Viking ships sail around the globe, but there is one country in particular where it has its sights set particularly high: Egypt. At the naming ceremony of Viking Aton in Aswan, Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen teased that the options there are endless, promising a “slew of new ships” to come. There is no question that the excitement is there, both from Viking as well as customers seeing that 2024 Egypt sailings are almost entirely sold out with a similar direction headed for 2025.
This confirms that people are curious about sailing the Nile River with Viking. If you’re one of them, here’s everything you need to know about a Viking river ship in Egypt.
Viking's ships on the Nile have similar aesthetics to other river vessels in the fleet, but there are notable differences, too. Let’s dive into a bit of both.
Similarities Viking ships in Egypt share with those elsewhere:
The Viking ships in Egypt showcase the company's signature Nordic design inspirations with minimalist, colorful design as well as the square-like bows that allow it to travel more efficiently with more space for passengers. Viking ships in Egypt feature the same livery on the façade like others in the fleet with the name prominently listed.
Back inside, the ships share many familiar features like Aquavit Terrace, a more casual dining option open for three meals a day with the option for panoramic views from air conditioned or al fresco tables; a sun deck on the front of the ship as well as top deck with shaded seating areas and walking track; and libraries with books curated by a famed London bookseller. Look closely, and you’ll also notice many Norse mythology references throughout the art, fabric and design choices.
Other familiarities include an elevator and multiple cabin types including a pair of top-tier Explorer Suites at the front of the ship that share a balcony. Veranda Suites and cabins fill the top and middle decks with standard cabins on the main deck.
In the cabins, Viking’s signature toiletries, heated bathroom floors and towel racks, and bottled water are standard. There are also free tours in every port. If you’ve sailed with Viking before, only the size of the ship and some of the artwork may seem different.
Differences in the Viking ships in Egypt:
Viking's Nile ships are smaller than the line’s “Longships,” with only 41 cabins for 82 guests (less than half the size of Longships). But, the public areas seem rather spacious thanks to the traditional lounge area plus numerous other seating options. While the main lounge is laid out in a familiar fashion to other ships, it has Egyptian-themed artwork and photography. You’ll also notice that the entrance to al fresco desks is on the side and closer to the center of the ship (due to its shorter length) rather than at the back of the lounge.
While on the same deck, the Aquavit Terrace is on the other end of the ship rather than being just behind the main lounge. The main atrium was also redesigned, now stretching one deck higher than on most other ships with two skylights allowing plentiful natural light. The atrium is open to four decks and supported by four main columns inspired by the ancient Avenue of the Sphinxes and the four statues of Ramses II and Abu Simbel. The Nordic minimalism remains (don’t worry, no flashy Egyptian imitations here), but the design ethos is notable.
Many of the design influences of the main restaurant are drawn from Egyptian markets using woven accents and wood panels. Lunch and dinner tend to be three courses, rather than four on other ships, but guests are always encouraged to order what they would like.
On the Egypt ships, the standard cabins on the main deck have windows that reach waist-level instead of only narrow ceiling windows, and since these lack balconies, they feel longer and larger as a result.
On Viking Aton, another unique perk is the long, infinity-edge plunge pool that stretches along the aft of the ship with cushioned lounge chairs positioned perfectly for aft-facing views. This is similar to what is available on Viking Osiris and the next two river ships under construction.
Viking is one of the few river cruise line to both own and operate its river ships on the Nile. Its current fleet of four includes:
MS Antares: This is the first of the four ships in operation now. It is a conversion ship from another line, and while it showcases Viking standards, it is the most different from the newer ships in the fleet. The restaurant and main lounge areas are on lower floors rather than being placed higher up. It also has connecting staterooms plus a gym and spa, which are unusual for Viking.
Viking Ra: The first ship to join the fleet following a total conversion to Viking design standards, this is the only all-suite ship for Viking. This means that even the main deck cabins are suites, but with smaller windows than those on higher decks (representing great value).
Viking Osiris: This was the first, purpose-built ship for Viking on the Nile. Pay particular attention to the onboard photography collection on this ship as well as the newer Aton. The 8th Earl of Carnarvon, the Viking’s first godfather for a ship and a friend of Hagen, gave exclusive permission to the cruise line to use rarely-seen photographs of his relative known for the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. They outline what it was like during the actual discovery and excavation of what they found, which changed history forever.
Viking Aton: The newest in the fleet, this ship is almost an exact copy of its older sister Osiris. They share similar onboard design and amenities with only the slightest variations in the collection of books the library might differ. The ship’s godfather Richard Riveire, who has also designed numerous other Viking vessels, is responsible for choosing the historic and rare photos on display throughout the ship.
There are currently two more Nile ships under construction coming in 2024 (Viking Hathor) and 2025 (Viking Sobek) with the potential for many more. According to Viking, Nile itineraries are its fastest-selling product at the moment.
The cruise portion of the trip begins and ends in Luxor as part of the line’s Pharaohs & Pyramids trip, which is the only Viking itinerary. All Nile River itineraries feature a three-night stay in Cairo at a first-class hotel before you sail. Highlights in Cairo include the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Egyptian Museum, shopping in local markets, the necropolis of Saqqara and the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. Then, passengers will board a flight to Luxor. All tours include domestic airfare and the pre-sailing Cairo visit as part of the package.
The eight-night sailing is the main event with visits to the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Kings, the temples of Luxor and Karnak, and privileged access in various venues (like to the tomb of Nefertari and the tomb of Tutankhamun). Additional excursions include the option to visit the temples at Abu Simbel and the High Dam in Aswan (which also requires a short flight), the Temple of Khnum in Esna, the Dendera Temple complex in Qena and time in a traditional Nubian village. Ports on the sailing include Qena, Esna, Aswan, Kom Ombo and Edfu.
If you want to take the experience even further, there are several pre- and post-trip options: a visit to the British collection of Egyptian artifacts in London; a trip that encompasses Jerusalem, Jordan (Petra) and the Dead Sea, or a three-night visit to Istanbul.
A Nile River cruise with Viking begins with three nights in Cairo at a luxury hotel. Tours will be divided into two buses with a program director that has extensive knowledge of Egyptology leading each group. Like on other Viking ships, you receive a Vox listening device that provides an easy way to stay connected with guides to hear their expertise while not having to stay in a tight group.
There are daily tour options that can vary by port and time of day with some lasting a couple of hours, but others can be longer given the extent of the place being visited. Like other Viking cruises, there is always breakfast available before tours, with lighter options for late risers. Lunch and dinner times depend on the tour times, and local entertainers may sometimes board to add some fun to the experience.
Meals include a range of international meals as well as a selection of “always-available” favorites. One special evening on each cruise is dedicated to an Egyptian feast served family style. By the end of the cruise, you will have a greater understanding and appetite for the country’s cuisine.
Once you notice the other ships sailing the river (including from reputable hotel brands), it is immediately clear that Viking’s ships are the newest on the Nile. Most ships tend to be stacked high with four to five decks and a shorter length. There are strict standards for ships sailing this river, which means they must meet length and depth guidelines. The cruise line opted to use existing ships, tear them down to their mandated hull design and rebuild them to Viking standards from the steel frame up.
Viking is notably different for the numerous inclusions it has within the fare, including both international and local wine and beer at meal times, at least one excursion in each port, bottled water (including on tours), onboard entertainment and Wi-Fi. For those that purchase air through Viking, onboard gratuities and transfers are part of the package, too. Other cruise lines on the Nile may vary in their offering, but those familiar with Viking will find the same inclusions in Egypt they know elsewhere.