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11 Middle East Group and Theme Cruise Reviews

We chose this cruise because it was good value for money. It was a very good deal and it included our flights with Emirates to Dubai return from New Zealand. We arrived 2 days before departure to explore the city of Dubai. Embarkation was ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it was good value for money. It was a very good deal and it included our flights with Emirates to Dubai return from New Zealand. We arrived 2 days before departure to explore the city of Dubai. Embarkation was smooth. We were allocated a time to embark( 6 pm) which we did. The suitcases didn't arrived till midnight which was a pain. Our cabin was an inner cabin on Bella. Good bed but they were fold up bunk beds close to the sides of the main bed and I had hit my head a few times on that. We did a back to back cruise, so after the 20 days , there was a 4 day cruise and we were given an other cabin just 3 door further up the corridor, that room was bigger and had no fold up beds above the sides. The ship itself I think is beautiful, a nice size, not too big. We had booked all excursions beforehand online with the MSC excursions. This way it was cheaper but also safer to be with an MSC excursion. We loved it and learned so much. The food at the buffet was always plenty and the only thing I didn't like was the masses of people trying to get in and get a table was a nightmare, but once you found a table you need to leave a coat over your chair or it would be gone again. I once was on my own, had got myself a coffee and something else, and I just went to get something else, a quick hot chocolate from the machine and when I came back all the other stuff was taken away by staff, I hadn't even started drinking it, but I had not left my coat on the chair. We always had dinner at Hippocampus restaurant downstairs. The meals were very nice and good portions, not too big and not too small. 3 course meal and you were full. We loved our staff there, Christian from Honduras, and Alex from Kiev. I am concerned , though, that the staff is being overworked and underpaid. They were often very tired. They seem to get only 4 hours of sleep at night and maybe a couple of hours during the day. That's not much rest. Our cabin steward was Argus from Indonesia, a was very friendly and loyal and did his work really well. Always smiling and always asking how we were. We travelled with an other couple, friends from our hometown. I would definitely go again but not take that back to back cruise with the 4 extra days( we did it because it had an excursion to San Marino) but the people were completely different folks. Mainly Europeans that brought their whole family, kids, babies and strollers. They would very loud and often rude, pushing their way to the front of a queue like with the buffet on deck 11, it was a nightmare to try and eat there. I because sick and tired of the throngs of people. During the 20 days sailing from Dubai to Venice, we had a nice mix, quite a few Aussies, UK people, 20 NZ-ders, and some French and Italians and a lot of Germans and a handful of Dutch. It looked more like a cruise designed for your average income type people, definitely not upper class. But to us that was ok, it was a fantastic cruise and you get what you pay for. The critics I have heard review this ship are expecting a highest standard like silverline cruises for the price of a " backpackers" type cruise to put it this way, which is unfair. I think MSC Lirica is fine as long as you know if it was cheap, don't expect too much, but for us it was enough, and fine we saw a good chunk of the world. The shows were great, we went most nights. The other musicians also very good. We didn't buy a drinks package but just went and bought drinks as we had dinner. The laundry personal service for your own laundry is quite outrages expensive. It was 30 euro for a bag with 20 items, if it wasn't 20 items you got it back dirty again, so it HAD TO BE 20 items. Then it would be washed and folded the next day. Why don't they have a laundrette service where you can put in your clothes in a washing machine? My answer is: It is a cheap cruise and they have to make money somehow. Also half of the passengers all got sick with a very bad cough, that was after we had gone through the Suez Canal and came out in the freezing wind of the Mediterranean. A doctors visit on the ship will put you back 100 euros. Luckily my own doctor had give me my own anti biotics and so I was ok. But I had to visit the ship doctor for a skin condition, that was 100 euros. But the doctor was very good. All in all, I would do this again( not the back to back 4 day cruise ) and maybe go on a different route. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
We were in cabin 105 so only a window. All cabins are 2 room suites and lovely. Full size shower. Ship smaller in size so max of 50 people. The chef was a genius and some of the best food on a cruise. We had prime rib roast, lobster, giant ... Read More
