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It has always been a dream of mine to sail the Nile on a cruise ship. But after reading so many negative reviews I was struggling to choose one as I didn't want a bad experience! That was until I found MS Mayfair Nile Cruise.
By all accounts, the MS Mayfair is a 5 star luxury cruise ship. You won't have to sacrifice comfort here.
The newly decorated cabins are spacious and of a high quality, the staff waits on you hand and foot, there are no hidden fees for the facilities, the food is hygienic and it is actually reasonably priced unlike some of the other ships first class cruise line on the market.
Whether you're here to find out more about the MS Mayfair Nile cruise or to decide whether to book; this final MS Mayfair Nile Cruise review should clear it all up.
So, all aboard the MS Mayfair, let me show you around!
FYI - this post is NOT sponsored by MS Mayfair in any way, I just loved my experience and wanted to share!
Things you need to prepare before visiting Egypt
- Don't forget travel insurance for Egypt, it's very easy to get sick here! I always choosenomadic worldbecause they have great policies at a competitive price.
- You will need a visa for Egypt. These can be purchased at the border at Immigration for $25USD or in advance online for the same price.I have created a detailed guide on how to obtain an Egyptian visa (including a multiple entry visa) for UK citizens here. But it applies to most countries.
- Egypt is a predominantly Islamic country, which means it's conservative and you'll need to be mindful of how you dress, even men. I created onedetailed packing list for women here.
- Egypt uses the Egyptian Pound (EGP) as its currency and I found it easier to withdraw at an ATM. 1 British pound = approx. 22 Egyptian pounds. Cards are accepted in most hotels, but I would use cash for purchases and attractions.
Tips for choosing your perfect Nile cruise
There are so many types of cruise ships that make their way between Aswan, Luxor and vice versa every week, even in low season.
You can go on luxury, mid-size, economy cruise ships and even go down the Nile on a felucca boat!
But there are some things you need to know before booking your cruise.
What to look out for before booking
- No cruises depart from Cairo.These only go from Luxor to Aswan and vice versa. Most tourists travel to Luxor or Aswan from Cairo by plane or overnight train.
- Always look at what is included in the onboard price –A cruise may seem cheap, but you need to understand what comes with the price. Many cruise ships make money by charging for drinks, amenities like a pool (!) and Wi-Fi.
- This will be your only food provider for four to seven days straight.– Most cruises are full board so you want to make sure you book with a hygienic company. The last thing you want is food poisoning to ruin your vacation!
- Check if excursions are included– If you book directly with the cruise company, you probably won't have the prices of the attractions, guide or transport included to get there. So that cheap price quickly goes up by a few hundred dollars! I would personally book it with a tour company like Memphis Tours as all your attractions and transportation are included making it that much better.
- Cruises do not run every day– MS Mayfair departs on Friday from Aswan and then on Monday from Luxor. So make sure you book your cruise first and then work on your other travel plans later.
- The train takes just four hours between Aswan and Luxor– if you made a mistake with your plans (like me) and need to get to Aswan or Luxor for your cruise; nothing else. The train took four hours and is super cheap. My first class carriage cost £100 EGP (£4)
Is it better to depart from Aswan or Luxor on a Nile cruise?
I think there is no right or wrong way and it all depends on your travel plans and preference.
Most tourists start in Aswan, the southernmost point, and then sail north to Luxor, heading to Hurghada on the Red Sea coast.
But you can always start in Luxor and end your travels in Aswan. If your main concern is the budget, then the cruise starting from Luxor is a little longer in one day, so it will cost a little more.
Like before,the MS Mayfair Nile cruise departs from Aswan every Friday and then from Luxor every Monday.
They run in the same order, serve the same food, and stop at the same places. You can have different entertainment nights as they change daily.
Another option is a seven-day cruise. Going from Luxor to Aswan and then back to Luxor on the same route, stopping at the same places again. That way you can relax more instead of waking up early to jump temples.
All Aboard: The Best MS Mayfair Nile Cruise Review
When I got off my minibus and walked onto the pier. I was so excited to get on board and rightly so. As I walked the plank, I walked through the doors and into the lobby.
I was in Pinterest heaven; the decor was bright, elegant and refined. The monochrome floors, the huge windows, the dark red walls… I knew then that this was not just any ship! I just stood there, impressed.
The floor manager then greeted and welcomed me personally. He asked me to sit on the ruby velvet brocade sofas and gave me a refreshing hot towel to cool off.
Then, before I knew it, I had a welcome drink of hibiscus tea in my hand! I had found my happy place.
I checked in and was pleasantly surprised to find that my luggage had already been taken to my room!
We went up the spiral staircase and I noticed that not a single room or floor on board this cruise ship was old-fashioned or worn. Everything looked new and fresh like it had been dropped from a showroom!
