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Everything posted by Gardendog

  1. Jumping in, hoping not to hijack the thread. We have not signed up for any beverage package but contemplating it. I drink pretty much only wine, DH also enjoys regular drinks. If we get the O life beverage package, only he would upgrade to the premium package. How does the basic beverage package work during cocktail hour?
  2. Thank you all for your help. Because of you, I figured it out.
  3. I have in the past searched just one board, but I don't seem to find where to do that anymore. The search function on top brings up every single cruise line that pertains to my question. Please advice.
  4. Thank you all for your replies. We also like to go out for dinner, but lunch from the “Veranda” sounds like a great idea on our balcony. I will read the links as well. I don’t know how to search just the Oceania board from my iPad.
  5. We have booked a PH3 guarantee for our upcoming Marina cruise. We tried Marina a few years ago also in a PH suite, we got it in a good enough for us upsell. Our butler was great, brought us our daily afternoon snacks, and my coffee in the morning I believe, and made sure our bottle of wine was brought to the restaurant. (We brought bottles onboard and paid corkage to enjoy them with our dinners.) We asked him and he got us some more specialty dining reservations, so we did not have to go and ask ourselves, he asked for us. This was our first experience with a butler, and he did say something like “you are not asking me to do much”. Those of you who have had butlers, what have you asked them to do? What’s in their “job description”?
  6. Thank you for this link. Gus gets real reviews on TA. I will definitely contact him.
  7. Thank you for that link. Very useful! Now I just have to figure out what the coastal states of Brazil are.
  8. Wednesday February 20 We had purchased the Jerusalem extension from Uniworld so we left at 5:15 in the morning on a bus for the airport with the rest of the group who also had signed up for this excursion. We were 11 all together. Uniworld did a fantastic job getting us through security, making sure that we were well taken care of by them and that we would not hand over our bags to any baggage handlers (he did not want anyone to take advantage of us). The flight to Tel Aviv was great and we were met by a Uniworld representative at the airport who helped us to the smaller bus/van that would be our mode of transportation in Jerusalem. Rooms were not ready so the Uniworld rep took us to a restaurant for coffee while waiting for the lovely rooms at the Orient Jerusalem. DH and I wanted to check out the town so we left and did our own sight seeing in the Old City, and had the best time. I will not give a detailed description of the Jerusalem extension, but have the following comments. The hotel was top notch, very new and modern and of excellent standard. The breakfast buffet was immense. The only meals included were breakfasts. I posted a picture of their special coffee treat. We did not have the Vox system for this part of our tour, and boy did I miss it. It was hard to wait for everyone before the guide would give her talk at the different site (usually holy sites), and some of us were slower walkers than others, some needed/wanted to shop so there were lots of waiting for each other. If she turned her head, we could not hear. There were lots of crowds in most of the holy sites so we never really got a chance to see anything much up close, because we had to stand right next to her to hear what she said. I think for Jerusalem and Bethlehem, a private guide is the way to go. There are special rules for smaller groups. Also, lots of time was spent on getting lunch, while not everyone might want to eat lunch. We were on our own for dinner and DH and I have lovely dinners every night at close by restaurants. After three days of touring, we left early again from the Orient Jerusalem. The hotel provided us with lovely boxed breakfasts. We were taken by taxi to the airport and the Uniworld rep met us by the taxi, helped us through the first security and to the check in counter. After that, our own flight arrangements took over. We were very pleased with the high service in getting us to our flight. We came back to Chicago in very high winds but landed safely. It was such a great trip. I think DH and I would have had more fun doing Jerusalem on our own, but now I just feel that we need to go back and see all of Israel.
  9. cormike1, thanks for reading and commenting. I have one more post wrapping up the Jerusalem extension.
  10. Yes, it was a disappointment for us as well, and we went to two of them! One is more than enough. People on this board gave the Luxor one B, I'd give it C-. This one would be a bit higher, just because it was included and it was by the pyramids. Thanks for reading and commenting.