We were in cabin 105 so only a window. All cabins are 2 room suites and lovely. Full size shower. Ship smaller in size so max of 50 people. The chef was a genius and some of the best food on a cruise. We had prime rib roast, lobster, giant prawns, lamb.....and my favorite was an Egyptian night with many delights. The tours were wonderful and the guides/egyptologists did a great job of navigating you through The Valley of the vendors. The balloon ride over The Valley of the kings was amazing as was the trip to AbuSimbel. On our return to Cairo some folks set up private tour to inside the Sphinx. We opted to go to the Coptic quarter which was very interesting and the prettiest Coptic Church we have seen. We also did Pretrip Jerusalem which is where I clocked 15000 steps. In Egypt i never made it past 10,000 while touring. You will be walking on stone and uneven terrain so those with bad knees/hips may find things difficult. At first we could not understand why this trip was more expensive than some of the Europe ones but you have a minimum of 2 in country flights. This is the fastest way to get around. We had private security with us daily and large comfortable Viking coaches with extra space between seats for comfort and USB ports and WiFi on the bus....better than the ship Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
The itinerary was inviting and did not disappoint. Did the pre trip Israel for 4 nights (King David Hotel)then on to Cairo for 3 nights ( Ritz Carlton Cairo ) then a short flight to Luxor to catch the Viking Ra which was lovely. We had ... Read More
The itinerary was inviting and did not disappoint. Did the pre trip Israel for 4 nights (King David Hotel)then on to Cairo for 3 nights ( Ritz Carlton Cairo ) then a short flight to Luxor to catch the Viking Ra which was lovely. We had cabin 105 and it was near crew/stairs/elevator but very quiet and a beautiful 2 room suite. The Egyptologist guides were top notch and took care of bathroom tips along the way. The only thing you had to pay was “camera” fees at some sites to take photos inside. They told you well in advance so you could get money in local currency. The ship staff were guided by seasoned Viking reps who did an outstanding job with training the local Egyptian staff. Drinks a bit prucey due to Egyptian taxes but I brought 3 bottles of Italian wine and a bottle of Jamison’s Irish whiskey with no issues. The local wines were fair. The bus drivers on “Viking” bus stay with you so you tip them at the end. There is also a restroom on the bus. Water in bottles is handed out on bus and ship and you should never need to purchase any. Temps in late Dec were perfect high 60-low 70’s. Food on the boat was great with the Egyptian night offering a ton of tasty treats. We used ATM’s along the way to get local currency’s and brought $100 in Dollar Bills and never had a problem with any being accepted. We did the optional Balloon ride over The Valley of King/queens and it was amazing. Also did optional trip to Abu Simbel via short plane ride, which was well worth it. We had security with us who watched over us and never felt worried, or unsafe. We ventured on our own into a couple of markets in Cairo and Aswan and had no problems. Please do not hand money to kids in the street as it encourages begging from tourists. There is a school visit so bring things like pencils crayons coloring books to donate. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
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 ... Read More
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. Highlights 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. Other positives 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. Other thoughts 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. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
We chose this cruise especially for the weather in this region at this time of the year. We traveled with a group of sixteen people. Four families with children between 15 and 23 years old.The procedure for boarding and disembarking was ... Read More
We chose this cruise especially for the weather in this region at this time of the year. We traveled with a group of sixteen people. Four families with children between 15 and 23 years old.The procedure for boarding and disembarking was childishly simple and hardly time consuming. You can see that the ship comes at age but everything was in excellent condition. And the staff were visibly busy with her duties throughout the day. As if it were a military operation. Every day I put a fingerprint in the elevator, but within a few hours it was polished away. The ship is equipped with a diesel-hybrid propulsion. This results is an almost vibration-free experience. Noticeably better than all other cruises that we have previously made. And; no soot on the stern as