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16 Viking River Middle East Cruise Reviews

WARNING! This review is long. After reserving this cruise almost two years ago, we (group of 8) were a bit concerned if our cruise down the Nile on the Viking Ra scheduled to begin on March 6, 2020, would be cancelled. With Viking’s ... Read More
WARNING! This review is long. After reserving this cruise almost two years ago, we (group of 8) were a bit concerned if our cruise down the Nile on the Viking Ra scheduled to begin on March 6, 2020, would be cancelled. With Viking’s new cancellation policy, at least we could make a decision closer to the scheduled date so that gave us some flexibility with the ever-changing situation. We ended up going as scheduled and were thrilled with the entire trip, itinerary and experience that Viking provided. As soon as the trip began, we heard that Viking was shutting down all cruises for several weeks so this was the last cruise the Ra would take for awhile. We joked that we were shutting off the lights as we left each port. It was hard to think about the many tour agencies and other cruise lines that would be shuttering for awhile and how that would effect the many service people, vendors, guides and staff that we met along the way. Just like in all the countries around the world, their economy will take a hit and the poverty that we witnessed will only get worse. We had made our air reservations through Viking and we were so glad that we did. I’ve always been frustrated by their fees for any changes to the air itinerary even before the trip is booked so we have not always gone with their deal, but we decided to go with them two years ago because we knew with the length of this trip (17 days total with extension to Jordan), we weren’t going to add any more days (we do have to work at some point to pay for our travel! ☺) More on that later. From the moment we arrived at Cairo airport, the Viking staff took over. Someone met us at the arrivals gate and guided us through the areas at the airport. We had gotten our visas online through the government website ($25), another couple had gone through an agency, and the other four just paid for the visa on arrival. As so many others have said, just do it when you arrive. There was no line, they didn’t look at passports, they just asked for $25 USD (cash) and you walked on through. Took all of 2 minutes. Our luggage was taken care of and we really didn’t have to deal with carrying them the rest of the trip. Our Program Director, Hani, met us on the bus and gave a welcome, some history on the bus ride to the hotel and lots of clear and useful direction on ATM’s, restaurants, the information meeting the next morning and how our trip was structured. The Ritz Carlton Cairo was beautiful and in a great location right on the Nile and next to the Egyptian Museum. We had a bite to eat in the lounge and headed to bed. Our other breakfasts and one dinner were at the main floor restaurant and were all very extensive buffets (included in our tour). Our first touring day was the biggest one and after being awakened at 4 by the disco on the Nile or maybe on the small island in the middle of the river, I wasn’t sure how the day would go. We had an orientation meeting at 8 and started touring at 9. We started at the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, then a rug making school before lunch at a hotel buffet. The afternoon was spent on the Giza Plateau where we had time at the great Pyramids, rode a camel and visited the Sphinx. Let me just take a minute to say that Viking provides 2 Egyptologists and they are with you for the entire trip. You are broken into two groups and you stay with your Egyptologist (called Program Directors) the entire time. Our group had Hani and the other group had Tarek. We were so gratified all through the trip to have a Program Director leading us. Not only did they provide general information about each touring day, take care of all entry fees and most tips for the wash rooms, make sure we had the correct information for touring each site and gave us pointers on how to deal with aggressive vendors, but (what they were really trained for) they described, explained and enthused over the tombs, temples and pyramids we saw so that we could really appreciate and understand what we were seeing. Because we had the same Program Director each day, they could build on information they had given us days before and build on the picture that we were seeing of the country they loved. This was one of the few times when I saw the wisdom of going with a structured tour group instead of building a trip itinerary and doing it on our own. Great job, Hani! I’m sure you won’t get much from an in-depth review of each day, but I will insert anything that might be of use to future travelers on this itinerary. Day Two was the Citadel and mosque. Our PD did explain a lot about his personal Muslim faith and what it meant to him and his culture. I thought it was fascinating and insightful and the mosque was beautiful. Later that morning we went to the Egyptian Museum and our PD showed us the highlights. Since it was right next to our hotel, we headed back after lunch at the Ritz Carlton. One couple in our group paid to go into the mummy room and said it was worth it. If you can make it across the street (traffic is insane), there is a government shop (meaning that the prices are fixed) that had some good shopping. Our group booked two cars through the concierge and went to a recommended Middle Eastern restaurant on one of the islands on the Nile. The name of it was Abou El Sid and it had great food, including pigeon! About half of the large