  11. I had read that people got Nile view rooms on Uniworld. We did not and the others I spoke to did not either. It's still a nice hotel and the rooms were nice even if they did not have views of the Nile.
  12. Tuesday, February 19 PYRAMID DAY! Early morning start again but we had time to get the lovely buffet breakfast at the Four Seasons. We saw the three pyramids and got to climb them a little bit (the allowed area). We also had the opportunity to climb into one of the pyramids, lots of steps and had to stoop. Camel riding in the desert, it seems so touristy but it was so much fun. We paid the camel driver directly, $11 per person and then our guide told us to tip him $2, but our guide required more than that. It was one of the more fun things to do in Egypt. Highly recommend, if you are with a tour. If not, you might be taken advantage off, money wise. We also saw the sphinx and it started to get a bit busy. We had been encouraged to order lunch boxes from the Four Seasons as a lunch stop was not included. There were fruit and water and juice on the bus, so I don’t think it was necessary to order the lunch, we did and one was good the other very average. We stopped at a papyrus shop where we were shown how papyrus is made. We also had a chance to buy, fancy that. We did end up buying a piece that we really liked and it is now displayed in our home. Excursion to Memphis to see the huge lying Ramses II. We were escorted by armed vehicle that drove to all intersections and closed those cross streets so we could just drive through. It was through neighborhoods. This day we also visited Saqqara step pyramid and saw the bent pyramid from a distance. We had an early dinner in the hotel lobby and enjoyed people watching. Many people from the gulf area dressed in impeccable white and others as well. Lots of body guards around some of those guests. This was the last night and the night of the Sound and Light show at the pyramids. Armed guards escorted our bus again, and we sat through the show which was fine. Many people missed it due to the middle of the night departures, they did not miss much. Out of all our days in Egypt, this might have been my favorite!
  13. Monday February 18 We had to get up early for the 5 AM departure from the ship. Check in and pat down again, but by now we were used to it. On this flight no one got upgraded to the business section, it was all empty. We had booked (and paid for) the optional Coptic tour ($30 or so per person), so we were taken directly to the Coptic area with our guides. The guests who chose could go directly to the hotel Four Seasons Nile, but the rooms would not be ready. This was a very fascinating area of Cairo. The locals call it Old Cairo, because it’s one of the oldest areas of Cairo. Small narrow streets, old churches with many icons, vendors selling old photos of the pyramids. It was great. It was also very clean and our guide said that the government keeps it that way. I would hope that the home owners would as well. The guard was with us the whole time. Our guide informed us on the way to the hotel that all of us had been upgraded to rooms with a view of the Nile. I know some people also got suites, but we did not. We were very pleased with our room. In our room there was also a basket of fruit and a huge tray of sweets, why we got it and not some the others, I don’t know. This was another instance where it seemed totally random who got the suites. Again, I would have thought that people with many sailings with Uniworld would have got them, but no, several first timers got those fancier rooms. We were very happy with our room despite it not being a suite, LOL, and someone important must have stayed on our floor because there were two armed guards at the elevators. DH and I ventured out on our own, walking by the American Embassy. We were stopped by guards, asking us where we were going and why. The whole street there is blocked off with huge boulders. Some of the guards told us how to get to the street where we were going, through a parking garage! Quite the adventure! Walking in Cairo is not for the faint hearted, crossing the street seemed impossible to me. We did not see any locals that we could follow as we did in Hanoi last year. Upon return to the hotel, the security guards were very careful in checking out a man in front of us. The alarm went off several times and they had him empty out more and more! Then they apologized to us for the delay. No worries! This day dinner was on our own so we had the Egyptian buffet again at the Four Seasons. So delicious, and so many different choices. Truly amazing food. The guides do not want us to go to local restaurants, they want to make sure we stay healthy, and we did! Normally this would be the day for the Cairo Sound and Light show at the Pyramids, but this week, there was no show on Monday. This was the evening for the Nile cruise in Cairo. A dozen or so went. Most were not too happy about it. We did not go as we had dined on the Nile the whole week on the Tosca. Some felt that it was so nice to see Cairo from the water by night. We went to bed very early after such a long day. I apologize, but I don't have any pictures from today. DH must have taken them all.
