The River Tosca price includes shore excursions, all of which are aimed at showing you the very best of ancient Egypt. You'll receive a packed itinerary that has at least one outing a day on it, and possibly up to three. The ship automatically sets your wakeup call, as early as 6 a.m. on some days, so you can sightsee before it gets too hot out. While these activities are optional, you'll want to push through the exhaustion to get the most out of your time, as there's nothing better than seeing these sites with a trained Egyptologist.
Egypt's revolution has affected some of the excursions that River Tosca offers, for both good and bad. On the positive side, you'll find almost no crowds at even the most famous sights, such as Luxor's Valley of the Kings, Temple of Hatshepsut and Temple of Karnak. But, the smaller numbers of tourists on the Nile means that Egyptian police no longer patrol the stretch of Nile between Luxor and Dendera, necessitating a long van ride to the Temple of Hathor instead of a mellow cruise. And street and shop vendors are noticeably more aggressive.
River Tosca has several optional tours, which you sign up for at the beginning of your trip. In our tour group of six, everyone paid the extra $299 for the flight down to Abu Simbel, the famed temple built by Ramses II, which turned out to be money well spent. The $30 extra excursion to the Luxor Sound & Light show garnered more mixed reviews. (Most Uniworld Egypt tours already include the Sound & Light show at the Giza pyramids.) Those who were spending extra time in Egypt were also given the opportunity to book a day trip to Alexandria.
Besides the shore excursions, there's no entertainment or onboard lecturing during the day. While a few guests passed the time playing cards, the games in the library sat unused. You're constantly learning about Egyptian history during the day, so most people used their downtime to relax and recharge. Happy hours were sporadically attended.
Every other night, River Tosca either brings local entertainers onboard or has its staffmembers sing and dance with the guests. During a recent voyage, a belly dancer and a Sufi whirling dervish performed near Luxor, and Nubian men danced and sang traditional songs when the ship was tied up near their native lands in Aswan.
On the ship's Egyptian-themed nights, the staff put on their galabeyas (loose tunics worn by Egyptians to beat the heat) and performed for the guests after dinner. On one of these nights, an impromptu dance party broke out after an impressive display of drumming, with guests getting down to songs from the 50's, 60's and 70's. But, on a subsequent evening, people were too tired to boogie, and the party petered out after the performance.
When River Tosca originally launched in 2009, customers complained about scratched parquet floors, splattered paint, stained bathtubs and loose tiles, forcing the company to put the ship in dry dock for several months.
Now, the relaunched ship has public rooms that uphold the Uniworld commitment to luxury river cruising. You enter the ship on the second deck, where there's a hotel-style front desk with a concierge available 24 hours, as well as a beverage room with free coffee, tea and bottled water. The second deck also holds a sizeable lounge, where drink specials are offered every day for the hour before dinner.
Adjacent to the lounge, there's a small library with paperback books, a flat-screen TV and several board games made from inlaid stone (chess and Backgammon). Large coffee table-style books about Egypt are strewn among the public areas for passengers to pick up and browse at their leisure.
Downstairs on Deck 1, there's a small boutique near the dining room where you can pick up sundries like sunglasses or lotion and buy small souvenirs or outfits for the ship's Egyptian-themed Galabeya parties. While the prices there are more expensive than what you'll find on the street, several passengers enjoyed the hassle-free onboard experience.
River Tosca would be a tough journey for the disabled. There's no elevator onboard, and there are steps to the dining room.
River Tosca has a pool on its top deck, but it's too small for anything but a simple soak. Think of it as a great place to cool off or enjoy the stars above. While the size felt adequate on recent cruises, where capacity was less than 20 percent, it could get crowded if the ship is full. The top deck also features first-class sun loungers, both shaded and open, and a covered area where you can watch the river pass by without fear of sun poisoning.
On Deck 4, the ship has a small gym with treadmills, elliptical machines and weights. There's also a TV that you can watch while you exercise. Keep in mind that the ship's excursions involve a fair amount of walking, so you may be able to stay fit without hitting the gym.
The spa consists of several treatment rooms and, during a recent voyage, a very skilled masseuse who has been trained in both Thai and Western-style massage. There are no salon or nail services onboard. A one-hour massage costs about $83 (500 Egyptian pounds).
River Tosca discourages young children from coming onboard, as there are no special activities, facilities or cabin configurations to handle families with small kids. Teenagers under 18 must be accompanied by an adult who is at least 21. Even if the ship did encourage kids, families would want to pass, as the River Tosca atmosphere is definitely more sedate than you'd find on a mega-ship.