Nile Cruise with kids
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Egypt Nile Cruise with kids
When you’re thinking about traveling to Egypt with kids, the thought of booking a Nile Cruise must’ve crossed your mind. But is it worth it taking a Nile Cruise family trip? Is a Nile cruise family friendly? The answer is YES!
Cruising down the Nile from Aswan to Luxor, or the other way around, is easier and cheaper than visiting all the temples on your own and booking stays along the way. And on top of that you’ll get to enjoy the greenery on the shores and take a breather from the chaos of Egyptian cities while on the Nile.
In this post I will tell you all about the different cruise options, safety and facilities on board, the ideal itinerary and more. All to make sure you’ll have an unforgettable experience cruising down the Nile in Egypt.
I will focus on the most popular cruise. The one that tackles everything from Aswan to Luxor. Some cruise ships offer cruises from Cairo to Luxor or even from Cairo to Aswan. But the reason that these are less popular is that the days between Cairo and Luxor will be spend mostly on the ship. In other words, there are less highlights. My tip is to explore Cairo with your kids before or after your cruise through Upper Egypt. Make them separate parts of your ultimate family road trip through Egypt.
Nile cruise ship with a toddler
Children of all ages can go on a Nile cruise. I think it’s more fun for kids who’ve learned about ancient Egypt in school, because then they’ll be excited about the excursions you’ll go on together. But there’s lots of fun to be had by toddlers too while on a Nile cruise.
I’ve heard many people say that a Nile cruise isn’t great with toddlers, because Nile cruise boats don’t have a kids club. But please don’t let that keep you from going. Most cruise ships have a sun deck with a pool, we also had a little paddling pool next to the swimming pool. So when you book a ship, look out for that. And don’t forget to check the minimum age, some cruise ships work with age limits.
Egyptians love children and the crew will do anything to dote on them. They’ll get them extra desserts and when your toddler is a little hangry after sightseeing, they’ll get them a plate first, so you don’t have to get in line.
Other entertainment on board includes a tv room and some small boutiques. But make sure you bring (card) games, some toys and a tablet or smartphone to entertain them yourselves.
Another thing I’d like to point out is the amount of excursions on offer while on a Nile cruise. There’s so much to see that you can spend entire days on shore. Most of the sights are not at walking distance from the docks, with the exception of the Kom Ombo temple. Therefore you can’t easily split your family up and return to the ship with a tired toddler.
When booking a Nile cruise package make sure to check the length of the excursions with the agency and maybe scratch some beforehand. You’ll probably need some extra free time while on your Nile cruise. If you only book the cruise itself, you have more freedom to decide last minute to go on an excursion or stay on the boat.
Nile cruise on a felucca or dahabiya with a toddler
The other options for a Nile cruise are the more eco-friendly felucca or dahabiya. Some agencies offer special family cruises. You’ll either be on a private Nile cruise or with another family. The itinerary is more laidback and the trip as a whole more peaceful.
I personally wouldn’t book a felucca cruise with a toddler, or any kid under 8 for that matter. Everything happens on one deck where you sit, eat and sleep. This means you can never take your eyes off of your kid. Chances of your kid dropping overboard while on their own little adventure are definitely not slim. Even with a lifejacket I would advise against it, it’s no fun for the kid to wear it 24/7.
Lastly, there are no toilets on the felucca during daytime. You’ll have to use the facilities while on an excursion or at restaurants near the dock. At night they will install a cabin with toilets on shore.
With older teens, a felucca Nile cruise will definitely be a very cool experience.
This is definitely the better option of the two when traveling with toddlers. This is a small Egyptian sailing boat with 4 to 6 cabins on board. That means a maximum of about 12 people in total. Look for cabins with a small private terrace. This way your family can choose to have some alone time here or join the others on the sun deck.
A dahabiya has 2 levels. With some exceptions that have 3. The top deck is the communal area where you can chill and have your meals. Some dahabiya’s also have a dining room on the lower deck.
Best Nile Cruise with a toddler
I took the Nile cruise with my teenager and we opted for a cruise ship. Had we gone with the entire family, including our toddler, we would definitely go for the dahabiya. It’s more relaxing, more serene and the itineraries on offer range from jampacked with excursions to just a few hours of sightseeing a day. A dahabiya is the ideal way to cruise the Nile with smaller children.
The rest of this article will focus on our own experience on a Nile Cruise ship.