  14. Cormike1, I think we had vendors throw things up on deck once. I was not part of it. I actually don't know if anyone bought anything that way. I had read here that vendors on boats would attach themselves to the cruise ships in order to sell. We got a cabin on the higher level because of that, but I don't think anyone did that. Perhaps security kept people away. Sawtooth Thanks for following along. They changed up the dates for activities a bit for us, but I don't think we missed out on anything.
  15. Sunday February 17 Last day of excursions from the Tosca. We docked and walked to the Temple of Esna. This temple was “hidden” for so long, but excavation has brought it out. You can clearly see how much debris have been removed to show the temple. We learned lots today regarding rules for excavation. It is strictly against the rule to dig without a permit. People still do and if caught, severe punishment with imprisonment. There are so many antiquities all over Egypt and people want to dig and find and sell. One of the early explorers said that he saw the cartouche from Totmosis, but it’s no longer there, someone must have taken it. In order to get to the temple we had to walk through a sellers’ gauntlet, Valley of the Vultures. On the way back, we did indeed buy something from one of the vendors. He was the first one to ask for ball point pens for his children. Someone who traveled to Egypt 10 years ago said that I needed to bring ballpoint pens to give out to children. I did bring a bunch, but never encountered anyone asking for them, so I gave them to our guide to give to his children’s school. Anyway, our friend had a yellow high lighter and gave it to the scarf seller. This was a most fascinating stop as we also went to the local market to see their wares. Mattress makers, stamp makers, food selling etc etc. Very eye opening. This was a highlight of the cruise. In the evening the guides were available for lectures on Egypt and Q and A on Egypt. Good participation. This was the evening for the optional Luxor Sound and Light show. I would recommend skipping this one and just go to the included one in Cairo. None of them are that great, kind of a snooze, but one is enough. Fist two pictures are from the Temple of Esna, then city views of the local market. Fist the cotton seller, then the guy who makes stamps for people who cannot write, so they can use the stamp to sign their names, then food vendor and then a moped with lots of eggs, drive carefully!
  16. Saturday February 16, The excursion today was to the Unfinished Obelix. It was extremely interesting as by having it lie there, unfinished, archeologists and researchers can figure out how the ancient Egyptians carved these obelixes. This excursion involved walking up on very uneven rocks and I was thankful that I did this trip while still able bodied. Next the bus took us to the Aswan Dam. It is a sight to behold, at the bottom, the base of the dam is almost 1 km (3/4 mile) wide. This was followed by a boat ride to the Temple of Phillae. There was an interesting stone there with carvings very much like the Rosetta stone. I took a photo of it, it's the third one. There was evidence there of early Christians, (see the picture of the cross below) from the 400s using this temple for Christian worship, and also disfiguring some of the carvings of the old Egyptian gods. A vendor was invited to our boat and sold his wares for bargain prices. He had good business, necklaces and bracelets. Our guide negotiated price with him, so he sold his wares for $1. Speaking of the $1, I had brought a stack of them. It turns out that it is a great bill to have, but they have to be perfect, not torn or too worn or old. In addition, many of the vendors asked us if we could exchange our $10 or $20 for their singles. It turns out that their banks don't take $1. I would recommend taking less in singles and when asked to exchange, get your singles that way. I remember this because we were asked to do this as we came back from the boat trip to Phillae. This is one time when I really noticed our armed guard (from the bus). He stayed with us until we had finished exchanging money. The Tosca then set off for Luxor, another nap on the sun deck. The view from the sundeck is so interesting with the little villages, animals grazing and the green right next to the Nile. Not far away though, the desert is obvious. Tonight’s evening was the gala dinner with candle lights (battery operated). Some were a bit dressed up, but most were not. Some wore their special Egyptian clothing bought for the earlier party.
  17. We never made it to the Nubian museum. The young bird watching guide gave his perspective on the whole re-location of the Nubian people. He said that the older generation missed their home land, but for the younger generation, home is now where they live (to where they were re-located).
