Category Archives: river cruising

CRUISING THE NILE; LIFE ON BOARD, AND SOME OTHER THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW…

NILE REIVER CRUISER

For many, a cruise on the Nile is, quite simply, the trip of a lifetime. In terms of getting right up close and personal to one of the most amazing and storied civilisations of the past, it ticks just about every box that you could possibly dream of.

You get to see and savour those incredible sights from a safe, comfortable base that feeds you, accommodates and cossets you, and then delivers you into a whole raft of stunning historical hot spots. And you get to see those sites in the company of some highly qualified, hugely knowledgeable guides whose collective expertise alone is arguably worth the journey.. For sure, there’s a lot to be said for taking such a safe, comfortable way to see the ‘greatest hits’ of Egypt in such a quiet, elegant, Olde Worlde kind of style.

But there are some things that you should prep for before you go; things that might, if taken heed of and allowed for in advance, actually enhance the quality of you trip even further. So, without further ado, let’s look at some of them….

DON’T DRINK THE TAP WATER. EVER.

No ifs, no buts, just don’t. Don’t even use the stuff for brushing your teeth, either. Instead, always use bottled water and, when doing so, first ensure that the seal of the cap isn’t broken, either.

Want ice in your drink? First, check that the ice on board has actually been made from bottled water, rather than the stuff emanating from the taps. It takes no time at all to ask, and you might just save yourself from a whole world of pain and discomfort.

DO EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED….

Don’t just make the blithe assumption that your river boat will be patronised solely by passengers belonging to the Anglo-Saxon speaking races. Interest in Egypt is universal, and people from all corners of the globe share that same curious, almost reverent sense of wonder that brought you there in the first place, too.

On our recent voyage, we had small groups of Chinese, Japanese, Americans, French, and even a few Australians on board. In general, the different nationalities stuck together on board at mealtimes, and during free time in the lounge, or out on deck. There was very little real crossover-cultural or actual-between any of them.

This is not as surprising as it might seem; after all, each group had its own, dedicated tour guide on board. Each of these was fluent in the national language of the group and, because of his (or her) knowledge and depth of experience, their accessibility and ability to communicate, each nationality naturally enough tended to pivot around their own guides. This isn’t snobbery, and certainly not a racist thing; it was simply a practical way of making the best of your time, both on board and ashore.

FUNNY FOOD?

Because the river boats sometimes cater for several different nationalities at once, there’s an obvious need to provide at least some kind of comfort food for each one. Conversely, there are always going to be some people who, quite unsurprisingly, want to try some of the more staple local Egyptian local dishes.

On the other hand, the river boats are relatively small, as are the galleys that turn out each of the three main meals for up to 180 guests per day, not to mention the crew. The ability to collect and collate fresh supplies as they sail up and down the Nile is pretty limited; the local infrastructure is inadequate to support the moving of such quantities.

So don’t expect the wealth of taste and choices that you would find on, say, a Royal Caribbean cruise. There simply isn’t the space or the scope to create it.

In general, breakfast, lunch and dinner are buffet self service, though sometimes for dinner you will be offered the choice of a main course that you usually pick out on the previous lunchtime. Typically, these revolve around beef, chicken or fish.

You’ll usually sit for all three main meals at tables assigned to your tour group for the entire duration of the trip. When sailing the river on sunny days, sometimes a lunchtime buffet up on deck will replace sit down lunch in the dining room. And afternoon tea, complete with the gorgeous biscuits, cakes and crepes for which the Egyptians are rightly known, is definitely not to be missed as you cruise the Nile. It’s an indulgent little bit of down time and-should you need an excuse-just consider it as a rightly earned reward for all that dutiful traipsing that you did ashore, earlier in the day.

EXPECT QUIET NIGHTS…..