group went to the El Kalil market and dinner excursion. I heard mixed reviews. Day Three began early with a 5 am wake up call and bags out by 5:15. We had a buffet breakfast at the hotel and headed to the airport for our charter flight (8 am) to Luxor. As soon as we landed at 9:30, we headed to Karnak Temple. All transportation was seamless and taken care of by Viking. The buses they used throughout were comfortable with plenty of cold water bottles and a bathroom if needed. We headed to the boat at noon and a buffet lunch. Ah, the Ra. Beautiful ship. The common areas were well thought out, the two room suites were spacious and the top deck lounge area so inviting. Before we could get off the bus, medical personnel came on board with a questionnaire and took our temperatures. We had our temperatures taken each morning while we were on the cruise and that information was sent home with us incase there were questions re-entering our home countries. We heard there were 51 people on our tour so we assumed no one had cancelled before the trip but later we were told there were only 46 on the cruise portion, so I’m not sure if some left the tour after Cairo, whether we were not given the right original totals or we forgot someone at the airport. ☺ We were originally surprised more people hadn’t cancelled before the trip with the news that a Nile cruise ship had been struck with COVID-19 the week before After a welcome, port talk and safety drill we headed out to Luxor Temple. I thought it was great to see a temple lit up at night. Day Four was another early morning wake up at 4 am. We hopped on a motor boat for a 10-15 minute ride down the Nile and to the other bank where we took a short van ride to the balloon launching point. Yes, we opted for the Hot Air Balloon ride over the Valley of the Queens. It is something that you book when you arrive in Cairo and costs about $250, I think. I assume they have to wait to see what the weather will be like before they book. Only 13 of the 46 on our cruise did the Hot Air Balloon ride but each participants that I spoke with thought it was the “must do” experience of the trip. We launched on a beautiful, calm, gorgeous morning and were amazed at the sights below us. Such a unique way to see the temples and tombs that we would go inside later that day, plus just the topography and the graphic nature of that swathe of green extending from the Nile and then this sharp boundary where the desert begins. Amazing! Do it!! We had a wonderful breakfast on our return and then headed out to the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens. Ramses VI’s tomb and Queen Nefartari’s tomb are not to be missed. I think Ramses tomb is an extra fee. We also went into King Tut’s tomb which was an extra price. Our PD downplayed it, but we thought it was worth seeing. We also saw the Collosus of Memnon on the ride back to the boat. After lunch we had free time. During free afternoons our PD’s would sometimes have a talk including topics like – the Arabic language, Women in Egypt, hieroglyphics, ancient Egyptian medicine, etc. After dinner was a belly dancer and a whirling dervish in the lounge. It was hard to watch the belly dancer’s performance and I know that the staff said that they try to tell Viking that no one likes it, but it’s still on the entertainment schedule. You’ve been warned. Day Five we saw Dendera Temple in the morning and had the rest of the day to ourselves as we sailed back up the Nile.. It’s wonderful to sit on that top deck or on your balcony and watch the world go by. Day Six – the men in our group went to the 8 am tour of Esna Temple. We ladies decided to take the village tour and then did some shopping (you do walk by the temple on the village tour). I think enough people have reviewed the crazy, pushy, aggressive behavior of vendors. You get a bit used to it but it always feels rude because eventually you just have to be very firm. One note, if you really want something, just keep walking away. The vendor finally got to the price I was willing to pay for a galabeya (long flowing garment) when I was walking down the steps to the ship (Viking’s dock was right next to the village). Get a tunic or galabeya before Egyptian night on the boat. It was fun to see people wearing these colorful garments at dinner that night. We set sail again and enjoyed a Falafel demonstration in the restaurant. That night was an amazing Egyptian dinner and the Nubian dancers in the lounge afterwards were very entertaining. Interestingly enough, we ran into a sand storm in the afternoon and had to dock at Edfu since all river traffic was stopped by the government. It was only through the hard work of our crew that we got clearance to keep sailing about 5 hours after the storm ended and were able to dock in Aswan the next morning so that those going to Abu Simbel could make their flight. Day Seven – I think it was at breakfast when Karoline, our Hotel Manager, told us the bad news that Jordan had closed its borders and we would not be able to go on our extension trip to Jordan. Our trip was cut short by 4 days. Here is where we were extremely happy that we had done the Viking airfare. By the time we got back from our jaunt to the airport, Viking had rebooked us on a flight out of Cairo for Tuesday and handed us our new flights times. Easy. They were actually better flight times than we originally had and we didn’t have to try and rebook and cancel flights online or over the phone (Karoline said the wait time was sometimes 6 hours on the phone). Our friends (they couldn’t book through Viking because of another reason) tried twice to talk with someone on the phone and after an hour wait were