Nile Cruising on the Mirage
by Jimmy Dunn
A good Nile cruise is one of the best ways to visit the main antiquity sites in Egypt, and is especially attractive to first time visitors. These modern, floating hotels have a number of advantages, not the least of which is the concept of having your hotel go on the tour with you, thus avoiding packing and unpacking, hassling with airports or other transport, and being able to do the required traveling in complete comfort. Another advantage is that these ships are often more intimate then large hotels, allowing passengers to get to know each other. In fact, entertainment directors aboard work to
accomplish that exactly. Furthermore, there is no better way then to leisurely view the countryside, watching many of the farmers go about their work still using ancient traditions and tools and seeing the small village that are not so unlike those of millenniums ago, perhaps while you laze about in a top deck pool with a cool drink in your hand.However, we should also provide a few notes about Nile cruises. First, Cruises do not originate from Cairo, and one must almost always spend at least one night in that city prior to the cruise. The cruise ships are usually boarded in either Aswan or Luxor, and the shorter cruises travel between those two cities, while the longer cruises extend a bit north of Luxor to key temples. No cruises go as far as Cairo, and it is impossible to travel south from Aswan. To get to the cruise ships, one must either fly, or take the train to Upper Egypt (buses are an unusual choice). In order to travel south to the Nubian temples such as Abu Simbel, one must either fly, take a bus in some instances, or transfer to a Lake Nasser Ship.We have written several stories on Nile cruisers over the years, including "Cruising the Nile", "Love on the Nile" and "Nile Cruises", but in this article we wish to explore one Nile Cruiser in detail. The Mirage is a brand new Nile cruiser built by South Sinai Travel, a company who's hotels we have found to be of consistently good quality. Their Basma hotel in Aswan is a favorite among many travelers and tour operators, and their other hotels in Hurghada and Sharm reflect the same sort of attention to their customer's needs and comforts.
The ship's central staircase
The upper deck swimming pool
One of the ship's Stores
The Mirage is a medium sized boat with the latest conveniences, as well as safety gear. Many of the Nile cruisers still carry water buckets for each room, but the Mirage has modern detectors and a sprinkler system. Furthermore, water, when taken onboard, travels through seven filtration systems, including one which radiates the water with ultraviolet light. However, the water goes through three more filtration systems, including a second ultraviolet filter prior to actually arriving at the cabins. While Nile cruiser rooms are generally not as large as regular hotel rooms, the standard cabins on this cruiser, unlike some we have seen, are at least large enough to afford the addition of a sitting area with a table and chairs. In fact, the standard rooms on this boat are currently the largest of any cruiser on the Nile, measuring some 23 square meters. Simply put, most Nile cruisers do not expect their passengers to spend much time in their cabins, but these rooms present an entirely different aspect of Nile cruising with their
comfortable size and amenities. There are also two suites available.
Above and Below: A view of a standard cabin
Bottom: A standard W/C (bath)
Each standard room is equipped with a full bath, also unlike many Nile cruisers that only have a shower, hair dryers, mini-friges and telephones with international access. Satellite color televisions and radios provide in-cabin entertainment, including a set of multi-lingual movies each day. Video movies are also available.
Above: The dinner buffet area
Below: Part of the evening buffet
Like a small but well equipped hotel, the Mirage has all you might expect from a five star hotel. The upper deck provides a small swimming pool from which the shore may easily be seen, shaded and un-shaded lounge areas, and even a fairly well equipped exercise area. Along with rooms, the next lower deck also supports a large bar and entertainment area. This is where many of the boat's shows take place, along with dancing and other recreation. This deck also provides several stores where both necessities such as cigarettes and other goods may be found, including some clothing. What surprised me about this was that the price of these items was very reasonable.
Above: The Mirage has a good assortment of exercise equipment
The next deck down is houses the lobby area for the boat, and entrance to it is made on this level, and below that is the large restaurant. We should also mention that there is considerable attention to the design detail on this ship. It is beautifully done, and here and there surprising pieces of original works by well known Egyptian artists adorn the corridors.This boat is typically booked as all inclusive, meaning that food and alcoholic beverages are available without further cost. Having been on a number of inclusive trips, I am always pleasantly surprised by the quality, as well as the quantity of the all inclusive menu, both on this boat and in the other South Sinai facilities.
The bar and entertainment area
Since there are no permits being allowed in Egypt for the construction of new river cruisers at this time, the Mirage will probably remain one of the best cruisers for sometime. Luckily, the management has a superior reputation for facility maintenance. While their are certainly many other fine Nile cruisers, the Mirage must be counted among the best that today ply this grand river which so long ago, spawned the origins of our modern civilization.