We (couple) saw one of many (same or similar) adverts around. The offer of a week on the Red Sea coast in Hurgada in a hotel on All Inclusive basis, followed by a week cruising down the River Nile on a full board basis.
We made that call and soon discovered that the price was based on flights from London via Istanbul (not very practical from the North of England but we have travelled via Istanbul before).
The call was something on the lines of “I have a great option for you. You can fly direct from Manchester for only ££££. I spoke to my wife and she said “Istanbul is OK, we can go that way, it’s only a couple of hours more”.
I think I detected a bit of panic in the London number call centre where everyone had an English name….. but I think it’s safe to say it wasn’t London.
The call centre worker quickly dropped the price of the direct flights AND upgraded the Nile cabin to an upper cabin. (I don’t think they had an Istanbul flight)
Now, to be fair my lovely wife was feeling a bit unsure about this but for now we stuck with it.
The call centre staff then asked if we would like a sea view for an extra £40 per couple for the hotel stay. This we went with as he said there are rooms that look over the street.
We also added some trips to see temples.
The transfers were included to and from the airport, the hotel to the ship and back.
We had a little think and decided we would go with it. The price had increased somewhat but was still sounding like a great little adventure.
The booking did have to be corrected a couple of times but these were obviously typing errors as our coach was going to take us from Hurgada to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) not LUXor…which did give us a giggle.
The weeks pased and our holday arrived.
Arriving at Hurgada Airport we were called by a driver and taken to the Hotel. All very smooth.
The hotel, rated as a 4 star was very nice. The room could have done with a little spruce up in the bathroom (grouting) but nothing worth worrying about.
We opened our balcony door and looked out towards the opposite side of the hotel. We had a swimming pool below, but no sea?
I was reminded of a Fawlty Towers episode where a lady had asked for a sea view. It was there, in the far distance and as Basil Fawlty put it….something like “It’s over there, between the land and the sea, What do you expect to see, herds of Wilderbeast?”
The hotel was built in an ‘n’ shape. It turned out that when I went to reception to ask for a sea view, ALL the rooms have a ‘side sea view’. They couldn’t really offer me any better apart from moving a little down towards the sea, but that wouldn’t make much difference. We did move though.
The hotel was fine, the food was perfectly acceptable and there were a few particularly good meals. We couldn’t complain. The hotel emphasised that all salads were washed in mineral water. Bottled water in the room for use in the kettle and large water dispensers were around to fill up for free.
We booked a couple of excursions, one in a partial submarine which stops near a coral reef. Quite amazing really and you don’t get your feet wet. Another was snorkling which included a visit to Orange Bay. A beautiful beach with very shallow water. A sun bathers paradise I suppose but we don’t really sunbathe.
The snorkling itself was quite amazing. I went out with a vest on and just lay there watching the undersea world go by. My wife, a strong swimmer didn’t take the vest option and did actually have a bit of a panic at one point as the sea wasn’t a mill pond. She wishes she had taken the vest.
I think everyone noticed that the coral was suffering and in a conversation with a diver (who was aparently one of the divers on the Mary Rose project) she said that Sharm El Sheikh coral is in a much better condition.
But, it was an experience worth having.
Now then, outside of the hotel was something else. We love to walk and Hurgada just isn’t anything special. Its a twenty odd mile strip up the coast with desert beyond. Many hotels have ownership of the beach so it takes away the simplicity of a stroll along the beach. The streets are often just an Egyptian version of a housing estate. We wouldn’t be walking anywhere much.
Next was our transfer to the ship. Again it all went well (This is many hours by the way!)
The ship (which is also claimed to be 4 star, it isn’t). It was tired and certainly the bathrooms needed some love. The TV didn’t work (in any language) but we were not really bothered about a TV. The bed was firm but comfy and they did put a lot of effort in with what they had to work with. We had a sliding ‘patio’ door from which we could watch the Nile pass by.
The Journey up the Nile alone is worth it if you want to chill out and read Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie (I did).
But we were going to be busy. We had booked the ‘Full Excursion’ package when we booked the holiday.
Strangly, the ‘Full Excursion Package’ (the clue is in the name) had optional add on excursions!
In the course of a few days we would be visiting Karnak Temple, Luxor temple, The Valley of The Kings, the Colossi of Memmon, Edfu Temple, Temple of Horus, Kom Ombo, Aswan Dam, Temple of Isis, Unfinished Obelisk. We did add on a trip to Abu Simbel (many hours on a coach). We also went on a traditional boat to a Nubian village with a trip to the botanical gardens. We actually went past the Old Cataract Hotel where Agatha Christie is said to have been inspired to write Death on the Nile.
We both agree that these were what we really came for. The historical sites are something to behold. They are amazing.
It isn’t Egypt’s fault that we don’t sun bathe and that we like to walk and discover the history of where we are (Hurgada has no history, it’s 50 years old). It IS Egypts fault that there is litter everywhere, It is Egypts fault that there seems to be unfinished building, pavements etc everywhere. It is Egypt’s fault that you are hassled pretty much anywhere where there are shops. It is most definitely Egypt’s fault that Edfu has hundreds of horse and carriage which are in a terrible condition and the horses are so very badly treated (open sores, ribs showing, whipping), one of our group’s carriage’s overtrurned when the horse hit a car. Someone witnessed a cat run over. It was one of the saddest days I have experienced for years. The horse and carriage ride was not even in the offical description of the excursion.
The agency ‘Hvezda’ appears to control pretty much everything. Why not increase the excursion price and pay the people more so they can feed their horses. Educate them.
Just one last thing. The tipping culture is everywhere, even a butcher in a supermarket may expect a tip because he has a specific ‘skill’.
This was to cause a lot of bad feelings on the ship. Day one we had a meeting. We were told that to make it easier for us they expected £35 per person for the week in cash. This would cover all the tips on the ship and would include people in the engine room and people in the kitchen. It would also include any tips when out on excursions. On day one we were told it was NOT mandatory but was a practical way of dealing with the tipping culture.
Day two, when out on an excursion we stopped at a cash machine and the guide asked us to go and get the cash for the tips as he would be collecting them. This started a few people questioning the ‘non mandatory’ tips.
Some people paid, some people paid partially, some paid nothing… and others paid individuals who they felt deserved it.
There were some harsh words, The peasants (the customers) were starting to revolt.
We did pay the tip money in the end but it left a bitter taste and tainted the Nile cruise a little.
The bar prices were quite high on the ship and there is virtually nowhere you can buy alcohol. Get it before you go on the transfer to the ship as you won’t get any otherwise.
Well, that’s my story. Would I go to Egypt again? Yes, I think I would like a cruise down the Nile without the excursions. Just chilling and reading with the occasional ‘hop off’ into town. Maybe a flight to Cairo for a weekend to visit the pyramids.
I know I won’t go to the beach again.
I will give it 4 stars because Egypt has it’s amazing historic sites. But if it didn’t have those it would be a different matter.