Luxor to Aswan on the Nile

Feluccas at Aswan, Egypt

AS I boarded Discover Egypt’s Viking III for a seven-night cruise from Luxor to Aswan and back again, taking in the highlights of Pharonic Egypt along the way, Death on the Nile was the last thing on my mind.

Some romance wouldn’t have gone amiss though. I had my eye on a certain lady on board, Clarissa – the very image of an English rose – to whom I had got talking at the informative welcome meeting.

This is one of several benefits of a Nile cruise: single travellers won’t feel out of place. My fellow passengers were a diverse bunch so there was always someone to talk to, and the frequent excursions provided plenty of opportunity to bond over highbrow high jinks.

After our first night on board we were up at the crack of dawn for a trip out to the fabled Valley of the Kings. A historical tour is only as good as the guides make it and Destination Egypt’s were superb.

Ayman, a true scholar with a gift for storytelling wonderfully evoked the splendours of ancient Egypt in language that we could all understand. He also captured the hearts of many of the female passengers of a certain age who, unsurprisingly, gravitated en masse towards his group.

Sherry, an equally knowledgeable guide with an exotic Egyptian/Sicilian heritage, proved to be a big hit with the men.
After the fascinating tour of the tombs, we set sail for Edfu. The lush green fields that fringe the Nile contrast spectacularly with the seemingly never-ending desert.

During the three-day journey upriver, we observed a way of life that has hardly changed in centuries. We lounged about on the sundeck, taking frequent dips in the pool, stopping off en route for excursions to all the major temple complexes including the Temple of Khnum at Esna, the Temple of Horus at Edfu and the Temple of Kom Ombo.

The ship docks for two nights at Aswan, a laid-back town nestling on a scenic bend in the Nile. It’s a welcome relief from the frenetic intensity of Luxor and Cairo. If you care to downsize boats, this is the ideal spot for a ride on a felucca, the traditional one-masted vessels that have plied these waters for centuries.

We visited the romantic island of Philae to visit the majestic Isis temple complex and took cocktails at the swanky Old Cataract Hotel, reputedly one of Agatha Christie’s favourites. It was here that Poirot and the ill-fated Death on the Nile cast assembled for their murderous journey.

From Aswan, some guests took advantage of the optional excursion to one of Egypt’s greatest treasures, the two temples built by Ramses II at Abu Simbel. The day-excursion can be made by either aircraft or coach.

Viking III retraces its route down the Nile, stopping off at the remaining major sites before arriving back at Luxor.

In The Illiad, Homer described Royal Thebes as an “Egyptian treasure-house of countless wealth, who boasts her hundred gates”. Lacking Homer’s poetic style, Discover Egypt’s brochure describes it as ‘the world’s largest outdoor museum’, but it sums up Luxor perfectly.

The Great Temple of Karnak is up there with Angkor Wat and the Taj Mahal and one cannot help but be overawed by its grandeur.

It was here in Death on the Nile that Lois Chiles was nearly killed by a plummeting lump of pharonic rock from one of the towering colonnades. I vowed to watch over Clarissa and save her from a similar fate, winning her heart in the process, but no such opportunities arose.

Many guests returned that evening for the optional sound-and-light show, a Hollywood-style extravaganza complete with the voices of Charlton Heston and Susan Hampshire booming over the temple complex.

On our final evening on the boat, we were treated to a stonking performance from a local belly dancer, while Clarissa’s heart was sneakily stolen by some beastly cad from the shires. In my mind I still believe she holds a candle for me, but as they say denial isn’t a river in Egypt.

Sample product

Gold Medal Travel offers three nights’ full board on the five-star Nile Adventurer from £339 per person twin-share in October, including excursions but not airport transfers. This can be sold as a bolt-on to other Egyptian holidays such as Red Sea Riviera beach holidays.

Abercrombie and Kent offers 11 nights with seven nights’ full-board accommodation on the five-star Sunboat III and four-nights’ bed and breakfast at the five-star Four Seasons in Cairo from £2,279 twin-share in September, including return flights on British Airways, transfers and all excursions.

Ship check

Destination Egypt's Viking IIIDestination Egypt's Viking III: Pool

Pre-boarding: We flew to Luxor and were transferred to the ship form the airport. The price includes flights, transfers and excursions.
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Life on board: Most of the excursions take place early morning and late afternoon (particularly in the summer). Most of the cruising takes place between those times.
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Sleep tight? All 35 cabins are Nile-facing and come equipped with TV, fridge, air conditioning and a safe. They are small but well designed.
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Food and drink: Meals are served buffet-style and I was impressed with the quality and choice. There is a fully stocked bar with reasonable prices.
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Smiley service? The all-Egyptian crew was friendly and efficient. The two guides were absolutely first class.
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Anything else? The main desk has a large sundeck and small pool and the lounge is located on this deck. Above is another sundeck. Most evenings there is a DJ and on a couple of nights there’s full entertainment. This includes an Egyptian night with whirling dervishes and an authentic belly dancing evening. There is a shop on board and two English-language films are screened each day. And one huge bonus: no kids under 12 years old.
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Recommend it? Absolutely. The cruise provides fantastic value for money and a great way to combine cruising with culture.

Sample product: Discover Egypt offers seven nights’ full-board on the four-star Viking III, from £599 per person in September, based on two sharing, including return flights from Gatwick, transfers and full excursion programme.

Total rating: 24/30

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