When to visit Upper Egypt on a cruise
The best time for a Nile Cruise that covers everything from Luxor to Aswan is between October and April. The weather is not too hot with temperatures that average between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius.
The high season is from November to February so if you want to avoid the extreme crowds I’d choose October, March or April. We went in October and the crowds were absolutely there, but the lines doable.
How to get there
My family and I like to use Expedia for flights. They usually have some great deals available. But always make sure to double check the prices at the website of the airline to make sure you get the best deal. Your international flight will most likely land in Cairo.
From Cairo you can fly to Aswan or Luxor, depending on where your Egyptian Nile cruise starts. I’d like to buy domestic flights through 12Go. They are known to offer the best and cheapest options. Check them out first if you want to fly from Cairo to any other city in Egypt, before doing further research.
If you start your Nile cruise in Aswan or Luxor you can hop on a train from Cairo. Just make sure you get tickets for an air-conditioned train. You can book them via Egyptian National Railways or 12Go.
You can get to Luxor from Cairo by air-conditioned bus via Go Bus. It will take you about 10 hours and the departure times are not ideal, starting from around 10pm until 3am. If your family is up for it, 12Go is the best place to book your online tickets.
What to expect from a Nile cruise ship
Like I said before, the rest of this article focuses on the large cruise ships and in particular the 5 star deluxe Nile river cruises.
Weirdly, the only other option seems to be the standard 5 star cruise. The star system is not comparable to 5 star cruises to destinations like Europe, the US or the Caribbean. I would say a standard 5 star Nile river cruise is comparable with 2 to 3 stars to the destinations I just mentioned. Our deluxe 5 star experience would be somewhere between 3 and 4 stars.
The ships on the deluxe 5 stars Nile cruise ship are very clean. The service is good, the food average and plentiful and the rooms are spacious with very comfortable beds and great water pressure in the shower.
All aboard: the Nile cruise ship
Let’s get into life on board the cruise boat. The first interesting thing to note is the way you get on and off board. There are hundreds of Nile cruise ships on the river between Luxor and Aswan and not enough docks and the solution for that problem is a creative one.
The Nile is a very broad river. That’s how they got the idea to line up the boats one after another. At the dock you board a cruise ship that might be yours, but most times you walk right through the entrance at the other side and board the next cruise ship. All entrances and exits are located at the same spot. One time we entered and exited 4 ships, before entering ours. Safety wise you have to hold onto your young ones. More often than not there are hurdles you have to take. The step onto the next boat can be quite big, so you might have to carry your child. And sometimes some stuff like empty crates or rope lines are laying around. So mind your step…
The cabins on the Nile cruise boat are really comfy, as I mentioned earlier. But there are some things to be aware of when going on a Nile cruise with kids. Our ship didn’t have any interconnecting rooms, and research taught me that only a few high end ships do. Either go for that option or split the family up. I haven’t heard of any Nile cruise line that offers family cabins.
Most rooms can fit 2 adults and 1 child, adding a crib is mostly not a problem. Split the parents up and you can add a maximum of 3 children. Two in one bed and one in yours or in a crib. Do know that the beds are mostly semi-double ones. If your kids are older they probably won’t fit comfortably when sleeping next to a parent or each other. Also, make sure you do book for the right amount of people per room. Some ships won’t allow more than 3 persons per room, but the other reason is that you won’t get the right amount of seats at the restaurant table. More on that later.
More things that are good to know about the cabins on a luxury 5 star Nile cruise ship:
- Most ships have a shower over the bath, some only have a shower.
- Buy your own bottled or purified water. We only got one 500 ml bottle per day from housekeeping. If you want more, you can buy them on the boat. The cheaper option is to buy them in a shop on shore.
- Don’t tip the staff when they bring anything to your room or when you order drinks at the bar. Put the total amount you want to give the staff in an envelope and leave it at the reception desk when you check out. The cruise lines prefer this, because this way they can make sure that every staff member gets a cut from the tip jar. Do know that the staff has a tendency to linger around for a tip anyway. Tell them you’ll leave an envelope with baksheesh (=tip) for the entire staff at the end of your stay. And please don’t be mad at them for trying, they are just trying to make a living.
Wifi on board
WiFi is available, but either free and very slow or mediocre and expensive. You’re better off buying a local or international (e)SIMcard.
We were very happy with our local sim card from Orange. It was valid for a month and we got 1,000 minutes and 16 GB for 150 EGP (about 8,50 euro).
