My husband and I just completed the Uniworld “Splendors of Egypt & The Nile” twelve-day cruise/tour of Egypt. I would like to elaborate on our experience, which was for the most part very positive.
I’ll start with the most important element of this trip, our Egyptologist. His performance was crucial to the success of the trip. Without a qualified guide the journey would have been pointless. Akram, our guide, did not disappoint. Before the start of the official tour Akram took us to see some of the more minor pyramids and then to visit the Bazaar. I knew after spending that first half day with him that we were in for a treat over the coming days.
He was so well qualified and versed on all aspects of ancient Egyptian history and modern Egyptian culture as well. Even more important, his enthusiasm for “all things Egypt” was contagious. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on the Pharoahs, temples and pyramids but I certainly have a much better understanding of the subject after spending a week and a half with Akram.
Akram’s official duty was to guide us through the magical country of Egypt; in reality he “wore several other hats”. He also took on the responsibility of helping two passengers with mobility issues that both required wheelchair assistance. It was a daunting task he tackled head on. The various sites posed unique challenges as far as handicapped access goes but Akram handled the often-awkward situations with aplomb. I spoke at length with one of the handicapped passenger’s relatives who had nothing but glowing praise for the help Akram had provided in order that their spouse could fulfill their lifelong dream of an Egyptian cruise.
In addition, he took charge of tipping the bathroom attendants at the various sites for the entire group. Handling all these tasks often demanded he be in two places at once. There was a lot of pressure, but he never lost his cool. One change/addition I might suggest is to provide Akram with an assistant to handle the rest room duties and enable him to concentrate on his guiding. Perhaps the bus driver could assist in this area.
The itinerary was well designed to maximize the number of sites visited. Some of us commented that we felt we had packed a month’s worth of touring into eleven days, To be honest the pace was brisk and we were pretty tired at the end of the day; however, it was completely worth every 7:00 a.m. starting time to reach the temples before the crowds descended. Many reviews of this cruise addressed the action-packed nature of the cruise but still some people complained to Akram about it, even though the logistics involved were not within his control.
In our opinion the optional excursion to Abu Simbel was the highlight of the trip. It was well worth the extra effort and expense involved getting there. We were told that going forward it will be incorporated into the regular itinerary. This is excellent news as anyone interested in Egypt would really miss if they passed over these amazing temples.
The subcontractor handling the entire trip for Uniworld was Spring Tours. I felt they did a good job. The bus drivers were professional and the buses were clean and comfortable.
RIVER TOSCA SHIP
I will admit to being pleasantly surprised by the ship especially after reading quite a few negative reviews of the ship. Granted it is an older vessel but our cabin appeared to have newer, clean carpet and fresh paint. We found it quite cozy. The staff on the boat was lovely. They were always pleasant and helpful. We loved the food. They had a lot of variety and daily offered some local dishes to sample. The highlight was the evening they served an Egyptian buffet—delicious.
PRE- AND POST CRUISE STAY
Of course, it is hard to criticize the Four Seasons. It is a little pricey for meals but with a sumptuous breakfast buffet included, it was easy to get through the day on the calories provided by that meal alone.
This is the area where I have my one criticism of our trip. We booked our flights and initial incoming transfer independently as we spent several extra days in Cairo at the Four Seasons before start of Splendors of Egypt & The Nile” twelve-day cruise/tour. Despite numerous to communicate our arrangements with Uniworld corporate they were not at all helpful in facilitating our liaison with the other passengers on our excursions. A serious of lengthy phone calls with both the Four Seasons and Uniworld in the US were required to finally sort things out. Apparently, Uniworld is really only set up to deal with customers who buy their entire package—air/cruise/hotel. They are not motivated to provide assistance to the independent travelers. I recognize that you must differentiate between the corporation and the actual subcontractor, Spring Tours, in these situations.
All in all, it was a marvelous cruise and I would recommend it without reservation to anyone, who like us, has Egypt on their “list”.
PS: One more negative comment about corporate Uniworld. I made considerable attempts to post this 98% review directly on Uniworld's web site. First they told me it had to be "researched". Then when I called directly they said I had to be "invited" as it was submitted through a third party. Finally, they e-mailed me and said to submit to them directly--what I wanted to do in the first place. What are they afraid of?