Change to Small Group Itinerary

Since our J&E tour which was supposed to depart next week is now officially cancelled, I called Tauck to re-book. There were very few openings later in 2020 and the one I would have chosen overlapped with our XMAS Markets on the Rhine Cruise so I picked the 26 Jan 2021 Small Group departure. It will likely be a bit nippy in Petra, so I also got on the waiting list for the 18 March departure.

I left my payments (paid in full) on account, however the agent was unable to immediately add the $500 credit per traveler since it had to be approved by a supervisor. Also, pre- and post-stay hotel rates have not been established so they will need to be added later. Even after the $500 credit I will still have a balance due because the trip price (same cabin category) went up by $900 p/p and the insurance went up by $40 p/p. So, depending on what happens to the price of a pre-stay at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea (post stay is Gift of Time), even with the $500 credit, I will still owe almost $900 more. I guess that is not too bad, considering. I'm outside the 330 day window so must wait two days to work my flights but it looks like it could cost me about $150 p/p more for tickets due to price increases.

If you are looking for the 2021 Small Group departures you'll notice they were split out from the regular tour (for 2020 they were under the same listing).

Also, depending on your point of view, there is a somewhat significant itinerary change for at least one departure that is not apparent by looking at the website. Except for a different boat- 2021 regular size tours are on the Oberoi Zahra while Small Group tours are on the Oberoi Philea- the itineraries shown on the website are identical. However, it is a good thing I decided to look closely at the Summary of Purchase that was emailed immediately after re-booking, because it has this note:

Additional Info: You have booked a special small group departure averaging 24 guests. This tour will fly Aqaba, Jordan to Luxor, Egypt and sail 4 nights onboard Oberoi Philae from Luxor to Aswan.

This means, instead of flying from Aqaba to Aswan and sailing north to Luxor, we will fly to Luxor and sail south to Aswan. As soon as I saw that I called Tauck to verify. I told the phone agent that routing is not what it says in the website itinerary nor what it shows on the route map. I didn't see any special notes for that date either. The phone agent didn't have an explanation and could not get through to the tour development team. I asked if she could at least verify the new information which she did. A supervisor said the tour team was too busy to explain or send out a corrected itinerary (I can believe that!)- it may not be until sometime next week (I don't know if IT has the correct information and can correct the website?). I also don't know if this change is just for the 26 Jan departure or all 2021 small group departures. I'm sure the new itinerary will visit the same places and provide the same experiences as the south to north itinerary. I can't say if I would have selected a different departure because of this change, but it sure would have been nice to know about it ahead of time since most Jan - Apr 2021 Small Group departures are sold out. It was probably done to increase tour density and make more efficient utilization of the two boats.

Finally, did anyone notice on the website tour pages, under Pricing & Availability in the Date View (expanded) cabins are listed by Category A, B, C, D, yet in the Category View they are listed by Category 1, 2, 3, 4? A bit confusing? Oh, and the cabin letters don't all match up with the deck of the ship, e.g. cabin B3 is on B Deck but it is a Category A cabin while Cabins C1 thru C8 on the C Deck are in Category B. ;)


  • Alan - I'm booked on the Egypt: Jewel of the Nile tour in October on the Oberoi Philae, room C03. If I actually get to go on the tour, I'll post some info on the Philae rooms (although it will probably be too late to do anything about it, at least you will have some additional information.)

    Here is a link to a video on the Oberoi Philae.

  • edited March 14

    Thanks. It is always nice to get first hand reports.

    Once I suspected that our 2020 trip (on Zahra) would be cancelled, I researched the 2021 small group departures (on Philea). It was essentially rebuilt from the bottom up in 2016. Despite it "appearing" larger than the Zahra in photos, it has 5 less (22 vs 27), and if I remember, larger cabins. All of them appear quite nice in the photos. That, and the fact it is an Oberoi boat mean it is very nice. The exterior hasn't changed much and its traditional look is similar to many of the Nile River Cruisers.

  • Glad you were at least able to get an acceptable date.

  • Alan****I hope everything is back to the “new” normal soon & I’ll be able to provide you feedback on the J&E tour in December.

  • I'm going to bump this one up.

    Does anyone else have a J&E Small group departure with a slightly different itinerary for 2021. As I said above, there is a note on my Summary of Purchase, but nothing about it and no alternate or revised day-by-day itinerary on the website. From my last discussion with Tauck, it appears that some (most, but not all?) 2021 small group (and regular?) departures will fly from Aqaba, Jordan to Luxor then ride the boat south to Aswan before flying to Abu Simbel then to Cairo. The 2020 & 2021 itineraries on the website show a flight from Aqaba to Aswan then boat trip north to Luxor, before flying to Cairo.

    Anyone have any more insight into this?

  • Alan, it’s Virginia Sue. If you remember, I was supposed to be on the tour immediately before yours in March. We were canceled 2 days before we were supposed to leave, on March 11. I have to thank you for mentioning that you had put your name on the wait list for 2021 - I didn’t know there was a wait list. We were overjoyed today to find out we cleared the wait list and are booked for March 21! Let’s hope this one is a go!

  • That's great! I'm glad it worked out. No problem. Sprinkle a little good luck fairy dust my way. :)

    It looks like most regular size departures are sold out, with just a few open cabins here and there. If you have followed my other thread, you know that the "limited" availability shown on the website for our small group departure (and maybe a few other dates) is sort of a half-truth- there is "limited" space, but only one bed for one person, not available to a couple. :'(

    Did Tauck contact you? Phone or e-mail? I suspect you accepted immediately, but how much time would they have given you to decide before moving to the next person on the waitlist? They didn't contact us once when an opening became available a few years ago (I found out anyway), so, just to be safe I call them once a week.

    Have you booked flights? What is it looking like- did you use credit, voucher, etc. from this year's attempt? How did it all work out?

    Now, remember, who knows what will happen by then, COVID19-wise. Also, in one of my ramblings, I made this, rather negative, prediction: they won't open the GEM until 2022- on the 100th anniversary of Carter's discovery of Tut's Tomb. :D

  • Alan, we got an email today, May 19 and we called them immediately. After all our arrangements were made and we calmed down I looked at the email again and we only had 2 days to reply -by May 21. Our airfare is more because we upgraded our seats a little. Also the trip is more expensive in 2021. We didn’t have any voucher as we took our full refund when this year’s tour was canceled. We have the exact same flights we had planned for this year. The only real change we made was we did everything directly with Tauck since we weren’t too impressed with our travel agent this year.

  • edited May 20

    Thanks Sue. I think I will continue to call once a week, at least for awhile.

    Did you happen to notice if your cabin category ever briefly switched from "sold out" to "limited" on the website? (Sending you a PM)

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