The first 5 things to know about a Nile cruise

The first part of our TOP TEN THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT A NILE CRUISE. Consider this the essential guide 🙂

In fact before we even start the first 5, I’ll throw in an extra question, one that’s on most minds when they think of Egypt these days. Is it safe? The answer is yes in our opinion. First of all, the country is quite safe for tourists and Upper Egypt hasn’t seen the same level of protests and demonstrations as Cairo at any time. Nile river cruising is also very safe, accidents or incidents are rarely reported. The crew members are trained in safety measures and life jackets are provided for passengers. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with any muster points and safety procedures on the boat however.

Now, on with the first 5 things to know about a Nile cruise.

1. How long will I actually cruise?

Nile cruises between Luxor and Aswan generally last 4 days/3 nights, Aswan to Luxor and 5 days/4 nights to cruise Luxor to Aswan. The cruise boats are used as floating hotels for at least one night on each end, allowing for tours of Luxor and Aswan without the necessity of transferring to land-based hotels. Many cruise operators also offer a 7 night round-trip cruise.

However, your actual cruising time is only around 24 hours (about 220 km). Cruising is mixed with sightseeing and passing through Esna lock.

Most sailing is done during the day, but during some periods sailing may be required after dark. At busy periods the boat may be required to wait for a time to get through the lock at Esna. For practical reasons on the Nile, the cruise may be subject to slight alterations at short notice.

Cruise ship Oberoi Philae

Luxury cruise ship Oberoi Philae


2. Can I take a 3-star cruise?

Almost all Nile cruises are 5-star with a few 4-star boats. The five star level has several classes: standard, superior, deluxe, super deluxe or luxury. I did read somewhere that there are 3-star cruises but I have yet to ever see one advertised. We recommend 5-star cruises only.

3. Why are cruises of the same advertised standard – say 5-star deluxe – different prices?

There are several reasons for different prices. These may include, but aren’t limited to:

– the boat is run by a well-known international hotel chain such as Sonesta or Oberoi, for which you may pay more than a boat run by a local operator
– the boat is well maintained and has well-designed dĂ©cor, or maybe has been recently refurbished
– cabin size. The size of a Nile cruise boat is limited due to the fact that the boat must fit through the Esna lock. Therefore cabin size is determined by how many cabins the boat has on each deck. Fewer cabins mean larger cabins, for which you will pay more.
– which deck you are on. Top decks sometimes have higher prices.
– chartered cruises. If a boat has been chartered by a large tour operator but not filled, the remaining cabins may be sold at higher prices so as not to compete with the charter company.
– full board or all inclusive. Almost all cruises are full board with a few offering an all inclusive option. All inclusive means that beverages including local alcohol are included. This is mostly offered on 7 night cruises and can be considered expensive.
– sightseeing. At times cruises are quoted and sold without sightseeing to give passengers a choice. Most cruises DO include tours and it should be clearly mentioned if tours are not included. If you would prefer to take the cruise without sightseeing included, ask for a price. Don’t assume either way, make sure it’s spelled out.
– optional services and facilities, some free and some at additional cost. Boats offer a range of optional services and facilities such as massage therapist, gym, library, pool tables, wi-fi, shops, doctor, cooking classes, pillow choices or beauty services. Not all boats will have the same extra services and facilities.

So when you’re booking your cruise, don’t only consider the price, check what’s included and what’s on offer for the price.

4. Can the cruise include collecting me from the airport or train station?

A few boats, or more properly the companies that manage the boats, do offer a service to collect passengers; however, you will most likely need to find your own way to where the boat is moored. This may not be as simple as it sounds. Your tour operator may be able to organise a transfer for you, but if not make sure you get clear instructions as to where the boat will be moored so that you can help the taxi driver find it. In Aswan I once went a couple of kilometres by taxi and then on foot to find a boat that was moored only a hundred metres or so from where I started out. There are more than 220 boats cruising the Nile so be aware that taxi drivers may tell you they know a boat but hope they’ll get directions along the way.

Sometimes boats are moored three or four deep and you may need to pass through other boats to get to yours. That makes them even harder to find!

Lying by the pool on the Radamis II

Lying by the pool on Radamis II

5. What clothes should I pack?

During the daytime, while touring, you can wear pretty much whatever you like, keeping in mind the fairly modest dress standards of Egyptian society, though due to the heat it is recommended you wear lightweight clothes.

While relaxing on board wear shorts and swimming costumes, if you wish. Breakfast and lunch can be taken dressed like this (with a coverup over your swimsuit), but for dinner you will need to wear smarter clothes!

Beware of too much exposure to the sun and apply plenty of high factor sun block!

If you are cruising in the middle of winter it can get cold, especially at night, so take clothes you can layer and a jacket.

Nile cruise boat Radamis II at Aswan

Nile cruise boat Swiss Inn Radamis II at Aswan

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