This review details a Nile river cruise on board the ship M/S Princess Sarah.
Nile river cruise
Planning a Nile river cruise might seem like a daunting task as there are quite a lot of choices you need to make an information can be scarce at times.
The previous chapter in this trip report therefore addressed all the general information you need to know about a Nile river cruise, such as the possible itineraries, differences between ships, costs and how you can book your river cruise itinerary.
If you haven’t followed this trip report from the beginning, you are well-advised to read it so you are up-to-date about the basics behind a Nile cruise regardless of the exact ship you plan to take.
In this chapter I will review my actual river cruise experience as well as the facilities and service on board the Nile cruise ship I selected for my journey, the M/S Princess Sarah.
Reasons why I chose the Princess Sarah
As I wrote in the previous chapter, there can be huge differences between Nile river boats in terms of luxury, size, style, design and budget.
Therefore, choosing the vessel you want to cruise on will be a highly personal choice as other people might make completely different decisions than I did.
Luxor & Aswan Travel Agency, the tour outfit which I used to book my Nile river cruise, had a clear overview on its website of about a couple of dozen ships from which you can choose.
Although it was easy enough for me to narrow all the options down to three ships, making my final choice was a bit more difficult.
In the end, these were the reasons why I ended up deciding on the Princess Sarah:
– Public areas full of old world charm.
– Modern-looking cabin.
– Sitting corner with sliding glass doors in cabin for perfect open-air Nile views.
– Swimming pool.
Lobby and check-in
I embarked on the M/S Princess Sarah while it was anchored along the quay in Aswan.
The first thing you will notice on board the Princess Sarah is the striking lobby of the ship with its magnificent staircase and glass ceiling.
Check-in was a smooth process and I got assigned a cabin on the port side of the ship on its first floor.
Princess Sarah cabin
My cabin on the M/S Princess Sarah certainly matched with the images I saw of it before so it didn’t disappoint.
I had a twin cabin for private use and the room certainly looked neat and stylish and was perfectly clean.
The bed itself was comfortable and all three nights on board I managed to get some good quality sleep.
At the far end of the cabin next to the sliding glass doors is a small sofa with table as well as a small cabinet with a flat-screen TV on top.
Inside this cabinet you can find a little fridge – which was perfect to store some of the booze I had brought along for the cruise.
Opposite the two beds is a small desk with mirror, while in the hallway you can find a large closet with plenty of storage space.
The cabin also featured individually controlled air-conditioning and a safe box inside the room where you can store your valuables.
The only slight negative of the cabin was the lack of a power socket next to the bedside table.
My cabin had its own en-suite bathroom and although it was a bit on the narrow side, it was fully equipped with a shower, bathtub, toilet, sink, hairdryer and basic toiletries.
Both cold and warm water were readily available from the taps inside the bathroom.
What I liked best about my cabin on board the M/S Princess Sarah were the big sliding glass doors.
This was a major reason why I opted for this ship in the first place and I was happy to see that the sitting corner in my cabin was indeed a perfect place to wind down during the sailing.
Although the views from the top deck of the ship are arguably much better as you are higher up and can admire the scenery on both banks of the River Nile, the seating corner in my cabin wasn’t bad either.
Fortunately, the sofa and table could easily be moved so I was able to place it right in front of the open doors for some fresh air and unobstructed views.
It allowed for a private little area to sip some drinks in all quietness while still being able to photograph the scenery and enjoy the views.
Lounge and bar
On the first floor of the M/S Princess Sarah you can find the lovely lounge bar of the ship, which just like the lobby oozes the old world charm of Nile river boat from the early 1900s.
The bar menu features all kinds of hot and cold drinks, including beer, wine, cocktails and other alcoholic drinks.
Another nice place to hang out on the M/S Princess Sarah is its open-air top deck, which features a small swimming pool, sun loungers, a bar and also plenty of covered seating for those who want to sit in the shade.
Needless to say, the top deck is a popular place among cruise passengers at scenic points of the journey along the River Nile.
Besides the departure from Aswan with its stunning backdrop of high sand dunes and the final arrival at Luxor, also the passage through the Esna Locks is popular among passengers so make sure you arrive on deck in time.
The M/S Princess Sarah also features a small outdoor pool, another reason why I chose for this particular river cruise ship.
However, the swimming pool looked like it has seen better days and could certainly do with some renovation.
More importantly, the water inside the pool was ice cold, which made it impossible to take a dip.
Unsurprisingly, I never saw a single person inside the pool during my cruise.
Although I can imagine the pool is more attractive in late spring, summer or early autumn when the temperature soars to extreme levels, you should note that in winter (high tourist season for Egypt!) it will most likely not be that comfortable.
What I gathered, most Nile cruise ships have unheated pools, so this is likely an issue for many other river boats as well.
If a swimming pool is important to you, I would therefore recommend that you check in advance whether your preferred ship has a heated pool.
Although the pool was a minor disappointment at first, in reality it was something which didn’t matter much at all to me in the grand scheme of things as I could easily do without.
Other noteworthy facilities on the board of the M/S Princess Sarah are a small gift shop and children’s play area.
On the lower floor of the ship in the anteroom before the main dining hall you can also find a pool table and another small bar.
