Cruise Specialists Vice President Teresa Tennant and her husband spent 10 days touring Egypt on a Nile River cruise. In this interview, we discussed the places she visited, her recommendations and what they loved most about this incredible journey.
Can you tell us about the itinerary?
We chose to cruise the Nile River to see Egypt’s Wonders of the Ancient World. Our itinerary included traveling roundtrip from Cairo/Giza to Luxor, Esna, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Aswan and Abu Simbel. We stayed at the Marriott Mena House in Cairo for two nights prior to the cruise and at Hilton Heliopolis for two nights after the cruise. It’s just a short flight between Cairo and Luxor, where we boarded our cruise. Once on our ship, we enjoyed relaxing on board between the busy port days. Ten days went by fast, and if we had the time, we would have taken at least two weeks to see more of Egypt at a leisurely pace.
While in Cairo, we started our day with views of the most colossal pyramid ever built, the Great Pyramid of Giza, right from our hotel room at the Marriott Mena House. The view from the restaurant was even better with the reflecting pool.
We were excited for our first tour, a close-up look at one of the World’s Seven Wonders and guardian of the great pyramids, the enigmatic Sphinx! And then off to the pyramids and tombs. We also toured the famous Egyptian Museum, where artifacts from the tomb of King Tutankhamun are carefully displayed, walked through some interesting neighborhoods and visited the Citadel of Cairo.
The most memorable part of this trip for me was seeing my husband’s reaction to the pyramids, tombs and impressive ancient monuments. I had been to Cairo and Giza before in the mid ‘90s, but it is something he always dreamed of doing, and it was very rewarding to share his excitement.
What was your favorite port?
Luxor was our favorite port. There is so much history to take in while in this ancient city. We visited the temples of Luxor, Karnak, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens and the Colossi of Memnon.
A highlight for many visitors is attending an evening “Sound & Light” tour. We enjoyed the show at the pyramids as well as the evening ‘Philae Temple Sound & Light Spectacular’ tour in Aswan. Exploring the magnificent Philae Temple that night was a lot of fun. As we walked through the temple complex during the show, some of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs arose to tell their stories.
Did you sample any of the local food?
Yes, at the Marriott Mena House in Cairo, we had a variety of Egyptian specialties available each day. Also, during an optional excursion, which was a Felucca boat ride along the Nile, we enjoyed the “national dish of Egypt”, Koshary. This lunch of pasta, fried rice, lentils, onions and chickpeas was served with lemon sauce and hot sauce. Simple, filling and delicious.
What was your favorite shore excursion?
From Aswan, we flew over and visited the massive sandstone temples of Abu Simbel. Learning how these UNESCO World Heritage Site temples were moved to higher ground to save them from being inundated with water from Lake Nasser was very interesting.
What impressed you the most on this trip?
How warm and welcoming the Egyptian people were each place we went. They are happy to have visitors return and we were happy to be visiting. In the 90s, I took a picture of this cute sign, but the warm welcome still holds true today!
What advice do you have for people traveling to Egypt?
My primary suggestion is to allow yourself plenty of time. There was much more to see and do in Egypt had time permitted. My advice, if you can take a longer cruise, do so! And if you can include pre-cruise and post-cruise overnight stays, that is also strongly suggested.
Keep in mind that due to the limited number of smaller ships that sail the Nile, availability is extremely limited each year. For instance, Viking’s newest Nile River ship, Viking Aton, holds 82 guests and AmaWaterways’ ship, AmaDahlia, has a capacity of just 72 guests. To secure a cabin, it is important to book far in advance!
Also, don’t let mobility challenges deter you from going – at the major monuments where there was a distance to cover, local shuttles were provided. There were also shaded places to rest and purchase something cool to drink.
Do you have any packing tips for this itinerary that others could benefit from?
Pack layers of lightweight clothing – long sleeves to protect from the sun or plenty of sunscreen and a light jacket for any evening excursions. Certain sites visited may require ladies to cover knees and shoulders so make sure to have one or two outfits that can meet these terms.
Overall, this trip was phenomenal. There is so much to see and do that we always had something exciting to look forward to. There is tremendous interest in visiting Egypt right now and many people are looking forward to the opening of the new Grand Egyptian Museum located next to the Pyramids in Giza. Many important artifacts, including from King Tut’s tomb, will be transferred to this museum when it opens. We plan to return to this beautiful region again to explore more of the fascinating ancient treasures.