disconnected. They finally were able to use the ships computer to book a flight home and decided to deal with cancelling the original flight and getting the refund later. To Viking’s credit, they worked with all of the passengers whether they had booked their original flights through Viking or not, but those passengers that hadn’t booked with Viking did have to deal with the logistics themselves. Abu Simbel. What can I say. There are no words. Mostly because we only saw the Aswan airport. ☺ We did see the Aswan Dam in a 20 minute stop on the way to the airport. But once we got to the airport, we waited for our plane to come from Cairo. Unfortunately, because of a bad rainstorm the day before, Cairo’s runways were flooded and flights were backed up. (We also heard that all the schools were closed, local transportation cancelled and electricity cut off because of the flooding. Because they rarely get rain, let alone a lot of it, they just don’t have the drainage in the city. Who knew?) After several delays and concerns over another sand storm trapping us in Abu Simbel if we did make it there, our PD called the trip off and we headed back to our ship. The Aswan airport was an interesting morning tour spot with bathrooms that included toilet paper and no attendant to tip, shops that had fixed prices and a free soda at the cafeteria. After a week in Egypt, all three were welcome experiences. The others in our group that didn’t go on the eventful Abu Simbel excursion, said that their boat ride (although too windy for a felucca ride) and market visit were good. That night a few of us (20 or so) went to the Phillea Light Show by boat. There are 5 light shows at sites around Egypt and I was glad to get to go to one. I think our group was divided on how much we liked it. It is very artsy and was trying to showcase the history of the temple in a different way. It was professional and the temple is beautiful as it’s perched on an island, but you do see the temple in the daylight the next day. Day Eight – We had a lovely boat ride to a Nubian village where we visited a local home and the Papyrus Institute before heading back to Phillea Temple. The afternoon was spent cruising before reaching Kom Ombo for a late afternoon tour of the temple and the small crocodile museum. Day Nine – our last day of touring started with a carriage ride to Edfu Temple before sailing back to Luxor. We really enjoyed going through the lock and the activity of the vendors in boats alongside us tossing up their wares…our last experience with the aggressive merchants of Egypt. I believe that this experience is usually seen on the way upriver but because of the sandstorm on our way to Aswan, we went through the lock at night. Day Ten – the next morning we had to have our luggage out by 5:15, then our last breakfast onboard before boarding the bus for the aiport at 6:30 am. We were saying goodbye to an amazing staff onboard the Ra. This was my third Viking river cruise and by far the best staff across the board. Karoline, the Hotel Manager was exceptional. She has been with the company for over 20 years and my only regret is that since she is on the Russia sailings in the summer, we won’t have her on our ship next summer on the Volga. I can only imagine the headaches she had with this last cruise as the craziness around the world with the COVID-19 crisis changed things day to day and she and her staff took care of everything. We passengers have no idea of the turmoil below deck but I’m sure it was a massive effort. My husband had an eye problem during the cruise and she took care of arranging an eye doctor to come to our room and kept us informed. Excellent service. The restaurant staff was also exceptional. Kai and Abdullah were the chefs and we loved the quality and variety of food (wine selection was not up to snuff but that was because of excessive import tariffs, I’m told). Priscilla was the restaurant manager and she was friendly, efficient, welcoming. And that atmosphere was carried through in all of the staff – Wadde, Anastasia, Mohammed and Hussein made each meal so pleasant with their excellent service, pleasant nature and interest in making our meal times relaxing. Although I didn’t spend as much time in the lounge, I do know that the staff I came in contact with there were very pleasant, unobtrusive and efficient. The ship and staff of the Viking Ra have set a high standard for the next two cruises we’ve already booked. Our flight back to Cairo was uneventful and after a buffet lunch at the Intercontinental Hotel (beautiful hotel!), about 20 of us headed out on the Coptic Christian walking tour of Old Cairo. We spent a very interesting afternoon looking at the area and visiting a synagogue and church. When we got back to the hotel, we ladies headed next door to the attached 5 story shopping mall for some shopping before our farewell dinner. Because of the times everyone was heading home, it was an anticlimactic buffet dinner as we all said goodbye and wondered what it would be like back home. Some headed to the airport that evening, but most of us didn’t leave until 3:30 the next morning for our 6:30 am flights. Just some general thoughts on this massive tome: This was the first time that I was truly impressed with Viking. Our other two cruises were nice and we enjoyed them, but if this is the service, attention to detail and staff that is the standard of Viking, I will continue to give them my business. I thought this cruise was very expensive but I will say that I could see where my money went. We had wonderful accommodations at the hotels and on the ship. We had security personnel on every bus, during tours and even some police escorts – a