Although there was a wireless internet network on the M/S Princess Sarah, the WiFi signal only covered the reception area of the ship and even there it seemed impossible to get it working.
I would highly suggest you to buy an Egyptian SIM card before you embark on your cruise.
A SIM card and a couple of gigabyte of mobile data doesn’t cost much in Egypt and 4G coverage along most of the Nile is good.
Each morning, breakfast is served in the main dining hall on the lower deck of the M/S Princess Sarah.
Typically, all meals on board your Nile river boat will be buffet style and included in your cruise package, although some high-end cruise ships may offer à la carte dining.
Breakfast on the M/S Princess Sarah was buffet style and had tea and coffee included, although other drinks like orange juice were an optional extra which you had to order with one of the waiters.
I found the quality and choice at the breakfast buffet to be very good and you can expect both European and Egyptian fare.
Besides different pastries, cheese, cold cuts, fresh fruit, jams and cereals there were also warm options such as sausages, fuul (mashed fava beans cooked with oil) as well as made-to-order eggs.
In case you have an early excursion planned at one of the stops along the route (such as Abu Simbel) the personnel on board the M/S Princess Sarah is happy to provide you with a packed breakfast to take with you if you let them know the night before.
Lunch and dinner
I was impressed with the quality and quantity of the food at the lunch and dinner buffet on board the M/S Princess Sarah.
Each seating, there would be completely new dishes available at the buffet, so the food was certainly varied enough throughout the cruise.
When it comes to cooked food, you could always expect a couple of different meats, one fish dish, two vegetarian dishes, rice or potatoes and pasta.
Options for children like chicken nuggets and chips were available too.
Besides this, there was a large salad bar, plenty of fruit and some quality breads as well.
Also the desserts changed frequently and often featured different kinds of sweets and pies, cake, ice cream and baklava.
Although all the food was included in my cruise package, drinks were not so if you want anything to drink with your meal (whether it’s a simple bottle of water or an alcoholic drink) you had to order this from one of the waiters.
The service by the staff on the M/S Princess Sarah was perfectly fine, with especially the cooks and waiters in the restaurant being a friendly an jolly bunch.
Overall, I had the impression that the Nile river cruise ship was professionally run.
Everything you order during the cruise, whether it’s a drink during lunch or a nightcap at the lounge bar, is added to your account.
You simply give your room number to the waiter or barkeep when you order your drink and pay for everything at the reception desk when you check out from the cruise ship.
Note that on Egyptian river cruises it is customary to tip the personnel, although this usually happens at the end of your cruise and not individually at each and every order.
On the last night of the cruise, you will receive an envelope in which you will put your tip for the staff.
This envelope is then collected upon check-out, after which the tips from all the passengers will be added up and divided among each and every staff member of the cruise ship, from the waiters to the cleaners and cooks.
However, do note that these tips only go towards the staff who are directly employed on the river boat and that you will need to tip your guide and drivers for shore excursions separately.
The M/S Princess Sarah turned out to be a great ship to cruise along the River Nile and generally left me with good impressions.
To start with the positive aspects, I found the cabin to be comfortable and clean.
I certainly loved the little seating corner and the large sliding glass doors as it allowed me to absorb the scenery from the comfort of my own cabin.
The public areas on the M/S Princess Sarah are certainly beautiful, with especially the lobby and the lounge bar having lots of style and charm.
The quality and quantity of the food buffets were another strong point of the M/S Princess Sarah and staff was generally friendly and helpful.
However, there were a few negative points as well, as the top-deck pool was way too cold to swim or take a dip and the WiFi internet on board the ship didn’t work.
In practice, these points however turned out to be minor inconveniences.
Overall, I had a great experience on board the M/S Princess Sarah and can certainly recommend this ship if you are planning a Nile cruise between Aswan and Luxor.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Walk Like an Egyptian: A Grand Tour of Egypt‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Red-Eye Ramblings of a Late Night Flight to Cairo
2. A Visit to the Pyramids of Giza by Camel
3. Review: Sofitel Nile El Gezirah, Zamalek, Cairo
4. Exploring the Medieval Old Town and Islamic History of Cairo
5. Visiting the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo
6. Mar Girgis: The Churches of Christian Old Cairo
7. Review: Ernst Watania Sleeping Train Cairo to Aswan
8. The Ancient Quarry of Aswan and the Unfinished Obelisk
9. A Boat Ride From Aswan to the Temple of Isis at Philae
10. A Visit to the Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser
11. A Visit to the Nubian Village on Aswan’s Elephantine Island
12. Aswan Guide: A Visit to Egypt’s Most Stunningly Located City
13. A Half Day Trip From Aswan to Amazing Abu Simbel
14. Nile River Cruise Guide: All Info for Your Egypt Boat Trip
15. Review: M/S Princess Sarah Nile River Cruise Ship (current chapter)
16. Nile Cruise: Sailing From Aswan to Kom Ombo
17. A Visit to the Ancient Crocodile Temple of Kom Ombo
18. A Visit to the Temple of Horus at Edfu
19. Nile Cruise: Sailing From Edfu to Luxor
** rest of the chapters to follow soon **