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Don’t Book a Nile Cruise Until You Read This

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Sometimes the idea of an activity is much better than the reality. Sex on a beach or anywhere near loose and abundant sand falls into this category. And now for me, so does cruising the Nile.


Let me set the stage. There are 280 boats that are licensed to ply the waters between Aswan and Luxor, which isn’t that far of a trip to begin with.


True, there are actual times when you are not right next to another boat or six, but they are few and far between. In fact, when docked, most boats are moored right up next to each other so you must walk through them all to get to yours (yours inevitably being last).


The ship itself is about as romantic as spending three days at your favorite miniature golf course. On the sundecks atop every cruise ship I saw, Astroturf reigns supreme. A mass of deckchairs is lined up to keep the human cattle neatly penned.


And then there is the water hazard. Hazardous because pool temperatures hover at morgue-levels. Even with the sweltering Aswan sun beating down on us fourteen hours a day, I felt as though I was preserving my organs for an open casket viewing rather than refreshing myself whenever I tried to take a dip.


(As a side-rant, what is people’s fascination with temperature extremes? If it’s boiling outside, I don’t need to be cryogenically frozen inside. I simply need it to be comfortably cooler upon entrance.)


The other thing that might surprise you is there is very little actual cruising while on a Nile cruise. Because the distance is small and the cruise operator’s desire to separate you from money is great, they drag the trip out by having you beached on either end overnight in Luxor and Aswan.


That means you are docked with the 279 other stagnant ships along the banks of the Nile, where like a cow on its way to a good stun bolting, touts and hawkers await you at the end of the plank ready to offer felluca rides for 5 Egyptian Pounds (a scam in which they later try to get you for 5 pounds per minute!).


And then there are the cabins. After the wonderful service, food, and architectural delights of the M.S. Eugenie during our Lake Nasser cruise, our Nile cruise basement cabin (think Laverne & Shirley’s apartment before they moved to California) with a window the size of a lunchroom tray just wasn’t measuring up.


Our room was right at Nile level, so the hollow sound of water lapping against our wall when we were docked a foot from the next ship made me feel like we were being held hostage by the Tidy Bowl Man. To their credit, our travel reps tried to do all they could to get us moved up to a room on one of the better floors with the panoramic windows, but ultimately they failed because the ship was filled with two large tour groups. Let’s just say that when in the social strata you rate below Mexican Herbalife conventioneers, there is bitterness.


The worst part is that originally Travel Boyfriend and I had no intention of being a part of this mass hysteria. We’d meant to sail on an intimate 19th century period-styled Dahabiyya for seven days. Unfortunately, TB’s fascination with all things temple left us with the good possibility of too little time in Luxor. I didn’t want the blood of his missing a hieroglyph on my hands, especially since he agreed to travel with me to Siwa later in the trip, so at last minute, we nixed the smaller sailing vessel and opted for the Myrtle Beach Goes to Egypt style of cruising. Here is where you can learn from our mistake.


Of course, if you just want the no-muss, no-fuss way to say you’ve cruised the Nile, then be my guest. At the very least, every member of the staff was delightful and attentive. Even aboard a floating Putt-Putt-O-Rama, Egyptians provide impeccable service.

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