necessary precaution but the areas we went to did not seem unsafe. Tips and entry fees were taken care of by our Program Directors with only a few exceptions. This made for a streamlined tour and faster entries. Having staff assigned to the airports, each hotel and our Program Directors with us the entire trip made all the difference in our enjoyment and the ability to see so much in this jam-packed itinerary. Another plus for Viking is that we never had other boats tied up next to us. We always had our own dock and some of that could have been happenstance but I know that in a few of the towns, Viking has paid to have their own docking space. At Kom Ombo I took a picture of three ships docked against the pier with up to five ships tied up to each of those ships. We were the only ones that had our own docking space. During the sandstorm a ship tied up to us because everyone was forced to dock, but other than that, I was always able to use my balcony and have a nice view. We had rooms 300, 301, 302, and 303. I was really glad that we had a balcony (I believe all the rooms on the Ra do) because I sat out there many times and read, had a drink and watched the shoreline. Our rooms had plenty of storage between the two rooms. There is room under the bed to store your suitcases. The bathroom was the biggest I’ve seen on a cruise ship. Our room steward kept the place spotless and fully stocked. Our only complaint was that most mornings we woke to the sound of chairs being dragged across the floor of the pool deck above us. Maybe the second floor would have been a better choice for rooms. We had to be up early most mornings anyway but it was a negative for those particular rooms. Just an FYI, the odd numbered rooms seem to be most likely to have a view of the Nile rather than the dock. Lastly, others have alluded to the fact that this is a tiring cruise because of the itinerary. We are in our 50’s and some in our friend group were in their 60’s. Some days were longer than others but I don’t think anyone thought the trip was grueling. There is not a lot of time for just casually hanging around but there is free time and I thought the itinerary made the most of getting us to a lot of Egyptian sites, experience some of the culture and making sure we felt like we were on vacation. A few in the larger group needed to use walking sticks, but they kept up fine and never complained. This was not a perfect cruise in description (sandstorm, cancelled Petra excursion, no Abu Simbel excursion) but it was the perfect cruise in actual experience. I commented to our group that I couldn’t think of one fellow traveler in our group of 46 that seemed to be a complainer or challenging in any way. Everyone seemed in good spirits, positive, on time, considerate, rolled with the changes in schedule and pleasant to be around. I highly recommend Viking and the itinerary they have put together. Well done! Read Less
Sail Date March 2020
We chose this cruise as the best way to see the amazing sights in Egypt and to learn about its people. This holiday greatly exceeded our expectations. Michael, our guide was awesome in his knowledge and enthusiasm not just for the temples ... Read More
We chose this cruise as the best way to see the amazing sights in Egypt and to learn about its people. This holiday greatly exceeded our expectations. Michael, our guide was awesome in his knowledge and enthusiasm not just for the temples some of which he had worked on as an Egyptologist but also for giving us a comprehensive overview of Egypt more recently. The hotels in Cairo were excellent and the Ra is like a luxury hotel. The cabin (middle price) had a spacious bathroom and great balcony and sitting area. Food on board is superb with plenty of choice at every meal. The staff cannot do enough for you. All were faultless. On our anniversary they left a bottle of champagne and a charming note in our cabin.The on board talks and entertainment were great. We were the only non American guests and found out that most fellow cruisers had booked 2 years ago. Some had mobility issues but these were seamlessly taken care of by the staff,crew and guides. Only one criticism _ the WiFi was inadequate and patchy. In this day and age, one's expectations are of strong reliable connections. Other than this. Strongly recommended. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
This was our second Viking cruise and it was outstanding. We started with the optional Israel pre-cruise land tour. The tour guide, Jo Lane, was knowledgeable and outstanding. We visited all the biblical sites and more. The Dead Sea Scroll ... Read More
This was our second Viking cruise and it was outstanding. We started with the optional Israel pre-cruise land tour. The tour guide, Jo Lane, was knowledgeable and outstanding. We visited all the biblical sites and more. The Dead Sea Scroll Museum and the Western Wall did not disappoint. We stayed at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem which was elegant but somewhat dated. It appears that all Five Star hotels in the Middle East include breakfast. The King David had a fantastic spread every morning. After the 4 nights in Jerusalem, we flew to Cairo very early in the morning and checked into the Ritz Carlton. RECOMMENDATION: Since the first day in Cairo is free, we booked the Pyramid Light and Sound show via private car on TripAdvisor/Viatour a week before. This is really the only chance you will have to see it. We were picked up at 6:00 PM by our guide and driver and driven to Giza. We were given tickets to the show, the guide went inside with us, recommended where to sit and said he’ll be waiting outside for us after the show that started at 