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  #1  
Old January 13th, 2013, 10:43 AM
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Ktwofish Ktwofish is offline
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Default Just Went on Nile Cruise with Uniworld and Sonesta

Our family group of four women was in Egypt December 14 - 22, 2012. The trip was through Uniworld (Classic Egypt and the Nile), and it included 3 nights in Cairo and 4 nights on a Nile cruise. Two weeks before we were to leave, Uniworld canceled the cruise portion on their ship, the River Tosca. This was due to a lack of passengers. They offered to transfer us to "comparable" accommodations on the Sonesta St. George I river boat, and we agreed. Later we were told 60 people had canceled their trip. In Cairo, another person joined our group for a total of 5 for the one-day tour. In Luxor, one more person joined our group for a total of 6 people in our group cruising and touring (Monday-Friday). The 6th person had booked through Insight Tours, and they stayed at a different hotel in Cairo and stayed an additional day in Aswan at the end of the river cruise.

We flew into Cairo a day early (arriving December 14th) to recover from the 21 hour (gate to gate) trip from the US. We stayed at the Four Seasons Cairo at Nile Plaza...WOW! We were told it is the newest hotel in Cairo, and it was beautiful. No complaints about this hotel!
We visited the Egyptian Museum on Dec. 16th, the day after the first constitutional referendum vote. The Egyptian Museum is located next to Tahrir Square, and we did not see any protestors. Our Egyptologist/tour guide said people could gather later in the day so we switched our itinerary to go to the museum in the morning and Giza in the afternoon. When we got to Tahrir Square we saw a few tents, but no people...that was it.

Spring Tours operates the Uniworld Trip in Egypt, and I only have high praise for the service we received. (FYI...our transportation had Uniworld and Insight Tours on the side of the vans.) We had 2 guides / Egyptologists--Mohammed in Cairo, and Ramadan was our guide for 5 days in Upper Egypt. Both commented on the extremely low tourist numbers, especially considering it was the beginning of the high season. Mohammed said at the Egyptian Museum, you would typically purchase a ticket to enter at a specific time (or queue), but we just walked right in. At Giza, 4 of us went into the open pyramid (Khafre's), and we were the only people inside. While this was good for us, we could not help but feel sorry for the many people who have been affected by the drop in tourists.

On December 17th, we flew to Luxor and were met by our 2nd Egyptologist guide, Ramadan. He was a wonderful guide--extremely knowledgeable and attentive. We went straight to the Valley of the Kings, and the largest tourist group there was school children. We stopped at Hatshepsut's temple and the Colossi of Memnon before we arrived at the Sonesta St. George I, we were surprised to see that there were only about 18-20 passengers (including our group of 6). This included 3 young children! It made you wonder how they could afford to run the boat, but our guide said they needed to operate to show people it is safe and encourage others to visit. Low passenger numbers appeared to be the norm on other riverboats we saw on the Nile.

Of course we were on a completely guided, chaperoned tour, but everyone we encountered was very friendly and welcoming. We never felt unsafe. We never saw anything that resembled the constant media that plays in the US, i.e. protesting crowds, rioters, etc. 20 million people live around Cairo! Our family was a group of 4 women, and we would not have ventured out in Cairo alone especially at night. This is just common sense, and I think that is all that is needed when visiting Egypt (especially Cairo). Upper Egypt (southern Egypt) is much more laid back and rural, and it's also more conservative. But everywhere in Egypt the citizens are anxious to get their government and economy on track. They welcome you, thank you for visiting, and encourage you to tell people about your trip.

We were disappointed not to get to sail on Uniworld's River Tosca, but the Sonesta St. George I was a lovely boat. Their staff was top notch, the service was excellent, and the food was good. As you can imagine, we received royal treatment since there were only 18-20 passengers! Except for a different riverboat, everything else was as advertised for the Uniworld Classic Egypt & the Nile--all the transfers, tours, etc. Our treatment was first class and top notch all the way.

If you want more details about this trip, just let me know. I got great photos since the tourist numbers were so low! Two last things I will mention...

First...The one negative is the constant annoyance (or harassment) by the touts or vendors selling their souvenirs. This was at every temple and tourist stop (except Dendara, which seemed to be more remote or maybe it was too early!). We started joking about it...bracing ourselves for the "onslaught" going into and out of all the sites. They are not allowed inside the sites (tickets are required). I couldn't help but feel sorry for the people who are desperate to sell their wares. Someone said tourism is down 90 percent. I bought some things--some I wanted and a few I did not. All in all, this alone is a very minor inconvenience and one I would endure again to visit Egypt!

