We started planning in 2006, and we knew we didn’t want to brave Egypt on our own, so we set our sites on finding the best tour company. My wife, being the five star gal she is, did her homework and determined that Abercrombie & Kent was the best. By 2015 Egypt looked settled, and we finally booked A&K’s Egypt & The Nile River Tour. Yea!
Here are is the synopsis. Please check out my blog and review of the cabin below for more details.
The Sunboat (5/5) - We decided at the last minute to upgrade to the Royal Suite on the Sun Boat IV, as it wasn’t that much more expensive. It was fantastic having that deck up on the top of the boat to enjoy the sunrise. We had cabin 408 on the port side. 407 on the starboard side was facing the Nile when we were in port so we would have booked that side had we understood which way the ship faced in port. The ship was kept in immaculate shape and the service was great, but it is an old ship. I still give it a 5 all things considered.
Sites (4.75/5) - The itinerary was packed with highlights. The schedule was aggressive and sometimes grueling, but there is probably no other way to cover so much ground in 9 days of active touring. The Valley Of The Kings, Karnak, Abu Simbel, Dendera, and the Egyptian Museum were the show stoppers. I have two criticisms. First, you have a couple of very long days that make it hard to take everything in. Second, and most important, the carriage ride to Edfu Temple was disturbing. They need to put their foot down on the mistreatment of the horses. See details in Day 5 below.
Tour Guide (5/5) - If you get Ibrahim as we did, count yourself lucky. Not only was he knowledgeable, he was enthusiastic and entertaining. His little jokes kept us smiling and he never ceased to supply details that really brought everything to life. "Father Abraham", our pet name for him, really took care of us and treated us like his family. I was amazed at the depth of his knowledge, even when he took us on an add-on tour of Coptic Christian sites!
Hotels (4.75/5) - The Mena House is rich with history and the view can’t be beat. Also the complex is a small compound, which gives you a lot of safe space to soak up your first days in Egypt. You won't believe how close to the Great Pyramid it is either. That said, it’s old. On the back end, the Four Seasons Cairo Nile Plaza is, well, the Four Seasons. They were renovating however, mostly non-smoking floors (yes, they still smoke in that hotel). They initially booked us on the 7th floor - pretty low and near the noisy street. When we asked for higher floor away from the noise that was also non-smoking, it was a problem. A&K should guarantee a higher floor and non-smoking for their group. This snafu kind of put a damper on our first night there as we didn't get into our final room until about 9:30 pm and we were exhausted. More details below.
Food (4.25/5) - Food was the weakest area of the cruise, but still very, very good. The restaurants at the Mena House were excellent (we ate at the Indian place twice!). The food on the boat was very good but not great as I was hoping. I’m comparing this to our suite dining experience on an Celebrity cruise in 2015; which was 5 out of 5 stars. Also the snacks and bag lunches you get on a couple of the long days were genuinely disappointing. Dry stale sandwiches mostly. Four Seasons dining was excellent but really expensive due to the 12% 'service charge' (that is not a tip), and a 14% VAT tax.
Transportation (4.5/5) - The transportation was good and efficient. The bus we used had A/C and a bathroom, and they booked a full site bus just for a group of 18 so we had room to spread out. The in-country flights were economy and we just got preassigned seats, so some of the taller members in our group were squashed. But the flights were short so it wasn't so bad. Also, we had 3 hour layover in Aswan waiting to fly back to Cairo, despite there being an earlier flight we could have made. That said, things ran efficiently and in all cases they get you where you need to go on time.
This was one of two Royal Suites, the largest cabin on the top deck with a balcony. The Cabin was immaculately clean and spacious. The boat is old though, but that was expected. As you don't spend much time in your cabin other than mornings, the best thing about the cabin is the deck. Mornings and evenings watching the sun rise and set over the Nile are magnificent. The time my wife and I spent up there watching the Nile go by was some of the best time I had on the cruise. Typically A&K reserves these cabins for their private journey's, but if they don't book them, they will release them for group journey's to book, so check with them periodically.
Tip: 408 is on the port side and the ship dock port side to, so the starboard cabin, 407 looks over the Nile in port. Most mornings we were underway but the first morning we were not, so there is a bit of an advantage to being in 407. Had we do do it over again, that is where we would book.