Don and Diana, I wish I was going on your trip with you. Paris and Florence sound perfect! I'm glad that you'll have a chance to "do" Portofino too...I promise it won't disappoint, and from what I've heard about Lucca and the Cinque Terre, neither will they.

I agree with you that Alexandria is the port to make sure you do right, but unfortunately I don't know of anybody from our ship who took an independent tour to Cairo. Judging from the number of Costa buses lined up at the port when we docked (somewhere in the range of 30-40 I'd guess), it seemed that the vast majority of passengers were taking the ship's excursions to Cairo.

We generally shy away from the ship's excursions as well simply because we don't necessarily enjoy the "crowd-mentality," but that said, I was pretty happy with the excursion to Cairo. The bus ride went by very quickly because, on the way there, the driver filled us in on Egyptian basics and interesting facts (and also tried to sell us souvenir cartuches), and on the way back we slept pretty soundly. The buses were modern and were equipped with a small toilet. The only very minor gripe I have about the day was that we simply didn't have enough time to absorb the awe of being at the pyramids. The way our excursion was arranged, we stopped in Saqqara first, then Memphis, then lunch, and last, the pyramids. Saqqara (and the Step Pyramid) was well worth stopping for, Memphis not so much. I feel that they should have either cut out this stop, or reduced the length of time we were there to allow us more time in Giza. That said, we chose to take this excursion and there were certainly other combinations (all involving Giza) that we could have opted for. I understand that all of the tours were ultimately crunched for Giza-time though, so perhaps it doesn't matter which one you take. Given the 6 hours on a bus, I guess it's understandable that these tours would have to move quickly.

This was a long way of saying, I definitely think a private tour of Cairo and the pyramids would be best because of the limited time you have there (you don't want to waste a second!), but the ship's excursions were certainly a very good second-best. As long as you get to see the pyramids and the sphinx somehow, that's all that matters! Even two months later, I'm still in awe that I actually made it to Egypt!

I never mind questions, so if you've got any more, ask away!
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RCCL Voyager of the Seas - Western Caribbean (Haiti, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Mexico) 2003
RCCL Sovereign of the Seas - Bahamas (Nassau, Coco Cay) 2004
CostaAtlantica - Eastern Mediterranean (Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus) 2004
NCLA Pride of America - Hawaii 2005
RCCL Radiance of the Seas - Alaska 2006
RCCL Splendour of the Seas - Eastern Mediterranean (Italy, Greece, Croatia) 2008