UP CLOSE WITH HISTORY
Sailing with leading luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent, we noted a number of advantages along the way. This was not something we planned on doing in advance, but a recurring theme that just seemed to come up frequently as we described our experience. Worthy of a post all their own, here is a recap of those Abercrombie & Kent advantages noted while traveling through Egypt and Jordan. Also, we have a few new ones to add to the list after coming back home and reflecting on the stellar travel experience.
In Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: Arriving In Egypt we noted two distinct advantages that slapped us in the face just after arriving in Cairo
Abercrombie Advantage #1: Expedited entry.
Coming off a nearly flawless set of Emirates Airlines flights from Orlando to Dubai then on to Cairo, this is one of those place where a bus picks up incoming travelers and transports them to an immigration hall. There, the plan was to buy the required visa ($35) and be prepared to stand in a long line to do so. Passport and U.S. cash in and, I asked an armed guard where to do this and was pointed in the direction of several bank windows with the instructions “any of those windows will do.”
Proceeding to the line for visas, I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned and found Ahmed. “Welcome to Cairo Mr Owen, follow me.” Ahmed took my passport, visa fee and bypassed that line, heading straight for inbound customs where hundreds of other travelers were lined up to enter the country. We passed that line too, going directly to baggage claim, retrieving our luggage then were off to the hotel.
Abercrombie Advantage #2: Guest comfort rules supreme
Arriving at the Mena House hotel, we met Tamer El Bendary, A&K’s Egypt Operations Manager for a welcome drink of Hibiscus juice in the hotel lobby. A 16-year A&K veteran he was instantly recognizable as the person on the ground that made things happen, much like our friend Gabe who accompanied us on the Connections river cruise journey. This was going to be good.
No check-in procedure at the hotel, we simply provided our home address and were given keys to our rooms. Because there was a large, loud Egyptian wedding going on between us and a spectacular view of the Great Pyramids, each of us were given two rooms. One was on the side of the hotel and an aptly described “Pyramid View” room. The second was considered a “sleeping room” should we have trouble falling asleep in the first due to the loud music.
In Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: They Do Your Homework, we found a couple advantages, appropriately timed as an investment that would pay off later as we toured a variety of attractions
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #3: They take nothing for granted
Our first tour in Egypt was to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, a collection of over 120,000 artifacts on display and many times that number in storage. We spent several hours seeing part of the collection and did not scratch the surface of what was on display. It was about halfway through that tour led by our Egyptologist Ibraham that it hit me; this is background information needed to appreciate what was yet to come on this journey.
This could have easily been a tour where the guide hones in on some area of personal interest, focusing more on the minute details of that area and missing the overall picture. Indeed, we saw a number of guides in the cavernous but crowded space doing just that. Frankly, this could have turned into a boring tour, losing our interest early on. Instead, Ibrahim took another approach.
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #4: They Keep It Interesting
In a way, the Antiquities museum tour was much like an escorted tour of an art gallery. But unlike a display of art, these were artifacts dating back to 4000 BC and our Egyptologist narration was engaging. No question from our small group went unanswered. Better yet, this was not a situation where the ‘guide’ answers the question quickly and directly to the person who asked it with an obvious focus of staying on the time schedule. Perhaps that is the advantage of using a certified, pedigreed Egyptologist over a life long resident of the area.
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #5- They Have A Huge Presence In Egypt
We knew a number of A&K people were along on our journey in addition to our Egyptologist and Tour Director. One might have logically assumed that the additional A&K staff on hand was to insure all went well in a part of the world where traveler security has been a concern. As it turns out, the many other A&K staffers I saw all around the Mena House Hotel, are the counterparts of our staff members, working other groups. I think that begins to explain a bit about how we were whisked through security on day one, by passing long lines.
As I wrote Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: They Can Turn On A Dime, I realized that nothing is taken for granted when planning the guest experience in Egypt. Not since traveling with luxury cruise line Seabourn have I seen as much commitment to the highest possible focus on the guest experience.