7PM and lasted an hour. He was and we were driven back to the Ritz. It was a memorable and great deal for about $52.00 each. The Ritz Carlton hotel was the best one we stayed at. It was very modern and had a great breakfast included each morning. BE ADVISED: Beer and wine in Egypt is moderately priced but spirits are stratospherically expensive! We never looked at the prices but just ordered a “double” martini at the bar at the Ritz. A “double” is misleading, since they pour very small shots, so we ordered a double just to get half a drink by our standards. The price? With service charge, VAT, each drink cost us $67.00!!!!!!!!!!!! The price for the same gin on the Viking RA was the same as the Ritz, so we purchased a beverage package on the ship, which turned out to be a steal. We flew to Luxor to catch the ship. The cruise ship was intimate and very nice. Everyone on the staff was outstanding. We both thought the food was also outstanding. We both did the hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings and it was great. All of the included tours were excellent. The tour busses were first class with a restroom on board. Every single tour bus in Egypt has a government security man on board. They’re well dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and tie and have a small submachine gun tucked under their jacket! In addition, we had police escorts at many venues. Tourists are so important to Egypt’s economy, the government goes way out of their way to provide security and safety. Everything on this trip was top notch. You never hauled your luggage and there was a Viking person outside and inside each airport to assist. It was a great trip I would recommend to all! Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
We had been on other Viking Riverboats and knew they would do a great job taking care of us in Egypt. This trip had been on our bucket list for a long time. We had booked it over two years ago. We particularly liked having a small number ... Read More
We had been on other Viking Riverboats and knew they would do a great job taking care of us in Egypt. This trip had been on our bucket list for a long time. We had booked it over two years ago. We particularly liked having a small number of passengers. We got to know everyone. From the time we landed at the airport to the time we went through security to leave we were taken care of. The ports and shore excursions were very well planned. We had two groups and each group had an Egyptian Program Director. They were very knowledgeable. It was an experience of a lifetime. It was mind blowing to see the civilization and know how old everything was. The service on the boat was fantastic. The food was excellent and they accommodated any food choices. There was educational activities that helped us understand the culture and the people. I highly recommend this trip! Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
This was a gift to me from my sister. Ever since I was about 10, I have read everything about the King Tut finding by Howard Carter in 1922. EGYPT could not have been more fascinating, PLUS augmented by our Program Manager (who is ... Read More
This was a gift to me from my sister. Ever since I was about 10, I have read everything about the King Tut finding by Howard Carter in 1922. EGYPT could not have been more fascinating, PLUS augmented by our Program Manager (who is himself an Egyptologist) Sharif. Just talking to him in a group or privately is an education. The other PM was Mike, also a seasoned Egyptologist. EGYPT is one place it pays to go on a tour (I tend to just book my reservations and then buy a museum pass.) This trip was remarkable. We were made comfortable and kept informed of the day's itinerary the previous evening. Nothing, not even the transportation to and from the hotels to the boat was left to chance. Everything was done for us. Sharif was GREAT and I owe a good deal of the cultural enrichment to him. He knows everything. The food was also remarkable. Kai and his wife served up memorable and bountiful meals and if you can't find something you like either from the menu or the buffet, there is something wrong with you. Most of the gentlemen servers on the ship are named Mohammed, and I'm sorry I didn't get the name of the gentleman who was responsible for keeping our cabin neat and tidy. The ship's captain was on top of everything. He passed out cold bottles of water as we left the ship to venture to out to the tombs and pyramids. TWO important things to keep in mind: It is going to be HOT there. Bring lightweight clothing. Also, sturdy shoes. You will be walking up to a half mile from the bus to the tombs on some days and the ground is often uneven and rocky. ONE other thing -- as you walk through the venues, make sure you look down -- it would be easy to turn an ankle and spoil the rest of your trip. Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
We were met by a Viking representative as soon as we entered the arrivals hall at Cairo airport. But for his help, we might still be mixed up in the chaos there. We got to the Cairo Ritz Carlton about 2 hours after landing and found one of ... Read More
