Luxury on the Nile Oberoi's Zahra
Laura Smith recently travelled on the maiden voyage of Oberoi’s luxurious Nile cruise ship, Zahra and writes about her experience.
On October 4th, I joined a group of five British journalists and two other European press groups on the maiden voyage of Oberoi’s new luxury Nile Cruiser, Zahra. Billed as the Nile’s most luxurious vessel, Zahra was expected to blow its competitors out of the water with its top-notch facilities, elegant décor and superior service.
Early on Tuesday morning our group arrived in Luxor, where we were whisked through customs and straight into two blacked-out Mercedes 4 x 4 vehicles. On the 15-minute drive to Zahra’s private docking area, we were given large bottles of ice-cold water and jasmine scented towels. Our royal treatment had begun.
Oberoi’s private docking is a huge advantage, and immediately puts Zahra and sister ship Oberoi Philae way ahead of their 290-odd competitors. From Zahra’s gleaming deck, you can easily imagine that the Nile isn’t quite the well-trodden path everyone knows it to be, out of sight of the three dozen larger cruisers standing bow-to-stern a kilometre or so downstream.
Zahra is spacious to say the least, accommodating a maximum of just 50 guests, and the inaugural sailing had just 19 guests on board. There were at least three Oberoi crew per guest and nothing was too much trouble – whether providing chilled water for a morning’s excursion or fixing a broken suitcase, the helpful crew achieved it all effortlessly and with a smile.
The 25 luxury cabins are plush and comfortable, with a good-sized bed, table and chairs positioned towards the flowing Nile. But the piece de resistance is the en suite bathroom. Half the size of the bedroom, the en suite consists of a shiny new WC and large basin, complete with delicious L’Occitane products, and a huge shower in glass and aquamarine tiles, with an over-sized showerhead. The bathroom’s sea-facing wall is dominated by an enormous picture window and, at the push of a button, the blinds wind up to reveal breathtaking views of the Nile. Just don’t do this after sunset. The blacked-out windows are not as concealing as they appear once the lights have been switched on inside!
Oberoi Zahra is currently the only boat on the Nile to boast its own spa, and I’m amazed it’s not been done before. After a morning’s sightseeing at the Valley of the Kings, what could be better than a relaxing massage or cooling facial. Choose from Ayurvedic, Thai and Swedish massage and a selection of other treatments, given in one of four dedicated spa suites. I opted for Zahra’s signature Oberoi massage and was not disappointed.
The food was wonderful. Oberoi have relocated one of their finest chefs from India, Mr Siddhartha Chowdry, who brought with him a tantalising collection of Indian recipes to sit alongside traditional Egyptian fare in Zahra’s impressive menu. The a la carte menu was changed for every meal and included fresh salads, seafood, Keralan curries and fresh lamb cutlets, accompanied by an impressive list of local and international wines, and tropical cocktails.
If its royal treatment you’re after, a stay on Zahra could be just the thing. There’s no time to feel the grumbles of hunger before a freshly prepared lunch is laid out; no time to question whether it’s ‘Gin & Tonic O’clock’ before a sumptuous cocktail menu is placed in your hands, and certainly no time or reason to feel tension in your neck before a Thai masseuse is at your side. On Zahra, you won’t want for anything, except perhaps to stay a little longer.
Cox & Kings offers 7-night cruises aboard the Oberoi Zahra from £1,795 per person, including flights, 7 nights full board on the Oberoi Zahra, guided excursions and 4 nights in Cairo.