The MS Magic 1 is very well named. Others have covered most facts already and I don't wish to keep repeating what has already been said about this wonderful boat so I will try and mention some things not fully covered.
We were man and wife, a couple of years either side of 60. We took the 7day cruise from Luxor to Aswan and back, setting off on 8th February. We flew from Gatwick UK and arrived late afternoon giving enough time only to unpack, change and go for dinner. This meant we had not really met any other passengers so could not arrange to sit at meal times with anyone in particular. On arriving at the dining room on this first occasion, we were shown to what was to be our table for the week. We were joined by 4 others of similar ages who very soon became great friends – so much so that we intend meeting up again.
When booking with Cosmos via an independent agent, I requested a cabin on an upper deck and forward, having read earlier reviews. We were given cabin 404 – deck 4 (under the sun deck) almost behind the bridge, on the starboard side. I would say that wherever your cabin is, you will experience a certain amount of noise from engines or generators. When docked, if at the front of the boat, you will get noise from the generators at the back of the boats berthed in front of you and at the back, from those on your boat and those beside you. I suspect in the middle, you may even hear both – I don’t know. However, what we experienced was a low throbbing noise which you quickly get used to. If you are fit and able to get up and down stairs then the top deck is preferable.
For more details and deck layout plans – see www.flash-international.net/magic1
The crew are brilliant – helpful, polite and even funny or cheeky given half a chance.
I was lead to believe all the passenger cabins are all the same size. Ours certainly was spacious with a large window, a king or super king size comfortable bed (some cabins have twin beds which can be pushed together if desired), plenty storage space, table and chairs, fridge, air conditioning, mirror, good lighting and clean. The TV works mostly when docked but channel one gives a view from a cctv camera mounted at the front of the boat. Cabins cleaned and checked each day.
Shower-room – marble topped vanity top with basin, WC and corner shower with adjustable hose and shower-head and also optional power-jets for body massage (very strong!) A good shower.
Hair dryer fixture next to basin. Not very hot or powerful. If ladies prefer their own and/or hot tongs etc, you will have to hide them! Crew are worried about fire hazards and you are asked to hand them into reception for collection on departure. They may be confiscated if seen – not sure on that one.
Towels provided and changed as you require together with pool/sun deck towels so no need to bring any. Not the best quality but adequate.
Lovely sun loungers with good cushioned mattress pads, shaded area with tables and chairs, bar and swimming pool. Floor covered in green grass effect matting. The pool is more of a paddling/dipping area as the swimming area is small. The water was very cold so only the brave ventured in.
A circular stair well with staircases is situated fairly centrally with cabins fore and aft. Deck 4 has a couple of shops and there is another on deck 3. Deck 2 houses the reception, main access gangways and the lounge bar area with a few cabins forward.
With windows almost a water level, this is where the restaurant serves all meals. A few cabins are forward with kitchens and the engine room to the rear.
FOOD – SPECIAL DIETS
All meals were self service. You have a waiter who will bring you drinks, tea coffee etc soon after you are seated. He will soon get to know your preferences and will happily get whatever you wish.
The food was not what I would rate as 5 star though I have no complaints. The range on offer is perhaps a little more limited than on say European river cruise ships but it was all good. Some people tended to take a bit of everything on their plates and wondered why the next day there were still only 2-3 meats, fish and pasta dishes with various vegetables for the main course. Careful choices gave able variety for starters, main and sweet courses at lunch and dinner. Breakfast choices were equally good.
If you have a special diet, make yourself known to the restaurant manager who is always about. My wife is a coeliac and needs gluten free diet. The staff were helpful beyond description. At each meal the manager, head chef and the second in command were looking out for her and would point out what she could and could not eat. On a number of occasions they would bring specially cooked food for her from the kitchen as some of the sauces were perhaps not suitable. She was treated like a queen.
One or two people went down with tummy upsets but I am convinced the food was not to blame. It was either they had picked up germs from dirty money, handrails or whatever off the boat or more likely, too much sun and dehydration. Take plenty hand gel for use after handling Egyptian notes or being in public places, motor boats etc and take rehydration salts with you.
The all inclusive package is a must. Even soft drinks and water is expensive. You can get as many bottles of water as you wish from the bar or restaurant. Red wine was really good (I believe the white was also acceptable) lager was very nice, gin was Gordons made in Egypt though it tasted different with the canned tonic they used but very acceptable. Whisky was nothing to write home about and cannot comment on other locally made spirits. I did not hear anyone complain though. Coke and Sprite are the real thing and there are lots of other soft drinks available. Ice on-board is all made from bottled water.
