The Nile River was the lifeline of ancient Egyptian civilisation. The river was the source of food and trade, and settlements and magnificent temples were built up and down its banks.
To this day, the islands and banks of the Nile are still dotted with the remains of ancient tombs and temples. And cruising is a brilliant way to travel along the Nile River and see many of its impressive sights.
For families, a Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor is an effortless and hassle-free way of travelling and sightseeing between the two cities. Being a floating hotel, the cruise boat has all the amenities you would need for your stay. You can plan your cruise so that you only check in once (instead of one hotel at Luxor and one at Aswan), and you can hop on and hop off your boat as it moors at each of the docks.
At the end of each sightseeing day, you can relax on the pool deck and enjoy sunset drinks while the ship cruises to the next destination.
Egypt Nile cruises are such a popular activity that there are over 300 ships that cruise this route between Aswan and Luxor – and vice versa Luxor to Aswan – every day, from super luxurious ships to eco-friendly and budget sailboats.
- Why Choose a Cruise Boat Over a Felucca, a Dahabiya, or Even a Bus or Train?
- What Are the Different Classes of Nile Cruise Ships?
- Typical Cruise Ship Stops Along the Nile
- How Long is a Nile Cruise Between Aswan and Luxor?
- Aswan to Luxor or Luxor to Aswan?
- Family Tips for Booking a Nile Cruise
- Are Nile River Cruises Worth It?
- More on Visiting Egypt with Kids
Why Choose a Cruise Boat Over a Felucca, a Dahabiya, or Even a Bus or Train?
There are different types of vessels that cruise the Nile between Luxor and Aswan. In addition to the larger cruise boats, there are also traditional feluccas and upscale dahabiyas. You may be wondering what the differences are. We’ll highlight some of these below.
Cruise boats are essentially floating hotels. Most Nile cruise ships carry around 100 passengers, but some have only a few cabins.
Like hotels, cruise boats have rooms with ensuite bathrooms, swimming pools, sun decks, restaurants, bars, gym, spa, gift shop for souvenirs, laundry and more. Some even have discotheques and movie theatres. Higher-end cruises will have daily onboard activities (think wine tastings and cooking classes), lectures, and theme nights.
Feluccas are traditional Egyptian sailboats. They can only carry six to eight passengers; there are no cabins and, oftentimes, no toilet facilities onboard. Sleeping is done on the deck when mattresses are laid out at night.
Feluccas are forbidden to sail on the Nile after dark and are reliant on the wind, so travel times will take longer – especially if there is no wind.
Feluccas are an option for families who want a budget and eco-friendly way to travel and see sights that are off the beaten track. They don’t need mooring docks, so can make impromptu stops for swimming or island exploration.
(NB, some tours have an age limit on taking children on feluccas; if your children are under a certain age, your tour may replace any advertised felucca journey with a minibus).
A dahabiya (Arabic for “the golden one” because the earliest form of these boats was gold coloured) is also a sailing vessel like the felucca but is larger and has two sails. It’s more like a houseboat so travellers can sail the Nile without having to rough it. For Nile cruises, they often travel with a tugboat in case there is no wind.
These historic vessels were used by upper-class Egyptians and Victorian tourists in the 19th century. Almost all dahabiyas today are replicas, but some original vessels from the 19th century still exist!
Dahabiyas can carry 12 to 20 passengers; they have cabins with ensuite bathrooms and an upper deck for dining but no swimming pool. A resident chef prepares fresh food bought daily from local markets. And a resident Egyptologist can take you on tours and walks to villages so you can see local life up close and personal.
Like feluccas, they can go to sites where the larger cruise boats can’t dock. Dahabiyas are good for those who want to sail in luxury and want flexibility in their itineraries. Prices start at around US$300 per person per night.
Bus / Train
A bus or train between Aswan and Luxor takes around three to four hours, so it is much faster than a Nile cruise; however, you miss out on all the fantastic sights and sounds along the river. You also have to find a hotel on either end as well as arrange transportation and tour guides to see each of the sights.
As you can see, an Aswan to Luxor Nile cruise is an effortless way to travel. All your transfers, tours, meals and entertainment are taken care of. There is ample room for your kids to stretch their legs, run around, make new friends, and play in the pool while enjoying the spectacular river scenery.
You can find our complete guide for getting between Cairo and Aswan to commence your cruise over here.
What Are the Different Classes of Nile Cruise Ships?
Nile cruise ships are rated two to five stars by the Egyptian authorities. However, the star rating doesn’t always reflect the true reality. So some 5-star cruise boats can offer dramatically better service and food, have nicer furnishings, and larger-sized cabins than others.
Full board is standard across all classes, but drinks are charged separately. Almost all cruise companies will have an onboard Egyptologist who will guide your group around the ancient sights that you visit along the way. However, do check if your cruise package includes the entrance fee to each temple. Entrance fees are often included if you book through a tour agency.