I was so impressed with the entire experience over the four days I was there that I wanted to share a detailed review with you and why the MS Mayfair is one of the best options for your Egypt Nile Cruise.
MS Mayfair deck plan
The MS Mayfair has 5 floors on board the ship, each floor is wide and spacious.
Premium cabins and suites are located on the Upper Deck, as they have a balcony. Standard rooms are on the main deck and mid deck. This deck plan was obtained fromCruises on the Nile River.
- Lower Deck (1)– is where you will eat every day at the restaurant. It's cool because you can see the Nile while eating.
- Main Deck (2)– lobby and standard and exit cabins
- Medium Deck (3)- standard cabins
- Upper deck (4)–This is where the bar, entertainment and premium cabins are located
- Sunbathing Deck (5)– is for sightseeing, the pool, hot tub, loungers and bar is located
Cabanas MS Mayfair
This was a really big problem for me, many of the cabins I've seen on other Nile cruises were so old and neglected!
But the cabins aboard the MS Mayfair looked new with bright white paint and elegant touches like old photographs of ancient Egyptian sites.
Each room has a huge window overlooking the Nile, letting in lots of light, which was perfect.
If you have the money, suites with a balcony are a great option. But I just couldn't justify the extra hundreds of dollars.
My room had clean and comfortable twin beds that the cabin crew put together for me. The mattresses and pillows werereally comfortableand you could almost sink into them!
So I had a desk with a beauty mirror, two chairs to relax in, lots of power outlets, and a flat-screen TV above a dresser.
Upstairs was a kettle with complimentary tea and coffee all day. I would also get two free bottles of water a day in my stateroom with room service.
The rooms also had a wardrobe with an internal safe for storing valuables and an ironing board (!).
I love the little touches and it was so nice to receive a free fruit bowl upon entry with a little welcome aboard note! It really makes all the difference in service.
The restrooms on board the MS Mayfair
Let's just say my worst nightmare would be to have an old and dirty bathroom. Especially for a few days on a cruise ship!
On the last backpacker cruise I took we had a shared bathroom and were told we could only have a navy shower for 5 minutes each to save water.
Well, I was relieved when I saw the absolutely stunning bathroom at MS Mayfair. It had hardwood floors, mirrored walls, a huge beauty mirror and an Art Deco armoire. I was in love! There were also really nice smelling toiletries to use with bright white towels.
The best part of it was the epic bathtub and shower that I actually fit in. Taking a bubble bath after a long day of sightseeing was an absolute dream.
Dinner on board the MS Mayfair
I couldn't believe I would actually enjoy eating food on a cruise ship, but the Mayfair really had it all in terms of catering.
There weren't many people on board, which the crew told me is the case with many cruise ships as tourism is suffering. So that meant we could have our own table. I, of course, chose a booth ;).
Meals would be a mixture of buffet food and an a la carte menu and you can bet it was 3 courses if not more if you wanted seconds!
The different types of dining options at MS Mayfair
- the breakfast buffet– a selection of fresh bread and toast, cereal bar, fresh omelette, poached eggs and pancake station, waffle bar, yogurts and a huge selection of fruit. There were also Egyptian options. Unlimited free juice, tea and coffee.
- lunch buffet– a selection of breads, fresh pasta station, selection of fish, meat, rice, fries, Egyptian specialties, fresh vegetables, salad options, fresh desserts. Water is free, soft drinks and alcohol for an extra charge.
- jantar buffet- my favorite. They would have different "themes" each night. Oriental, Italian, French theme. I particularly liked the oriental theme that came with Shwarma grill, kebabs, rice etc. and the deserts were traditional too like Umm Ali. Water is free, soft drinks and alcohol were an extra supplement.
- Al La Carte– This really sets it apart from other cruises. The a la carte menu has always been nothing but high quality. One night we even had beef wellington! So how it works is that at lunchtime the staff will ask you to choose your evening meals. A starter (usually a soup or salad), a main course of 4 options and a selection of desserts would be available to choose from at a counter.
- Afternoon tea and snacks– on the terrace every afternoon at sunset we were given complimentary tea/coffee with some biscuits and cakes.
MS Mayfair pool and hot tub on deck
The MS Mayfair terrace was simply amazing. There were ample lounge chairs, a refreshing swimming pool, and even hot tubs. All combined with a bar to keep you loaded with a drink in hand.
The best part was when we were sailing down the Nile and you could rest in the shade and watch the world and other ships go by. Or, better yet, when we reached the coast and were in front of the ancient sites!
Amazingly, apart from the bar, all amenities were free. Including complimentary pool towels.
Many cruise ships charge for pool use and towel hire, but onboard the MS Mayfair, these were included in the cabin price.
The bar and evening entertainment aboard the MS Mayfair
The bar was a great place to stop in the evening after dinner if you wanted some entertainment or a drink before heading to bed!
