Thursday, February 18, 2010
Sun Boat IV
Yesterday I told you about our afternoon in Luxor, the day before we actually went on our Nile cruise.
Today, I want to tell you about the ship and the service. I'll tell you more about the actual trip later, but for now, I just want to share my awe.
We boarded the Sun Boat IV on Monday morning in Luxor. At the time, it was docked at the end of a long long line of cruise ships. It shared a dock with two or three other ships. The ships in Luxor dock parallel to the shore, with a gangplank from the shore to the nearest ship. To get to the ships that are further out, you simply walk through the reception area of the first ship, out the door on the other side, and then step across a short gangplank onto the next ship. So we saw at least the reception areas of several ships throughout this cruise, as we walked from ship to ship on our way to and from the shore. Judging solely from these reception areas and what we could see of the other ships' decks, I have to say that the Sun Boat IV is the most luxurious ship on the Nile River.
Here, take a tour with me:
This is the dining room, framed by its own doors as they open. The breakfast and lunch buffets were set up on the center island and table, and we had assigned seating for the duration of the cruise.
This is the lounge, where we had afternoon tea (I feel very British saying that!) and where the belly dancer and whirling dervish performed. There also was an "Egyptian Night" party, but we didn't go to that--I was inexplicably exhausted that night and just went to bed instead.
This is the shaded deck--which, incidentally, is on the back half of the same deck where our cabin was. We had breakfast and lunch out here on the one day when it wasn't too windy.
This is the Sun Deck. On days when we spent the morning or afternoon sailing from one location to another, most of us spent a good bit of time up here, sipping drinks, reading, and watching/videoing the beautiful scenery. It was so idyllic!
This is our cabin. The bathroom was off to the right and was about the size of a very large shower stall. The shower stall itself seemed microscopic at first, but it worked well enough. If it hadn't, the bathroom was designed so that you could leave the stall door open and use the entire bathroom as a shower with no problem.
And the service was everything you'd expect in those surroundings. We never carried our luggage anywhere; it miraculously appeared in our rooms. The service in the dining room was phenomenal, especially after the staff found out from our guide that I'm pregnant. Before they knew, I received the best service I've ever received anywhere (with the possible exception of Condetti, with which the service tied); after they knew, I never carried my own plate or slid in my own chair, and I often wasn't even allowed to go get my own juice from the breakfast buffet!
The service wasn't all that was excellent in the dining room, either. I gained 5 pounds that week, and I'm pretty sure the pregnancy had nothing to do with it. For breakfast, there was a buffet with a variety of hot and cold dishes--potatoes, sausages, fuul, pancakes, cold cereals, and fruit, among other options, which varied from day to day. You also could order off a menu--omelets, waffle, Eggs Benedict, and more. Jeff and I both ate an omelet, a waffle, and a few dishes off the buffet each and every morning ... looking at our plates, it seemed like so much food, but we were hungry again by the time lunch came around. Then it was another buffet with all sorts of delicious options. Afternoon tea consisted of tea, coffee, or fruit juice, plus fresh fruit and sweet pastries. Dinner was a more formal affair--we were given a menu each night. We chose our appetizer, main course, and dessert, usually from three options of each, and we also had a soup course. The one exception was Egyptian night, when we had a buffet of traditional Egyptian foods such as schawarma and koshary, not to mention hummus and tahina (similar to hummus but with a different taste). I'm gaining more weight just thinking about it!
The service was exceptional throughout the ship. Our room was cleaned, with fresh sheets and towels, every day. While we were at dinner, someone came in and turned down the bed. If we were on the sun deck, it was rare to not be offered a drink, and even when there wasn't a waiter, there was a cooler full of cold bottles of water to which we could help ourselves. When we came back from shore excursions, we always were met at the door by a man with a tray of warm, wet towels so we could wash our hands and faces. After the longer excursions, there also was a man with hibiscus or lemon juice.
Speaking of excursions, the system for that made the cruise feel like a small, intimate affair. There are 36 cabins and 4 suites, so I think a total of 88 passengers can be accommodated, but we were put into groups of 12 to 14 people who all spoke the same language. Our group was assigned to the same tour guide, Hesham, and we were together throughout the cruise. Our dinner companions were members of our group, too. I know that there were many people on the cruise other than the ones in my group--I noticed at least a few of them, and there were significantly more than 14 people at dinner each night--but in many ways it seemed like the only other people on board were the members of my group. The whole experience was made more enjoyable because I never felt lost in a crowd or overwhelmed by the number of people.
So that's the ship ... hopefully tomorrow I'll tell you about our guided tour of Luxor's most important sites.