  18. Thank you for reading and responding. I forgot to mention the optional hot air balloon tour which took place on the day we visited the valley of the kings. People got to sign the night before, and a handful did it. We did not. I believe the participants enjoyed it. I had expected hot temperatures as it was southern Egypt, but it was rather cool. I ended up wearing my quilted jacket most every day. One thing I have not mentioned is the laundry perk for Heritage members of Uniworld. DH and I each got a free bag of laundry and we used it. The turnaround was pretty immediate, and they followed instructions! It was great as the desert sand got the clothes pretty dirty.
  19. Friday February 15 Abu Simbel day. We flew Egypt Air from Aswan to Abu Simbel, saw the wonderful site with the enormous Ramses statues, and all the little rooms in the temple. This is quite the miracle. This temple would have been under water when they built the new Aswan dam, but international help from all over the world moved these giant statues to higher ground. While building the dam, the Nubian people lost their home land and were relocated to other areas around Aswan. At the site there were Nubian vendors so we purchased some scarves from them, bargaining hard at the end. It turns out we paid what other vendors would have charged, but for us as Americans, it was a good price. The airplanes are small but they serve a beverage, a sweet juice and I believe a cookie as well. Tight security, everyone got a pat down. We got back to the return flight a few minutes before take-off. The guides were not worried. I guess this time we got an upgrade since we were in the front, but there was absolutely nothing better with those seats, just location. They served a late lunch on the ship. The late afternoon excursion was a bird watching tour and a visit to a Nubian village. The Nubian guide spoke such excellent English that we all thought he must have studied in the UK, but no, he had just learned from TV. He knew the names of the birds along the shore in several languages. The guests enjoyed this, but the highlight might have been sseeing running camels with riders on the shore! I don’t know if camels “gallop” but it sure looked like it. There was a Nubian party after dinner with Nubian entertainment and dancing. Again, they brought the guests up on the dance floor and we did a version of a Nubian Conga line. LOL 1st picture is of Abu Simbel King Ramses II enormous statues 2nd and 3rd are from the bird watching tour to the Nubian village Last picture is entertainment by the Nubian guests
  20. Beautiful pictures. I have never stayed in a Oceania suite, but it’s always hard to scale back for any of us. I’m so glad you had a wonderful time, and enjoyed all the specials with your suite life. Thanks for bringing us along
  21. Thursday February 14 Valentine’s Day! We had docked close to the Kom Ombo Temple and Crocodile Museum so we just walked there. The ship has no elevator and the stairs are a bit uneven. Most of the time when we embark and disembark, the ground is not even. Some of the guests had some mobility issues and struggled a little bit. This temple to the Crocodile god was also interesting with carvings of medical instruments on one of the wall. There was also a Nile-meter, a deep well that measured the rise of the Nile in for taxation purposes. This was a fairly brief visit and we came back to the ship to participate in Zumba with Muhammad Ali. It was fun and it was a mixed group with men and women. The day continued with a Falluca ride in the Nile with police escort close by in a boat. A few kids came up next to us singing songs on some kind of floating board. Some of the guests gave them money. Our guide thought it was not a good idea for the kids to do this, they should be in school he thought. This was the day with the High Tea at the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan of Agatha Christie fame. It was such a lovely spread. Traditional tea with the three layers and there was also fruit. I asked about the dress code, and the guide said smart casual so we did dress up but this cruise has been the least dressy of any cruise that I have been on. Most of the time the guests wear for dinner what they wore during the day. Some dress a bit nicer and some very nicely indeed, but for the most part not. Evening ended with a lovely dinner on the ship. I said in the first installment that there was a possibility that not everyone could go to Abu Simbel. Well it turned out that all could go. Today was the day that we found out the details. Most people got to go with the bus A guide, Taric, a few got to go with bus B guide, our guide, and a handful got put on a flight to Abu Simbel on a completely different day. Since there were not enough spots on the flight for all of us to go on the 15, they scheduled the small group for the 16. “The campers were not happy.” For them it also involved getting up incredibly early, and missing out on having our guides. Anyway, Uniworld came through, everyone went, not everyone was satisfied. I think Uniworld would do well in including this trip in the fare, that way everyone can go. If someone doesn’t want to, fine, one can skip an excursion. This hung a bit as a cloud over the whole tour, people wondering, I am going to get to Abu Simbel? The first picture is of Kom Ombo, next the Nile-meter. Then the excort on our Falluca ride, there is a picture of the kids coming close singing for money. Lovely spread at the Old Cararact hotel and sunset from its deck.