If you’ve come here hoping to find a late night party boat, you’ve probably come to the wrong place. Egypt is a cultural binge where the emphasis is on feeding the mind and soul, rather than potentially hammering the liver. In general, bars on most river boats are empty by eleven o’clock at night, though you can usually order drinks via room service if you feel the need.

The size and scale of the river boats means that you can forget the glitzy casinos and fast paced floor shows, as well as the cosy piano bars found on the big, ocean going cruise ships. Most after dinner conversation revolves around recounting the visual highlights of the day over a couple of nightcaps.

Again, this should hardly be surprising. Many tours necessitate an early morning start just to avoid the extreme excess of Egypt’s mid day heat. And, if the sheer intoxication of all that fabulous history all around you isn’t enough-then, in all honesty, you really probably shouldn’t be here at all.

So; there we have it. Just a few tips from my personal point of view, and gleaned from conversations had with others. Just come with an open mind, and go home with a heart and soul filled with wonder.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I travelled with Discover Egypt on this trip. If you’re liking the look of this adventure, you’ll find their website at: http://www.discoveregypt.co.uk

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CRUISING THE NILE-EGYPT’S TIMELESS TREASURE

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Cruising the mighty River Nile

The Nile at twilight; a small boat emerges from the forest of reeds that throng the river bank. On board, two teenage boys cast nets into a river already tinted a shade of burnished rust by the setting sun. From somewhere behind them, the asthmatic braying of a donkey cuts through the air like a buzz saw.

Stage left, and a cluster of squat, feathery date palms stand like blackened ramparts against the sky. A hawk soars overhead in the warm evening currents, looking for any unsuspecting prey that might have scampered down to the river’s edge. Meanwhile, the muezzins’s evening call to prayer echoes across the water as the minarets of a mosque, it’s ochre base tinted rose red by the sunset, splinters the skyline off to port.

A herd of cows grazes indolently at the water’s edge, no longer fearing attacks these days from the flotillas of Nile crocodiles that once used to cruise these same waters like so many predatory U-boats. The building in 1960 of the great High Dam at Aswan effectively banished these great, freshwater assassins-the single most fearsome predator on the planet- back behind the safety of it’s immutable concrete barrier.

There is more. Clusters of single story adobe buildings made of mud brick huddle around open spaces at the water’s edge, with groups of playing children shouting and waving as the river boats pass by. A cart, heavily overladen with cut sugar cane, clops by at a crawl. Here and there, car horns toot impatiently at who knows what. In random sentry towers strung out along the waterfront, soldiers lounging idly out of the openings take long draws on sparking cigarettes at the start of yet another, interminable evening shift.

Here and there, bridges vault the width of the ancient river, and electricity pylons stand at attention like petrified giants of old. It’s sedate, serene, utterly spellbinding stuff.

Our boat swishes downstream with an aloof, indifferent stance that echoes to perfection the progress of royal barges belonging to Akhenaton, Cleopatra, Rameses the Great and a whole host of other long gone pharaohs that once held sway across this timeless, legendary land. I find myself musing idly as to whether Tutankhamun himself felt the same sense of rare, detached wonder as I did right then as he gazed at this same, immutable scene. Certainly, it has changed very, very little indeed since his days.

Beyond all of this, ranges of low, rolling limestone hills stand, smooth and sharp etched against the flaring umber twilight. They resemble nothing so much as slumbering, mythical monsters of old. Here, in this land of legend, lore, and often very liberal interpretation, the line between truth and fantasy is sometimes as finely drawn as the strands of a spider’s web.

Beyond this natural barrier of reeds, trees and stone lies an embarrassment of scenic glories that still staggers the human heart and mind with it’s sheer scale, symmetry and magnificence. The tombs, monuments and ageless, immutable majesty of ancient Egypt constitute what is, collectively, the greatest single archaeological theme park anywhere on the planet. Nothing else on Earth even begins to compare to it.