Below is an overview of the different classes of cruise boats so that you can choose the best Nile cruise for your family.
Note that prices will vary based on the time of year – the winter season and holidays will be more expensive. Children under six years of age are usually free (but you’ll be sharing a bed or bringing your own portacot), and children between 6 years and 12 years are 50% off.
Budget Nile Cruise Boats
Budget cruise boats cost around US$50 to US$100 per person per night. These boats are often quite old, not renovated, and not regularly maintained. The cabins are often below deck (so no views!), with the restaurant on the main deck. Food is basic, and service can be no-frills.
Standard Nile Cruise Boats
Standard cruise boats generally cost around US$100 to US$180 per person per night. Some are rated as five-star, but these five-star boats may be old, not renovated, and not regularly maintained. Five-star standard Nile cruise ships often charge for every amenity like water, tea, coffee and wifi. Food and service can be hit or miss.
Deluxe Nile Cruise Boats
Deluxe cruise boats generally start from US$150 to US$200 per person per night. All deluxe cruises have a five-star rating, but this doesn’t always equate to true international five-star standards, so best to read cruise reviews if possible.
Boats are either brand new or renovated within the last few years. Food is of higher quality than on five-star standard cruise boats, service is generally better, cabins are more spacious, and there are better facilities. Often there are daily on-board activities and evening entertainment like wine tastings, cooking classes, quiz nights, and traditional dance performances.
Luxury Nile Cruise Boats
Luxury Nile cruises generally start at around US$200 per person per night and are even higher for ultra-luxury cruises. These boats are managed by many international hotel chains like Movenpick, Sonesta, and Oberoi. All are officially rated five stars.
These boats are either new or recently renovated and regularly maintained. Cabins are very spacious, food is fine dining, and some will also offer in-room dining.
When comparing one five-star Nile cruise ship to another, we recommend researching (or asking your travel agent) when the ship was built, when it was last renovated, and if it is regularly maintained. Also, read customer reviews if possible.
Typical Cruise Ship Stops Along the Nile
Whichever ship you choose to cruise the Nile, note that the stops they make are identical. Especially for the two- to five-day cruises. For the seven-day cruises and up, itineraries may vary slightly as there is no rush to fit everything into just a few days.
For Nile cruises that start in Aswan, below is a very typical itinerary for a five-day, four-night cruise:
Typical Itinerary for Nile Cruise from Aswan to Luxor:
Day 1 – You are picked up at the airport or your hotel in Aswan and transported to the cruise boat for check-in. Lunch is served, and you settle in your cabin before undertaking sightseeing around Aswan, including a felucca ride and a visit to Elephantine Island, Aswan High Dam.
Day 2 – You’ll have breakfast and then morning sightseeing; some cruises will include a very early morning excursion to Abu Simbel, while others will stay closer to Aswan with a visit to Philae Temple on the Island of Agilika or the Nubian village. Board for lunch then set sail for Kom Ombo. Explore the temple dedicated to the crocodile God, Sobek, before sailing overnight to Edfu.
Day 3 – An early morning start to explore the Temple of Horus in Edfu before sailing much of the day through to Luxor. Enjoy the incredible sight of Luxor Temple lit up and dock overnight in Luxor.
Day 4 – Enjoy breakfast on board before a guided tour of Karnak Temple, then explore the west bank of Luxor, including Hatshepsut Temple, and the Valley of the Kings. You overnight on the boat while docked at Luxor (some 4-day/3-night cruises end here).
Day 5 – Breakfast is served before you checkout, and are driven to either your hotel or the airport.
If you choose to start your cruise at Luxor, you will do the same journey, only in the reverse order – Luxor – Edfu – Kom Ombo – Aswan.
Optional Egypt Nile Cruise Add-Ons:
You can also add optional tours to your Nile cruise itinerary. For example, in Luxor, you can add a hot air balloon tour; in Aswan, you can add a day trip to Abu Simbel.
How Long is a Nile Cruise Between Aswan and Luxor?
Nile cruises can be as short as three days or as long as eight days. Whichever you choose, the stops are exactly the same.
What does change is the number of nights you will spend docked on either end – so you can spend an extra night in Luxor or an extra night in Aswan. This allows you to see more sights in that city without having to book a hotel room for that night.
The longer eight-day cruises are often return (or roundtrip) itineraries. The stops are still the same, but you make a full loop. For example, you start at Luxor, sail to Aswan and then sail back to Luxor.
These longer Nile cruises allow you to see the sights more leisurely and spend more time relaxing on the boat. For example, instead of visiting both Edfu and Kom Ombo in one day, you visit Edfu on the upstream journey, spend the rest of the afternoon lounging on the boat, and then visit Kom Ombo on the downstream journey.
Aswan to Luxor or Luxor to Aswan?
For your cruise on the Nile River, whether you start from Luxor or Aswan, the stops are exactly the same. The only things that change are how many days you tack on to the end of the cruise and the activities involved.
