Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nile Cruise Wrap Up

1 Egyptian Pound = 0.13 Euro
1 Egyptian Pound = 0.18 Dollar

By Claire
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Egypt is hard….unless you are insulated by staying in 5 star hotels or taking a Nile cruise. We were so well taken care of and it has been so pleasant and comfortable, I’m sure it will be a jolt to our senses to get back to “real life” and getting around on our own. I can’t recommend strongly enough having your own private driver and guide, here; it isn’t even expensive. We don’t know exactly what it cost for our 4 days of this service but for our extra day with Mohamed, it is costing us 330 LE or $60 for both of us. This includes pick up, guiding, entry fees and delivery to our hotel at the end. If there is one country where it is affordable to do this, Egypt is it. We are in awe at how well the drivers get us from one place to the other. We never had to break a sweat (and it’s hot in Aswan, even in February!).

Cruises run the full gamut and ours was probably at the lower range although it is rated as a 5 star cruise. We were completely satisfied with it—maybe even more than satisfied, especially by the size. We never saw another boat as small as ours and we really liked the fact that there were so few people. I was very frustrated by the lack of communication from our travel agent in Cairo, who I initially contacted back home, but she really came through—it just would have been nice to have an itinerary and to know what to expect. If I were doing it again, I would go through someone I know and make sure I had all the details. We still aren’t sure about tipping but left the equivalent of $50 in Egyptian Pounds. We based this on the $10 per day per person rate that the American cruise ships ask for. We cut it in half to $5 per person per day considering the fact that this is Egypt and everything is less expensive. It would have been nice though, to have guidance. An example of the cost of things is a cup of tea @ €1.30. Cokes were the same. Taxi rides were around 20 LE or €2.60. We generally tipped the guides 50 LE and the drivers 20 LE. Because Mohamed was so helpful beyond the scope of the tour, we tipped him 70 LE.

We really lucked out with the location of our room: right in the middle--not too close to the bar/lounge or the dining room and not too low to enjoy the views of the high banks of the Nile. However, we spent most of our time up on the terrace watching the world go by.

Our wardrobes consisted of whatever was comfortable. I brought too many nice things and never wore them—no one else did either. It was mostly T-shirts and sun hats. There was a Gallabiya party one night after dinner but we chose not to join in. Being the only English speakers and the only twosome on the cruise, we knew we would just be sitting there by ourselves talking to each other and looking ridiculous. Everyone else was part of a large group of friends or family. We did go to the cocktail party and enjoyed the parade of costumes. I give people a lot of credit for what they can come up with. The shop on board sells all this stuff, of course. We were happy to be in our cabin, relaxing with our books. Have I mentioned we read a lot?

As careful as we have been about eating, we still picked up some kind of bug. Come prepared. Drink only bottled water. On the cruise I did decide to go ahead and eat the tomatoes and cucumbers and other salad things. I just couldn’t take the meat anymore and I felt confident that it was safe. We drink a lot of tea as well.

Bad photo, taken by the boat photographer in the middle of a bite.

With all the time on our hands to relax and read, Chuck and I are enjoying the same book together with a copy on each of our Kindles: The Buried Pyramid by Jane Lindskold. It’s a fun adventure story set in late 19th century Egypt. We’ve seen many of the sites mentioned in the book which just adds to the fun. Chuck also enjoyed Alexandria: A Marcus Didius Falco Novel by Lindsey Davis. It’s always fun to read a book that takes place where you are.

I also want to recommend a really excellent book, Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff, by Rosemary Mahoney. This is a nonfiction account of a woman’s journey rowing down the Nile. Chuck and I both read this book recently and loved it. We learned a lot about the people in Upper Egypt and it reads like a novel.

Total cost for our Nile cruise, including all guides, drivers and tips: €593.11.

As a camel beareth labour, and heat, and hunger, and thirst, through deserts of sand, and fainteth not; so the fortitude of a man shall sustain him through all perils. Akhenaton, King of Egypt, 14th century B.C.

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