Cruises Off the Beaten Path
When I think of a cruise, I think of one thing: old people.
Really. I close my eyes and all I can see are elderly people wearing old-fashioned bathing suits, bathing caps, and all of the men are wearing those Jimmy Buffet style shirts with cameras around their necks. It is these images that made me throw a fit when my mother suggested a cruise for my senior year spring break. Little did I know that the cruise that my family had planned was far from a trip on which I would be forced to battle an old man for tapioca; No, no. This cruise was off the beaten path.
At the time we were living in London, England. SAT Travel, an organization dedicated to organizing trips for expatriate families, promised more than just a vacation; SAT promised adventures. The tour that my family would take was cruise on The Nile River in Egypt.
We flew from London, Heathrow into Cairo.
The city of Cairo is blanketed with a thick layer of smog. The air is hot, heavy, and thick. As we exited the airport and rushed onto the tour bus, rusty cars and rickety busses, small motorbikes and pedestrians seemed to whirl around us. Everyone was in a hurry; their bodies sliced through the heat like hot nails through sheets of ice. As we pulled away from the airport children in ill fitted clothing chased our bus; I smiled in appreciation of my life.
Our first night was spent in the city of Cairo. We ate at a restaurant at the top of our hotel looking out over a city that seemed to whisper beneath the smog. The hanging gray air muted the colors of the city lights creating an ethereal feel. However beautiful the scenery, we got to bed early, as we learned that we would wake each day and begin tours before 7am, as the afternoon heat is too intense for exploration.
The next day we boarded the boat and began our trip down the Nile.
The boat was large, but not like a Carnival Cruise liner. It held no more than 50 rooms, and had a dining room, a disco, and a pool. The boat was guarded by a four man armed security team to protect us from those who may see a boat full of foreigners as a floating gold mine.
The boat floated us down the river as we rested in the late afternoon and would dock for the evening as we showered and prepared for a dinner of traditional Egyption cuisine. A full day excursion allowed us to explore Memphis-Saqqara (The Great Pyrmid). We were permitted to enter the smallest pyramid through the shoot where they would have slid the coffin of the dead. At night we gathered at the base of the Sphinx to watch a laser show. The show was comprised of what seemed like four laser pens being shined on the side of the sphinx accompanied by a steady drum roll. It was magnificent in its simplicity.
In the following days we would travel to the Valley of the Kings
To Aswan and Abu Simbel, Kom Ombo and Philae Temple before heading back to Cairo to take in the Egyptian Museum. Our guides were well informed, ready and willing to answer any questions, and even helped us haggle when we wanted to purchase souvenirs. Our trip was wonderful. We explored foreign cities, took in a new culture, and were able to set foot in places where history was taking place before Christopher Columbus was even born. And we did it all without having to fight off a single grandma at a salad bar with a sneeze guard.
Alright. We aren’t living in London and we can’t hop a plane to Egypt for a cruise paid for by our parents, but we can take inspiration from this story! A cruise doesn’t have to mean hanging out with Donald Duck and Mickey on a Disney Cruise ship, nor does it have to mean dining in a room flooded with kids or overrun by the elderly. A cruise can be a fulfilling and fun journey allowing you to explore and discover many places for one flat rate.
Unlike your standard vacation, everything on a cruise is included; you’re not running out to clubs and taking cabs and eating out. You pay once. Pretty sweet deal, huh? There are cruises that will take you on an Alaskan Voyage or around the Grecian Islands and back. Use your trip to explore and learn something you never knew, or just take time to see something that you haven’t seen. Although it may be hard to believe, if you save and plan right, a cruise off the beaten path is well within reach.
By Alexandra Gury