This, then, was the promise that lay beyond the padded loungers and gently swaying parasols that lined the sun deck of the M.S. Tulip, our very own ‘royal barge’ for the week. Along her flanks, the age old River Nile hissed and swished by, fanning out in her wake to form an unbroken thread that joined us directly to that fabulous, storied past. Ahead lay what can only be described as the adventure of a lifetime; Egypt, up close and personal.

Consider this intro as your personal invite to join me for the rest of the journey……

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: For those of you who have already asked (and for anyone else who might be curious) I travelled with http://www.discoveregypt.co.uk

COMING NEXT ON TRAVELS WITH ANTHONY; A WEEK ON THE NILE

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Cruising the timeless Nile

As winter hangs over the UK and continental Europe like some kind of damp, tousled blanket, why not join me next month on a trip back in time along one of the most renowned and enduring waterways in the world- the mighty River Nile.

Here, more than five thousand years of matchless history unfolds like a series of muffled drum rolls along the palm splayed, Felucca studded river that is still the very life blood of Egypt. We’ll sail the same waters as Cleopatra, Akhenaton, Rameses the Great and a whole host of other famous names as our river boat- the lovely M.S. Tulip- gets up close and personal to some of the most stupendous preserved temples and tombs anywhere in the civilised world.

We’ll wander like awestruck children through the haunting, silent sandstone expanse of the Valley of The Kings, and gaze in disbelief at the jaw dropping grandeur of the vast temples at Karnak, an ageless lesson in timeless, symmetrical grandeur.

You’ll see mummified crocodiles in the riverside Temple of Sobek, and mesmerising hieroglyphics several thousands of years old on the timeless stone walls of Queen Hatshepsut’s temple. We’ll take our martinis, Poirot style, on the terrace of the Old Cataract hotel at sunset, as sailboats flit below like fireflies on a river of gold, and date palms wave in the early evening breeze….

In Egypt, the Nile was always seen as the boundary line between life and death. Today, that same still, ageless waterway flows silently between those massive, ancient feats of construction that stand like so many random exclamation marks; a tumbling, ruined clutter of ancient, magisterial monoliths perhaps unmatched anywhere else on earth.

Come aboard. Be awed. Suspend your disbelief from a date palm, and dive into the past on a whole raft of exotic, eclectic adventures. This is Egypt, up close and personal, and coming at you right here, very soon indeed.

Welcome aboard…..

CRYSTAL CHRISTENS FIRST PURPOSE BUILT RIVER CRUISE SHIP

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The band new Crystal Bach

The Rhine at Rudesheim was the picturesque backdrop for the Sunday christening ceremony for the Crystal Bach, the first purpose built new river ship for the luxury brand. The vessel, the first of a class of four, is in fact the first purpose built new ship for the Crystal brand since the launch of Crystal Serenity back in 2003.

Crystal Bach marks the evolution of the prestige Crystal experience onto a more intimate and engaging stage for prospective guests. The all suite, all balcony ship is, quite literally, in a class of her own- at least until her three siblings come on line. Unlike most ships on the rivers of Europe, she offers truly all inclusive pricing to the top end river cruise market, and she also has the added benefit of being launched by an across the board hospitality team widely regarded as being the most accomplished in their field.

In addition, reviews for start up river scion, Crystal Mozart, have been universally favourable; not as easy a start as you’d imagine for a cruise line trying to break into the famously competitive European river cruise arena.

There’s real bustle and momentum in the Crystal universe of late, what with the launching of the line’s luxurious new air cruiser, the Boeing 777 named Crystal Skye, and the imminent major surgery about to be undergone by fleet stalwart, Crystal Symphony. The scheduled October/November refit will see the fabled ship enhanced with a series of new penthouses and penthouse suites, a completely refreshed series of dining options, including open seating in the main Waterside Restaurant, and a consequent increase in the amount of on board space, as guest numbers on board will be lower as a result of some of the smaller cabins being re-crafted into larger spaces.

Interesting times and intriguing tides. As ever, stay tuned for updates.