We were met by a Viking representative as soon as we entered the arrivals hall at Cairo airport. But for his help, we might still be mixed up in the chaos there. We got to the Cairo Ritz Carlton about 2 hours after landing and found one of our tour directors waiting for us. He gave us a briefing for the morning before we were taken to our spacious room with a river view. (All the passengers were equally well treated and situated.) We spent two days touring Cairo and Giza. Both tour guides had doctorates and were excellent. On the third morning we took an early flight to Luxor. After a long wait for luggage, characteristic of every Egyptian airport, we were taken on a great tour of the Temple of Karnack, followed by a film at a library (yes, I fell asleep during part of it) and then to the Viking Ra. The cabins are constrained by the size of the locks, something all river boats have to deal with, but were well designed and immaculately kept. There were ample tour activities throughout the time on the ship. In fact, there were so many that one morning we gave in to exhaustion and just slept in. While the lectures in the afternoons and evenings were very good, local entertainment left something to be desired. The food was ample and service was very good. However, the offerings were not up to Viking's European or Asian standards, perhaps constrained by the local supplies. The optional tour to Abu Simel was worth loss of sleep and the fee, as was the balloon trip over the Nile. (We have taken about a half dozen balloon flights, and the landing on the rocky desert was the smoothest we have ever experienced.) After return to Cairo, we took an optional behind the scenes tour at the as yet unopened Grand Egyptian Museum and that was exceptional. Despite being in Cairo in the hottest May in recorded history, this was a very worthwhile trip. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
Have always dreamed of seeing the ancient wonders of Egypt, but was hesitant to go until I saw that Viking offered a wonderful package that included three days in Cairo, then a cruise up the Nile from Luxor. The entire trip was ... Read More
Have always dreamed of seeing the ancient wonders of Egypt, but was hesitant to go until I saw that Viking offered a wonderful package that included three days in Cairo, then a cruise up the Nile from Luxor. The entire trip was meticulously planned and organized with a representative waiting for us, as we exited the plane, to take us to the Ritz Carlton. The Ritz is fabulous. Our room overlooked the Nile where we enjoyed watching the party boats at night. The air was unusually clear, and we could actually see the pyramids in the distance from the top floor of the hotel. We, of course, visited the pyramids, the Sphinx, and even rode a camel! Our program director, Yumna, was an expert on Egypt and careful to keep us all on schedule. Her wealth of knowledge helped bring the ancient Egyptians to life for us. Our flight to Luxor was slightly delayed so our tour of Karnak was too short, in my opinion. I would have preferred to spend more time there than to visit the library where we viewed a movie that showed the progression of their ancient civilization. From there, we boarded the Ra. The Ra is a beautiful boat, nicely intimate, but never crowded. I cannot rave enough about the staff who made us feel a valued member of their family immediately. I said to my daughter, my travel companion, that they made you feel like it was your birthday, every day. The ship is beautifully furnished with a restaurant that spoiled us terribly. Each day we visited temples, tombs, Valley of the Kings, little towns, and even Abu Simbel that is not only an amazing miracle of ancient Egypt, but again, a miracle in that they totally deconstructed it and moved it higher to prevent it from being underwater when the big Aswan Dam was built. I was hesitant to visit Egypt, but we never felt unsafe, partly due to Viking’s security, but also due to the Egyptian people who were very welcoming and appreciative of tourists returning after many lean years. The dollar is very strong in Egypt, currently, and the crowds are minimal. Great time to visit, just not in the hot summer months. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
This is a fascinating, educational cruise. While there was plenty of down time for relaxation, we enjoyed the excursions very much. Abu Simbal was fantastic and worth the extra expense and travel. Onboard there were Arabic lessons and we ... Read More
This is a fascinating, educational cruise. While there was plenty of down time for relaxation, we enjoyed the excursions very much. Abu Simbal was fantastic and worth the extra expense and travel. Onboard there were Arabic lessons and we learned about hieroglyphics. The Temples along the Nile are fantastic. We enjoyed visiting Luxor Temple as the sun was going down. I learned to sharpen my bargaining skills. There was always a market at each temple. Decide in advance what you are willing to pay for something and stick to it. The vendors are flexible as long as you are firm. On the shore excursions, we traveled in two different groups -- each with a guide and sometimes extra security. The guides were Achmed (the bald) and Achmed (the beard). They each did an excellent job leading excursions and giving talks on board. They had very different styles of presentation, but both guides were excellent. The Ra is a beautiful ship. The food was very good -- both middle eastern and international. Also -- there was always home-made ice cream. The dining room manager - Priscilla - welcomed us at each meal as if we were dining in her home. The wait staff was wonderful. A few did not understand English that well, but we were very pleased. Some nights there was on-board entertainment. We specially enjoyed the Nubian singers and drummers. They had everyone up dancing. It was a great evening. The whirling dervish was also very interesting. The Nile is really special. My advice - Go! We also did the Petra extension. Since we spent 2 nights outside Petra we could spend more time there than the day trippers. Jerash is also fascinating. Hint-- you can get visas for Jordan at the airport through your Jordanian tour director. You don't have to get them in advance. We got visas for Egypt before the trip by applying online through the official site. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
