The Travel Tipping Point: River Cruises
Written by Jaillan Yehia
The travel tipping point is my regular column on travel trends, types and themes which seem to be ‘having a moment’ and have achieved critical mass – meaning that wherever you look, this way of travel, destination or style of service seems to suddenly be popping up everywhere.
Whether it be a new way of booking travel, an up and coming country or a style of journey, sometimes when we see everyone else trying something, we just have to try it for ourselves.
This week, I’m thinking about messing about on the river – all over the world. But mostly in Egypt…
Let me say right up front here, cruises never really appealed to me that much.
I’m into luxury travel, independent travel, boutique hotels, shopping and most of all, seeing the real side of the destination, which most of the time, honestly, involves food. Oh and the arts.
Like so many people I didn’t consider cruises to be for me at all until quite recently.
A couple of things happened that started swaying my mind (I think, especially when it comes to travel our minds don’t just up and change, it is a gradual process which eventually reaches a ‘tipping point’). I often find that these things come in threes.
So, firstly my attitude to the word ‘cruise’ in general changed. I was living in Vancouver after falling in love with Canada on the Rocky Mountaineer, a luxury train through the Canadian Rockies which is not unlike a cruise on the rails really.
Seeing the cruise ships at Vancouver’s waterfront which were headed to the wilderness of Alaska, I started to really understand why destinations with stunning scenery like Canada can best be experienced via a combination of different modes of transport, including by ship. I even started to really want to go on an Alaskan cruise myself.
Denial Isn’t Just a river in Egypt
The second of the trio for me is the real ‘tipping point’ part: I saw so many different friends and colleagues going on different types of cruises that I felt like there was a groundswell of enthusiasm and excitement about travel by boat that I had somehow missed.
I realised that I always love getting out onto the water, that being near the ocean or a river is almost a must for me, and that I really ought to rethink making it the basis for a whole holiday.
These were mostly really upmarket river cruises – but everyone I know who has been on one all seemed to be having a jolly civilized time, and lapping up the kind of luxury I tend to enjoy. I have to admit to drooling over some of the river cruise reviews on other travel blogs.
The river cruises in particular, especially the European ones, appear to combine a lot of things I love about exploring my own continent – like great food and wine, cycling, culture and arts and crafts, while removing some of the aspects I don’t like, i.e. the hassle of getting from A to B and from one city to another and spending a lot of time on logistics.
I repositioned my impressions of ocean cruises too once I realised that this same kind of rather more refined style was possible out at sea. I’m not sure why I thought the entire cruise market hadn’t changed in decades, and I think that’s a mistake a lot of people make – when clearly everything in the rest of travel has moved with great pace to keep up with the demands of consumers and cruises are no different but I had been in denial about this.
But The Nile Is A River In Egypt
The third of the three seachanges for me personally (sorry for the pun) was when I was planning my trip to Egypt. I’ve been a handful of times but I have never done a Nile Cruise and rather ridiculously not visited Upper Egypt, ever – which is the stretch of the country along the Nile which is home to Aswan and the Valley of The Kings.
You know how it goes when planning a really in-depth long haul trip with lots of moving parts – I became an expert in the flight times of Egyptair, and the various possible options to get up and down and across Egypt. Travelling by road for long distances is not something you want to do in Egypt so other than planes, a river cruise and a lake cruise on Lake Nasser were obvious must do’s.
But as I finalised my itinerary after hours of research I realised that exploration of Egypt’s waterways was an entirely different vaction in its own right – Lake Nasser is 300 miles long and a Nile Cruise takes a minimum of 4 nights and if you’re going to do it you might as well do it right and take the full week.
Not only did I realise I would need to leave the cruise for another day, but I accepted an unfamiliar feeling of relishing the opportunity to return to Egypt knowing that responsibilities for planning would not be mine, and I could enjoy the romance of the water.
So, within the space of a few years I’ve gone from thinking that cruises are not for me, full stop, to yearning for an Alaska cruise and actually planning a luxury Nile cruise. And yes, I fully admit my travel standards got higher during that time so it makes more sense.
Ok, I guess I can also admit I have gotten a little bit older in that time. I’m not in denial on that score either.
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