we have experienced on previous cruises. Our cabin (Standard Balcony Hut) was fine, clean and had a spacious balcony. A few more wall sockets may be installed; there is only one wall socket installed at the desk. The dinners and other food on board are of excellent quality and you have more than enough choices. In any case much better than most of us eat at home! What is annoying is that there are many times that all restaurants are closed at the same time for several hours. You can not get anything to eat on the entire ship. This is especially difficult for our children who came out of bed late. You get the impression that it seems to have something to do with cost savings. That is a serious flaw of this ship and different than we have experienced on all our other cruises. In terms of entertainment, there is enough choice for everyone. Nothing special, however. An average experience compared to previous cruises. In general; the staff on board is fine. We had a not so customer-friendly cleaner at our cabin. If we wanted to go to our cabin during cleaning, this man was very irritated to us. The other participants from our group luckily did not have this experience. The Italian staff at the reception was not particularly friendly and helpful. But luckily we did not need that much. Our route took us to Dubai, Muscat, Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Due to a rough sea we unfortunately could not disembark to Sir Bani Yas Island. After a sea day, that was a minor disappointment. The ship therefore immediately headed for Abu Dhabi where we had an extra evening. In Abu Dhabi buses were ready to take us to a shopping center for free. Our children have had a great time on board. This was partly because we were with a group ourselves. I do not think we will choose this ship again for a next cruise. But if it just happens to have the right itinerary for us, then we do not doubt and we choose Costa again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
I chose the cruise because i heard that it would good. To my dismay the service was bad, the staff over worked, food was terrible. The drinks package which we had was not worth it as most of the bars are closed all the time. I strongly ... Read More
I chose the cruise because i heard that it would good. To my dismay the service was bad, the staff over worked, food was terrible. The drinks package which we had was not worth it as most of the bars are closed all the time. I strongly think msc needs to treat their staff better so that would be more productive. The rooms are not properly and hygienically cleaned. There were no themed nights on board and absolutely minimum entertainment compared to other cruise liners and considering it was a christmas cruise one would expect more from this. I will never go again as i was terribly disappointed. I would really appreciate feedback from this experience as there were many people on board from all different countries that had the same view as me. They all were very disappointed with the cruise on a whole and totally expected a better deal. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
Myself along with my wife, son and family had a holiday by MSC Fantasia Cruise ship from 11 to 18 March 2017 from Dubai and back to Dubai. This was something tremendous I can imagine. we were booked in Deck 10 Sogno and Deck 5 Fantasia. ... Read More
Myself along with my wife, son and family had a holiday by MSC Fantasia Cruise ship from 11 to 18 March 2017 from Dubai and back to Dubai. This was something tremendous I can imagine. we were booked in Deck 10 Sogno and Deck 5 Fantasia. Once I had a ship sailing from Penang, Malaysia to Madras India in the year 1971 or so by S S Rejula a passenger ship between Madras and Penang. I was lucky enough to sail by this ship's last passenger journey I had been giving some briefing to my wife and children regarding ship sailing etc. But this was something too beyond my thought. Of course I had seen these kind of cruise ship in Dubai, Cochin, Seattle, USA. from outside and far away. What should I say a five star hotel floating on the ocean with all facility a top star hotel can provide without any mistake any way. My profession was in the hospitality Industry and I know well how and what it means to organize and run a star hotel while working as General Manager both in mainland and in beach resorts. Frankly like to say I was looking for some mistakes or to know will it go wrong somewhere. But to my surprise from embarkation till disembarkation so smooth like sailing. Our bags taken care from the beginning as soon as we arrived at the port and the same reached our cabin without any mistake. same thing happened while the end of the cruise. We thought of running away the first day itself by seeing the choice of food on the buffet counter and as well as at the fine dining restaurant. Deck 14 everywhere food, food, food, and food with soup, salad, fruit cut, desert, tea, coffee