Cruise Specialists’ very own Annie Scrivanich and Voyage Host, Tom Mullen just returned from Viking’s 12-day Pharaohs & Pyramids cruise-tour aboard the 52-guest Viking Ra and couldn’t wait to share their experiences on board this destination specific ship.
A Ship Fit for Egypt: Viking Ra
Viking’s commitment to delivering an immersive experience in Egypt was evident before Annie and Tom even stepped aboard Viking Ra. Upon arrival at the Cairo International Airport, they were met and assisted through the arrival procedures including visa verification, immigration, claiming their luggage and numerous security checks.
On their transfer to the hotel, they met their program manager, Manal who hosted their stay and tours for the entire trip. Viking arranges for one tour manager for a maximum of 30 guests. Manal has hosted for Viking for nearly six years and received her Egyptologist certification in 1985. She’s incredibly knowledgeable, sharing details in an easy to understand format while efficiently overseeing their needs.
Exploring Cairo’s Treasures
Their incredible journey commenced with a 3-day stay at the 5-star Sheraton Cairo Hotel & Casino. Nestled on the banks of the Nile River, the hotel offered far-flung views and easy access to the Egyptian Museum.
Viking thoughtfully included a guided tour, allowing them to explore Cairo’s wonders, from the Sakkara Step Pyramid and the Sphinx at Giza Plateau to an optional tour and dinner of the vibrant Khan el-Khalili Market in Old Cairo. Tom fondly recalled their visit to the Giza Plateau, bustling with Carriage rides called hantoors, camels, and vendors, making it a lively experience. Even more lively, was driving through the (pedestrian) market after dinner. Vendors and shoppers alike cleared the path for our motorcoach! Both Annie and Tom eagerly await the opening of the Great Egyptian Museum, which promises to house the world’s most complete collection of ancient treasures.
Cultural Immersion Afloat
Viking excels in providing deep insights into the cultures they explore, and this voyage was no exception. Arabic and Hieroglyphics lessons, a Nile River lecture, performances by Nubian Singers, and a mesmerizing Whirling Dervishes show stood out among the onboard offerings.
The predominantly Egyptian staff added authenticity to the journey, offering delightful conversations and valuable insights.
Tom couldn’t help but be impressed, remarking, “I did not become fluent in Arabic or Hieroglyphics, but both lessons were well worth my time. I must also mention that the Whirling Dervish performance was fantastic, it was a 30-minute performance right in front of us!”
Luxor: Unveiling Ancient Wonders
Docking next to Viking Aton on the east bank of the Nile in Luxor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Annie and Tom found themselves exploring some of the world’s most ancient and significant ruins. The Temple of Karnak, among the largest temple complexes globally, showcased the grandeur of ancient Egypt, embellished by every major pharaoh. The Temple of Luxor, adorned with hieroglyphs and statues, left them in awe, as did the remains of the Avenue of the Sphinxes. They relished privileged access to Queen Nefertari’s tomb, a unique experience beyond words.
A Night to Remember: Egyptian Family Dinner
One unforgettable memory was the special Egyptian family dinner served onboard. Guests were encouraged to dress in Egyptian attire, and Tom seized the opportunity to don a headdress he had brought along for this very occasion. They savored Egyptian delicacies such as baba ghanoush and kibbeh, savoring the flavors of the region.
Qena’s Timeless Beauty: Dendera Temple
In Qena, a once-prosperous trading city, Annie and Tom explored one of Egypt’s best-preserved temple complexes, the Dendera Temple. The stone gate and towering columns were adorned with intricate hieroglyphics. The tour took them inside the main temple, Hathor, where Ptolemaic Egyptian art filled the halls. The lack of crowds made this excursion all the more delightful.
The journey continued to Esna, where the intricate carvings on towering columns and well-preserved wall paintings at the Temple of Esna left them astonished. This site also marked the last known location where hieroglyphics were inscribed, dating back to 250 AD.
Aswan’s Cultural Tapestry
As a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art, Aswan offered a rich cultural tapestry. The local market, or souk, tantalized their senses with fragrant spices, vibrant textiles, and exquisite pottery. Choosing the perfect souvenir proved challenging amidst such abundance. Viking provided a serene felucca excursion, passing landmarks like the Agha Khan Mausoleum and the West Bank adorned with the Tombs of the Nobles.
In the small town of Kom Ombo, Annie and Tom’s journey took an enriching turn as they visited a Nubian village. Immersed in traditions dating back over 1,000 years, they gained valuable insights into this unique way of life including a home and school visit. They continued with an exploration of yet another incredible temple and a fascinating tour of the Papyrus Institute, where they learned the intricate process of creating delicate papyrus paper. Tom was so captivated that he couldn’t resist taking home two beautiful pieces, unable to pick just one favorite!
Edfu’s Timeless Legends
Steeped in Egyptian legend and ancient myths, Edfu is a fascinating location. The Edfu Temple accessed by horse & buggy has been buried in desert sands for 2,000 years. It emerged as one of the most complete ancient temples, thanks to its preservation.
After their cruise, they had the pleasure of returning to Cairo for one more night. Their post-cruise stay at the 5-star InterContinental Hotel Citystars Cairo provided a fitting conclusion to their Egyptian adventure. They enjoyed a final group dinner as everyone headed home or to their next destination in the morning.
Annie and Tom’s journey aboard Viking Ra had truly been a passage through time, offering a profound immersion into the rich tapestry of Egypt’s history, culture, and timeless wonders. They traveled with interesting people which further enriched their experience. They highly recommend considering a Nile River Cruise and encourage you to book early due to the increased popularity of these cruises. Review helpful tips when visiting Egypt here.
Contact a Cruise Specialists Cruise Consultant to start planning your trip to Egypt.