Margaux_C, Apr. 2022
Communication with the tour operator was very good before the trip, Samar went beyond expectations to ensure I'd start the tour on time. Once it started, it was another story.
- ship: the first ship was a slum really. I have been traveling the world alone for the past 15 years but even in the most remote areas, I had never seen that level of filth: hairs in the bed, no hot water, poop in the toilet, stains and dirt everywhere, used cups in the bedroom (lipbalm on it), black fingerprints everywhere, no one was wearing masks (during covid), coffee on the bedside table...
I checked in with the rest of the group at lunch time, informed the ship manager and he promised it would be cleaned when I was on my next tour. We returned in the evening again and nothing had been cleaned. I went back to the ship manager who was not only rude about it, but also aggressive. I contacted the tour operator immediately but the person in charge was fairly useless first and offered free drinks as compensation (which was a joke really) before finally transfering me to another ship. It was better but definitely not a 5-star as per western standards, more like a 3-star at best (at least, there was hot water and no hair/dead bugs in my bed and no ship manager to insult me).
Please note that the ships are docked 30 minutes drive from the city center in Luxor (while I specifically asked to get a ship in the center of Luxor at the time of reservation), attached to another 3 to 4 ships at all times when docked so you never have a view, you see directly inside someone else's cabin. Plus it's super noisy when you sail at night and you dock at 3 am and attach the ships together to wake up at 6 the next day... when there is no party on the deck of one of the ships in the evening...
Food (not good but eatable) is included on-board but drinks (also water) are not.
- guide: I spent the first 2 days of the tour with the rest of my group. Our guide was Mohammed. He was nice and did what he could to help with the problems on the 1st ship (also for the other customers). He was knowledgeable enough about the history of the places we visited, although I think I was expecting a little more than what I had in my guide book. His English was OK overall.
The rest of the group didn't want to go to Abu Simbel so the tour operator organised me to go with a spanish-speaking group and have a different guide on site. The pick-up and return went smoothly, but the guide was absolutely useless. We had only 1 hour to visit the site. There are 2 temples in Abu Simbel. He said we shall go have a look alone inside of temple 1 for 30 minutes, then come back to him to get some explanations and that we would not see temple 2 (for which you still pay). So if you don't have a guide book, you end up looking at a temple and paintings for 30 minutes withouth knowing what you are looking at. I went without the guide, it was a joke really.
Philae and Obelisk: I got a private tour as the rest of my original group was catching an early flight. I was not interested in the high dam (original package) so exchanged it for the unfinished obelisk. My guide was Ramzi. He was friendly, knowledgeable about the history of the places we visited but his English was a bit hard to understand at times. The one thing I didn't like was to be advised to tip between 2 to 4 times the usual tip everywhere we were going (like the ship to Philae is included. It's a 3-minute crossing, the guide pays the "driver" 20 LE... and advised me to tip 20 LE too...). In the end, tipping is voluntary and based on the quality that is provided to you, but you kind of feel pressured everywhere, with guides telling you how much to give to the driver, ship staff, cleaning lady, horse carriage etc. and if you don't, they complain it's not enough (we already tipped the horse carrier as advised but he wanted more and followed us to complain).
- Mind that you are part of a tour, so you cannot wander where you want by yourself, and you get to see the parts of the temples the tour has organised (meaning if you have 2 hours to visit a temple with enough rooms and paintings for 6 hours, you see a third of it). All free time is on the ship while sailing, so there's no chance you go by yourself explore the valley of the queens for instance.
As a conclusion, if I was to do this trip again, I would organise it very differently. Either take a very good cruise and book with the ship directly (but you pay a few thousand bucks), or stay in 5-star hotels in Luxor and Aswan (note that Egyptian standards are not like European/American) and go to the different temples with a taxi (no cruise but you're able to sleep at night).
Trip: mid-March 2022.
Reviewer: solo female traveler (32) from Germany/France.