We had previously visited the Giza Plateau area on a one day excursion from an ocean cruise, but wanted to see more of Egypt and to visit Petra in Jordan for the first time. We had to sign up for the Viking “Pharoahs and Pyramids” ... Read More
We had previously visited the Giza Plateau area on a one day excursion from an ocean cruise, but wanted to see more of Egypt and to visit Petra in Jordan for the first time. We had to sign up for the Viking “Pharoahs and Pyramids” cruise on the Viking Ra more than a year ahead. We added the pre-cruise (Israel) and post-cruise (Petra) options. They were well worth it! Egypt visas are available from the country’s online site for much less than the price asked by US visa services. Jordanian visas are available at the airport in Jordan, but Viking had purchased a group travel visa. No visa was required in Israel. My wife was a little concerned about personal security, especially in Egypt. We were well protected with National Police escorts in urban areas and at cruise docking points. Accommodations in Jerusalem at the historic and luxurious King David Hotel and an excellent tour guide. Only downside-wet and cold. If you’re going in early spring, bring a warm rain jacket. Visited expected sites in and around Jerusalem. Then, flew to Cairo where we visited the National Museum, which is to be replaced (and needs to be) by the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) Interesting, but dated style of display. GEM was under construction. Visit there focused on laboratories for antiquity preservation. interesting. Quite interesting, but tickets clearly are priced to raise the maximum funds for GEM construction. Flew to Luxor to board Viking Ra. Karnak Temple and Luxor were spectacular. The burial site interiors were extremely ornate and colorful. Then, an optional dawn hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings (and Queens!). My wife was apprehensive about going on the ride (height and motion sickness). She braved it - and would not part with the memory. Sailing on to visit several other temple sites. Most notable: Abu Simbel, which required a short air flight. Arrangements were well handled and Abu Simbel is not to be missed. The statues of Ramses II and his queen are truly once in a lifetime experience. The street vendors outside Abu Simbel were exceptionally aggressive and I paid too much for a book on the site. On day 15, we returned to Cairo and most of our tour went home. We opted for the Jordan excursion. Again, we’ll worth it. We visited Mount Nebo, the locale from which Moses viewed the Holy Land. (You’ll recall he wasn’t allowed to enter - but, he had a spectacular view!) Then, on to Petra, the locale of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. An approach walk of several miles through beautiful geology and a very complex necropolis. If one is not inclined to walk, there are donkeys or rickshas available to ride. Returned to the US from Amman with wonderful memories and so many great pictures that we’ve still not managed to get through them all. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
We choose this awesome river cruise because it’s fun and adventurous to travel with Viking! The food and public rooms are a great feature to the learning about cultures and experiences. This is recommended over and over again for ... Read More
We choose this awesome river cruise because it’s fun and adventurous to travel with Viking! The food and public rooms are a great feature to the learning about cultures and experiences. This is recommended over and over again for its awesome and educational character and ongoing knowledge that continues to recreate the past into present and future styles! That’s why we choose Viking. It’s a 5-star featuring the best of the best. The food and drinks are amazing and the history is knowledge for us. I recommend the river cruise Viking RA and it’s neighboring cruise ships. Great pictures too. We actually shot some pictures of the pyramids. These are great for showing and even keeping as wall decore because you may never know if you will return to the Middle East and Egypt. And so opportunities arise but photos are worth a million words as they say and these are absolutely awesome location for photo and video shooting! Read Less
Sail Date February 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
The Ra is wonderful - large and comfortable two-room cabins, but only 26 of them. Beautiful, typically Viking understated elegance throughout. The guides are spectacular; Viking recruits Egyptologists to serve as guides, and their ... Read More
The Ra is wonderful - large and comfortable two-room cabins, but only 26 of them. Beautiful, typically Viking understated elegance throughout. The guides are spectacular; Viking recruits Egyptologists to serve as guides, and their knowledge is encyclopedic -- you stay with one guide/teacher throughout the cruise. The clientele is a typical Viking Cruise crowd -- mostly affluent Americans aged 55-80. Be advised that this cruise is go-go-go; in the 3 Cairo days and 8 cruise days there are only two free afternoons to relax and recharge. Several very early-morning departures (4am to 6:30 am). The on-board restaurant is excellent, offering both Egyptian specialties and more familiar "Western" options at every on-board meal. The off-board meals are mixed -- all buffets of varying quality. Egypt itself is overwhelming. You stay in a bubble of splendid luxury, but outside it, urban Egypt is largely impoverished and surprisingly squalid. Egypt 30-40 years ago was a 2nd world country with 1st world ambitions. Today, except for a small elite, the cities are decaying and third-world. You do feel safe, even outside the bubble, although you will be constantly harassed by vendors selling cheap China-made trinkets. The two offered add-ons (Jerusalem before and Jordan after) are super, but if you do both add-ons and the cruise you will be exhausted most of the time. Both Israel and Jordan are lovely, clean and modern. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
