River cruise lines sail into Egypt with new ships and itineraries

Destinations outside of Europe are seeing an increased share of attention from river cruise lines developing new ships and itineraries, expanding their product offerings.

But no destination seems to be more popular right now than Egypt, where a number of river cruise companies continue to double down on new offerings in the region and deepen their investments on the Nile. 

A 2022 USTOA Economic Impact Report listed Egypt as one of the top destinations that tour operators say travelers will want to visit in 2023, especially when it comes to off-the-beaten-path vacations.

“Egypt is typically a destination on people’s bucket lists, and after they have traveled to Europe, Egypt seems to be one of the next places they’d like to go,” said Toni Lanotte-Day, owner of Toni Tours in Levittown, N.Y., adding that Hollywood also has something to do with Egypt’s long-lasting allure. “The recent remake of ‘Death on the Nile’ put the destination back on travelers’ radar. It’s the history and fantasy.”

The sundeck on the S.S. Sphinx.

Trends including multigenerational travel, longer stays and the continued desire to experience bucket-list destinations are what lines say has helped fuel some of the recent developments in Egypt. They also cite increased demand for travel to the country, much of it brewing for quite some time, even before the pandemic limited travel to more far-flung places. 

AmaWaterways had ships in Egypt from 2006 until the 2011 Egyptian revolution.  “Then Egypt stopped for almost 10 years,” said Rudi Schreiner, president and co-founder of AmaWaterways. “Now Egypt is coming back. There’s such huge pent-up demand because people couldn’t really travel to Egypt for 10 years.”

And river cruise lines also see that now is a good time for product development in destinations outside of the traditional western and central European river cruise market. 

“Everything is cyclical,” said Marcus Leskovar, executive vice president of Amadeus River Cruises. “Coming out of Covid, I think a lot of companies are very strategic and realize that now is really the time if you want to introduce a new market, or if you want to expand on exotic markets, and capitalize on creating additional inventory.” 

Companies like Viking and AmaWaterways are leading the charge with new ships on the Nile over the next few years.

Viking will launch its third ship, the Viking Aton, on the Nile this August, one year after the launch of its second ship on the river, the Viking Osiris.

The 41-cabin Aton will be a sister ship to the Osiris and will sail the same 12-day Pharaohs and Pyramids itinerary. Viking will follow with the launch of the Viking Hathor in 2024 and the Viking Sobek in 2025, bringing the company’s Nile fleet to five. 

The Viking Ra in Egypt.

AmaWaterways is introducing another ship on the Nile in 2024, three years after the 2021 launch of its first vessel on the river, the AmaDahlia. The 41-cabin AmaLilia will be a sister ship to the AmaDahlia and will feature 13 suites, regionally inspired décor and a specialty restaurant. 

Uniworld is meeting the family and multigenerational trend with the expansion of its popular, family-friendly Generations Collection program that will include Egypt for the first time later this year.

Families will be able to explore the destination on the all-inclusive brand’s 12-day Splendors of Egypt and the Nile itinerary onboard the River Tosca beginning in December. New features have been added to the program, including the chance to meet and interact with local children and the option to donate school supplies, books and games to their communities.

Travelers are also seeking better value for their vacations as industry professionals say high prices are expected to remain a challenge in 2023.

That’s what primarily prompted AmaWaterways to extend a free pre- and post-cruise land offering for groups and FIT travelers sailing in Egypt this year in addition to continued demand for longer and more immersive travel experiences. 

“We received amazing feedback from our travel advisor partners as the offer was easy to communicate to their clients,” said Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-founder of AmaWaterways, about the launch of the complimentary program last October, which offers added value of up to $3,800 per couple.

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