Discover Egypt—and its Fascinating History—On a Luxury Cruise

Courtesy Viking Cruises

With the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum, cruise lines are rediscovering the jewels of the Nile.

In 1922, after years of digging in the Valley of the Kings, British archeologist Howard Carter discovered what he had long been searching for: the tomb of King Tutankhamen. He alerted his patron George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who, despite being barely able to walk, made the journey from England to Egypt, down the Nile to Luxor.

“Can you see anything?” Carnarvon asked Carter when they stood at the doorway of the tomb. Holding a candle in his hand, and gazing for the first time on the golden treasures, Carter answered, “Yes, wonderful things!”

Almost a century later, nearly every treasure of Tut’s tomb—from sarcophagus to loincloth—will finally go on permanent display this year, in Cairo’s 5.2 million-square-foot Grand Egyptian Museum. In time for the museum’s opening, three cruise operators are launching Egyptian cruises on gorgeous new ships.

The largest, Le Jacques Cartier from Ponant, with 92 staterooms—each with a private balcony—an underwater lounge, and infinity pool, features three days in Egypt as the climax of a nine-day Mediterranean tour of the Near East, from Turkey to Cyprus, Lebanon, and Israel (from $5,030).

With about half as many staterooms (all of them suites), the S.S. Sphinx from Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has been built specifically for a 12-day Nile itinerary that gives passengers an in-depth experience of Egypt (from $5,599). The vessel was designed with locally sourced elements, including Egyptian fabrics, artworks, and handmade furnishings.

Courtesy Viking Cruises

Also built specifically for the Nile, the sleek, elegant Viking Osiris from Viking River Cruises will debut at the end of 2020. With room for 82 guests, it joins two other vessels making the popular 12-day “Pharaohs & Pyramids” trip (from $4,899). And starting in the fall, Viking will offer a pre-cruise extension that begins in England: five days of privileged access to the Egyptian treasures of the British Museum, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, and other cultural institutions (with guided tours by an expert Egyptologist) and a chance to visit Highclere Castle—the real Downton Abbey. Lord Carnarvon’s ancestral home, Highclere still holds some of the artifacts that he assembled with Carter’s help. This is where Carnarvon set out from when he traveled to meet Carter at Tutankhamen’s tomb—the best possible starting point for your own Egyptian adventure.