Assigned seating in the restaurant
Every Nile cruise ship works with set seating. This used to be a worldwide cruise tradition, but lots of cruise lines let go of it. In Egypt they still firmly hold onto this tradition. That means that every meal you sit at the same table in assigned seats. If you’re a big family you might get your own table, but most families will join other guests at one and the same table every meal.
I’d like to get back to the part where I wrote that you should always be clear on the amount of people staying in your room. Meaning that, if your kid can stay for free and you bring your own crib, you still have to make sure to add your child to the booking. This way you can be sure that there’s enough room at the table for every member of your family.
Health and safety on a Nile river cruise ship
This is where the worldwide difference in stars shows. You won’t have to attend a safety meeting, before the ship leaves. It’s not offered. In the lobby you’ll find a map with all the exits and the locations of the life boats. All around the top deck you’ll find life-belts, but I honestly don’t know (and haven’t asked) if there are enough belts for everyone, in case there’s no time to get your life jackets from your room.
About these life jackets: I’ve heard of many cases where they didn’t have any life jackets for kids under 10. Definitely bring your own!
I would also bring your own first aid kit if I were you. I’ve heard there are crew members that can perform first aid. But since things can be pretty chaotic where the crew’s concerned (they’re everywhere and they’re nowhere, it depends on the hour of the day) I prefer to bring my own first aid kit on a Nile river cruise with kids.
What does a 5 star Nile river cruise cost?
But best of all: a deluxe 5 star Nile cruise is surprisingly affordable. A 5 day cruise from Luxor to Aswan or Aswan to Luxor will set you back about 550 euro – 650 euro. The standard 5 star option about 100 euros less. And these prices includes the excursions and an Egyptologist to go along with your group. These are prices for adults and per person. Kids usually get a discount, so check out which cruise operator gives your family the best deal. A Nile river cruise with kids doesn’t have to be expensive at all.
Besides breakfast, lunch and dinner, they also offer tea and cookies daily around 4pm. As far as drinks are concerned: you have to pay all your drinks per meal. With every drink you order comes a receipt for you to sign and at the end of the meal they’ll add up the receipts and you pay before you leave the table. So in short, these cruises are pretty much all inclusive.
How the excursions work from the Nile cruise
Now let’s dive into answering the question of how excursions from the Nile cruise ship works. When you book your Nile cruise with kids you have the option of booking it with or without excursions. Let’s talk about both options, right away!
Nile cruise including all excursions
This is the most convenient option. That’s why most cruise lines already offer this cruise including the excursions. The prizes you see include your cabin(s), all meals and all excursions (accompanied by an Egyptologist). They always point out which excursions they’re talking about.
If you want to make it all the way down to Abu Simbel, make sure the excursion by car to Abu Simbel and back is included. Not all operators add this excursion to the mix.
The tour guide, aka Egyptologist, will let you know at what time you should meet him/her in the lobby and all you have to do is be on time and follow your guide. It’s as simple as that.
Nile cruise excluding all excursions
Some families prefer their freedom and like to arrange everything themselves. If you’re one of them, book a cabin excluding all excursions and visit every site yourself. The downside of this option is that you won’t have an Egyptologist around to tell you about all the sights you’re seeing.
My family also likes to take control regarding excursions. But not this time, we wanted a guide and really soak up the history. So for our family trip through Egypt (including this cruise) I got in contact with Sameh from Egypt Eye Tour. He turned out to be an excellent tour guide and Egyptologist who arranged our entire trip. All the hotels, our cruise from Aswan to Luxor and all the excursions. He took us all around Cairo and he hired Egyptologist George to accompany us from Luxor to Aswan. We were very happy we booked with Egypt Eye Tour and highly recommend them if you’re looking for a great travel agency in Egypt with amazing guides.
Aswan to Abu Simbel
If you want to visit Abu Simbel and you’re not with a private guide, I advise you to book this trip directly from the cruise operator. You can also do that once you board in Luxor. They can add your family to the list, days before you arrive in Aswan. Pre-arrange it via your tour operator or the cruise line directly if you start your cruise in Aswan, to make sure there’s a place for your family on the tour bus.
The reason why I don’t recommend doing this on your own has to do with the closeness to Sudan and the long distance. It will take you about 3 to 4 hours to get to Abu Simbel from Aswan.
Hiring a taxi or driver once you get off the boat can be tricky. Chances are you’ll pay way more than necessary, simply because your only option this last minute is a car. You have to leave between 3am and 5am to beat the crowds and the heat in Abu Simbel. If you don’t pre-arrange a driver or taxi it will be hard to find them around this time of night.
