River cruises along Egypt's Nile were hit as hard as the country's larger tourism industry during years of up-and-down bookings in the aftermath of the January 2011 Arab Spring uprising.
Since then, many river cruise lines went through months if not years of either completely discontinuing their Nile programs or seriously scaling them back.
But since the start of this year, as the country's problems have faded from the international spotlight, an uptick in Egypt travel interest has resulted in river cruise companies adding to and enhancing their Nile programs in a more optimistic way than we've seen in years.
One of the most exciting upcoming developments is Viking River Cruises' acquisition of a vessel in Egypt that it stripped down to the steel and will relaunch in March, marking the first time it will own and operate its own ship on the Nile. The all-suite, 48-passenger Viking Ra will feature 291-square-foot staterooms, step-out balconies, a pool, two Jacuzzis, a spa, a restaurant and a bar and lounge area.
Viking has offered itineraries in Egypt for years, but only on vessels it charters. And when the company made the announcement earlier this year, Richard Marnell, senior vice president of marketing for Viking, said that after experiencing a softening in demand following the unrest, Egypt interest had returned.
Perhaps not coincidentally then, starting next year, luxury river cruise line Scenic will be getting in on the Nile action, too, with it's first-ever Egypt program (Scenic's tour operator parent company has offered Egypt before, but this is a first for the river cruise line). The 11-day "Treasures of Egypt" itinerary will combine a five-day Nile sailing on the recently refurbished 36-passenger Sanctuary Sun Boat III, owned by Sanctuary Retreats, with six days touring Egypt.
And earlier this year small-group operator Alexander + Roberts added the newly launched 44-passenger Nile River vessel, the Oberoi Philae, to its portfolio to meet growing demand for Egypt.
The hope, as always, is that the calm will persist and the interest will continue to gain, especially as some river cruise lines are investing more heavily in Egypt than they have before.