It takes 6 days - from Monday to Saturday - to meander from Luxor to Aswan. You breakfast in the sun at the front of the ship, then decant to see something wonderful, perhaps a visit to a Pharaonic quarry or an enormous temple that spent centuries buried under sand. You can walk in the desert, swim in the river, visit a farm, sunbathe on the poop deck, and if the wind is blowing, great sails will be unfurled and you will glide across the water in serene silence. Rooms below are small but sweet, with super-comfortable beds and screens to defeat mosquitoes. And you’ll spend most of your time up on deck or out on an excursion. As for the crew, they’re as good as their boat, a highlight of your cruise. Unmissable, and award-winning, so don’t balk at the price.
- They have 7 boats, all equally beautiful, with 8-12 cabins each - so the ambiance remains intimate
- Each cruise is hosted, which makes it a far more enriching experience
- No other cruise takes you to such diverse, interesting places - these small dahabiyyas can moor at places large cruise ships can't
- The crew of our boat were quite remarkable, all big hearts and wide smiles
- We loved sitting on our shaded deck, where sofas, cushions and chandeliers offer kingly comforts as you glide down the Nile
- These are true sail boats - not motorized - which adds to the sense of peace and relaxedness
- You are towed by a tug when there’s not enough wind to fill the sails
- The boats travel in convoy, and the cruise operates in house-party style with communal dining, which may not suit everyone
- You get fancy showers, but the pressure isn’t great so we ended up using the hand-held alternative, which was excellent
- We found the food a little repetitive
- Recent reports of patchy WiFi, but surely you're here to disconnect?
Best time to go
The best period is September to May, when it's cooler. You’ll need a jacket for the evenings. June, July and August can be too hot for comfort.
You might want to avoid Ramadan, when some businesses will close for the whole month. And if you are travelling over holidays – Eid al-Adha, Ras an-Sana – expect the rest of Egypt to be competing for your seat. The dates for these holidays change every year, so check before planning your trip.
Our top tips
- Nile cruise boats (Luxor-Aswan, 6 days)
- 8-12 cabins per boat
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Spa Treatments
- Beach Nearby
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
Nour el Nil has 7 boats, with between 8 and 12 cabins each. The smallest and cheapest are Assouan and El Nil, at 37-45m long; the two flagships are Adelaide and Agatha, at 51-57m long. The newest and largest of all is Roman, a 59m dahabiya run entirely on solar power. All are stylish and intimate in ambiance, so don't worry too much, just ask which boat(s) are available on your chosen dates.
You may be offered a choice of cabin: Luxury (which has side facing windows) or Panoramic (a larger corner or rear-facing room, with bigger windows plus a chandelier). Both are lovely, and those on the port side get the morning light. The windows in our Panoramic Suite opened in such as way to allow you to sit over the stern of the boat. Two boats also offer Standard cabins which we felt were rather small (not much room around the bed), and probably not worth the saving. But don't worry too much, as in any case you'll spend much of your time on deck or off-boat.
All rooms come in the same clean, chic style: panelled walls painted white, windows giving watery views, comfy beds dressed in crisp white linen, shiny wooden floors. Colour comes from scatter cushions, while ensuite showers do the trick. There's good storage, with drawers below the beds and separate cupboards, too. Windows are also rather clever and slide out of the wall in various forms that can be used in any combination: French shutters; mosquito shutters, old-fashioned glass.
Breakfast is served informally at the front of the boat. You loll about on sofas while kind staff bring plate after plate. You can have omelettes or boiled eggs (occasionally a hard-boiled egg!), there are countless plates of pancakes, then honey to pour upon them. If you want, you can have a plate of delicious tomatoes, or a basket of bread or toast. There’s mango juice, tea and coffee, then more pancakes…
Lunch and dinner are served at the table in the middle of the shaded deck. You eat on Limoges china. The food is relatively straightforward: the freshest salads, chicken or fish, aromatic rice, a plate of fruit to finish. Dinner is a little more substantial, perhaps asparagus soup to start, more fantastic salads, meatballs or moussaka followed by mango sorbet or coconut cake. It’s fresh and healthy, and you can wash it all down with a bottle of beer or a glass of Egyptian wine (BYO). If the weather is cold (and at night in winter it often is), you drop down below and eat in a country-house sitting room.
- All meals included
- On the first morning you are driven down to Esna to board the boat. You walk through the town, visiting its market and temple before jumping on board for lunch
- For the rest of the trip, you potter along the river, then decant when something interesting appears. Not all these diversions are mainstream activities. One night you’ll stop for tea with a family of farmers on the banks of the Nile, smoke a sheesha pipe, compare mobile phone ringtones, talk about everyday life. It’s a great way to connect with ordinary people
- You’ll visit a farm, swim in the Nile, drop into the Temple of Horus at Edfu. The temple, almost perfectly preserved, is one of the finest sights you’ll see in Egypt
- One morning you’ll walk through a Pharaonic quarry, one afternoon you’ll head into the desert and try your hand at riding a donkey
- After dinner one evening the crew will sing for you. Our Nubian chef knew how to belt out a mournful tune, and for many on board this was a highlight of a fantastic cruise
- Other things you will find yourself doing: sunbathing on the poop deck; playing chess with a member of the crew (and losing); lying down a lot; watching the river pass; falling asleep; watching unlucky tourists pass on a miserable boat hotel
- There are binoculars on board, very handy in the early morning when a small army of birds drops down to the river for breakfast
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Private guided tours
- Shopping / markets
Children are welcome, and of all the Nile cruises it's probably the best option, especially for older children who enjoy history. Crew and guides are brilliant with kids, and can arrange fishing, safe swimming stops (with life rings) and on-board games. There are no family cabins, only double/twins. Ideally take the whole boat; if not, ask whether other families are booked on your planned departure. Be aware that kids are charged as adults and there are no extra beds or baby cots available.
The boats set sail from Esna, near Luxor. You are picked up from your hotel in Luxor at about 9.30am on the morning your cruise sets sail (always a Monday). Then, you’re driven down to Esna, where the boat is waiting to depart.
Luxor and Aswan Airports are equidistant. Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving these airports.
From the Airport
The hotel offers a transfer service (extra cost) or you can jump in a taxi. Agree a rate before you get in though.
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