For thousands of years Egyptians and tourists have sailed the Nile to travel the country and for work and for pleasure. While there are many ways to get around Egypt – by taxi, limo, public bus, tour bus, train or plane – there’s no more leisurely way to holiday in Egypt than to cruise the Nile.
Often we get tour enquiries from people who have already determined their itinerary and say “I am arriving on this exact date and then on that exact date I want to go on a Nile cruise!” Unfortunately we can’t always help. Why? Don’t cruises leave every day just like planes and trains?
Currently cruises are only between Luxor and Aswan, although the government plans to open the river to Cairo in the future. Every Nile cruise has its own schedule but overall Nile cruises fall into a set pattern and it is difficult to find a cruise outside those schedules. It’s not always impossible, but very difficult. Normally boats cruise as follows:
From Luxor to Aswan
Saturday cruising for 4 nights / 5 days – frequent departures
Monday cruising for 4 nights / 5 days – frequent departures
Tuesday cruising for 4 nights / 5 days – very rare (can be very expensive)
Thursday cruising for 4 nights / 5 days – rare (can be expensive)
7 night cruises are also available with some boats from Luxor to Aswan and back to Luxor. So, for example, you could take a 7 night cruise embarking on Monday in Luxor and you would disembark on the following Monday in Luxor.
From Aswan to Luxor
Friday cruising for 3 nights / 4 days – frequent
Saturday cruising for 3 nights / 4 days – very rare (can be expensive)
Monday cruising for 3 nights / 4 days – rare (can be expensive)
Wednesday cruising for 3 nights / 4 days – frequent
7 night cruises are also available with some boats from Aswan to Luxor and back to Aswan
Dahabeyas and sandals have more varied schedules and feluccas usually cruise from Esna to Aswan or Aswan to Esna as they don’t pass through the lock, being under sail. They can cruise for a varied number of days and also take 7 day or longer round trips. Feluccas, especially, can be very flexible in their arrangements.
So most likely if you want a 3 night cruise then you’ll depart from Aswan, probably on a Wednesday or Friday. If you want a 4 night cruise you’ll depart form Luxor and probably on a Saturday or Monday.
However, according to contracts with tour operators, cruise companies can change the starting day and time without notice or some cruisers can be fully chartered at the requested date. Cruise itineraries can also change according to sailing conditions; although you will see what is in your itinerary, it may simply be in another order. That is why, if you are thinking of a Nile cruise, you may need to be flexible about how your tour in Egypt is arranged and always contact your tour company before you settle your final flight bookings.
At the moment, because of the significant drop in tourism in Egypt many boats aren’t sailing at all. This may even mean that you make a booking on one boat and are transferred to another, although companies will do their best to ensure this doesn’t happen. Other conditions may also mean a boat change of course, such as mechanical problems. You should always be transferred to a boat of the same or higher standard. From time to time there is also an issue with the lock at Esna.
The large Nile cruise boats (really floating hotels) come in several standards of 5-star and with only a very small number of 4-star boats. You will see cruises rated at standard, superior, deluxe, and super deluxe or luxury, with associated price variations of course. Most Nile cruises are on full board basis and you can book with or without sightseeing, although most include sightseeing. A very few are on all inclusive basis. The difference between full board and all inclusive is that in all inclusive all beverages and local alcoholic drinks are included in the price but in full board you pay for beverages as an extra.
Whatever your choice, your Nile cruise should give you views of Egyptian village life along the Nile, tours to the ancient temples that dot its banks and an unparalleled chance to relax and enjoy Upper Egypt as the pharaohs once did.