Second...We took the optional tour to Abu Simbel, and I would HIGHLY recommend it! Words cannot express the magnificence of this site! The temples of Ramses II and Nerfertari were fabulous and the fact they were moved to be protected from the flooding created by the building of the Aswan High Dam is incredible.

I encourage anyone considering a trip to Egypt to go! Just do your own research and don't listen to the naysayers who only watch US television news for their information. Trip Advisor forums were a great help and right on the mark with regard to the current situation in Cairo.
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  #2  
Old January 13th, 2013, 12:41 PM
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Default Wow!

What a great review of a really interesting time to visit Egypt. Thank you for taking the time to share you experience. I think your review should be published as it really shows what going on for tourist and paints a much different picture than the "talking heads" on TV.

Thanks again for an excellent review!
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  #3  
Old January 13th, 2013, 01:37 PM
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Thanks for the report!
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  #4  
Old January 14th, 2013, 08:07 AM
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Great review. Thanks a lot. I will rethink a trip to Egypt.
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  #5  
Old January 14th, 2013, 08:22 AM
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Thank you! It was truly amazing, and I think we "lucked out" with the low tourist numbers AND fabulous weather. I have posted photos at http://egypttripdecember2012.shutterfly.com/

Let me know if you have any questions. I'm happy to share my experience because I know there is so little out there right now, especially on Cruise Critic. I got lots of information about current Cairo conditions from the Trip Advisor forum. It really helped to ease my mind about going, and I'm so glad we did!
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Old January 14th, 2013, 12:02 PM
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I did a very similar trip in Feb 2009 and I'm so glad I was able to see the amazing sites and history in Egypt. I commend you for your bravery in going during these uncertain political time. It was mentioned repeatedly when I was there that even when there has been violence / demonstrations, they are rarely directed towards tourists. The Egyptian people know how dependent their entire economy is on tourism. Everywhere we went I felt safe and all of the people we met were so welcoming. Hopefully more people will go ahead and visit this amazing country.
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  #7  
Old January 14th, 2013, 07:13 PM
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Ktwofish- Enjoyed your review. I looked at your photos and they look just like mine I am glad you enjoyed your trip.
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  #8  
Old January 21st, 2013, 07:19 AM
tvmovielover tvmovielover is offline
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Default Do consider Abu Simbel!

We finished an A & K tour of Egypt about the time OP on this thread arrived and everything written is true-low numbers and annoying venders who do not ruin your tour but are annoying, etc. We too were careful not to go out alone just in case but some people ventured out in Luxor and Aswan without incident. The one place we ended up in a temple alone was in Abu Simbel so do consider the trip (it is almost a whole day trip to fly there and back even to Aswan) now while numbers are low-it is something to see. Cairo was great but Luxor, Aswan, and Abu Simbel are too so consider these destinations and the Nile Cruise.
Incidentally, we went on Turkish airlines via Istanbul, staying there for a couple of days en route and going straight home returning. The economy fare was very good and the ride comfortable. Our flight times were better than many others on our tour who went on US airlines through London, Frankfurt, etc (Istanbul/Cairo is only a 2 hr flight and there are a few). Some had to overnight on the way back because of schedules and some arrived in the middle of the night. Go to Egypt now while numbers are low but research your flights carefully to get the best times.
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  #9  
Old January 21st, 2013, 09:40 AM
4774Papa 4774Papa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ktwofish View Post
Our family group of four women was in Egypt December 14 - 22, 2012. The trip was through Uniworld (Classic Egypt and the Nile), and it included 3 nights in Cairo and 4 nights on a Nile cruise. Two weeks before we were to leave, Uniworld canceled the cruise portion on their ship, the River Tosca. This was due to a lack of passengers. They offered to transfer us to "comparable" accommodations on the Sonesta St. George I river boat, and we agreed. Later we were told 60 people had canceled their trip. In Cairo, another person joined our group for a total of 5 for the one-day tour. In Luxor, one more person joined our group for a total of 6 people in our group cruising and touring (Monday-Friday). The 6th person had booked through Insight Tours, and they stayed at a different hotel in Cairo and stayed an additional day in Aswan at the end of the river cruise.