apart from the main dishes. and the dish served on the restaurant the quantity was too high for we don't take that much. Just because we are Indians love to have spicy food an Indian style but that was lacking. but we can understand Swimming pools everywhere you find unfortunately we don't swim. but enjoyed because others are enjoying a lot in the pool hence we too enjoyed. Spirit Bar here bar, there bar, everywhere bar. Here too we don't drink at all. but still we enjoyed when others are enjoying it a lot. Casino we went through that cabin some were playing may be they were lucky to have some fortune or some may have lost their earning. still this is also a part of the game. Theatre had some marvelous acts and action sound and lighting smart enough and on timing. Well treated for our mind and eye a colorful evenings we enjoyed sitting at the end of the ship where it leaves a spectacles mark on the deep sea where ever MSC Fantasia sails. We also enjoyed sitting and standing at the top of the deck while sailing in the deep sea as well as when it anchors at different harbors. No space is left out without having a touch of their own trade mark of their own style of decorating everywhere with some kind of artistic design and decor on every deck wall roof floor and the same inside the cabin too. Nobody can miss anything all well informed the previous night itself with printed news letter ready for the next day MSC Fantasia you are Fantastic Keep going Thanks Rev. Dr. Antony Walto Read Less
Sail Date March 2017
This is our second time on the celebration and will probably be our last. Some of the areas on the ship are looking very tired whilst other areas have been refurbished. I think moving the theatre to its current position was a bad move. The ... Read More
This is our second time on the celebration and will probably be our last. Some of the areas on the ship are looking very tired whilst other areas have been refurbished. I think moving the theatre to its current position was a bad move. The poor entertainers have to practise whilst guests are walking through. The all inclusive package is not all its meant to be . I like a glass of red wine yet I seemed to always get mine in a glass which is no bigger than a sherry glass. To upgrade to the premium package; we were told that both myself and my wife would both have to upgrade because both occupants of the cabin have to upgrade at the same time. Absolutely ludicrous because my wife was happy on her package. So that meant I had to persevere on my sherry glass of the house red which was very mediocre or pay the surcharge to upgrade so I could have a better quality and bigger glass of wine. I have to say that the majority of staff on the ship are excellent. Especially Julie and Rory in the Lido bar and all the staff in Hemmingways. I must also mention our cabin steward Adi who did a really good job of looking after us. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
We choose this cruise to see India. The ship is very tied and rusting , worn carpet , wooden seats in the dinning room with joints coming apart. The crew do try very hard and give u 110% in effort. The entertainment director is getting ... Read More
We choose this cruise to see India. The ship is very tied and rusting , worn carpet , wooden seats in the dinning room with joints coming apart. The crew do try very hard and give u 110% in effort. The entertainment director is getting away with being payed for sitting on his backside all day. the onboard day time entertainment was non exsistant compared to other cruise lines.There was more entertainment to be found in the casino than over the whole of the boat. The nightly shows in the theatre where great if u where in a nursing home and had not seen any entertainment for a while, really who do they think they are giving us a acrobat show which a 11 year old could perform. Every night at dinner it was a toss of a coin to see if ur drink order would arrive in 30 minutes or under or would arrive at all. The cabin steward did a fantastic job and congratulations to him cabin 9131. The food was the same day in and day out, the quality of food okay but not outstanding. When u travel aqua class and have your own designated dinning room u don't expect to have to wait up to 3/4 hour for a table.The cruise would have been excellent if I had traveled in a inside room, but having table for aquas class I was very disappointed and will never cruise with celebrity again. No one even wants to listen on board when u are offering constructive criticism. Felt very let down and ripped off. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
General Background: Uniworld’s Nile River cruise in early February 2017 was a wonderful 12 day experience. This trip included 4 nights in Cairo at the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel and 7 nights on Uniworld’s MS Tosca Nile River boat. ... Read More
