We embarked the MS Nile Premium at 12 noon and were welcomed by the hotel manager with a welcome drink and our keys.
After quickly locating our cabins, we had a quick buffet lunch and then joined the tour minibus for the short drive to the Temple of Philae for our tour. You first have to embark a small-motorised riverboat that takes you the island where the relocated temple is now situated. It was moved in the 1970's as it would have been lost forever when the Aswan High dam was built and the valley flooded. We arrived in the afternoon and the place was virtually deserted – excellent for photo opportunities and for our guide to clearly explain about the temple dedicated to the mother of all Egyptian gods, Isis.
Our guide gave detailed and interesting history and thorough explanation about the temple whilst he guided us around. After the tour there was plenty of time for walking around and exploring on your own as well as taking photos. There is a small café here and restrooms, and of course a souvenir shop. After we returned to shore it was back on the bus for the short ride to the top of the Aswan High Dam. We had about 10 minutes here to look over Lake Nasser, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, and to marvel at the incredible feat of modern engineering.
After the trip to the dam, we returned to the banks of the Nile for a trip on a Felucca up the Nile at sunset and returned to our river cruise boat. The steps from the felucca to the bank were quite steep and a bit rickety – not recommended for those who are not sure-footed. Back on board MS Nile Premium and it was time for a quick wash and then down to dinner.
At about 6am the ship prepared to dock, and pulling back the curtains on the picture window revealed a wonderful scene of the banks of the river Nile bathed in the warm orange glow of the morning sun. After a leisurely breakfast we arrived at Kom Ombo to visit the temple dedicated to two Gods, Haroeris and Sobek, the crocodile Nile God.
At this location crocodiles used to sunbathe on the banks of the river Nile, however since the dam was built they are no longer found here. There is a Crocodile Museum here but we did not visit it. Kom Ombo is just a short walk from where the ships are docked and in the November sunshine very pleasant. It's a great time of year to visit as the temperatures are bearable and not at all over whelming (unlike in the height of summer) and there are less crowds.
Our guide gave us a thorough and informative talk, and the coloured carvings that remained were particularly impressive. After our visit it was back to the boat for sail away and lunch. Cruising up the Nile at his time of year there was quite a breeze on the top deck which made it very enjoyable to watch the scenery pass by. We arrived at Edfu in the late afternoon and our tour left at 5.15pm. After a short bus ride we arrived at the Temple of Horus, the falcon God, whose battle with his evil uncle, Seth, is told in vivid pictures inscribed on the well-preserved walls.
There was virtually no-one there. The afternoon sun lit the massive monument perfectly with warm golden rays that highlighted the carvings and showed off the reliefs. After our tour we retuned to our boat for the evening meal. We passed through the Esna lock in the early evening, just before the Galibeya party with optional traditional dress and games and dancing in the main lounge.
An early start at 7am saw us driving to the Valley of the Kings, about 20 minutes away after a short boat ride to the other side of the river. The valley stands on the west bank of the Nile, opposite Luxor, and is a collection of over 60 tombs all hand carved into the rock with some extending many feet into the ground.
This area was fascinating, but no photo were allowed to be taken inside. The preservation of the colours of the hieroglyphics in the tombs was amazing and still as bright and vivid as the day they were painted, some 4000 years ago.
We visited 3 tombs and the queues were not too bad, about 10 minutes for each. The last one was very steep with large steps and was very warm and stuffy inside, however well worth it for the engravings and paintings seen inside. You could also visit Tutankhamen's tomb for additional cost.
After the Valley of the Kings we were transported to see the Temple of Hatshepsut – a magnificent temple carved out the rock face that looks over the valley and faces the Temple of Karnak far in the distance. The Temple of Hatshepsut is the final resting place of the only female Pharaoh, who had to disguise herself as a man to be accepted.
After this visit we drove to the Collossi of Memnon, which are two gigantic statues which are all that remains of the temple of Amenophis III. Just a short stop here for photos, then back to the ship for lunch and a bit of a rest. After lunch we visited the Temple of Karnak, which is the largest of the Nile temples and is its most impressive, comprising three separate temple enclosures and a sacred lake.
This is the largest ancient religious site in the world, dating back to 2000 BC and takes its name from the village of Al-Karnak. The three distinct temples are the Precinct of Amun-Re, the largest, which is dedicated to the god Amon, the Precinct of Montu and the Precinct of Mut, which is now a dismantled building. The famous Notre Dam cathedral in Paris is based on the layout of his temple, but nowhere near as big of course. Plenty of time here for exploring this vast area, then it was back on the bus for the short ride to Temple of Luxor.
Dating from the time of Amenhotep and Ramses II, The Temple of Luxor is dedicated to the god Amon Ra and his wife Mut. You enter it from an entrance facing north, at the point where at one time it would have been connected to the Karnak Temples via a causeway.
The causeway is currently under excavation and renovation, and once completed with it's Sphinx's lining both sides, will be one of Luxor's major attractions. As we arrived the light was fading and it was great to see the temple lit up with the floodlights, highlighting the hieroglyphics and the two remaining 25-metre high obelisks. A third obelisk is on display at the Place de la Concorde in Paris. After our tour and free time to explore, it was back to the ship for our final night on board.
The MS Nile Premium is rated in the brochure as 5 Star Deluxe however I would rate it as a good 4 star. The cabins are furnished in dark woods and creams (like the rest of the boat) and are a good size. The beds are comfy and the AC is particularly good which is great for when you come back from an excursion.
The sink is in the main room rather than being in the bathroom which is unusual. The room had a flat screen TV, plenty of wardrobe and drawer space, wall safe and large picture window that cao pen. The bathroom consists of a toilet and bath with shower over it. The water pressure was excellent and provided a nice refreshing shower.
The lighting is quite low in the rooms and bathroom. The public rooms were spacious and decorated in a contemporary style, with dark woods and the same brown/cream palette displayed in the cabins used here again. The main lounge has a nice bar at one end and a small dance floor at the other – used for the Galibeya parties, belly dancing shows and the Nubian show.
At the end of this lounge was an open area looking over the stern, ideal for a drink or to watch the world go by. On the top deck there is a pool with wooden loungers covered in thick cushions covering them. Towels are provided for people that want to use the pool or sunbathe. The deck covering in this area is green astro-turf and needed refreshing as it was looking a bit tired.
Also on this deck is the pool bar and a covered area with tables and chairs underneath, again with nice wooden deck furniture with comfy cushions. The dining room was laid out with dark wood tables, with red napkins and looked stylish and sophisticated. Breakfast and lunch is a buffet style with a la carte served on most evenings.
The ship was very nice and the front desk staff pleasant and helpful, with a good level of English spoken. The dining room waiters did not seem that fluent in English, and there were a few problems, but none that could not be overcome.
Bar service in the main lounge could be improved also. Overall this is a comfortable ship to visit the Nile and Egypt on, with well-designed rooms and a modern design, with good food. Your fellow guests will be Spanish, Italian, German, Japanese and British, which makes for an international ambiance onboard.