Finding the best Nile River Cruises for your tastes—a bucket list adventure with many appeals—depends on your interests, your calendar, and your pocketbook.
These cruises offer a unique chance to trace the legendary river’s rich history and witness ancient civilizations’ pyramids, temples, and other marvels.
A new launch from Viking
This week, Viking announced the naming of its newest vessel, Viking Aton.
Specifically built to navigate the Nile, it is the identical sister ship of Viking Ostris, launched in September 2022.
These intimate, state-of-the-art river vessels hold 82 guests in 41 staterooms. The public spaces and four categories of staterooms share the same elegant Scandinavian decor and design found across the line’s growing fleet of ocean and river ships.
Both river ships sail the cruise line’s popular Pharaohs & Pyramids itinerary.
The Nile itinerary
Prior to setting sail, guests on Viking Aton spend three nights at a first-class hotel in Cairo. From that base, they get to tour the Great Pyramids of Giza, the necropolis of Saqqara (home to the oldest pyramid in Egypt), and the Ottoman-style Mosque of Muhammad Ali.
The group then flies to Luxor to visit the Temples of Luxor and Karnak before boarding the river ship for their 8-day roundtrip cruise on the Nile.
While sailing on Viking Aton, guests will visit the tomb of Nefertari in the Valley of the Queens and the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings.
Other guided excursions during the voyage include visits to the High Dam in Aswan, which controls the flow of the Nile, and to a Nubian village to visit a traditional elementary school.
Guests then fly back to Cairo for their final night in the city, ending their 12-day journey.
Growing demand for the best Nile River cruises
“With the extraordinarily strong interest in Egypt among our guests, we are proud to bring another state-of-the-art vessel to this region, and we look forward to introducing even more curious travelers to the country’s rich cultural treasures,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking, at the naming ceremony in Aswan, Egypt.
Viking’s architect and designer for the last decade, Richard Riveire, principal of Rottet Studio, was named godfather of Viking Aton.
Viking plans to have six ships sailing the Nile by 2025. Viking Ra and MS Antares currently sail the Nile and Viking Harthor and Viking Sobek are under construction with anticipated delivery dates in 2024 and 2025, respectively.
Other Nile River cruises
In addition to Viking, a number of other cruise lines sail on the Nile. Here is a sampling:
The 11-day AmaWaterways ”Secrets of Egypt and the Nile” includes a 7-night round-trip cruise that departs from and returns to Luxor. The trip also includes a 3-night pre-cruise stay in Cairo (which helps you adjust to the time zone) and a one-night post-cruise stay in Cairo.
The voyage takes place on the intimate and luxurious 72-passenger AmaDahlia, and includes bespoke experiences, such as a private tour of the tomb of Queen Nefertari and a private lunch at the Abdeen Presidential Palace.
The Avalon Waterways Taste of Egypt cruise sets sail on the 124-passenger MS Farah, which has 60 deluxe cabins and two Royal Suites with wall-sized windows.
Abercrombie & Kent
Abercrombie & Kent offers even smaller group luxury Nile River cruises aboard its 18-guest Sanctuary Sun Boat IV and the Sanctuary Zein Nile Chateau, a sailing boat (dahabeah) with just four cabins and two suites limited to 12 guests in total. Along with fewer passengers, service is more personalized, amenities are more luxurious and commensurate with higher costs.
The 10-day Egypt and the Nile itinerary on the Sanctuary Sun Boat IV includes a four-night Nile River Cruise, which departs and returns to Cairo. The Petro to the Pyramids & Nile River Cruise journeys from Petra to Wadi Rum to Luxor and Cairo, including a three-night cruise on the Nile.
Ocean-going vessels on the Nile
There’s more than one way to experience the Nile. Cruise Critic Editor-in-Chief Colleen McDaniel notes that P&O Cruises, MSC Cruises and Silversea offer ocean cruises with day trips to Luxor and Aswan when the ships port on the Red Sea.
Best times to take a Nile River Cruise
Because Egypt tends to be hot throughout the year, the shoulder seasons and winter are the best times to book a Nile River Cruise, generally between April and October.
Older travelers: What to Expect on a Nile River Cruise
Writing for industry publication Travel Weekly, Nicole Edenedo chronicled her “unforgettable” trip on an abbreviated version of the Viking Pharaohs & Pyramids itinerary. She offered some admonitions that seem pertinent to older travelers:
- Be prepared for the heat with cold water, sunscreen, loose clothing and a wide-brimmed hat.
- Excursions are active with stairs, ramps and a ladder leading to the Great Pyramid; the incline to the King’s Chamber is steep.
- While railings are helpful in navigating your way through the narrow passageways of the Great Pyramid, it’s prudent to bring anti-bacterial wipes after using the handrails used by so many tourists.
- Read my article on river cruise hacks.
This is an expanded version of an article I previously published on Forbes.com/