General Background: Uniworld’s Nile River cruise in early February 2017 was a wonderful 12 day experience. This trip included 4 nights in Cairo at the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel and 7 nights on Uniworld’s MS Tosca Nile River boat. The boat sailed from Luxor to Aswan so we had to fly round trip from Cairo to Luxor and back again. There were some optional tours offered – Alexandria for early arrivals, Abu Simbel for $300 US, Karnak Sound and Light show for $38US, and a Cairo Nile River dinner cruise for $73 US. Now is an excellent time to do a Nile River cruise as Egypt has recently devalued its pound resulting in a favorable exchange rate for tourists; a trip in the early months of the year takes advantage of cooler temperatures (20-24 degrees C daytime with cooler early morning and evening temperatures); Egypt is safe for travelling in organized groups – even so tourist police accompany travelers; Uniworld offers an excellent busy itinerary using good English speaking Egyptologists; and MS Tosca, Uniworld’s river boat used exclusively by Uniworld, has excellent accommodation and food. No one got digestive problems on our trip. Additionally, if you like small group travel, now is the time to go as we only had 23 North Americans on our trip. The boat has accommodations for many more. There were several travellers in our group who had their tour dates changed in order to make a viable tour group for this departure date in February. The itinerary: Uniworld delivered on its advertised itinerary with only a few changes. We were bussed from Luxor to see the temple at Dendera which was more interesting than sailing on the low river as I got to see the villages and people up close. Secondly, Esna Temple was substituted for Edfu Temple because the company did not like how the horse and carriage people treated their horses – a necessary transportation as walking to the temple from the dock was not an option. Thirdly, we made additional visits to local craft shops not included in the printed itinerary. These visits usually started with a demo about the making of the product followed by shopping time. Craft shops visited included a carpet making school, an alabaster shop, a papyrus shop, and a perfume essence shop. There were no guided tours of bazaars. Most of us were satisfied with the goods offered by the vendors in front of each attraction as well as the tourist souvenirs the ship had for sale in its gift shop. The itinerary was a busy one with little free time on the boat – so it was a good use of our sightseeing time. From Cairo we were bussed to see the Egyptian Museum, the Mohammed Ali Mosque, the Giza pyramids, the sphinx, and solar boat museum; then on to Sakkarah to see the Zoser pyramid complex; next, to Memphis to see Ramses II statue and the alabaster sphinx. We also had an evening outing to the Giza pyramids to view the Sound and Light Show. We flew to Luxor on Egypt Air where we boarded the River Tosca. In Luxor we had a guided tour of Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple, and Dendera Temple. We visited the Valley of Kings to see 3-5 tombs, Hatshepsut’s temple, and a photostop at the Colossii. Next we sailed to Kom Ombo to see the temple and then sailed to Aswan for 2 nights. Here, we visited a Nubian village, sailed in a felucca to see the birdlife in the marshes and enjoy afternoon tea in the Old Cataract hotel, saw the High dam (a photostop), the Philae Temple complex, and the unfinished obelisk. We opted for the Egypt Air flight to Abu Simbel for a morning visit to the temple there and were back on the boat for lunch. On our return sail to Luxor we stopped at Esna to visit the temple. We returned to Cairo by air. At each attraction we had 2 hours visiting time. The Egyptologist, Ahmed Taher, a young local man with excellent English and ability to talk interestingly about the reliefs, temple construction, the timeline of the pharaohs, the gods, used about 1 hour to point out interesting reliefs and then allowed us to roam around the sites for an additional 1 hour. This was a good balance for me. IMO, it would be an idea to do some pre-reading about ancient Egypt and the sights to be visited. The temples were usually in a ruinous state with incomplete reliefs that no longer had any color or just spotty coloring. Even so it was amazing to see these reliefs which were usually large – 4-5 feet inside the temple walls and much larger on the outside pylons. It was also interesting to compare the relief drawings done at different times in ancient Egyptian history - from the time of the true earlier pharaohs to the more recent Greco-Roman pharaohs. The size of these temples and the huge slabs of stone that were used to construct them were also an amazing sight. At the Valley of the Kings, we could choose which 3 tombs we wanted to visit as 3 tombs were included in the entry ticket. There was time to see at least 2 others, but these needed to be paid for from our pocket at the ticket window. Each tomb, depending