River cruise: Return of the Nile

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Numbers dropped off after political unrest in Egypt, but with travel to the region deemed safe, more lines are adding Nile itineraries, says Katherine Lawrey


Following the Arab Spring in 2011, and the ensuing unrest in Egypt, the Nile cruise business almost ceased to exist. By 2016 just 3,600 Brits took a cruise in the country, down 95 per cent from 58,000 in 2010.

However, the Nile now appears to be on its way back. There is currently no Foreign Office advice against travel to Cairo and the tourist areas – including Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel and the Valley of the Kings – are also considered safe.

Orbital Travel’s managing director John McCallum reports that the Nile river cruise specialist started to see a turnaround at the end of 2016. From April 2017 to March 2018, passenger numbers and turnover have increased by 50 per cent. “The level of activity between January and the first week of March was the highest since the downfall of President Mubarak in 2011,” he said.

Viking River Cruises will begin Nile river cruises this year, investing in its own vessel for the first time. A newly renovated all-suite ship, the Viking Ra, is sailing an eight-day round-trip cruise on the Nile as part of Viking’s 12-day Pharaohs & Pyramids cruise tour that begins in Cairo.

Riviera Travel now has two Nile itineraries – including the 11-day Wonders of the Nile (from Cairo to Luxor) which can also be extended from Cairo to Aswan for 15 days.

The Nile also makes its debut appearance in a Scenic brochure – the luxury river and escorted tour operator has introduced an 11-day tour, which has a four-night charter on the 36-guest Sanctuary Sun Boat III from Luxor to Aswan.

With Uniworld, Sanctuary Retreats, Orbital Travel, Red Sea Holidays and Discover Egypt all having kept faith with the region, there’s every reason to feel optimistic for the Nile. Discover Egypt has held most
of its prices for 2018 and 2019 at 2017 levels, with seven-night cruises starting from £898,
with excursions included.

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