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #6: They Do What It Takes To Maximize The Guest Experience
It was just day two but in his daily briefing, Ibrahim moved planned events around in a different order. When I asked why, just out of curiosity, the answer was undeniably impressive. Checking the weather the night before, the forecast called for hazy skies in the Giza area which would not make for the best possible photo opportunities. In order for us to get the most out of the day, nimble Abercrombie & Kent rearranged the day’s itinerary to offer the best possible experience, on the fly. Impressive, especially considering that our small group of 12 travelers was one of a number of groups operating simultaneously. Still, tiny details were not overlooked.
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #7: They Anticipate Guest Needs And Take Action
Like many other places in the world, it is customary to pay for the use of a public toilet. A little thing really, once one gets the hang of it, they come prepared with a few coins to have on hand just for that reason. Taking no chances on that being an issue for A&K guests, Ibrahim gave each of us envelopes with a bunch of those coins for use along the way.
That detailed focus continued to include other thoughtful little things throughout the journey too. A few archeological sites do not allow images to be captured inside. Rather than us coming home empty-handed in that respect, A&K provided approved still photos of what we could not capture with our devices. Over the course of the entire journey, including our Jordan extension, we would switch the places we stayed six times. A&K handled the luggage on all of those moves, including gratuity. The entire list will be the subject of a future post but you get the idea: they take care of the details, allowing us to focus on what we came there for.
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #8: They Take Safety Seriously
On the ground in Cairo it was obvious that many measures were in place to insure our safe travel. A guide and an armed guard on every motorcoach was the standard minimum on every tour. Additional measures were in place in areas where security was more of a concern ranging from a Tourist Police escort and tail to a machine gun mounted on the stern of our Nile River boat. A bit disconcerting at first, we never felt our personal safety was threatened at any time, perhaps because of the security measures in place. By about half-way through the trip we learned that extra security was just part of the deal in the Middle East; something that has been an element of the travel in that part of the world for decades.
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #9- A Realistic View Of Destinations
Make no mistake, Cairo is not a place where one walks down the street, wandering aimlessly without trouble. This is a country in transition as our dinnertime Egypt expert explained, brilliantly answering our questions rather than droning on and on about some scholarly topic of which she was indeed qualified to speak.
An unanticipated element of the experience, I walked away from this trip with an entirely different view of the political, social, religious and economic situation in the Middle East. I did not see that coming but it was one of the most impressive elements of the entire experience.
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #10: They Get It About Free Time
Not understanding that travelers want to explore on their own a bit, to me, would be a fatal blow to any river cruise experience. On European river cruises, we have come to the point where we tell tour guides right up front “We may wander off from the group but don’t be concerned, we know our way back”. That gives time to enjoy the orientation tour provided but customize the experience our way. In Egypt, this is a bit different situation.
Cairo, for example, was not a place where it would be safe to wander off on our own and missing part of our Egyptologist’s interesting narration of what we were seeing would be a mistake. In other places though, it was an entirely different scene that seemed much safer, igniting the desire to explore. And that we did.
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #11: Access To Restricted Areas
One afternoon on our trip brought a short small boat ride to the West Bank of the Nile then on to the Valley of the Kings, a stop by the Valley of the Queens and more…that I can’t show you because photos are strictly not allowed. Noteworthy: a special visit to the Tomb of Nefertari, normally closed to the public, brought another advantage of traveling with Abercrombie & Kent. We did.
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #12: They Engage Our Minds
To begin, Egyptologist Ibrahim asked and answered his own questions, building our knowledge base. Once we were comfortable with the format of touring Egypt, he crafted the days tour to include more interesting and engaging questions than in the past, prompting us for the answers, connecting what we were seeing to what we had seen.