Abu Simbel is located about 20km from the Sudanese border. Not too long ago you could only get from Aswan to Abu Simbel by road via a police convoy. This is no longer necessary, but there are a few police checkpoint you have to cross. They sometimes make a fuss and it really helps if your with a guide that speaks Arabic. That’s why I recommend joining a guide for this one excursion.
Nile cruise with kids itinerary from Aswan to Luxor
Before I share our Nile cruise itinerary from Aswan to Luxor, let’s get into which city should be the starting point of your cruise.
Luxor to Aswan or Aswan to Luxor
It doesn’t really matter if you cruise from Luxor to Aswan or Aswan to Luxor. Either way, you get to explore the same things. And you stop at the same ports. The only difference is that it’s shorter if you go from Aswan to Luxor, because you’re going with the current. That’s all!
Egypt Nile cruise with kids itinerary Aswan to Luxor 4-day / 3-night
Day 1 – after arrival in Aswan we checked in at the boat and had lunch. After lunch we explored Aswan. We saw the High Dam, visited a Nubian Village and visited Philae Temple.
Day 2 – we woke up in the middle of the night for a visit to Abu Simbel to check out the temples of King Ramesses 2nd and Queen Nefertari. Then we drove back to the ship and had lunch, while the ship set sail to Kom Ombo. Around 4pm we arrived and visited the temple of Sobek (the crocodile god) and Horus (the falcon god).
Day 3 – Overnight we sailed to Edfu, so in the morning we checked out another temple in this city. Also one assembled in honor of Horus. After that we enjoyed the pool and the sundeck and later on we saw how our ship went through the Esna Lock at the Esna Dam. At night we arrived at Luxor where we visited the temples fully lit.
Day 4 – We checked out the top things to do in Luxor with kids by exploring the Karnak temple, the Colossi of Memnon, the Valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut Temple.
Is a Nile cruise eco-friendly?
I can’t write a whole article about a cruise ship, without mentioning the elephant in the room. Isn’t a cruise, generally speaking, bad for the environment? So, here’s my honest review and I tell you about what we learned about this topic.
Both the dahabiya and the felucca are sailing boats, without a motor. But in the case of the dahabiya you’ll see that, when the winds are not strong enough, a small tugboat pulls it along. And that happens quite often. When you go on a felucca you’ll cruise completely motor-free! Of course, I don’t have to tell you that a cruise ship always runs on fuel ;).
Nile river pollution
About 350 cruise ships ply the Nile, so it can’t be a surprise that they add to the pollution problems. The ships dump waste water into the river and also solid waste like plastics and aluminium soda cans.
Of course the carbon footprint of shipping thousands of people up and down all day are some of the most harmful effects of cruise tourism worldwide, and therefore also on the Nile.
Cruise ship’s emissions
Worldwide all cruise ships run on the dirtiest fuel you can imagine. It’s heavy fuel oil and toxic. What I didn’t realize before entering the ship is that the engine’s are on 24/7. I know that that’s very naïve, but I never thought about it before. How else would anything function on a boat?
Why did we board a Nile river cruise ship anyway?
Of course it’s no news that flying and cruising are bad for the environment. But cruising the Nile was a once in a lifetime experience. I honestly didn’t do enough research beforehand. I got blinded by the excitement of it all.
If I did, I probably would’ve chosen to go on a Nile cruise with my kids on a dahabiya. It’s safer with smaller children than a felucca and much more eco-friendly than a ship.
That’s why my family vowed to never take a cruise ship again, unless it’s 100% electrical. In March 2022 the world’s largest electric cruise ship (100m) cruised through China. How cool would it be to cruise on a zero-emissions ship one day? Sign me up!
I know that a lot of people love to go on a cruise ship. I get it, it’s an amazing experience and an ideal choice for a family vacation. Everyone should make their own decision, no judgements here.
I’ve done it and loved it, but I didn’t love that my decision added to the pollution problems of Egypt and its Nile. This Nile cruise would get a 10/10 from me if it would’ve been eco-friendly. We explored so many awesome places in Luxor, Aswan and all the other places we visited on this family tip.
Cruising the Nile is a truly great and classic travel experience for the whole family! That’s why I still highly recommend going on a Nile Cruise with kids!
Are you ready to follow suit? Maybe you will make a more eco-friendly choice than we did.
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