This is a new Nile River ship and takes only 48 people in 24 cabins. We did the pretrip in Israel, then flew to Cairo for 3 days. We saw the pyramids, took a camel ride, went to Saquarra and the Sphinx, the Egyptian museum to see Tut’s ... Read More
This is a new Nile River ship and takes only 48 people in 24 cabins. We did the pretrip in Israel, then flew to Cairo for 3 days. We saw the pyramids, took a camel ride, went to Saquarra and the Sphinx, the Egyptian museum to see Tut’s mask. Then we flew to Luxor for a 7 night wonderful cruise. We also flew to Abu Simbel (optional) and saw the Temple of Horus. Crew and staff were wonderful, the ship is very well appointed. All cabins are suites with 2 TVs. Breakfast and lunch are buffets except at lunch you can order about 3 items off the menu. Dinner is sit down at 7 pm for all with open seating. After the cruise we flew back to Cairo and had a hotel room for the day. Our flight left at 2am the next morning so we didn’t get a full night but at least we had a place to shower and rest. A buffet lunch and dinner were included. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
We chose Viking River Nile cruise because of a great experience on the Grand European cruise last September. Viking commissioned a new river boat - The Ra - with the promise of an early. March launch. About 5 weeks before our June cruise ... Read More
We chose Viking River Nile cruise because of a great experience on the Grand European cruise last September. Viking commissioned a new river boat - The Ra - with the promise of an early. March launch. About 5 weeks before our June cruise date we were notified that Ra launch was delayed but not to worry - they substituted the Amarco II. We were offered a small refund and future cruise credit because of the change. I cannot express how disappointed we were when we arrived at the boat. The AmarcoII is VERY dated and worn. The amenities we paid for based on the Ra are not available. The boat smells moldy, bath tub is filthy, furniture frayed, bed is lumpy and very uncomfortable. The dining room is dreary with no view and the lounge is dark with very dated furniture - not one thing INVITING or Viking quality on this boat. Only positive is the staff - they are hard working , kind people - they knows the guests are disappointed and they are trying to accommodate us as best they can under terrible circumstances. This was an expensive cruise and we expected a qualityViking experience. Viking knew there were problems with the cruise and they withheld the information from the guests until the last minute and at in our case, we were not offered another option. We were planning 2 other Viking cruises - now we’re not so sure - the lack of accountability from their Corporate office makes us wonder whether they truly understand customer service. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
This was truly an incredible journey and it turned out to be everything the write-ups said it would be and more. Viking's Egyptian personnel were wonderful, they were on duty 24/7 and made it seem as if they were having the time of ... Read More
This was truly an incredible journey and it turned out to be everything the write-ups said it would be and more. Viking's Egyptian personnel were wonderful, they were on duty 24/7 and made it seem as if they were having the time of their lives just being there for you. Amr Shaheen, the Viking Egyptologist and tour leader was possibly the most knowledgeable, outgoing and personable guides we have ever had the pleasure to travel with. By the end of the second day of the trip, which began at the Sofitel El Ghizarah in Cairo, he established a bond with our group that stayed solid throughout the trip. Friends told us not to go because of the unrest in the Middle East, however due to Viking's security personnel, and Egypt's heightened military presence, we felt safe during the entire journey. We traveled on non-Viking ships, the Mayfair and the Omar Khayham, both ships have recently been refurbished and were clean and comfortable. There are no words to explain the many once in a lifetime moments we experienced, hot air ballooning over the Valley of the Kings, riding a camel into the desert, touring the archeological museum, a trip through the streets of the bazaar in Cairo, staring into the face of the Sphinx, wandering through the temples, learning about cartouches, and on and on until the brain reeled. This is a trip not to be missed. There was one thing that drove me crazy and that was the lack of local cuisine and a fine dining option. The meals were all buffet and although the quality of the food was good, it was pseudo-European/American style, three starches, meats drowned in gravy and heavy on desserts. The cost of the cruise shouldn't have had us dining cafeteria style, with no other options. Middle Eastern grilled meats, appetizers and, soups are excellent and much more suited to the climate than well cooked pot roast in gravy with mashed potatoes. Read Less
Sail Date October 2015
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