Highly recommend this trip. It was an amazing experience. There were 47 Uniworld customers for the entire 11 days and 17 additional customers (from Uniworld affiliated companies) joined us on the 7 day Nile cruise. Our trip started in Cairo on 4 March.
There are numerous positive things about our experience with Uniworld. There are also several things Uniworld could improve upon to make this trip even better.
1. Our guide and Egyptologist, Mohamed Ragheb (also known as Habibi), was the best guide we have had on over 30 trips throughout the world. Mohamed led our group of 24 throughout the trip. Another guide had the other 23 passengers. These are the reasons we were so impressed:
--Mohammed was passionate, enthusiastic, and extremely knowledgeable about Egypt and its history. He brought Egypt’s history to life.
--He went out of his way to meet each of our needs. He bought medicine for people who needed them. He kept us in the shade on hot days. He bought us fresh bread from the local street bakeries, fresh fruit, and cookies.
--He cared about modern Egypt and let us see Egypt as it is today—the rich 10% and the poverty of the lowest 30%. No sugar coating--just a love of Egypt and its people.
--He added a special tour to the Bent pyramid and Red pyramid on Day 10 when we returned to Cairo. Without this, we would have waited 5 hours for our rooms at the Four Seasons—-read some of the other reviews.
2. The itinerary was well paced, with sightseeing interspersed with time to relax on the Tosca. But.....be prepared for many early morning wake ups. You will be thankful. Less crowds and less heat. Here are a few highlights.
--The pyramids outside of Cairo on Days 10 and 11. Seeing the Bent pyramid and Red pyramid on Day 10 gave us the history leading up to the building of the Giza pyramids. Climbing up and then descending into the burial chamber of the Red pyramid was unbelievable. Day 11 we went first to Saqqara, the stepped pyramid, and its royal tombs. Then onto the great pyramids of Giza——they are clearly the number one wonder of both the ancient and modern worlds. So gorgeous and so mind boggling enormous when you stand right up next to them. Day 11 was not finished. We still had the iconic Sphinx and the solar boat museum—143 feet of rebuilt boat beauty buried for 4300 years.
--The Egyptian museum in Cairo. This is the number one museum in the world and it is fabulous, with over 4500 artifacts from King Tut’s tomb alone. A brand new and much improved museum is slated to open in the next couple of months.
--Cruising the Nile while sitting on the top deck of the Tosca. The Nile is amazing and its transformation of the desert on both sides for a mile.
--Valley of the Kings--We went into 4 tombs with beautiful passageways and carvings which included King Tut’s surprisingly small and unadorned tomb (with his mummy).
--Ramses II’s temple at Abu Simbel carved out of a rock face. The building of the high dam forced engineers to move the whole site 200 feet to keep it above the water of Lake Nasser.
--The Dendera temple was the most pleasant surprise on our journey with the best preserved colored engravings on the columns and the ceilings.
3. The Tosca was a wonderful traveling vessel. We were in the cheapest room on the reception level, room 106. It was very spacious, well furnished and appointed, with a modern large bathroom and lots of storage space. We had two huge windows looking out over the Nile. We also really enjoyed the sun deck. The service from the crew was wonderful and thoughtful. They were always smiling and welcoming.
Things Uniworld could improve
1. Tipping policy is very irritating. On most Uniworld cruises tips are included, whereas on this cruise, no tips are included. It felt like we were constantly being asked to tip everyone including bus drivers, porters, local guides, tour coordinators, etc. We did not have an issue with tipping Mohamed, our fabulous guide or the Tosca crew at the end of the cruise, but seems like Uniworld could take care of all the other small tips. Be prepared to pay $450/couple for tips.
2. Day 10 back into Cairo needs to be fixed. This is one of biggest complaints on reviews. We had to leave the Tosca at 6:00 am to catch an early flight to Cairo. However, the rooms at the Four Season are not available until around 3:00. We were charged an additional $30/person for extra tour (which was fabulous) vs option to sit around hotel for 5 hours waiting for our room. Pay a bit more and get us on later flight or include the additional pyramid tour.
3. Alcohol on the Tosca. Another hidden Uniworld charge only in Egypt and maybe one other place. Egyptian wine on the Tosca ranged from undrinkable to mediocre. Plus Uniworld charged for it! Mixed drinks were watered down and expensive. Beer was fine. Uniworld needs to identify the best Egyptian wines and have them available at a reasonable price. Nearly every customer likes to drink good wine with dinner. You can do better. Need one of your wine experts to take a trip to Egypt and fix it.
4. Survey form can be improved. Very limited room for feedback. Plus survey was done before we saw the Pyramids and final two days in Cairo.
5. Skip the citadel and mosque in Cairo. There has to be something better to do in Cairo.
1. Four Seasons Nile is truly 5 stars. Large wonderful rooms overlooking the Nile, breakfast, service, lobby, restaurants.
2. Pickup at airport and deliver back to airport could not be better. So easy.
3. Trip worked like clockwork. Buses, guides, tours were always well orchestrated and on time,
4. Always felt safe. Armed guard with us always plus police escorts many places. Egypt takes tourist safety seriously.
1. Get e-visas online from Egyptian government site—this is new!!! So easy and quick. https://visa2egypt.gov.eg
2. Food on Tosca is very good with many choices but do not expect amazing
3. March is a great time to be on this cruise. We were 15 degrees above normal on the cruise and it was over 100 a couple of days. But...Nile river is 60 degrees and cools things off. Main sightseeing is early in am and cool. Lots of shade in temples. Very low humidity. Recently went 7 years with no rain in Aswan.
4. Be prepared for polluted air in Cairo and for haze on the Nile cruise.
5. Be prepared for a trip of a lifetime.
Amazing Cabin. Cheapest cabin on the boat but identical to Grand Suites 1 and 2 and larger than Grand Suite 3. Even numbered cabins face the Nile at night. Get an even numbered cabin if possible. These are huge cabins--both bedrooms and bathrooms with incredible amount of storage space. Two huge windows overlooking the Nile. 1st level was perfect--nearest to reception and coming on and off boat. Closest level to dining which was one floor below. Has both bathtub and separate shower and a bidet and two sinks