November 19 , 2021

Cruising the Nile: How to Choose the Right Boat for You

You haven’t seen Egypt until you’ve seen it from the Nile. Depending on your budget and what you want to see, there are 3 different river boat experiences to choose from.

Cruising the Nile: How to Choose the Right Boat for You


A Must-Do Experience


No other waterway in the world has been witness to the scale of history and legend born from the River Nile. Carving a gentle curve of fertile fields and lush towns through the arid deserts of Egypt, the river gave life and prosperity to one of the world’s greatest civilizations. It continues to play its role in modern Egyptian life, generating electricity and carrying millions of tourists each year to visit the magnificent temples and cities of the dead along its shores.


A vacation to Egypt begs for time spent on the Nile. As you glide along the river, you’ll be enchanted by the daily rhythms of life – soft morning light crests stands of date palm and mango trees as the desert behind fades into the horizon, fishermen cast their nets against an almost biblical backdrop of dense bulrushes, and groups of village children shout excitedly from the banks. You can still see traces of what ancient Greek and Roman tourists must have found, when they came to gawk at the pyramids and scratch their names onto temple walls.



What is a typical Nile River cruise itinerary?


After the staggering metropolis of Cairo, and perhaps a foray to Alexandria on the Mediterranean, most visitors will fly south to Luxor or Aswan to embark on their Nile River adventure. While the journey by road between Luxor and Aswan takes about 3 hours, traveling by river breaks the trip up into 3 or 4 nights. Our Nile River itineraries include all meals (alcoholic drinks excluded), entrance to the main monuments, and your own private, certified Egyptologist to guide you through the river’s never-ending menu of ancient temples and unravel the mysteries of the hieroglyphs. The standard sightseeing schedule includes Edfu, Kom Ombo, Luxor and Aswan.


But, of course, experiences can vary widely depending on the boat you choose. Let’s have a look at the different options…


3 Nile River boat types

For your Nile expedition, you could travel on board a small-ship cruiser, a more intimate dahabiya, or a felucca day sail. Both small-ship boats and dahabiyas come in categories from standard to luxury, and you can find sailing itineraries from 3 to 8 nights. The type of boat that’s right for you will especially depend on your budget and whether you want to see the main highlights of ancient Egypt, or have the chance to include more local experiences along the way.


River cruiser

The most common passenger boats on the Nile are the river cruisers that come in a variety of sizes, from boutique ships with 32 cabins to bigger boats with around 50 to 70 cabins. These vessels are basically like floating hotels, with all of the amenities you would expect such as a lounge, restaurant, gift shop, laundry and dry cleaning, WiFi, a sun deck with a swimming pool, and sometimes a spa.


Mövenpick M/S Royal Lily Sundeck


The small-ship cruises all follow the same standard itinerary, with overnights in Luxor, Edfu and Aswan. Your boat may be docked at a private mooring, or in a row alongside other ships at the harbor. The journey from Luxor to Aswan - heading south against the flow of the Nile – takes 4 nights, while the opposite trip from Aswan to Luxor is 3 nights. You could also take a roundtrip cruise with more time at leisure. In any case, the same sightseeing is included.


M/S Farah Royal Suite



These barge-like, double-masted sailing vessels provide a more traditional way to sail the Nile, like the pharaohs and early archaeologists would have done. Dahabiya boats are also smaller than their cruising counterparts, with anywhere from 4 to 14 cabins. You can book accommodation on an intimate shared cruise itinerary, or you could rent a boat like a private yacht for your group.


Dahabiya The Orient


In lieu of an engine, dahabiyas are tugged along by a motorboat whenever the wind is not enough to fan the sails. Wide upper decks and luxurious guest accommodations designed by modern ship builders make for delightful slow-cruising in style. Ideal for the adventurous traveler, dahabiyas make stops at places the bigger boats aren’t allowed to go, so you get a more intimate look at modern-day life on the Nile, with the chance for real local encounters.


Nour el Nil


Any searching for boats on the Nile will yield the term ‘felucca’. These are the traditional Egyptian sailing boats you see scattered over the river with a single sail stretched against the wind. These small vessels are found up and down the Nile, crewed by friendly local sailors in their breezy galabeya robes.



An hour-long felucca ride is often included as part of sightseeing programs in Aswan, where the Nile threads its way through picturesque islands. This is an activity for those who like to take it real slow and easy – sit back on the felucca’s broad deck festooned with colorful cushions and simply feel the pace of the river.