Arriving at Luxor airport, you need to first find your courier who will guide you to the correct queues for visas and entry. If you get your visa on-line prior to the visit it could save some time though you will still have to wait for others to get theirs. It was all a bit of a cattle market and you have to be patient. If there are two or more of you, one could go to a bank counter and exchange English notes for Egyptian. You may not get the chance for another couple of days. However, almost everywhere will accept English money for goods. I say English as Scottish notes not accepted at all.
Early morning and evenings can be cool however I took a light jumper which I never needed except for travelling home. A light jacket or fleece can be handy for small boat trips etc early in the mornings (see below) as could a pair of long thin trousers/pants but beware, it heats up very quickly. Soon after sun rise (around 6-6.30am when we where there) it warms up though, depending where you are at the time, it could be after 8am before it hits you. We were getting temperatures in the high 20s every day with it seeming much hotter. Shorts or ¾ pants, tee-shirt or short sleeved top (women should cover their shoulders and thighs in mosques) with good walking shoes recommended. Take a hat too.
The MS Magic 1 cruised almost straight to Aswan apart from a stop at Edfu to visit the temple there. This meant we were not visiting places in the same order as other tours. We were going against the current all the way to Aswan and then had a fast quieter journey all the way back. The Nile is a wide river and the views while day cruising are interesting at times though not what I would call a photographer’s dream.
Cosmos start most trips early in the morning. You may ask why until you see the logic behind it. Obviously avoiding the hottest part of the day is sensible but so is avoiding the crowds. We found we were amongst the first to arrive at all the historic sites and were leaving when most of the tour coaches were just arriving. It was much better to be able to see all the detailed hieroglyphics with space around you than to be peering over a crowd of other people. Groups of around 20-30 are allocated their own Egyptologist for the week or whatever length of time they cruise. I’m sure they are all excellent though I have to point out that ours, Magid (or Magic as he preferred) amazed us all with his knowledge, facts, names, dates, measurements and more, together with his wonderful sense of humour.
Must see and do optional extras: Abu Simbel (prepare to be up at about 2.30am, even if flying, but well worth the effort and you are back for breakfast) and a hot air balloon trip which is so smooth, with fantastic views where you can see outlines of yet to be excavated temples alongside those open to visits.
Other than those two extras, most temples/tombs are fairly close to where the boat berths so trips by motor boat and bus are short. Toilets are never far away but you will be expected to tip attendants so some small Egyptian coins or notes are useful to have at all times.
Photography is permitted most places other than at the Valley of the Kings but your guide will keep you informed and you can generally leave cameras safely on the coach if the need arises.
Mobility: We had a number of people who walked with one stick and they managed well though one or two struggled getting off and on from small motor boats and feluccas, particularly when you had to cross through a couple of other boats to get on/off shore. Surfaces at the temples and tombs varies but mostly it is uneven flagstones or rough terrain.
Be prepared to be pestered to death by children and stallholders forcing goods on to you. If you are not interested here are a few pointers: Walk as briskly as you can past them. Do not look at them. Do not accept any gift as this is taken as an interest and they will be waiting for you as you return. Do not give them your name for the same reason. If they stand in your way, say LA SHUKRAN (Arabic for no thank you) or NO (without the thank you as they may read this as thanks) sternly and keep moving.
Remember to have plenty of water with you all at times.
It is hard to know what best to recommend. Certainly you will find items cheap in local shops, bazaars and markets - much cheaper than the places you are taken on visits. However there are some horror stories of perfumes being watered down, items being fake or poor quality etc so we preferred to take the advice of our guide. Yes he/she and the company get commission on every sale but at least you know what you are getting is genuine and it will still be at a reasonable price. If you are interested, you must haggle. Decide on what you are prepared to pay and divide their asking price by about 3 or 4 and start there. Do not be too quick on raising your offer and you should reach an agreement to suit both sides.
Your guide will give further advice on what to avoid.
I have no hesitation in highly recommending the MS Magic 1 for a cruise on the River Nile or Cosmos for their excellent organisation. Having had to go through other boats while berthed alongside, I’m glad we chose the Magic 1 as it quite luxurious and spotlessly clean at all times.