For example, all cruise boats stop at Luxor, but the Aswan to Luxor cruises will often combine East Bank and West Bank sights in one day, while Luxor to Aswan cruises will often do it in two days. Two days is more leisurely, but you’re also paying for an extra night on the boat.
On the Aswan end, some cruise boats will offer one night of docking at Aswan and others will offer two so that you can see Aswan and fit in a day trip to Abu Simbel.
We recommend comparing the different cruise companies’ different itineraries and choosing the one that best matches your sightseeing interests and timeframe.
Also, cruises don’t run every day. So you may want to book your cruise first, then work your other travel plans around it.
Both Luxor and Aswan have airports that offer multiple daily flights between Cairo, so it’s easy to start your cruise in either city.
So whether you choose to do a Nile cruise from Luxor to Aswan or a Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor, you’ll still see the same sights.
Family Tips for Booking a Nile Cruise
Cabins can fit two to three people depending on the room size, so families could need two or more cabins. With an uneven number of children, you may need to push together two singles to make a large double three of you can share.
Always check if there are connecting cabins – not all boats have them. You can also upgrade to a large suite if the vessel offers it.
If you do need two cabins, ask if you can have one on either side of the boat. That way, you can maximise your family’s viewing opportunities! NB – when boats are docked, your only view is often the cruise ship parked next to you!
Facilities and Amenities
Determine which facilities and amenities are important to you, like a pool, gym, spa, Wi-Fi, or having a doctor on board. If you have dietary restrictions or allergies, find out if the cruise company can accommodate that.
Be sure to pack anti-motion sickness pills in case anyone in your family is prone to motion sickness. However, many people who experience motion sickness on small boats do not experience it on these larger Nile cruise vessels.
One thing to be aware of is that you’re not cruising all the time. You’ll spend a lot of time docked and oftentimes docked side by side with other boats. You might want to ask for a higher cabin or consider the longer seven- to eight-day cruises that do incorporate additional cruising time.
Booking a drinks package
While cruises cover the full board, the package only applies to food and not to drinks. Some packages will include water, tea and coffee. Some cruise companies will charge extra for it.
Alcohol is particularly expensive on Nile cruise boats, even by Egyptian standards. Some cruise boats will offer a drinks package in addition to the full board. This may be something to consider if you’ll be ordering a lot of sunset gin and tonics.
Always check if excursions, entrance fees to temples, and transfers are included – especially if you book directly with the cruise company.
Tipping on Nile cruises is generally done at the end of the cruise. There are staff that you don’t see during the trip, and this method is supposed to ensure all staff are fairly compensated.
You leave money in an envelope and leave it in your cabin or in a box in reception just before you check out. Some boats give you the option to add the tips to your final bill at check-out when you pay for your drinks.
How much you leave will depend on how satisfied you were with the level of service but generally, $5-10 per person per day. So factor this into the budget when you are booking a Nile cruise.
Tour guides are tipped separately; the recommended amount is also $5-$10 per person per day.
Some staff may expect to be tipped immediately, like porters, but it’s entirely up to you if you want to tip individually as well.
Are Nile River Cruises Worth It?
A cruise on the Nile River from Aswan to Luxor is great for those who want a hassle-free, all-inclusive holiday while incorporating the romance of river travel.
You see the same staff every day, so they get to know your individual needs at mealtimes, and it’s wonderful to wake up and be in a different destination every day yet still be staying in the same hotel room.
The sightseeing schedules are fixed, but they do provide an excellent way to sample all the important sites along the Nile river.
With so many cruise boat options to choose from, you’re likely to find the one that best suits your and your family’s needs.
More on Visiting Egypt with Kids
We have a great selection of articles to help you plan your dream trip to Egypt with your family.
We’d recommend starting with our guide, “Planning a Family Trip to Egypt,“ then for digging into more detail, things to do, and how to plan your days, we also recommend you check out:
- The ideal 7-day itinerary for Egypt with kids
- Is it “safe” to travel to Egypt with kids?
- Top attractions for kids in Cairo (beyond just the pyramids!)
- Day trip from Cairo to Alexandria
- Red Sea resort towns to try for a relaxing Egyptian vacation
- Explore around Dahab and the Sinai Peninsula
- What to wear on your family trip to Egypt
- An Egypt family packing list for all seasons
Recommended Reading for Egypt
We’d also highly recommend for family a trip to Egypt to prepare yourself with a few Egypt fact books for the family before you go (and keep one in your day bag if you can!).
The guides and Egyptologists you’ll encounter on your trip do a superb job bringing history to life – but the facts and timelines can get a little overwhelming (for the adults, let alone the kids!). Here are some good kid-appropriate reads to help kids on your trip to Egypt.
Join the conversation over at our Facebook group “Family Travel Middle East“ for more tips and recommendations for the perfect trip to Egypt and beyond!
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