  22. We did not visit King Tut’s tomb, I don’t think anyone from our group went. I think I remember our guide saying that there was very little left there and of course the carvings/paintings were better in the Ramses kings tombs. I know we could have if we had wanted to. I was more than pleased with the three tombs we got to see. So you only had 28 people? Besides the Uniworld group of 68 there were short term cruisers on our ship. They did not come on any of the cursions, but they had dinner in the restaurant and hung in the bar area as well. I think 12 total, but not all at once. The Hotel Manager said that the Gratuity box was set out for those people. So in two years they have more than doubled the group. Good for Egyptian tourism!
  23. Wednesday February 13 Tour again started early at 7AM with trip to the Valley of the Kings. The program stated: West bank visit, interesting since “going west” meant dying. (Sun sets in the west). Our tour included entrance to 3 tombs which are rotated to save them. Visitors to these tombs take a toll on them. We got to visit the tombs of Ramses III, Ramses VI and Ramses IV. How amazing is it that the paintings on the wall is still there thousands of years later! This was the one place where the guards checked the photo passes all the time, mentioned for the phone and took a picture and then demanded a “tip”. I felt very “used”. These were the guards, not some vendors. Our guide had warned us in advance never to give the phone to anyone, but I guess I did not think that would apply to the guards. Lesson learned. I did not tell the guide right away, he said I should have, because he would have had words with the guard. (On our flight to Luxor from Cairo, one of the guests had a tiny swiss army knife that was confiscated in the screening. Our guide got it back for him!) The tour continued with a visit to Hatshepsut’s palace. She was a female king, or Pharaoh as we call them. It looks grander from the road, almost like an optical illusion. Pictures are from Hatshepsut's palace. I took none from the king's tombs, since we only purchased one photo pass. From there we went to one of the obligatory alabaster shop with a showing of how they make the Alabaster vases. The prices were supposed to be somewhat firm, but DH bought a couple of things and bargained well, a word to the wise. I am not much of a napper but the early mornings have been catching up with me, so a good nap again on the sundeck while we sailed the Nile. Yoga again with Muhammad Ali. This evening was the River Heritage party which we attended, but there was no Uniworld rep there. It was followed by dinner and then the galabeya party. Many of us purchased outfits in the gift shop for the event. I don’t think it would save any money to bring one from home, unless you owned one. They ranged in the $15 to $25 range. The party included dance to Egyptian music and the crew got many of us up on the floor. One of the guests thought there was more dancing tonight than on regular cruises. Evening ended with some traditional Western music that DH and I love to dance to. This is not a party boat, so we closed the dance floor at 10PM or so.
  24. Yes, I did lots of studying before this trip, I listened to The Great Courses series, Ancient Egypt, I think it was 48 lectures, twice and watched tons of DVDs from the library about ancient Egypt. I learned so much so it was so much more vivid to me on this trip. I also studied picture books about ancient Egypt. It was a great learning experience for me even before arriving there. I wanted to get the most out of it. I totally agree with you. Instead of just listening to “new” I formation, it was cool to see the things I had learned. I should check into your suggested reading. I am not done yet with ancient Egypt. Thanks for reading and posting. The weather while we were there was in the 50 Fahrenheit getting to 70 perhaps at the heat of the day, but mostly around 60, so not hot at all. I think they scheduled the tours that early to avoid crowds. I wore a quilted jacket and jeans most every day, it was definitely not hot, but excellent touring weather. I could not have asked for any better weather, and of course it never rains in southern Egypt.
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