons etc.
Some people who book All Inclusive Nile Cruises end up a bit disappointed as they expect it to be similar to the all-inclusive set up provided in large hotels and resorts. Meals will be on a full board basis (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner all served at set times) snacks are not normally provided through the day though afternoon tea and cake is normally served on sundeck mid afternoon. Drinks (both alcoholic and non alcoholic) will only be served when the bar is open (at all other times it will be chargeable). Tea/Coffee/Juice will be available at breakfast time.
Tipping - If you are part of a package tour your Tour Operator will explain this on arrival, normally at the end of your week you are given two envelopes one for the guide and one for the crew. Your Tour operator will advise a suggested amount to place in each envelope, on the last week long cruise I did it was 70-100LE per person for the guide and 100-150LE per person for the crew (those amounts are a guideline only, it may be more or less). This was only a 'suggested' amount - it is 100% up to you to tip as little or as much as you feel appropriate for the service you received. I have read some Companies' demand you pay tips up front. As a tip is provided for good service I would be hesitant to do this until the end of the cruise.
On a package tour you may also be asked to tip your 'coach driver' it can be as little as 2 - 5LE per person for each trip to as much as 100LE demanded 'upfront'
If you do not feel happy tipping using the envelope system many people choose to personally tip their housekeeper, waiter and barman who have served them all week. It's entirely up to you whatever method you use and how little or much you tip.
A lot of people like the sound of a Nile Cruise but would rather be on a smaller boat, if this is the case a Dahabeya or Sandal may be the best option. Dahabeya's and Sandals are smaller sail boats that have a capacity of around 12 - 16 people. The bonus with Dahabeya's and Sandal's is that they can dock at sites such as Gebel Silsila which the larger cruise boats pass by but can't dock at. Before Thomas Cook started operating Paddle Steamers down the Nile and opening up Egypt to more tourism people like Amelia Edwards (1000 miles up the Nile) and Lucie Duff Gordon (Letters from Egypt) would spend winters cruising between Cairo and the Sudan on a dahabeya and although the books were written over 100 years ago much of what is written can still be seen on the Nile today.
Some of my photos of the River Nile taken from a Cruise Boat or from hotels in Luxor
Is a Nile Cruise necessary to see the sites between Luxor to Aswan? - No, not really, you can also travel between the two towns by road and visit the same temples you would see over two to three days in one. The article linked to above has info on the sites you can visit along the route. Research and choose what is most important to you (not what a tour company dictates)
These cruises were stopped due to safety fears back in the 1990's but recently the Egyptian Tourism Authorities announced their plans to allow Nile Cruisers back on this route starting around May / June 2012.