Philae temple, in an island on Lake Nasser, was moved to higher ground when Aswan dam was built. © GTH & Nathan DePetris

Philae temple, in an island on Lake Nasser, was moved to higher ground when Aswan dam was built. © GTH & Nathan DePetris

Weighing each departure carefully with its customer’s safety always first in mind, Uniworld’s great dame of Nile cruise vessels continues to offer unparalleled itineraries and exceptional experiences of temples and antiquities. It may seem counter-intuitive to visit destinations that recently experienced troubles and political turmoil; in reality, however, one of the best ways we as global citizens and explorers can help destinations recover is by supporting them during difficult times. While every person must assess their own comfort level individually, visiting places like Egypt shortly after their troubled times is also great from a purely self-serving set of tourist reasons: significantly lower prices mean more value, and the sites are uncluttered by the usual throngs.

Uniworld offers three itineraries aboard the River Tosca: a three night, a four night, and a seven night cruise. The “Classic Egypt and Nile” cruise offers four nights aboard the Tosca sailing from Luxor to Aswan, combined with three nights in Cairo. On the “Jewels of Egypt, the Nile and lake Nasser”, three nights aboard the Tosca are paired with four nights cruising lake Nasser and four nights in Cairo. For the ultimate in Nile antiquities exploration, consider seven nights aboard one of the best river vessels in Egypt, paired with four nights in Cairo, sailing from Luxor roundtrip.

Splendors of Egypt & the Nile Itinerary

This thorough program is one of the most in-depth Cairo and Nile tours I’ve ever seen. Combining two cruise segments, but with excursions that don’t replicate any of the sights, “Splendors of Egypt & the Nile” provides the best value for travelers wanting to see as many antiquities as possible. Highlights include visits to thirteen pyramids, nine temples, five ports, Giza, the Valley of the Kings, colossal statues and monuments, museums, and a handful of UNESCO world heritage sights.

Starting in Cairo, a visit to the unrivaled Egyptian Museum sets the tone and background of the kaleidoscope of sights to come; also included is a visit to the Salah-al-Din citadel with its Alabaster Mosque and breathtaking views of the city.

Next, fly to Luxor and visit one of the most amazing archeological complexes anywhere, the temple of Karnak, before boarding the ship and sailing to Dendera. Karnak was built over a millennia and a half with succeeding expansions and contributions by rulers including, ultimately, Alexander the Great. The temple of the cow goddess Hathor in Dendera is very well preserved, unique in the amount of color pigment remaining, and sports a fully intact ceiling. Guests visit the temple of Luxor at dusk to see the sun dance among the columns.

At dusk, the sun dances amongst the columns of Luxor temple. © GTH & Nathan DePetris

At dusk, the sun dances amongst the columns of Luxor temple. © GTH & Nathan DePetris

The twin colossi of Memnon stand testament to monolithic building by the ancient Egyptians. Perhaps the most amazing monument is that of queen Hetshepsut. The unique architecture of the temple mirrors the layout of a modern three-story office complex; it has undergone major restorations, with additional statuary added and more floors opened to the public. Nearby, the Valley of the Kings is the site of many famous tombs, including King Tutankhamun.

Before visiting Aswan, Tosca stops in Kom Ombo, where thousands of crocodile mummies were discovered at a temple shared by two rivals: Sobek the crocodile headed god, and Horus the falcon headed god. Afterwards, Aswan’s twin dams showcase modern engineering prowess.

One morning, a boat ride to see the wildlife stirring along the Nile deposits guests at a Nubian village for an authentic home visit. Nothing compares to riding the single-sail felucca in Aswan later that day, where the wind powers the vessel gently forward. At sunset, high tea is served at the Movenpick, a landmark in Aswan commanding panoramic views. Guests also have an irresistible option to visit Abu Simbel, a wonder in its own right.

Back through Kom Ombo and Edfu, this time stopping at the temple of Horus, the second largest temple in Egypt at almost 120 feet high. Flying back to Cairo, you will see the nighttime Sound and Light show at the pyramids. The following morning, visit Giza to gaze upon the Sphinx, the nine pyramids and valley temples. Included is a visit inside one of the pyramids, through amazing galleries and chambers. That afternoon, the tour visits Memphis and Sakkara to see the colossal statue of Ramsess II, and the step pyramid and bent pyramid.

Shipboard Amenities

When Uniworld reintroduced the River Tosca in 2010, it raised the bar for luxury Nile cruising. Onboard, the experience is superlative with ample guest space, well decorated interiors, and a truly inviting top deck. Uniworld, moreover, excels at delivering unrivaled value in the depth and breadth of its itineraries featuring a wealth of antiquities, temples, and excursions included in the product. It’s important to note that, unlike other rivers in the world, there is not much cruising since the distances travelled are very short. Come with the right expectations, that you will be experiencing a once in a lifetime journey through an ancient civilization, and you will thoroughly enjoy this rich program as I did.

Throughout the journey, onboard entertainment features include traditional music, a Nubian show, belly dancers, and a colorful whirling dervish. Two traditional galabeya parties allow guests to show off their Egyptian garb. Cabins aboard the Tosca are very roomy and elegantly decorated in tasteful neutral tones that intentionally omit the oriental kitsch often inflicted on unsuspecting tourists and resulting in sensory overload. The bathroom, often only barely a water closet on most river vessels, felt large and spacious with ample storage and counter space. Local botanical toiletries made from 100% organic hypo-allergenic natural products add a nice touch.

(c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

(c) GTH & Nathan DePetris

Food onboard was also of the highest caliber and skillfully blended eastern and western cuisines to create a pan continental smorgasbord sure to please even the most discerning pallets. Breakfast and lunch paired healthy and hearty choices as you’d expect at any international four or five star resort with local delicacies. Dinner was always a multi-course formal affair, and featured French, Italian, or continental cuisine as well as ‘oriental’ or mid-east delicacies. You always had many good options to choose from. Egyptian fare was always available, often in the savory and sweet deserts or healthy salads, mezze, and exotic main courses.

Ship Stats: 

  • Built: 2009 / Refurbished: 2010
  •   Length: 236 feet • Passengers: 82
  • Cabins: 41 (All categories)
  • French Balcony Suites: 39, (335 square feet), category 1,2,3 & 4
  •  Presidential Suites: 2, (651 square feet)

If You Go:

Significant portions of this article’s underlying trip were hosted by Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection. My opinions, however, are my own, and I have not been paid to express any bias for or against any place or product.