Written on: 13/04/2010 by dandb (1 review written)
Having just returned from Egypt and a Nile cruise on The Royal Viking I cannot recommend it highly enough. We were not quite sure what to expect but it was SUPERB.
Our cabin was very comfortable and the standard of food was generally very good, though some meat dishes were sometimes overcooked and a little chewy. Having heard so many tales about sickness on Nile cruises, we avoided salads - until, that is, we went on the tour of the kitchens. We couldn't believe how high the standards of hygiene and cleanliness were. Even the engine room looked so spotless, I felt one could have eaten dinner in there! Not one person was ill on our trip on the Royal Viking, and I would have been surprised if they had been.
All of the staff, whether cooks, waiters, bar, cleaning etc were welcoming, friendly and really efficient. Sometimes, the waiters were just a little too efficient, and it would have been nice if they had waited until we had finished chewing our last mouthful before the plates were whipped away from us. But that is a minor quibble.
We found Discover Egypt excellent in all their efficiency and organisation, and the Royal Viking was a delight to be on.
We had been told that diesel fumes can be a problem on these cruises - some people with cabins towards the rear of the boat said they were aware of them. We were lucky and had a cabin, on the middle deck, but very near the front. We didn't encounter fumes at all. So perhaps one should ask to be as far forward as possible.
If you have any free time in Luxor, then the Luxor Museum should be first on your list. It is small but much better laid out and lit than the Cairo museum. You'll find artefacts from Tutankhamen's tomb and some near perfect statues uncovered at the Temple of Luxor. Fantastic.
The Mummification Museum is also small, but well worth a visit. You'll find both museums just by walking along the Corniche at Luxor.
Your excursions at Luxor will no doubt take you to the Luxor Temple and also Karnak. If you haven't already done it, then an evening stroll around the floodlit Luxor Temple is well worth it.
If your excursions don't take you to Deir El-Medina then you really, absolutely, MUST do it if you have time. This is the workmen's village for those making tombs in the Valleys of the Kings and the Queens. Their own tombs are on a smaller scale but the tomb decorations are fantastic and look as if they were painted yesterday. They were the best that we saw on the whole trip.
We didn't do a hot-air balloon ride, so have no advice there. The day we would have gone was very hazy and I'm not sure how much we would have actually seen.
A late afternoon felucca trip for a couple of hours is pretty relaxing. Don't go with a group. Negotiate your own rate with one of the guys always lurking for trade on the Corniche. Ours wanted LE70 for an hour. I said LE80 for two and he accepted it too easily. I'm sure a more reasonable rate is LE20 - 30 per hour. We were told that an average sort of income for someone like the bus driver on the excursions is LE500 per month. Knowing that helps to put other rates into some sort of perspective. Like taxis, the guys with the feluccas are licenced and should know what they're doing on the river.
You can't take photos inside the tombs at Deir El-Medina but can buy sets of postcards with many pictures of the amazing tomb decorations. You'll probably be asked LE100 for them. Offer LE20, and that's about the right price. That is still only about £2.20 sterling. Enjoy the haggling, whatever you're buying. It's a game, so make it fun. Offer about a fifth of the price you are asked for, and agree on about a quarter, or at most a third. You'll still be paying over the odds.
And if the hassling gets really persistent and you can't get rid of someone, then play them at their own game. I used to produce a new, clean hanky from a pocket, open it out and demand LE100 for it. Sometimes that would confuse a trader totally, but most of the time they roared with laughter and then left us alone.
Water is always expensive on the boat. But you can buy it from the coach drivers at a better price when you're on an excursion. It's even more expensive at the hotels, but you don't have to buy it outside. We found that a large tip (LE20-30) to the room boy meant that he would provide as much -and more- as we wanted 'unofficially'. We saved a lot of money that way. We just swapped it for the bottles in the mini-bar so that we always had cold ones to take with us.
One thing we were advised NOT to do was to take a trip in a caleche - the attractive carriages pulled by horses around town. It looks a lovely thing to do, but our rep told us that there were so many accidents involving them - accidents with cars. Guess who always comes off worst? We saw one horse, urged on by his driver, galloping at great speed along the slippery main road, with two rather frightened passengers in the back. Sometimes the driver might have his friend with him - so you can't see past them. Or he'll be smoking, and that smoke is going to go over you before it goes anywhere else.
One last thing, if you want to buy - virtually anything - and don't want pressure, hassle, bartering or haggling, then there is a fabulous shop right in front of the Winter Palace Hotel at Luxor. It is called 'Gaddis'. The old photos and books they have there are amazing. Everything is priced so you know what you'll be paying and the staff are incredibly courteous and helpful. It's about the only place where you can browse, without being brow-beaten!
Everything exceeded our expectations and we had a very busy, but brilliant, time.