Things to Anticipate: Cairo, Egypt

Cairo’s endlessly unfurling, pharaonic history and sharp modern contradictions — carts fueled by horse and whip navigate the streets alongside gold-rimmed Mercedes — allow it to be one of the most fascinating cruise tourist draws. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find potent reminders of yesteryear: the Great Pyramids at Giza, three of nearly 100 monolithic tributes alive or death (depending on your perspective); Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt a lot more than 4,000 years back; and the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, which houses the remnants of the tens and thousands of years of mythic power. It’s all very provocative to the Western mind Visit for travsel info about Cairo.

Unfortunately, Egypt’s capital city of some 18 million is not a place that’s tailor-made for a mega-ship cruise pit-stop. It’s sprawling and dust covered, with millions struggling in visibly abject poverty; the nearest cruise ports, Port Said and Alexandria, really are a three-hour bus ride away; and there’s simply too much to see, even in a two-day, overnight excursion. The town is way better served with a longer visit or by the slowly unfolding nature of a Nile River cruise.

And yet, the ships come.

Huge ships from major lines — including Cunard’s Queen Victoria and Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas and Brilliance of the Seas and countless smaller luxury and expedition lines’ships — dock in Alexandria or Port Said (or both), visiting in the cooler months, October through May. Given the length from port to Pyramid, most lines stay for just two days. As you’d expect, nearly everyone gets off for a visit. On my trip, five buses were create for the crew alone.

I visited Cairo for just two back-to-back days in April included in a 12-night Eastern Mediterranean cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jade. Expectations were high — and the numerous who’d made a decision to splurge for the overnight excursion were spending nearly a cruise fare for the privilege. (I spent $499 for a solo ticket.) From mosque and museum to Nile River cruise and pyramid, we’d just enough time at each stop to snap a few action shots before it had been “please log off the camel and back on the bus, sir.” Two days is nowhere near enough time for exploring Cairo, nevertheless the glimpse of Egypt you do get is so impressive that it’s worth the long days and high tour price. And, if the nature of a cruise is always to sample destinations to be able to decide where you’ll return for an extended visit, this trip has convinced me that I’ll definitely be heading back once again to Cairo.

Booking The Tour Cruise travelers wishing to go to Cairo on ship-sponsored tours have two basic options: the 12-hour tour (half of that will be spent driving) and the overnight tour. Your day tour takes visitors to Cairo and the Pyramids of Giza and back once again to the ship that night, whilst the overnight tour adds a few more stops.

On the afternoon trips, as well as visiting the Pyramids, you can make from activities like camel and jeep rides through the desert or visits to the Egyptian Museum or the ancient capital of Memphis. The daylong port calls allow only enough to time to go to the Pyramids, eat lunch and stop at one (or perhaps two) other sites.

Overnight tours are, obviously, much more comprehensive (and a lot more than twice the cost), including these greatest hits: visits to the Egyptian Museum, the Pyramids at Giza, the ancient capital of Memphis, the Alabaster Mosque and a less-famous pyramid (such as the Sakkara step pyramid); a Nile River cruise; tickets to the Pyramid Sound and Light Show; and an obligatory shopping stop (a bazaar, jewelry store or papyrus “factory”). Planning to see as much as possible inside my two-day visit, I chose the overnight option Visit for more information about Cairo boat and cruise tours..

All tours will stop you well-insulated from the chaos of the town, and their packed itineraries leave little chance for passengers to stray too much before it’s time for you to head to another location stop. Our guide even seemed hesitant to provide factual information regarding certain things, notably the famed “City of the Dead,” a big Islamic cemetery that tens and thousands of poor call home. Once we passed the graveyard metropolis, a traveler asked if people actually live there. “No,” our guide said with a chuckle. “They used to, but not anymore.” “But there are clothes lines, and I see smoke coming from a house!” insisted the passenger. “That’s nothing,” she responded. Sometimes, I felt like I was being too protected, losing from some of the more fascinating info — like the living conditions in the City of the Dead. But again, there simply isn’t time for you to delve too much to the “real” Cairo.