We flew into Cairo a day early (arriving December 14th) to recover from the 21 hour (gate to gate) trip from the US. We stayed at the Four Seasons Cairo at Nile Plaza...WOW! We were told it is the newest hotel in Cairo, and it was beautiful. No complaints about this hotel!
We visited the Egyptian Museum on Dec. 16th, the day after the first constitutional referendum vote. The Egyptian Museum is located next to Tahrir Square, and we did not see any protestors. Our Egyptologist/tour guide said people could gather later in the day so we switched our itinerary to go to the museum in the morning and Giza in the afternoon. When we got to Tahrir Square we saw a few tents, but no people...that was it.

Spring Tours operates the Uniworld Trip in Egypt, and I only have high praise for the service we received. (FYI...our transportation had Uniworld and Insight Tours on the side of the vans.) We had 2 guides / Egyptologists--Mohammed in Cairo, and Ramadan was our guide for 5 days in Upper Egypt. Both commented on the extremely low tourist numbers, especially considering it was the beginning of the high season. Mohammed said at the Egyptian Museum, you would typically purchase a ticket to enter at a specific time (or queue), but we just walked right in. At Giza, 4 of us went into the open pyramid (Khafre's), and we were the only people inside. While this was good for us, we could not help but feel sorry for the many people who have been affected by the drop in tourists.

On December 17th, we flew to Luxor and were met by our 2nd Egyptologist guide, Ramadan. He was a wonderful guide--extremely knowledgeable and attentive. We went straight to the Valley of the Kings, and the largest tourist group there was school children. We stopped at Hatshepsut's temple and the Colossi of Memnon before we arrived at the Sonesta St. George I, we were surprised to see that there were only about 18-20 passengers (including our group of 6). This included 3 young children! It made you wonder how they could afford to run the boat, but our guide said they needed to operate to show people it is safe and encourage others to visit. Low passenger numbers appeared to be the norm on other riverboats we saw on the Nile.

Of course we were on a completely guided, chaperoned tour, but everyone we encountered was very friendly and welcoming. We never felt unsafe. We never saw anything that resembled the constant media that plays in the US, i.e. protesting crowds, rioters, etc. 20 million people live around Cairo! Our family was a group of 4 women, and we would not have ventured out in Cairo alone especially at night. This is just common sense, and I think that is all that is needed when visiting Egypt (especially Cairo). Upper Egypt (southern Egypt) is much more laid back and rural, and it's also more conservative. But everywhere in Egypt the citizens are anxious to get their government and economy on track. They welcome you, thank you for visiting, and encourage you to tell people about your trip.

We were disappointed not to get to sail on Uniworld's River Tosca, but the Sonesta St. George I was a lovely boat. Their staff was top notch, the service was excellent, and the food was good. As you can imagine, we received royal treatment since there were only 18-20 passengers! Except for a different riverboat, everything else was as advertised for the Uniworld Classic Egypt & the Nile--all the transfers, tours, etc. Our treatment was first class and top notch all the way.

If you want more details about this trip, just let me know. I got great photos since the tourist numbers were so low! Two last things I will mention...

First...The one negative is the constant annoyance (or harassment) by the touts or vendors selling their souvenirs. This was at every temple and tourist stop (except Dendara, which seemed to be more remote or maybe it was too early!). We started joking about it...bracing ourselves for the "onslaught" going into and out of all the sites. They are not allowed inside the sites (tickets are required). I couldn't help but feel sorry for the people who are desperate to sell their wares. Someone said tourism is down 90 percent. I bought some things--some I wanted and a few I did not. All in all, this alone is a very minor inconvenience and one I would endure again to visit Egypt!

Second...We took the optional tour to Abu Simbel, and I would HIGHLY recommend it! Words cannot express the magnificence of this site! The temples of Ramses II and Nerfertari were fabulous and the fact they were moved to be protected from the flooding created by the building of the Aswan High Dam is incredible.

I encourage anyone considering a trip to Egypt to go! Just do your own research and don't listen to the naysayers who only watch US television news for their information. Trip Advisor forums were a great help and right on the mark with regard to the current situation in Cairo.
I lived in the Middle East for five years and am a student of Middle East History and culture. I loved going to Egypt some years ago. Even then there were risks associated with going to Egypt.

I would not encourage going to Egypt considering that the Muslim Brotherhood has taken over the government. Many terrorists were released from prison when Mubarak was removed from office. The Salafists, extreme radical Islamists are the second largest party after the MD in Egypt and their agenda parallels al Qaeda.

