Grand Circle Tours: Egypt

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May 28th, 2000, 10:01 AM
  #1
Rudy
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Grand Circle Tours: Egypt

We just got back from 2 weeks in Egypt. Since Grand Circle Tours are very popular with the 50+ crowd, I thought I would give a report for anyone interested.

The airline was Egyptair. I must say I was originally not happy with that, not only because of the crash, but because I've heard negative reports about their service. They are, however, the only airline that flies nonstop between JFK and Cairo. My fears were unfounded. The service was good. The planes were clean. The food was the usual airline TV dinners---didnt seem any worse than that of other airlines. They don't serve alcoholic drinks, but did give those who wanted it 2 small bottles of wine in JFK before boarding. This was not done in Cairo. The take-offs and landings were fairly smooth. The Egyptian passengers have a disconcerting habit of applauding upon landing---no kidding. The biggest negative was they had a smoking section. However, the planes were only about 1/3 full, and this was not a problem. And I'm real sensitive to second-hand smoke.

The tour itself involved 5 days in Cairo, 2 nights at the beginning; 3 at the end. They put us up at the 5 star Ramses Hilton, right downtown. When in Western Europe I like to stay in the kinds of hotels the natives stay in, but in Cairo I appreciated staying in the kind of hotel the Ramses was. We missed the first day of our tour because of local flight problems getting to JFK. This was the day spent at Giza and Sakkarah (sp?). But our tour guide arranged for us to do all that at the end of our trip. She arranged for a taxi and driver to take us there. We had to pay for this, but it was only $35 for a full morning, and that included a very generous tip. GC covered the entry fees.

We flew to Luxor and took a 7 day cruise to Aswan and back, stopping at the usual sites along the way. GC uses Nile Presidential Lines. The boat was probably mid-range in quality---a bit on the old side, but OK. Meals were buffet breakfasts and lunches, and a sitdown, fixed menu dinner at night. Food was OK, nothing special. Certainly not on a par with a cruise ship. Service was also OK. Everything was airconditioned.

The last 3 nights were spent in Cairo, seeing the museum and some other areas of Cairo. Our tour guide was great. She had a masters degree in archaeology. I personally didnt like Cairo. It is very dirty, and the traffic is just horrendous. The traffic lights are just for decoration; drivers don't slow down for pedestrians; and I felt like I was going on a great adventure each time I crossed a street. However, I felt safe the whole time. There are tourist police and soldiers everywhere. It seems like half the population of Egypt is armed---Charlton Heston would love it.

Grand Circle took great care of us. Even filled out our exit forms for us as we left. I can see why so many people who have toured with GC rave about them.

This is longer than I expected. I'll be glad to answer any specific questions about the tour or our experiences in Egypt.
 
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May 28th, 2000, 12:01 PM
  #2
Louise
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Rudy - enjoyed your post. Sounds like Grand Circle did a great job. How many people are the norm on a tour such as yours? Thank you
 
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May 28th, 2000, 05:59 PM
  #3
Rudy
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I believe there were 30 on our tour. This is probably the usual amount, since it was a fully booked tour. Their Overseas Adventure Tours, which we are taking to Peru next year, are limited to 16 people.
 
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May 30th, 2000, 04:44 AM
  #4
Karen
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Rudy, Enjoyed your post, too. We were there last year and LOVED it. Looking at Peru next year, too. Can you provide an web site or address or phone number for Overseas Adventure Tours. The 16 people tour size sounds good. You can reply directly, so as not to clog up Egypt posts.
[email protected]

Thanks!
 
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Jun 1st, 2000, 04:15 PM
  #5
Clarissa
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Message-Rudy: My husband and I will be taking nile cruise with Nile Presidential Lines in June. Do you have any more info such as room size, view, did any one get sick from the food
was there any organized entertainment? Your first posting was so informative and really stirred my curiosity! Thanks for any info.
 
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Jun 1st, 2000, 05:18 PM
  #6
Rudy
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Hi Clarissa: I'm not much good at estimating measurements, so I'll give you impressions. It's a smaller room than a hotel, but larger than on cruise ships I've been on. There are twin beds, side by side, a stand for luggage, a bedside table on each side, and a small desk jutting out from the wall by the bed. The bathroom has a full sink and a shower; no bathtub. There are two big windows that you can open. All rooms are outside and have a view, and all rooms are the same. We
were on the second deck. First deck is fairly near the waterline. The really upscale boats have a small balcony outside each room. Because of the height of the windows, your Nile viewing is uncomfortable from your cabin; you have to stand. For sight seeing you go to the top deck. The downer is when you are in port and another boat is right next to you. If it's on your side of the boat, you have to keep your curtains drawn, because if you open them, all you see are the windows of the next boat. I found the room a bit depressing during those stretches, and that could be from afternoon until the next morning. On the top deck is an air condidtioned bar-ballroom, and outside a sundeck with a small pool. They had entertainment 3 nights: 2 of these were a belly dancer; another was an Egyptian folk group. There was music each night for those who wanted to dance. Alcoholic drinks are very expensive on the boat---even a beer costs almost $5. About half our group was sick over the 2 weeks. It didnt all happen on the boat, but since it was the longest stretch, most of the sickness did occur there. My wife and I escaped any real problems. We avoided the fresh salads, and ate only the cooked food. Some people also ate the salads and did not get sick, so I guess it depends on your constitution. By all means take a supply of Immodium and use it at the first sign of trouble. You might also want to take Pepto Bismol. Next year GC will have their own Nile boat, smaller and apparently more upscale. Have a good trip.
 
