The River Tosca’s Extreme Makeover

A vastly improved River Tosca returns to the Nile in style By: Skye Mayring
The sundeck on the River Tosca is the spot for an afternoon dip. // (C) 2010 Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
The sundeck on the River Tosca is the spot for an afternoon dip. // (C) 2010 Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

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Read the writer’s blog about participating in a floating market onboard the River Tosca

The Details

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

For the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the River Tosca will sail the eight-day Classic Egypt & the Nile itinerary as well as two 12-day itineraries — Splendors of Egypt & the Nile and Jewels of Egypt, the Nile & Lake Nasser.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection made a humbling, yet courageous, decision to withdraw the River Tosca from service in the height of its 2010 season. The Tosca — which was the first in the fleet to be assembled in Egypt — was met with negative guest feedback when she debuted in October of last year, prompting the company to reconsider the ship’s design and elevate her to meet fleetwide standards. On March 22, after seven weeks of renovations and an onboard inspection led by Uniworld president Guy Young, the revamped 82-passenger vessel resumed sailing the Nile, and the response has been wholly positive.

“Since the ship has reentered service, we’ve received nothing but great feedback from travel agents and guests sailing with us,” said resident manager Luigi Doige, who has worked in the cruise industry for 11 years. “We offer a product similar to a private yacht experience on the only all-suite river cruise ship on the river. River Tosca is now, most certainly, the pearl of the Nile.”

Many guests whom I met during Uniworld’s eight-day Classic Egypt & Nile excursion in June said that the four-night river cruise portion of the trip was a highlight, some citing the cruise as their favorite part of the itinerary. They were also pleased with the personalized attention that they received from the all-Egyptian crew.

The pampering began as soon as guests stepped foot onboard the Tosca, as amiable crew members greeted them with a cold towel and fresh lime juice — a much appreciated welcoming after an early morning flight and a land tour in Egypt’s notoriously hot desert climate. The check-in process continued in the lounge, which is accented with dark woods, leather chairs and fresh-cut flowers. Guests found themselves frequenting the lounge and bar area throughout the cruise for morning croissants and coffee, a nightly cocktail hour and evening entertainment, including a galabia party (in which cruisers donned traditional Egyptian attire) and a colorful performance led by Nubian dancers.

When it came to dining, the daily lunch buffet — featuring a rotating menu of fresh salads, soups, main courses and inventive desserts — was perhaps the biggest hit with cruisers. A wide range of palates were catered to, and even the pickiest of eaters could find solace in the made-to-order pasta station and daily sandwich selection. More adventurous eaters sampled breaded Nile perch, Egyptian-style chicken pitas, sambousek (fried meat pie), cheese-stuffed eggplant and spiced squid salad.

Dinners were a four-course affair, sometimes more, with options available for guests who have dietary restrictions. Even at dinnertime, executive
chef Ossama Ibrahim was more than happy to accommodate special, off-the-menu requests.

Cruisers also raved about their spacious accommodations, ranging in size from about 335-650 square feet. With custom-made headboards, nailhead trim and walls draped in plush fabric, it looked as if Ralph Lauren Home had a hand in designing the Tosca’s 41 suites. The creature comforts, however, were provided by Uniworld’s sister company, Red Carnation Hotel Collection, who is also a collaborator in the areas of hospitality training and management, quality control programs and food and beverage services. 

Bathrooms are equally as attractive and are covered in limestone-colored marble, a design element echoing the art and architecture of ancient Egypt. They feature large bathtubs with Grohe fixtures, a separate shower with rain shower heads, a Duravit bidet and electric-blue mood lighting to help guests find their way in the middle of the night. All natural bath products, such as olive oil soap hand-milled in Egypt and a mother-of-pearl inlay tissue box cover are further examples of the attention to detail paid shipwide.

Guests, all of whom happened to be American on my particular cruise, loved the North American electrical outlet above the desk, but the ultra-plush desk chair meant that anyone wanting to break out their laptop would need to have skinny legs to feel comfortable. While the ship boasts en-suite Wi-Fi access, there are only two USB modems available (and related software needs to be installed) at a price of about $8 per half-hour. To avoid frustration, I would suggest abandoning the digital world altogether on this cruise and concentrating on the tranquility of the Nile as the ship passes by farmers tending the lush shores of Luxor and desert hills that stretch as far as the eye can see.

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