You made it through without a hitch and others will as well, but the risks are significant. It is not quite Pakistan or Yemen, but it could be in a heartbeat.

I would love to take my DW to Egypt, but will not take that risk.
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  #10  
Old January 21st, 2013, 11:57 AM
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Ktwofish Ktwofish is offline
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4774Papa, I respect your opinion and appreciate your concerns about Egypt. You obviously have personally experience and knowledge of the Egyptian culture. I definitely had reservations about our trip. After much research and communication with people who recently visited or who currently live there, I decided that traveling to Egypt was safe but required cautious common sense. I decided not visiting Egypt would be like people canceling their trips to the US because they are afraid due to conservative Republicans not favoring gun control

That said, I would not have gone to Egypt if I hadn't been on a completely chaperoned tour since we were 4 women traveling alone. This was especially true in Cairo. The Uniworld / Spring Tours representatives were professional, knowledgeable, and accommodating. The Egyptians we met were all courteous and welcoming. I never felt unsafe on this structured tour. I still say, Go to Egypt and enjoy!
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Old March 9th, 2013, 03:50 PM
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Ktwofish, we've booked a cruise on the Sonesta St George I for this May and we've got a fairly trivial question for you... Do you remember how many outlets were in the cabin and what type of plugs they took?

Thank you very much for your review, it's nice to read a very recent one!
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  #12  
Old March 9th, 2013, 06:10 PM
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There seemed to be plenty of plugs. We were in a suite, though. You will need an adapter for European style plugs.
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  #13  
Old March 9th, 2013, 07:19 PM
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Thank you for posting your review.

We have canceled trips to Egypt three times now. The latest was a "free" land package in Egypt as a Pre-cruise excursion on Regent Seven Seas leaving from Safaga. My husband only agreed to take the trip if I would forego the land package and just start the trip with the cruise. I agreed as I felt traveling around in Egypt was just not a wise thing to do. We flew into Cairo and stayed at a lovely hotel where my husband overcame some of his fears as we enjoyed 5-star service and fabulous restaurants and an amazing belly dancer. After we boarded the ship and heard about the experiences of the group that did do the land package, we realized that while there are serious problems, not all of them are affecting tourism at the ancient sites right now.

There is no doubt that Egypt is in trouble and that tourists need to be cautious but some of our fears are unfounded. We have since booked a river cruise with Viking and trust that Viking will take care of making decisions about whether we should go certain places or not. If the entire area is too hot to handle, they will cancel. If certain areas in certain cities are in an uproar, they will not take us there. At this point I am so hopeful that we will be able to see the museum in Cairo but I believe this may be asking too much. I will be extremely happy just to land safely in Cairo, stay away from major cities and just see the pyramids and ancient historical sites which have, so far, remained open. Part of my decision to go is BECAUSE of the ongoing troubles. I'm concerned that Egypt could become so dangerous that I will lose the opportunity to ever go. So, I'm hoping and praying things settle down (for them and for the rest of the world) and leaving it to Viking to decide. If they don't cancel, I won't.
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Old March 10th, 2013, 04:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ktwofish View Post
There seemed to be plenty of plugs. We were in a suite, though. You will need an adapter for European style plugs.
Thank you, this helps, since we know which adapters to take!
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Old March 12th, 2013, 11:38 PM
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What wonderful pictures! We had to cancel when the riots first broke out. It was my dream trip....and still going to get there one day and it is still at the top of my bucket list. Thanks for taking me there.
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Old June 3rd, 2013, 04:34 PM
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I am thinking of the same trip. Thank you for taking the time to post.
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Old June 19th, 2013, 06:50 PM
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[quote=NYLady;37466600]

"We flew into Cairo and stayed at a lovely hotel where my husband overcame some of his fears as we enjoyed 5-star service and fabulous restaurants and an amazing belly dancer."

Hi NYLady,
In Cairo... Can you recommend restaurants, hotel, and where did you see the amazing belly dancer!
We are going on the "Pathways to the Pharaohs" with Viking River Cruises on November 5th 2013. We will have two nights in Cairo before we connect with Viking. I believe you may be on a similar cruise later that month.
A roll call has been started by Jacqueline to gather all cruisers of the Nile during the fall of 2013 season.
I hope you will join us there
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Old June 19th, 2013, 07:05 PM
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Thank you Ktwofish for your review, great to read a more recent account of this truly special country. I have recorded everything I can find on Egypt so I will have some understanding of this iconic place
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