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Jun 2nd, 2000, 06:14 PM
  #7
Clarissa
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Message: Hello Rudy, Thank You very much for your prompt and extremely informative response. We will certainly
use your info as a guide to having a good trip. I will definitely pick up some Immodium just in case Pharoah's Revenge catches up to us!
 
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Jul 21st, 2000, 05:06 AM
  #8
Claire
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Hi Rudy -
I just booked a trip to Egypt w/Grand Circle. I'm a single traveling alone & this seemed the best way to do it. Any special pointers/tips? Any info would be appreciated. Am leaving in September.
Thanks.
 
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Jul 22nd, 2000, 08:42 PM
  #9
Al
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Great report, Rudy. Saw where you planned to go to Peru with OAT. We went with them there and to the Galapagos Islands in l999 and can't say enough good things about that trip and about their service. Write us direct if you have questions.
 
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Jul 28th, 2000, 05:37 PM
  #10
Rudy
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Hi Claire:

I was out of town last week, and recently found your question. About a third of our tour group were single people, and we think they all had a good time. As to tips, I'm taking the liberty of forwarding to you an email I sent a friend of ours who was going to Egypt on Globus. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to post them, if you think they would be of interest to others, or email me directly. Rudy
 
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Jul 29th, 2000, 08:34 PM
  #11
crelly
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Rudy mentioned that quite a few people on his cruise were stricken with Mummy Tummy. The first day of our cruise in the breakfast buffet, I noticed that the Orange Juice was reconstituted. That is made by mixing powder with their tap water. You know, the water everyone is so careful to avoid? I can't believe the number of people I saw at their dining tables with water bottles and glasses of "orange juice" sitting next to each other. (I travelled around Cairo and Alexandria on my own, then joined up with a tour group this past Dec/Jan.)



 
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Aug 2nd, 2000, 12:33 PM
  #12
Wei Huang
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Trabs World Airlines (TWA) also has direct NYC to Cairo flight. The flight time is about 10 -11 hours. TWA services are OK, not as good as Lufthansa or Swissair which do not have direct NYC to Cairo flights.

The best time to visit Egypt is from November to end of April. I was in Cairo the last week of June. The daily temperature average was 102 F. There were a lot of aging European tourists in Cairo so I did not see hot weather being a problem for seniors. I stayed in Saudi Arabia before and had to weather 115 F temperature during their Summer. Cairo's 102 F was a breeze for me.
 
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Aug 2nd, 2000, 06:55 PM
  #13
LEANNA
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Rudy...your postings have been the best and most informative I have read anywhere...THANK YOU!! I'm debating between GC and Insight for a trip to E. next April. How many optionals were there on your trip, how many did you take, & what approx. was the cost??? Also...was there any mention of a side trip to Alexandria. I can't imagine not seeing that city while in E. but neither Insight nor GC seems to go there. Trafalgar does...BUT only spend 3 or 5 days on the cruise! Thank you!
 
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Aug 3rd, 2000, 05:34 AM
  #14
Rudy
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Leanna, the options on the GC package that I can recall are the Karnak and Giza Sound and Light shows. Costs, I believe, were $20 and $25.
 
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Aug 3rd, 2000, 05:39 AM
  #15
Rudy
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Sorry. For some reason my message posted before I was finished. We went to both light shows. My wife liked the Karnak one better; I liked Giza. She is an archaeology buff and was very impressed with Karnak overall. I'm more of a low brow and liked the more popular Giza show. There is an Abu Simbel option for $200. She went on it; I did not. She really liked it. Most people in forum have. One other option was a Cairo one that we did not go on---I think it was to one of the mosques and the Grand Bazaar. Can't recall cost. Neither offer Alexandria. While we really enjoyed the 7 day cruise, there was dead time, and you might want to go with the 5 day + Alexandria. Hope this helps.
 
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Aug 3rd, 2000, 01:43 PM
  #16
Linda
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Leeanna, we're leaving on a Globus tour called Grand Tour of Egypt next month, and the price includes side trips to both Alexandria and Memphis. The Abu Simbel trip is optional. This trip includes only three nights aboard a boat, which was one of the reasons that we selected it. We also decided to book an extra day in Cairo on each end of the trip, just in case we want to revisit a site or go exploring.
 
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Aug 3rd, 2000, 08:12 PM
  #17
LEANNA
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Thanks Rudy and Linda!! Tis a puzzle huh? What to do what to do...how come they dont design these tours for MOI! JUST KIDDING!!! I"ll keep researching and hope something shows up. Feel so whiny!!! Thanks again..this is a great bb...truly!!!
 
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