“You can’t help but let your mind wander to a state of tranquility and stillness onboard the Sanctuary Retreats Sunboat IV”.
Sitting on the upper deck of the Sanctuary Sunboat IV, in one of the many reclining sunbeds or in a shady cabana, you can’t help but let your mind wander to a state of tranquility and stillness all while slowly cruising down the Nile, watching the sun go down.
As you go up (or down) the River Nile from stop to stop. The scenery turns from lush and green at the riverbank, to vast and baron with towering sand dunes and rocky mountains and then into quiet towns and villages. Then Repeat.
Collected in a private minibus from our hotel in Aswan, we were taken to the Sanctuary Sunboat IV, docked at a private jetty away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
Pulling up from the minibus, we enter across a narrow drawbridge into the main reception foyer. Our initial reaction was that it was much more than just a cruise boat, it had hints of elegance and exclusivity throughout. We were ushered up into the lounge and bar area and served with a cold sweet hibiscus drink (the countries choice of welcome drink).
Travelling in the off season also has its perks (the busy season is November to February as it is Egypt’s winter and the temperatures are slightly cooler). With the boat being only at a third of the capacity you really were able to stretch out anywhere and everywhere. As we were travelling with my 80yr old father in law this was priceless.
Even at full capacity I don’t think this would be a problem for Sanctuary Sunboat IV as there are 5 levels.
Note: Sanctuary Retreats has the furthest possible jetty in Aswan. So, while it does take 15-20 minutes or so longer to get to town for the daily activities, the almost guarantee of privacy while the boat is docked is priceless. Our Sanctuary Retreats guide Mohammed told us that some of locals like to come and take photos of tourists while the other boats are docked in town. Considering the pool is on the roof of the river boats and you are staying at least 1 night either at the start or finish of your trip at Aswan, having locals taking photos of the girls sunbaking by the side of the pool was not on the top of our list.
While it’s harmless, keeping away from the prying eyes of the local boys is a huge plus. Sanctuary Retreats really has thought about the guests privacy first and foremost.
The Sanctuary Sunboat IV
There are five levels on the Sanctuary Retreats Sunboat IV. Every floor has rooms on them to the front of the boat.
The Nile Deck we didn’t go down to this level as we did not need to.
The Main Deck where you get on and off each day is made up of the bedrooms to one side and the dining area on the other. This is the level we were staying on. Incredibly easy for travelling with the elderly.
The Bridge Deck is made up entirely of the lounge area towards the back of the boat. As the Sanctuary Sunboat IV had just undergone a bit of a refurbishment, the lounge had a little ‘Gatsby” feel to it. Contemporary and elegant with relaxing lounges and an art deco vibe. Completely air conditioned. The bar is towards the end of the room and in the middle, which serves drinks (or cocktails) all day and refreshments of an afternoon.This is the only place on the boat where Wi-Fi is available.
Behind the bar is also a small outside deck with some egg chairs, which we only found during the last few hours of the trip. (The boat is rather large so this can be forgiven).
The Promenade Deck has more rooms at the front of the boat while there is a small library at the back. This landing opens up to an outside shaded dining area. We didn’t spend any time here at all. There is a small staircase that leads up to the pool area where we spent most of our time outside.
Finally, the Sun Deck, this is where (providing it’s not too hot when you go) is where you will spend a lot of your time while on the Sanctuary Sunboat IV. There is a heated roof top dipping pool (not that the heated aspect was needed) countless day beds and two shaded cabanas.
Even though it was a modest 40 degrees everyday haha, the cabanas we’re great as you got a refreshing breeze off the river. Late in the afternoon is where it became really special as when the heat died off you could really spend the last few hours up here and take it all in.
We were in a standard cabin on the main deck. Which is small yet comfortable. There was a very homely feeling and waking up on the water has a nice feeling to it (make sure if possible, reserve one of the river facing rooms). The room had a king bed, dresser, built in wardrobe and bathroom and wall hung plasma.
The bathroom was you would expect on a boat, small and pokey but for what it was it was good, and it was always clean.
Food & Beverage
The food was delicious and catered for everyone.
There was a mix of a la carte and buffet options.
The buffet style for lunch and dinner had a mix of Middle Eastern influence, meats and poultry, fish, dips and salads, pastas & lovely desserts.
The a la carte normally consisted of a fresh salad or warm soup, followed by mains which ranged from pasta to fish and veg. Every meal we had was refreshingly light, portion controlled and to top it off, there are matching house wines & beer which were moderately priced.
We did a 4-night cruise from Aswan to Luxor.
We were in a group of 6 from the boat with our own Egyptologist Mohammed (who is very very passionate about his job). Without ruining the entire trip and leaving something as a surprise we visited the Valley of The Kings, Philae Temple, The Unfinished Obelisk to name a few. Each one is enchanting and outstanding in its own way.
What I will say is when standing in front (or in) of all these buildings whether its a temple or tomb, the sheer size of what was there, if it were to remain standing today almost seems impossible to fathom how it was built at the time.
Travelling from the boat to temple or to the daily activities was a breeze. Always picked up in an air conditioned minivan with ice cold water. We were travelling with an 80 yr old who had just overcome a cancer scare and had a quarter of his lung removed (granted he is still pretty fit), we were unsure how he was going to cope with the activities. It was 40 degrees some days (went we smack bang in their summer) and there was a bit of walking involved.
Thanks to professionalism of our Egyptologist Mohammed and the relaxed pace. Sanctuary Retreats has thoughtfully planned and everything is stress free so there was never a problem.
Note: This is nothing to do with Sanctuary Retreats, but it happens every cruise. I have never quite seen it before and was actually so unique I thought it needed mentioning. Obviously as you travel around you see different people trying to pedal cheap trinkets in shops or on the streets (Think mini Eiffel Towers in Paris, Babushka dolls in Japan and so on).
In Egypt the items to sell are rugs n blankets etc. So, when we were near the canal during our cruise you had these tiny row boats of peddlers rowing as fast as they could towards the boat going full steam and with a rope they would attach there little rowing boat (if they’re successful) and kind of surf their way up the Nile while trying to sell their items.
- Beautiful boat
- Relaxing atmosphere
- Different daily activities
- Attentive and friendly staff (they outnumbered us)
- Picturesque locations
- Food – and great options for dietary requirements like mine
- Overload of History
- Drinks aren’t included and cocktails are $$ (for AUD)
- Somewhat felt slightly encouraged to tip the locals everywhere on daily activities.
- Overload of History (thousands of people have dedicated their lives studying Egypt and have still not scratched the surface so while there is so much to see and listen it does tend to morph together.)
A once in a lifetime experience everyone should do.