Is an end to the Nile drought in sight?

By Michelle Baran

 As with Egypt overall, it’s been touch and go with travel on the Nile River since the country’s January 2011 revolution introduced an era of political instability that has been hardMichelleBaran to shake.

But with this week’s presidential elections, combined with pent-up demand from passengers who have been waiting it out with Egypt, there are glimmers of hope that the ships on the Nile will soon start to move again.

Viking Cruises, which has continued offering Egypt sailings through the slowdown, said things are looking up for the back half of 2014 and into 2015.

“We are seeing some booking activity for the fall 2014 dates that are available,” said Richard Marnell, Viking’s senior vice president of marketing. “We’ve also received enough interest from customers that we made the decision to begin selling 2015 dates.

“Yes, there is still some uncertainty among some travelers who would like to visit the region. But we are optimistic about the 2015 season, and we have slightly increased our number of departures for next year.” 

Viking charters the 150-passenger Mayfair, built in 2010, on the Nile, and the 160-passenger Omar El Khayam, built in 2011, on Lake Nasser.

Abercrombie & Kent has added five departures this fall for its “Egypt & the Nile” itinerary and has announced additional dates for 2015. The itinerary includes a four-night Nile sailing onboard the 80-passenger Sun Boat IV.

“The current interest in travel to Egypt has even surprised us,” A&K President Phil Otterson said in a release about adding the departures. Otterson traveled to Egypt in March with 69 A&K guests. “It’s been a waiting game, for travelers, tour operators and Egyptians, but it looks like it’s finally turning a corner.”

For some operators, though, it’s too soon to make a call on Egypt just yet. They’ve been burned with having had to cancel departures or, in the case of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, which sails the 82-passenger River Tosca, a luxury vessel that was built exclusively for Uniworld, the company doesn’t have the option of returning unsold cabins.

“The River Tosca is our ship, and once we re-enter the market, we have a commitment and obligation to deliver a certain number of guests to make sure that we can operate the itinerary profitably,” said Uniworld President Guy Young. “Given the relative uncertainty in Egypt and our selling cycle for this destination, the earliest opportunity we see to re-enter the market would be the fall of 2015.”

Young noted that prior to the uprising in Egypt, the Tosca was operating at very high occupancy levels and the itinerary received fantastic feedback from guests.
Avalon Waterways, which had to cancel departures last year due to the unrest, will only reintroduce Nile itineraries when the situation appears considerably more stable.

“We do not have plans to reintroduce Egypt in 2015,” noted Avalon’s Managing Director Patrick Clark.

“We hope the presidential election brings stability — and tourists — to Egypt. It would be great to see Egypt return to its previous popularity among travelers,” he added. “And, while we prepare our 2016 plans for Avalon Waterways, we will be closely monitoring developments.”

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Nile cruises suffering despite distance from political turmoil

River cruises along the Luxor and Nile in Egypt are being “tarred with the same brush” as Cairo by prospective holidaymakers, despite being as far away from the political turmoil that is currently gripping the capital as the Red Sea resorts, where it is business as usual for the most part.

That is according to Discover Egypt director Philip Breckner, who told Travel Weekly that negative media reports about the state of affairs in Egypt are to blame for the fact that the cruise operator is running trips that are half full, despite the fact that they have been in full swing since the travel ban was lifted in November.

He said that headlines about the violence in Cairo have put many consumers off from the idea of visiting Egypt, leaving them nervous about booking cruises in the region.

This is despite the fact that “luxor and Aswan are just as far away from Cairo as Hurghada and Sharm el-Shekih, if not further”. However he added: “They are continuously tarred with the same brush. People think about Luxor in the same way as they do about Cairo.

“But life is going on as normal in upper Egypt and there have been little or hardly any incidents there throughout the troubles, including during the revolution in 2011,” Mr Breckner said.

“We had customers coming off a cruise on Monday and staying in Cairo for three days this week. Safety and security are of paramount importance to us.”

In order to ensure peace of mind among prospective cruise travellers thinking of booking, Discover Egypt is guaranteeing that its weekly cruise trips will go ahead as planned, even if only a few cabins have been sold.

Egypt has already been an incredibly popular destination among cruise operators and passengers. Would you be confident to visit areas of the country away from Cairo given the political rumblings coming out of the capital?

What about the ships on the Nile?

What about the ships on the Nile?

By Michelle Baran
InsightEgypt’s current political crisis cannot be good for tourism, but the fact that it is taking place during the hot summer months means that the escalation in violence will affect fewer Nile sailings, as many river cruise lines don’t offer Egypt departures during the summer.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, one of the only U.S. river cruise lines that owns and operates its own ship on the Nile, the 82-passenger River Tosca, does not offer Tosca sailings during July and August, and thus has not yet had to cancel any departures due to the unrest.

Viking River Cruises also puts its Nile departures on hold during the summer, with its last chartered Nile cruise having taken place on April 30, and the next one slated to depart on Sept. 3. The company has not yet said how it plans to handle the remainder of its 2013 departures.MichelleBaran

Neither AmaWaterways nor Scenic Cruises offer Egypt sailings, and Tauck’s next Egypt itinerary that includes the Nile doesn’t head out until October.

Avalon Waterways, one of the few river cruise operators that did have scheduled departures on the Nile in July and August, has canceled all its departures on the 148-passenger Mayfair (a ship built by Cairo-based Mayfair Cruises in 2010) through August, “given the current unstable situation in Cairo,” according to the Globus Family of Brands, Avalon’s parent company.

“We are working closely with our operations team in Egypt to monitor the situation, including assessment of cruises and tours beyond August,” Globus said in a statement. “We will make any adjustments or cancellations necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of our customers.”

Affected Avalon passengers have the choice of either canceling with no penalty and receiving a full cash refund or rebooking on any Globus vacation, applying the full amount of their original Egypt booking.