on how long one lingered, took about 12 minutes to walk through. The tombs were well maintained with board walks, wide tunnels that were brightly lit (no crouching), and the hieroglyphics and images had good color. Usually there was a huge empty granite sarcophagus in the burial chamber. The walls were filled with images of the funeral procession, the gods that will provide protection in the afterlife, the offerings made, and the hieroglyphics are the prayers for the dead. The pharaohs expected to be resurrected and spend time in the heavens – their mummified remains view a starry filled sky – their destination. The stop at the Giza pyramids allowed us to walk into the smallest pyramid (takes about 25 minutes with some crouching), a 30 minute camel ride ($20 US), a 20 minute visit to the solar museum (pay 110 LE out of one’s pocket for this optional visit), and some time to walk around the pyramids to closely examine their construction. Seeing the pyramids up close made me marvel at their construction using 4 foot tall stone blocks. The sphinx was a photostop as was its memorial temple – just slabs of stone and rectangular columns – nothing special. The Giza pyramids sound and light show was included in our itinerary. The 1 hour show starts at 7pm, is in English, and guests sit on plastic chairs. Sit on the far right hand side facing the Sphinx as that is where the “screen” for the show is. The show talks about the building of the Giza pyramids, the pharaohs who built them and why they built them. Evenings are cool in Cairo so dress warmly for this show. Zoser’s step pyramid complex in Sakkara was a short stop. Here we also saw Unas’s pyramid and temple complex but not the Imhotep Museum. In Memphis we saw the prone remains of a huge broken statue of Ramses II and the smaller alabaster Sphinx. Uniworld tends to use river docks outside of the central part of the village, the exception being Esna and Kom Ombo where we walked to the temples. Thus it was rather impossible to walk into town to see museums in Luxor and Aswan on one’s own. A greyhound type bus (good condition, comfy seats, toilet on board) was used to take passengers from the dock to the temples/attractions. We could safely leave our totebags on the bus while we went sightseeing. The driver was tipped on his last day with us in Luxor as he dropped us off at the airport at the rate of 3$ US per day. Tipping expected for Tosca crew was $8-$10US per day and was paid when we left the ship in Luxor. The Egyptologist expected to receive $8-$10US per day as well and was paid the last day of the trip in Cairo. The company provides envelopes to place these tips in. Ship Information: Uniworld has exclusive use of the MS Tosca. It has a dining room below the 2 decks for staterooms. The sundeck is located on the top deck with loungers and a small pool with cold water but looked inviting and clean. The sundeck was a great place to relax in the late afternoon before getting ready for dinner, but when the boat was sailing, it was rather cool and windy up there. The ship provided excellent accommodation and we had no complaints. The ship had a reputation with our Egyptologist as being one of the best ships on the Nile for accommodation and food. The ship had a spacious lounge with many seating areas each with a coffee table holding lovely picture books of Egypt. Another small room held a few shelves of fiction paperback books; puzzles and games were included in this library area as well as a computer. Free wifi was available throughout the ship, but service did vary. The small gift shop was an alternative way to buy tourist souvenirs and the selection was great from T-shirts, traditional Egyptian folk dress, tote bags, statues, alabaster objects, gold jewelry. The owner had shops in Luxor and Aswan so could supply sizes, colors, and special jewelry orders. Dining: The ships’s dining room was spacious with a variety of table sizes, but our small group used the tables set for 8. Breakfast and lunch were buffets while dinner, from 7pm-9pm, was a la carte with 4 courses offered. The buffet had pre-prepared hot/cold foods, but also a station where the chef prepared individual requests. There were lots of foods to select from ranging from different meats and vegetables a good variety of salads, and sliced fruits. Everything was delicious! Chicken breast, grilled salmon, and beef were available each night in case you didn’t like the entrees that were offered. Wines ran about 250 LE a bottle. Afternoon tea each day included delicious finger sandwiches often with smoked salmon or caviar as trim and plates of cookies and squares as well as sliced fruit. Service and food were excellent. As we left the ship for morning excursions, the ship manager even encouraged us to take along whole fruits to tide us over until lunch and bottled water was also offered. On our return from excursions, the welcoming crew offered our hands a squirt of sanitizer, a cold wash