On the first night we had a welcome drink in the form of free cocktails, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
I definitely got that when I looked at the bar menu prices. Alcoholic drinks don't come cheap, I'm talking £12GBP for a shot of Gin without a tonic. So when they offer you free alcohol in Egypt, you take free alcohol in Egypt!
There were some 'forced fun' moments with the Galibeya parties, where all guests were required to wear Egyptian-style clothing. But there were also great entertainments like belly dancing and a Sufi dance which was fascinating!
Where does the MS Mayfair stop on the Nile Cruise?
The Nile Cruise usually stops at around 4 places on the trip. I will walk you through the itinerary if you were on the MS Mayfair Nile Cruise;
Day 1: Aswan– check-in and day trip to Aswan, lunch and dinner included. Sail overnight to Kom Ombo.
Day 2: Come Ombo– wake up in the morning and have breakfast and then explore Kom Ombo temple, have lunch and head to Edfu.
Edfu– go upstairs and take a horse and carriage ride to Edfu temple and then back to the ship.
awake– sail to Esna to travel through Esna Lock, have dinner. Sail overnight to Luxor.
He 3: Luxor– Wake up to Luxor in the morning, have breakfast, explore the West Bank. Lunch and dinner included.
He 4: Luxor– The next day, breakfast, check-out and disembarkation (last check-out at 8:30 am), continuation of the tour in the West Bank. Only breakfast is included on the last day.
The only thing I have to say is that it's pretty disappointing the amount of time you actually cruise the Nile. I think it was really just an entire day. My favorite part was cruising along the way, so I would have loved an extra day of sailing.
Day 1: Start sightseeing in Aswan
Usually if you are starting in Aswan on the first day you check in around 11am on the boat. You are escorted to your cabin, with time to get organized, freshen up, and then have lunch on board.
Then, you will have free time to explore Aswan. If you're like me and you've booked with a tour company, you'll be taken around the city's sites.
Our group started at the Unfinished Obelisk, then headed to Aswan High Dam and ended the day with a boat ride to Philae temple. We were then taken to Thutmose's perfume palace to buy some perfumes.
If you would like to know more about things to do in Aswan, see myFull blog post about all the things to do in Aswan here.
Day 2: Sail from Aswan to Kom Ombo Temple
I loved waking up and seeing that the Nile cruise had stopped in front of the temple. From here, the temple of Kom Ombo was just a short five-minute walk down the pier!
After breakfast, we spent about an hour at the temple taking a tour of Kom Ombo with our guide.
Kom Ombo Temple is located about 50 kilometers from Aswan and was built in the Greco-Roman era. It was built in honor of Sobek, the crocodile god and Horus, the falcon-headed god.
It was dedicated to Sobek because there used to be a lot of crocodiles that used to terrorize people on the Nile around this area. So, they believed that if they dedicated the temple to the animal, it would not attack them.
As a result, many crocodiles were held captive in the temple and were also mummified when they died. There is a crocodile museum where you can see them, included in the Kom Ombo ticket price.
Cruise and stop at Edfu Temple
Then an afternoon of sightseeing at Edfu temple.
This is one of the most impressive due to the fact that it has been preserved so well and many of the rooms are still intact to be explored. You can even climb certain parts of the temple which, for a history geek, was like a dream come true!
The cruise ship will dock a few kilometers from the temple. Most tour groups take horses and carriages to get here. If you prefer, you can pay for a taxi or a rickshaw (3 wheels).
On my cruise the return trip was included but tips were expected for drivers.
At first, upon entering the temple, you are faced with this epic facade. The temple is dedicated to Horus, the falcon-headed god, so you'll see plenty of statues and carvings to honor him here.
This temple was built in 57 BC, but over time it has been an ancient settlement and cemetery since 3000 BC (remember BC goes backwards).
In its heyday it functioned as a cult center for Horus of Bedhet and inside the rooms you can find hieroglyphs on how to make offerings like honey and perfume.
There are many anti-chambers, halls of offerings and even a replica of the boat that would take the statue of Horus to the Nile on special occasions. The Nile used to flow as far as the temple, but over time it now flows farther.
Watch the cruise ship travel through the Esna lock
It's not a particular stop, but fans of boats and locks will love the famous Esna crossing!
To allow the boat to pass through the lock, the boat has to berth in a bay and the water is lowered there for the water to come out. So, as you dine, you can feel the ship sinking.
The whole process takes about 2 hours and it's quite interesting to see everything in motion.
Beware of merchants boarding their rowboats to sell their wares to passing cruise ships! They will literally throw scarves and jewelry at you on board to buy.
Day 3: Explore the West Bank from Luxor
After disembarking in Luxor, you will arrive at the largest open-air museum in the world. From here, you'll explore the West Bank first;
- The Valley of the Kings– This is a must see in Luxor, the valley of the kings is a famous burial sight made famous by Howard Carter with the discovery of Tutankhamun. Here you can see 3 burial chambers with your ticket. You can also buy an extra ticket to see King Tut on your own. I have a whole post onbest tombs to see in the Valley of the Kings here.