The end result was to draw upon the knowledge he had imparted to us on previous days to elicit our answers. In the process, we thought more about what we had seen, processed the information and owned the topic in a way rarely experienced with other travel companies. On my smartphone I carry a list of “Good Guides”. It’s a short list but has the names of guides I want to remember because they did a wonderful job on tour. Dominated primarily by a number of guides from Viking River Cruises, Ibrahim made the list after the first day….which speaks to the advantage of having one guide for the entire escorted experience. (See #17 below)
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #13 – They Tell It Like It Is
Already noted, this is a part of the world where travelers need to pay special attention to security. In fact, questions from readers on this topic throughout our journey indicate those considering a trip to Egypt have that topic as a high priority. To A&K’s credit, never once did they candy coat the security situation, even knowing that odds were highly in our favor that, traveling with them, there would be no issues. One really big reason for this realistic viewpoint: It is very much a part of the story which would not be complete without full disclosure.
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #14 – An Amazing Storytelling Ability
The crew on board Sun Boat IV was helpful, friendly and efficient. Most spoke English fluently as their second language. A bit different here, A&K guides and cruise ship crew speak Egyptian among themselves quite frequently. Initially a bit disconcerting, (one wondered if they are talking about us in some mysterious way) as time went on, we just let that go. Doing so enabled us to get into the story being told from all angles in a very realistic way.
Unanticipated: A realistic view of this part of the world, imparted by locals who live here, on topics including social, political and religious issues. That added a dimension to the story being told that really hit home and changed my view of Middle East issues forever…which brings us to some other advantages gained from traveling with Abercrombie & Kent through Egypt and into Jordan.
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #15 – A Deep, Safe Connection To The Destinations
Had I come here, seen pyramids and come away being able to note the differences between a Nile River cruise and a European river cruise, this trip would have been worth my time. Being able to bring readers that information along with a profile of the security issues often commented on, would have brought a lot of usable information, gained first-hand.
But this turned out to be a far more meaningful travel experience, one that rates at the top of the list in my lifetime. Reflecting on the experience, I have some new advantages to add to the list.
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #16: Luxury Redefined
When we think of ‘luxury’ travel, thoughts often go to posh hotels, fine cuisine, top-shelf amenities along the way and unmatched personal service. We got all that. More importantly and perhaps a better, more unique definition of ‘luxury’ came from thoughtful, well-planned and well-executed programming via A&K’s extensive roster of qualified experts who engaged our minds. Going further soul-searching topics were explored, first-hand, on the scene, with nothing held back. I do not believe I have ever experienced such a meaningful trip, one that reached down deep within me to bring a level of consciousness about a formerly-mysterious part of the world. By the end of the trip I felt quite at home in Egypt and Jordan and carried that feeling home.
The first day back after a bit of rest, I went to the local grocery store as I usually do on Saturdays. Looking around at my Publix supermarket, the rows upon rows of food and supplies, I could not help but recall the typical ‘markets’ seen along the way on our trip. Here in the United States, this is a common scene across the land. Still, I could not help but recall where I might have shopped in the Middle East; at an open air market or a comparative hole in the wall store.
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #17: One Guide, All The Way
On our Abercrombie & Kent Connections River Cruise, we had an A&K tour leader with us all the way but used local guides at each destination, much like any other river cruise. The A&K group leader layered an element of luxury on top of what other passengers on the Luftner Cruises sailing were experiencing which was quite nice. Stepping up to A&K’s Small Group Journeys product, no local guides were used because Ibrahim had full knowledge of every place we went. That made for a seamless experience, a more global view of the entire trip’s content and no repeating of information. That’s huge.
With some frequency, we hear guides on tour with other travel products reaffirming where we have been and where we go next, trying hard not to repeat information about somewhere we have been or will be going to. That was not an issue here with our escorted journey.
Abercrombie & Kent Advantage #18 – They Changed Me
Interestingly, rather than feeling ‘glad to be back’ as I often am after international travel, I missed the limited selection and wondered what those I had photographed on the streets of Cairo would think of our place to shop, with a bit of sorrow. I had visited a world entirely different than the one I call home. Thanks to A&K, I did so not passively sitting on a bus the entire time but by making the most solid connection to another land that I have ever experienced.