cloth, and a cold drink. Our welcome aboard the ship drink at the beginning of the cruise was a champagne cocktail. Other alcohol drinks available at the bar in the lounge had to be paid for. Dress throughout the ship was smart casual with women opting for trousers and tops and leaving at home dresses and high heels. Men didn’t wear jackets for dinner. Fitness and Spa: There was a masseuse along who provided massage services. He also looked after the fitness machines (a couple of bikes and walking machines). This fellow provided 1 keep fit session on the sundeck one morning while we were sailing. These services were not ones I used. Ship Entertainment: After dinner was over at 9pm, there was local entertainment for about 30 minutes. Singers, dancers, a whirling dervish entertained those who could still keep awake. Embarkation and Disembarkation: A Uniworld company representative met us as we exited the plane at Cairo airport. He accompanied us through immigration, baggage pickup, and passport control. We were glad we had purchased an Egyptian entry visa at home as we certainly did not want to stand in line for it after our long flight. We were the only couple to be transported to the hotel in the minivan, but upon leaving we had additional couples who also had early flight departures. Transfers went very smoothly with the representative dealing with overly assertive airport personnel. The airport is new and is a nice place to wait for departures. Buying food is not an option at the airport – dubious hygiene practices. Wash room attendants expect a tip so keep some small Egyptian bills for the airport. Know that the airport double checks its security of all passengers. That means removing not only outer jackets, but also belts, shoes, hats, jewelry, wallets, handbags, electricals, hand luggage, luggage to be checked in –all go into bins/the conveyor belt and pass through the X-ray machine. Then each passenger gets a full body frisk before picking up one’s belongings. A guard wanted to look inside my purse to examine the money I was leaving with. One guard had trouble reading my ticket/flight information. Thank goodness for the Uniworld rep who quickly sorted out these guards. Hotel Accommodation: Uniworld uses the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel Nile Plaza in Cairo which was one reason I opted to use Uniworld. This hotel is centrally located to the Egypt Museum and the pyramids thus reducing travelling time. It also is located in a posh embassy area along the Nile with rooms offering excellent Nile River views both during the day and night time as well as the setting sun. Our hotel room was clean, spacious, with comfy beds using crisp white linens and duvets; the bathroom was spa like with soap bars at every washing area and fluffy white towels. Terry cloth gowns and slippers added to the spa like touch. There was a safe, coffee/tea making facilities, complimentary bottled water, a small fridge for cold pop, and even adaptors for the appliances that didn’t fit the electrical plugs. The room had a large work desk, 2 desk chairs and a comfortable upholstered chair with ottoman. The flat screen TV had many channels offering programs in a variety of languages and a sheet provided this station information. The balcony was spacious and came with 2 comfortable chairs that had thick seated cushions. The hotel had several elegant dining options at reasonable prices, but we chose to have Room Service deliver our dinners and only used their restaurant for magnificent buffet breakfasts which were included in our package. Breakfast boxes were handed out as a poor substitute for the buffet breakfast on our early morning departures to the airport. Dinner entrees for fish, beef, chicken, lamb arranged from 155 to 270 EGP. Room service was excellent and prompt (within 30 minutes)! Meals were wheeled in with a red rose bud in the vase and a table clad with a white tablecloth and cloth napkins. The food was hot being retrieved from a warming oven under the moveable table. Servings were generous. Even a bread basket was included on the table. We dined either on our balcony or beside the sliding glass door with views of twinkling lights out across the Nile. Room service dinners were an excellent option for tired travellers. Another advantage of this hotel was that it had a small bank branch on its premises as well as 2 ATM machines for getting Egyptian money. IMO, it’s best to come with American dollars, GBP, or Euros in hand to exchange rather than using a bank card to withdraw money. The small bank, open from 11am -8pm, had a variety of lower bill denominations which were more useful than too many 200 EGP notes. Be prepared to offer a small tip (1 to 5EGP notes) to bathroom attendants at each stop on the trip. This hotel also had a spacious pool area with inviting aqua colored water and loungers. A poolside grill restaurant was conveniently located here. Staff spoke English, were numerous, and very