Jewels of the Nile
One of the world's most enduring tourist institutions, a cruise on the River Nile, was the preserve of the European elite until the late 1860s, when Thomas Cook & Son began taking package tours to Egypt. By the end of the 19th century, the company operated six tourist steamers ('modern vessels built in Scotland regardless of expense') and several other vessels between Cairo and Wadi Halfa on the Sudan border, with a network of tourist accommodation along the way. By the time Agatha Christie published the novel Death on the Nile, set on a Cook's steamer, in 1937, Nile cruises had reached their peak, with the second world war and the Suez Crisis on the horizon. Nile cruises still operate today but on shorter routes, with two of the best offered by Oberoi Hotels & Resorts. Two cruisers, the Philae (above right) and the more modern-looking Zahra make regular scheduled seven- and eight-day trips between Luxor and Aswan, with stops at all the classical sights along the way. Twin-berth, full-board accommodation starts from US$275 per night, per person, on the Philae and US$580 on the Zahra. Oberoi Hotels & Resorts also runs the historic Mena House hotel in Cairo, which is within sight of the Giza pyramids and a good choice for anyone planning a broader Egyptian experience. See www.oberoihotels.com for details, special offers and bookings. Qatar Airways flies from Hong Kong to Luxor with a two-hour stopover in Doha.
Luxury all-suite resort Alila Luang Prabang (below) opened earlier this month in the former royal capital of Laos. Part of this property, a member of the Design Hotels group, occupies a French colonial governor's mansion that was once used as a detention centre for political prisoners. The concept leans towards the historical, with two Governor suites and two Heritage suites among the 23 accommodations available. Facilities include a colonial-style cocktail bar and library, a spa, a cooking school and a fine-dining restaurant. An opening rate of US$170 per night will be available until December 23 at www.alilahotels.com.
A night to remember
The Peninsula Shanghai (left) is running a 'Spend the Night on Us' package, which gives guests spending three consecutive nights at the hotel the equivalent value of one night's accommodation charge to use on in-house dining and spa treatments. This deal applies to all types of accommodation, with rates starting from 3,800 yuan (HK$4,400) per night, and will be available until March 15. Visit www.peninsula.com for details and reservations.
Deal of the week
Singapore's new Marina Bay Sands hotel (right; www.marinabaysands.com) certainly looks impressive, with its three 55-storey towers topped with a 'SkyPark' that features an infinity pool and landscaped gardens shaded by 250 tree species. But, with more than 2,500 rooms, the hotel's customer services quality has come in for criticism on hotel review websites such as Tripadvisor.com, with guests grumbling about long lines for check-in and huge herds of bewildered tourists wandering around the lobby. Such scenes are, of course, to be expected in such a massive property and the undeterred Cathay Pacific Holidays is offering a two-night Marina Bay Sands package, which includes round-trip, economy-class flights and Atrium Deluxe/Atrium Premier accommodation, with breakfast, for HK$3,739/HK$3,869 per person, twin share, respectively. Extra nights are available for HK$990/HK$1,060, and the package will be available until the end of the year. Go to www.cxholidays.com, or call 2747 4336 for further details and reservations.