No one was threatened. No safety issues came up to disrupt our journey. Instead we found a warm and caring Egyptian population, eager for tourism to return. Fact: In both Egypt and Jordan: they deserve for tourism to return.
Still To Come
Speaking of Jordan, much of the above targeted our Egypt and the Nile Small Group Journey. Added on to that was a multi-day Jordan Extension that I highly recommend, for many of the same reasons plus a few exclusive to our Jordan Journey. That’s coming up, stay tuned.
See More Of Our Abercrombie & Kent Small Group Journey through Egypt And Jordan
At ChrisCruises.com via these previous posts:
- Social Egypt And Jordan, A&K Style: Your Guide To Our Journey
- Our Luxury Small Group Journey: Detailed Itinerary
- Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: Arriving In Egypt
- Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: They Do Your Homework
- Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: They Can Turn On A Dime
- Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: Speaking Of Kings And Queens
- Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: And Then He Paused
- Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: Chris Wears A Dress
- Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: Interesting, Unique, Beautiful
- Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: The Right Tool For The Job
- Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: Exceeding Expectations
- Tips And Tricks For Travel In Egypt
- Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: Signed, Sealed, Delivered: It’s Yours
- Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: Front Row Seats To Amazing Places
- Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: A Travel Mosaic
- Abercrombie & Kent Luxury: Your Guide To Our Journey
On Facebook– see ChrisCruises for updates and these image collections, added to as time and Internet connection permit (so check back later too):
- Photo Album: A Day In Egypt With Abercrombie & Kent
- Photo Album: The Temple Of Luxor
- Photo Album: Favorite Images From Egypt
- Photo Album: The Temples Of Abu Simbel
- Photo Album: The Cairo Bazaar
- Photo Album: The Citadel, Amman Jordan
- Photo Album: Little Petra
- Photo Album: The Lost City Of Petra
- Mena House Hotel Cairo
- On The Streets Of Cairo
- Egyptian Museum Of Antiquities
- Lunch On The Nile
- Karnak Bazar
- Cairo Street Scenes
- Mit Rahina Museum
- Step Pyramid
- Tomb of Ka Gimni
- Carpet School
- Aboushakra Egyptian Lunch
- Giza Pyramids
- The Solar Boat
- A Camel Ride In Egypt
- The Iconic Sphinx
- Valley of the Kings
- Mena House Dinner
- Temple Of Karnak
- Sanctuary Resorts Sun Boat IV
- Seen On The Nile
- Sun Boat IV Culinary
- Egyptian Night
- Sunrise On The Nile
- Scenic Cruising On The Nile
- Luxor By Day
- Temple Of Goddess Hathor At Denderah
- Nile Dining On Deck
- Sundown On The Nile
- Luxor At Night
- Going Through Locks On The Nile
- Edfu Temple
- Egyptian Cooking Lesson
- Ptolemaic Temple At Kom Ombo
- Egyptian Night On Sun Boat IV
- Philae Temple
- Beautiful Flowers Of Egypt
- The Unfinished Obelisk
- A Felucca Sailboat Ride On The Nile
- Abu Simbel Temples
- Egypt Air
- Cairo Revisited- the pretty side of town
- The Four Seasons Cairo
- Cairo Mosques
- Cairo Bazzar
- Royal Jordanian Airlines
- Amman Jordan
- The Jordan Museum
- Amman Bazaars
- Amman Roman Theatre
- Lebanese House Lunch
- The Citadel
- Grand Hyatt Amman
- Mount Nebo
- Jordan Mosaic Workshop
- St George Church, Madaba
- Hitayet Siti Restaurant- Madaba
- Crusader Castle
- Little Petra
- Jordan sun
- Movenpick Petra Hotel
- Petra (Hi Res Large)
- Petra (iPhone unfiltered)
- Wadi Rum
- Driving To The Dead Sea
- Movenpick Dead Sea Hotel