Steam Ship Sudan

Luxor & The Nile, Egypt Book from Book from £667 per night

Follow in the footsteps of kings and movie stars and cruise the Nile on this graceful old boat, one of the first tourist ships to work the river
The SS Sudan was built in 1885, a gift for King Fouad, whose official title was King of All Egypt and Sudan, hence its name. It was subsequently bought by Thomas Cook and became one of the first boats to carry tourists down the eternal river. Agatha Christie came aboard in the 1930s and her famous novel Death on The Nile followed shortly after. The boat features briefly in both versions of the film.

On board La Belle Epoque lives on and the ship’s stately credentials are easy to see: panelled bedrooms, a sweeping oak staircase, a teak sundeck from which to watch the world pass by. There’s a piano in the bar, great views from the restaurant, sun loungers at the top of the boat for those who want to bask in Egypt’s ever-present sun. Rooms aren’t huge, but nor are they cramped and most have fine brass beds, country-house rugs, old-style telephones hanging on the wall, beautiful eiderdowns in bubblegum colours. All have robes in compact bathrooms, while panoramic suites at the stern of the ship have walls of glass. The boat stops regularly at all the interesting sights. A classic journey and a real treat.

Highs

  • We liked the way the company has updated the SS Sudan, but kept its distinguished original features - including the old steamship mechanisms displayed on the lower deck.
  • They have an excellent crew, who sparkle in smart uniforms and all speak English or French
  • You cover all the major sites of the Nile valley - Valley of the Kings, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Philae - on morning excursions organised and accompanied by their own English- or French-speaking guides
  • They also operate La Flaneuse du Nil, a traditional 7-cabin dahabiyya which we did not manage to see but which looks lovely. Its itineraries dovetail with SS Sudan's, one sailing up the Nile as the other sails down
  • This gives you a choice of itineraries (2-6 nights, starting in either Luxor or Aswan) and of departure days. The only thing to bear in mind is that the guide on La Flaneuse is usually French- (not English-) speaking.

Lows

  • The ship does not sail in June, when it stops for its yearly maintenance

Best time to go

The ship does not sail in June, when it stops for its yearly maintenance. Prices in July, August and September are notably lower to encourage people to travel in the summer, when temperatures soar. So a late September cruise is an attractive proposition, as the temperatures are falling, and the price is still discounted.

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

Bring a copy of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile to read on the cruise. She was a passenger on the Sudan in the early 1930s. Two films were made of the novel, and parts of each were filmed on board.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • Steam Ship Cruises
  • 4 boats
  • All-inclusive
  • Over 7s only
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
Room:

Rooms

There are 5 suites and 18 cabins on board the SS Sudan, and all sweep you back to a very graceful past. Much of what you find is original to the boat and the same elegant décor runs throughout the cabins. Expect a lot of wood. You get varnished oak floors and mahogany panelled walls, then a stately brass bed (most doubles, some twins). You won’t find any clutter – simplicity is the virtue here – but that doesn’t mean you are deprived of beautiful things. Some rooms have delightfully upholstered armchairs, all come with colourful rugs, a dressing table, a little Eastern promise. Colour comes from fabrics, which tend to be bright – shimming gold, electric pink – and beautiful throws lie atop your crisp white linen. Old telephones hang on the wall and while excellent bathrooms may be compact, they are also quite lovely with showers above tub baths and robes to pad about in.

The suites are bigger, as you’d expect. They are also more private as the public decks don’t pass outside. They have a slightly different décor, too; 4 have white wood walls that flood the rooms with light. They also have gilded wooden beds, but other than that the same style runs throughout. The 2 panoramic suites at the stern of the ship have walls made of glass, giving magnificent views of the river.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Hairdryer
  • Phone
  • Safe box

Eating

All meals are served in the panelled dining room at the front of the ship, which is pretty much the same today as it was the day it was built. You eat at separate tables. Breakfast is a help-yourself buffet, with a mix of Western and Egyptian dishes. There are trays of patisserie, cheeses and fruits, eggs and tomatoes, toast and jam, falafels and salad.

Lunch is also a buffet with a choice of 6 hot meals, though most will feature chicken and fish with excellent salads, tasty couscous, a plate of fresh vegetables. You might find calamari, grilled chicken, macaroni, shish kebabs, then a plate of cheese or some fruit.

Dinner is more formal and guests often dress up, though this is not obligatory for a moment. Food is served to your table. You might start with vegetable soup or some cold meats, then move on to a plate of salmon served with fresh vegetables and new potatoes, then finish off with a sweet Egyptian pudding. There’ll be fruit, too, and a pot of tea or coffee.

In case that’s not enough, tea and cakes are served in the afternoon, and the captain hosts a cocktail evening on your second night aboard.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Lazing on deck, watching daily life on the Nile

  • Visiting the Temples of Karnak; one of the most important sights in Luxor and the largest religious building on the planet. The Great Hypostyle Hall, where 134 vast columns soar implausibly into the sky, is one of the most staggering things you will see in Egypt. Building here started about 3,200 years ago

  • The Valley of the Kings. Absolutely unmissable. Your ticket in only lets you see 3 tombs, so read up and decide in advance which you want to see (some may not be open the day you visit)

  • The Temple of Horus at Edfu and the eponymous temple of Kom Ombo

  • Aswan and the temple at Philae, which Unesco saved from flooding when the first Aswan Dam was built. Amazingly, they moved it from one island to another, brick for brick

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Private guided tours

Kids

Children over 7 are welcome on either boat, but the boats (Sudan in particular) are not geared up to children and you will need to be vigilant at all times. There are no extra beds.

Kid Friendly:

Location

The trip starts in Luxor or in Aswan, depending on which cruise you are taking. The boat itself does not reach Luxor, but stops (or starts) at Esna, which is nearby. You will be picked up and dropped off at the hotel or airport in Luxor / Aswan; it is very important to send the pre/post cruise details to the operator before setting off (and preferably at the time of the booking). If you are being picked up at a hotel, you will find a note advising the time of pick up (it will be mornings).

By Air:
Fly into Luxor or Aswan; click on the links below for a list of airlines serving these airports.

From the Airport
If you fly in on the morning of your departure, a private transfer or shuttle bus will meet you at the airport and take you to your ship.

More on getting to Egypt and getting around

Airports:

  • Luxor 5.0 km LXR
  • Aswan 23.0 km ASW

Other:

  • Beach 0.0 km
  • Shops 5.0 km
  • Restaurant 5.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 2 independent reviews from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

The Sudan provides quiet and elegant travel, the Orient Express of the Nile, but with so much more. Every detail of trip carefully planned to inspire and ensure comfort. Safely escorted through temples and tombs by intelligent and informative guides. Loved every minute.

10/10,

One of the most atmospheric venues in its own right which, when matched with the iconic Nile, is a total winner. Surely there cannot be a better way to enjoy one of the world's most magical destinations.
The decor, service and food was exceptional.
What a tragedy the troubles in the area have rocked the tourist trade. You feel for all Egyptians trying to make a living from tourism and hospitality.

10/10,

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