River Anuket Entertainment
There's not much in the usual sense of shows and performers other than a crew talent show, which was surprisingly good, and an Egyptian Costume Night, which was enjoyable silly fun. The one truly professional entertainment experience took place the first night aboard, when a Nubian Folkloric Troupe appeared; they wowed the passengers. Otherwise, there was a karaoke session (bad) and an attempt at bingo (a flop).
More important and intriguing was the ship's broad range of "Discoveries," meant to provide enrichment and a deeper connection with the destination at hand. Ours of course all related to Egypt and the Nile. And for the passengers on my cruise, the efforts were on-target. I'm not talking about the major shore excursions, the great tombs and temples, but smaller, possibly more human-scaled events and activities.
The first afternoon aboard, we were treated to an up-close and personal encounter with the Nile in an Arab felucca (a low and broad native sailing vessel). As we drifted and tacked between lushly overgrown islands, a Nubian crewmember sang and danced to an ancient chant. The next evening, we toured the Aswan Spice Market, and in the midst of overwhelming colors and scents, our Program Director explained how to tell good saffron from bad. Onboard, we took classes in Hieroglyphics (will Target take a check with this kind of signature?) and basic Arabic (I think my name means Squiggle). The chef showed how to carve fruit and vegetable decorations (I didn't see anyone bleed) and gave a lesson in Egyptian cooking (Oh my God, it's okra!). In Quena, we visited an elementary school (they treated us like rock stars) and that evening toured the city in a little trolley train. At Luxor, some passengers rose at 4:30 a.m. to cross the Nile and go ballooning over Thebes. Later, we had the choice of visiting a hospital for horses or a center for special-needs children. We saw how to make papyrus, carve alabaster and create perfumes; shopping opportunities followed immediately thereafter.
At Abu Simbel, you stand before the massive statues of Ramses II in awe of both the temples carved into the cliff-face and the years-long international effort to salvage and reconstruct the entire complex above the rising waters of the newly created Lake Nasser. In the Valley of the Kings, a barren landscape reveals little until you descend into incredible underground tombs carved out for the ancient Pharaohs (there's a surcharge for King Tut's). At Karnak and at Luxor, you are overwhelmed by the gigantic scale of the pillared colonnades and massive pylons (gates); at Philae, Edfu, Dendara and Kom Ombo the experience is repeated, enlarged, enhanced and expanded. It isn't long until you begin to recognize the gods and images: the double crown ("wine bottle in an ice bucket") of Upper and Lower Egypt, the emblems of each kingdom (lotus vs. papyrus).
The rumored "ADT Syndrome" (another damn temple) never sets in, but a permanent sense of wonder does as you marvel at colors still visible and strong after 25 centuries. To say it boggles the mind is an understatement; thankfully your Program Director is there to explain and educate, to keep the frame of reference within your grasp. It is an awesome journey.
River Anuket Public Rooms
All of the public spaces, including the passageways, reception and large and small common areas, reflect the same comfortable Anglo-European country hotel design concept; one carpet design is used throughout, the background colors changing depending on the location. Some nice inlaid Egyptian consoles and tables are effectively used as accent pieces in public areas. Even the abstract art with flashes of brilliant color blends together with traditionalized woodcuts and prints in an unusual harmony. The overall effect produces a wonderful "home away from home" feeling for the passengers.
The principal public space is the lounge, large enough to hold all 138 passengers at one time. It is big and airy, and the furniture is actually quite comfy, though the repeated clusters of sofas and chairs beg to be rearranged since movement in the room gets awkward during group presentations and events as people clamber over each other to get seats. This is where meetings, presentations, seminars, classes and all group events take place. It's where tea is served and where daily port/excursion talks are given just before dinner each evening. It's also the locale for any evening entertainment scheduled onboard such as the Galabeya Party (Egyptian costume night) or the crew talent show (more impressive than expected) and for such things as Welcome Aboard or Farewells. Just forward of this large area is the bar, attractively situated overlooking the bow and the river from above. It also acts as the service area for beverages served in the lounge, and has an extensive list of drinks and liqueurs.
On the Mezzanine Deck below is a small and underused library/card room in a large alcove off the staircase area. This is where Internet service can be set up, and while the price is somewhat reasonable at about 30 cents a minute, the connection is not reliable or always functional -- better to use a local Internet cafe in port.
Descend another deck to Main Deck, and you are at reception. Like the lobby of a regular hotel, this functions as a transit point. When docked, this is the entry/exit area. You drop off your cabin key (yes, they use real keys) and pick up your boarding pass. This is also where you drop outgoing mail, and check or settle your account. Under Egyptian law, the ship cannot exchange currency, but the staff can direct you to banks or ATM's, and a banker comes aboard twice to handle transactions if you prefer. Reception is also where shore excursions begin, and where fresh limeade and moist towels are provided when you get back.
Head back up top to the Sun Deck which functions as another lounge, albeit outdoors. It's a wonderful place to sit on a comfortably cushioned rattan chair or lounger (no plastic here) and watch Egypt and history drift by, a cold drink or beer in hand. It's equally as pleasant just to sit and read (may I suggest Agatha Christie's "Death on the Nile"?), chat with your new old friends or catch the last bit of sun before it heads over the hills to the Western Desert.
River Anuket Spa & Fitness
There are three fitness machines up on the Sun Deck, conveniently located just next to the bar area. On the same deck, but forward, is an attractive blue-tiled pool, unfortunately unheated, and only used by one passenger, who it seems belongs to a Polar Bear Club in Wisconesota or some such place. The majority of us got our exercise on the extensive shore excursions and with constantly using the ship's four flights of stairs.
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