- Temple of Hatshepsut– the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut is a wonderful piece of ancient Egyptian architecture. It is famous due to its astronomical alignment and the enduring legacy of Egypt's oldest queen.
- A hot air balloon at sunrise– something you can add to your trip and an amazing experience floating over the West Bank in a balloon! To read more about itsee my article on a balloon ride here.
Day 4: Disembark and explore the east bank of Luxor
The east bank is closer to where your Nile cruise is docked, and on our tour we explore them after we've checked out of the ship;
- Luxor temple– an incredible temple located right in the center of the city, a five-minute walk from our cruise ship dock. It's a must-see and you can even visit it to see it lit up at night. For moreamazing things to do in Luxor at night see here.
- Templo de Karnak– a little further away, but much bigger and more impressive. It is here that the famous hall of the apostles with pillars 100 meters high is located. I have to admit, I've seen it alone at sunrise and in a group and I much preferred it alone at sunrise. It's very busy during the day. There is also a sound and light show here at night.
Read my final 3-day Luxor itinerary here!
Is WiFi included onboard the MS Mayfair?
If you're worried about keeping in touch back home, don't be.
MS Mayfair has free Wi-Fi for passengers on board. But, it really only works in public areas. Fortunately, there are super comfy sofas to relax on while surfing the web!
It's not the fastest, so skype can be a challenge! If you wanted 24/7 fast WiFi, I would opt to buy a data sim card at the airport for your phone before you board.
Tipping onboard the MS Mayfair Nile Cruise
Rather than tipping each crew member individually per day, tips are usually paid at the end of your cruise when you check out.
You can pay cash in dollars or Egyptian pounds. Or add it to your final bill when paying for drinks and extras you've purchased on board.
Crew ship rates are different from porter rates. So you can tip the nice guys who help you with your luggage when you get here or before you leave.
Since cruise ships are not as full as they used to be, I gave a little more than expected. These guys do amazing work and probably made a lot more before tourism went down, so go for it!
How much does an MS Mayfair cruise cost?
Ah, the most powerful question. Well overall my Nile cruise cost me around £700 for a single cabin with Memphis Tours. This was the cheapest I found.
That sounds like a lot, but if you break it down over the day;
- 3 nights/4 days of 5* accommodation
- 3 buffet, quality meals per day
- Lunch is even late
- Free water all the time
- All tourist attraction tickets paid
- All transport paid
So per day that works on£175 per dayfor everything I think is a steal! Not to mention, all the stress of arranging transportation and tickets is covered. The experience was worth every penny!
A day on the West Bank independently cost me around £60 GBP without lunch, if you count transport, attractions, water and food then it's good value.
Dates are cheaper in the off season.To check rates and available dates for the MS Mayfair, see here.
Nile Cruise for a Solo Traveler
As I was traveling alone, I was a little worried about having to share my cabin, tables and that people wouldn't be friendly. Or worse, I wasn't going to talk to anyone.
But I shouldn't have worried, doing this with a tour group was great as it meant I met a lot of new people. Also, the Eid tour guide was very friendly.
He was a qualified Egyptologist and great for asking questions. He also checked that I was ok as I was alone and took pictures for me!
You will pay more as a single cabin user. I think they usually charge per person, that's why. But, I have my own spacious cabin, my own dining table, and there was enough space on the ship if I wanted some alone time.
Sailing aboard the MS Mayfair is a 5* luxury experience at an affordable cost
The MS Mayfair was a dream to cross the Nile. From the moment I arrived I felt it was a luxury experience.
In the morning I woke up to a nutritious breakfast and amazing views. After each day of touring we were given cold towels and a refreshing drink.
In the afternoon we had lunch and then tea and cake. In the evening there was delicious dinner and things to entertain you.
Every meal was amazing, the staff waited on you hand and foot, the cabins were top quality and I will cherish the memories of seeing the ancient temples from my onboard cabin forever.
If you are looking for a luxury Nile cruise at an affordable price, MS Mayfair is at your service! You really won't regret spending a Nile holiday with them, don't miss out.
I was not sponsored by MS Mayfair to write this post. I just had a really good experience and wanted to share! All opinions and photos are mine
Read more of my articles on Egypt
My Perfect 2 Week Egypt Itinerary
My best Egypt travel tips
Egypt's Perfect Packing List
The most instagrammable places in Egypt
My Guide to the Valley of the Kings
What to do in Luxor
What to do in Aswan
Top places to visit in Luxor by night
The Perfect Guide to Abu Simbel
My Pyramid Survival Guide
Best things to do in Cairo
Why you NEED to visit Alexandria
Hot air ballooning in Luxor