helpful. The hotel used sniffer dogs to check incoming vehicles and every guest went through airport security type checks for bags at the entrance. This hotel was an oasis and I only wish we could have had more time to make better use of its facilities. I loved their multiple extravagant flower arrangements on the table facing the entrance – 4 dozen roses tied in one bunch which were repeated several times with different vases interspersed with other flowers! It was a wonderful Valentine display! Summary: Uniworld has an excellent product with its Nile River Cruise. The itinerary was wonderful, the stateroom was comfortable with no issues, the food was varied, delicious, and timely, the service was outstanding, the Egyptologist was personable, informative, efficient and well organized. Do not hesitate to book a Nile River Cruise through Uniworld even though company representatives focus more on their European destinations at their presentations. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
For someone very picky, I rather enjoyed myself on this cruise. Stateroom with balcony was spacious and well-thought-out. Our guy, Rodolfo, was charming and always available. Staff at the desk were patient and helpful (why can't the ... Read More
For someone very picky, I rather enjoyed myself on this cruise. Stateroom with balcony was spacious and well-thought-out. Our guy, Rodolfo, was charming and always available. Staff at the desk were patient and helpful (why can't the space be redesigned so they don't have to stand all day?). For the most part, the waiters in Marco Polo dining room were super-sweet and accommodating. Wine poured freely and even the champagne was delicious. The tours were exciting, if often trying. Really, the pace set in Cairo and Luxor was a Litmus test to see if one we up to snuff. I have to say that I was surprised by some of the passengers that signed up for this cruise: obese, sedentary, with serious physical disabilities (one woman had such swollen legs that she barely could shuffle along). Voyages to Antijquity were more than generous and some of their decisions were surprisingly commendable. Leaving the ship in Athens was orchestrated to the point of being coddled: we were escorted through, luggage organized with a porter, a taxi waiting to whisk us to our hotel. However, there are a few areas that could be improved. The lecturers were boring, monotoned and worst of all simplistic. For the most part, a subject was covered after, not before we visited a site. I thought that I would learn something but didn't. Doesn't queen Zenobia deserve her own half-hour talk, rather than the topic being dumbed down to include a slew of women? The lecturer on St. Catherine's Monastery had never been there and knew as much or as little as everyone else. Since the televisions barely worked -- lots of excuses about satellite reception in port or out of port -- it would have been nice to reprint the lead news stories of the day for the Library instead of useless and frustrating headlines only. Also the daily bulletin could have been used better to dispense real information. Or even better, more details could be included in the packet before the cruise. Such as the need to bring scads of little monies,especially dollars for tips everywhere. Also such need-to-know things as not to throw toilet paper down into most of these country's fragile waste systems. And maybe a local currency converter. The only tour that I wasn't pleased with was Palmyra. Hotel Dedeman was difficult. Everywhere else put water on our tables -- they tried to charge half the people. Wakeup calls ordered for all at 6:30 were ridiculous for an 8:30 departure, as there was no packing to speak of. Also, the site didn't open until 9, so we were told to sit on the bus -- and had a 4-hour morning trek in the desert without any water. Why have all six buses follow the same route? Wouldn't it be a better experience to rotate the timetable, so that one would start at the Temple of Baal while another would visit a different ruin? Also, I wish that the route to Baalbek had taken us through the center of Beirut so we could have seen it. I understand that next season remedies that with an overnight in Beirut and a trip along the coast to Byblos. Another wish would be to spend more time in the local museums, such as in Aleppo. The one in Palmyra luckily stayed open for us, as we arrived late. And we went alone to the fantastic one in Antalya, thank goodness, as we understood that the group who signed up for the optional tour including a stop at that museum found it to be too rushed. One really thoughtful gesture on the V2A part was the availability of shuttle buses with lively local guides, especially one named Huzur who informed us that the museum only accepted Turkish lira and changed a Euro note for us out of his own pocket. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010

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