We had great flights and connections from a very cold Mid-western winter and came to Cairo in the evening. We had been told that we would be met by UniWorld rep as we came off the plane, but we kept on walking and just met him at the customs. As we had e visas, it was easy to enter and went to the baggage claim. We had to wait for quite some time before everyone in our group had collected their baggage. Then we had to wait again to get the bus for us to show up and then we had to use our carts to maneuver over curbs to get our luggage to the bus. It was not the best beginning.
We arrived at the Four Seasons where a bomb sniffing dog checked out the bus, then the luggage was put through the X-ray machine, and we walked through the metal detector. We chose to carry our bags ourselves to the room, so we did not have to wait at all.
Four Seasons is a lovely hotel as one would expect. There is smoke in the lobby and an ashtray in the room just next to the arrow that points to Mecca (for praying).
Buffet breakfast was excellent, and was the only meal that was included in the tour. The morning started early with a meeting for all of us. We were 68 on our tour and were divided into two buses, A and B. We were on bus B which had 35 guests. I was surprised at having that many guests on our bus. I thought UniWorld prided itself on having small groups. 35 is not small. Our guide was Muhamad Abdelrahman and he was excellent. His English was great and easy to understand and his knowledge of the language was such that he could joke with us. He was helpful and kind and I cannot say enough good things about him.
We had an issue right away. Most of us wanted to sign up for the Abu Simbel tour which was an add on, optional tour. The person who ran the program in Cairo said right away that there might not be enough spots on the plane for all of us to go to Abu Simbel. There were almost riots among the guests. We all wanted to go there. I think UniWorld should add this to the cost of the tour and include it, so that when we go to Egypt, we know that we will see that great site. (It turned out that all of us did go, but a few went the day after the rest and that was not ideal either).
This is the time when we signed up for the optional tours and paid. We signed up for the Abu Simbel tour, the Luxor sound and light show and the Coptic tour (when we came back to Cairo after the river cruise portion). I would skip the Luxor sound and light show, there is one included at the pyramids, go to that one. Luxor show was a snooze, literally. A few signed up for the Cairo Nile dinner cruise and it was a let-down for most of them. (This took place for our group upon returning to Cairo.)
The next day was the flight to Luxor. We had early wake up call at 2:30 AM for the flight. We were provided with boxed breakfasts from Four Seasons.
Others have described the day to day activities and they were similar for us. The ship, Tosca, features large rooms and bathrooms. I would say though that the ship is looking worn. The food was excellent and they catered to special needs well.
The daily excursions started very early in the morning, all of them before 8AM. Uniworld uses the Whisper system so we could wander off a bit and still hear the guide. Being such a large group, it still was a bit frustrating if you were in a narrow passage and in the back, because it was not all clear what you were looking at. Our guide did an excellent job of getting our group to gel and be a group.
There was tea served on a few occasions, and other special treats on the ship. There were a few exercise classes with Muhammad Ali, who kept imploring us to “Focus”.
Evening entertainment was fun for such a small ship with local shows that involved getting the guests up on the dance floor for Belly dancing and a dance that looked awfully similar to the Conga line. All had fun.
Wine and beer and other beverages were included with lunch and dinner, but not otherwise. Drinks were $10 to $15.
Tips were included in this sailing, but there was a box for Gratuities on the reception desk, but no mention of it to the guests. We were never told to tip anyone a few dollars, so it was a truly inclusive deal.
Vendors in Egypt can be rather persistent, our guide referred to them as “Valley of the Vultures”. In addition to this, some of the guards at the monuments wanted to take our photo, and then required a tip. Some of them asked for your photo pass and then taking a photo and asking for a tip. Just a heads up. Our guide told us to not hand over the camera to anyone.
You will need 5 Egyptian pounds to use the rest room. We exchanged money with our guide. Previous reviews have stated that you get an envelope with 5 pound notes. We did not, but were thankful that we could get them from the guide. I had brought tissue paper from home, a good thing because all toilets did not have paper.
We were told not to drink any tap water and were provided with bottled water the whole time, even in the Four Seasons. Do no even rinse your toothbrush in the tap water. We did not get sick, but I think a few got a touch of stomach upsets.
After spending 7 nights on the ship, seeing so many temples and wonderful antiquities, we flew back from Luxor to Cairo, back to the Four Seasons. All of us got rooms with a view of the Nile. Some even got suites.
As the rooms were not ready, there was an optional tour of Coptic Egypt. We thought that was a fantastic tour and highly recommend.
The following day was the Great Pyramids. Yes, they are as great as you think, perhaps even better. We were able to climb up a bit and even go into one, with many steps down. We could ride camels in the Sahara, and even though it sounds so touristy, it sure was fun, I think it was $11 per person and then the camel driver expected a tip, which he got of course.
WE had armed escort on most excursions, especially in the cities. We could not figure out why there was a siren blasting behind us the whole time, but then realized that it was the escort. There was also an armed guard on the bus.
Uniworld really excelled in helping us with departure. We were escorted by a Uniworld representative who looked after us very carefully making sure that we got where we were going and our luggage as well. He stayed with us the whole time.
We flew to Tel Aviv for the post cruise extension. The review of that will be on the River Cruise board under “Uniworld Jerusalem Extension”.
Overall I was very happy with our trip. Our guide Muhamad Abdelrahman made it the very best he knew how. We felt safe the whole time, and stayed in luxury accommodations. I recommend this trip highly.
The cabin was large compared to the cabin on the other river cruise we went on (Mekong Navigator). It was pretty dated and lacked electrical outlets. We had brought extensions so we did fine, but it was a much older ship than we have been used to. The bathroom was large, but again, it could use a fresh coat of paint.