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Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

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Egypt protests escalate; Travelers being evacuated

This post has been updated here.

As you know, the political protests in Egypt have not slowed down and the U.S. Department of State has issued a travel alert. All Friendly Planet Travel travelers in Egypt are safe and we have representatives with them at all times. But we are working 24/7 to get them out of Egypt as soon as possible. The demand for flights out of Egypt is high, but the U.S. government is sending planes to Egypt to help get our citizens out of the country more quickly.

In fact, Friendly Planet Travel passengers are all onboard two cruise ships on the Nile River. The ships are not docking at the moment, so travelers are far from any protests. The cruises will dock once we are able to safely get them to the airport and on flights out of the country.

This is a great strategy on the part of our representatives in Egypt, who decided early on to get our travelers to the safety of Luxor and Aswan, where no demonstrations were taking place. Below is a letter I sent to all of our travelers explaining this strategy and what we’re doing to get them home.

Cell phone service has returned to Egypt, although lines are busy. So please be patient if you’re trying to reach family and friends in Egypt. Rest assured, we are working aggressively to make arrangements to get everyone out of Egypt. The safety and security of our travelers is our most important priority, and we will not stop working until each one is home. We expect this to happen in the next day or two.

But again, patience is the goal. We are not the only company with travelers in Egypt who need to get out. Everyone is trying as hard as we are, so please give us the opportunity to work the best way possible.

I will continue to update everyone on the blog, Facebook, and Twitter as we get more information.


Dear Friendly Planet Travelers,

I want to personally let you know that we are doing everything possible to evacuate you from Egypt in the safest and most expedient way possible. We have been working on getting you home from the moment it became clear that it was no longer safe to remain in Egypt. We have been trying to reach you by phone since Friday, but because of the very difficult situation and the lack of cell phone and internet access, the land lines have been choked with traffic. Except for a few lucky instances, we have not been able to speak with you directly. However, please be assured that we’ve been very busy. I would like to update you.

1. You were taken to Luxor anticipating that it would be much safer for you and for no other reason. We wanted to be sure our travelers would be out of harm’s way. Luxor was an extremely good option.

2. We are in contact with your family and friends – these are the emergency contacts you gave us – to keep them updated regarding our efforts, your location and any other details we have managed to obtain. Even if you haven’t spoken to anyone at home during this crisis, we have been in touch. They know you are safe.

3. Please do not assume that since we haven’t spoken by phone, you are being held on the ship because we want you to enjoy a cruise or because you’ve already paid for this portion of your trip. Nothing could be further from the truth. You are on the ship in order to be safe while we make arrangements to fly you home. No other reason.

4. At present, we are trying to arrange for you to fly home on Monday. You were scheduled to fly via EgyptAir, but because of a manpower issue and the huge demand on the available seats, EgyptAir is not able to cope immediately. The US government is planning to begin flights out of Egypt to the USA on Monday, and we are in contact with the Embassy to be sure you are included in these flights. You will depart from Egypt on the first flights that become available to us. If EgyptAir comes through first, you’ll depart via EgyptAir. If the US planes come through first, you’ll fly out that way. The important thing is to be assured that we will get you out.

This message was made possible by sending it to our Egypt reps, Wings Tours & Nile Cruises, by fax. We are hopeful that since there are some land lines available through the various Wings offices, it will be received and then delivered to you directly aboard your Nile cruise ship. We will try to send additional messages if possible. In the meantime, please be sure that we will not stop working for a moment until you are all safely home.

Sincerely,

Peggy

Peggy M. Goldman
President

U.S. Department of State issues travel alert for Egypt; Friendly Planet Travel suspends Egypt tours

This post has been update here.

I just told you in an earlier post that we hoped the protests in Egypt would subside, but they have continued to escalate. Just moments ago, the U.S. Department of State issued travel alert for Egypt, warning U.S. travelers of the ongoing political and social unrest in Egypt.

As a result, Friendly Planet Travel is temporarily suspending our tours to Egypt until the situation is resolved. Travelers who are scheduled for departures before Feb. 28 (when the alert is scheduled to expire) will be notified by Friendly Planet about rescheduling, selecting another destination, or cancelling arrangements altogether. We will work with every traveler to get refunds.

Below is a message we sent to everyone who booked a tour to Egypt with us. Read on to see how we are handling this situation to ensure the safety of every traveler. I’ll continue to update you here on the blog as the situation unfolds. And if you have more questions or concerns write to me or call our offices at 1-800-555-5765.


Dear Friendly Planet Egypt Travelers,

With the recent political protests and public unrest throughout Egypt, we fully understand that you may have concerns regarding your upcoming tour. We are currently evaluating the best possible option to ensure a safe and enjoyable vacation for you, whether that means running the tour with an amended itinerary, providing an alternative tour to a different region during the same date range, or cancelling the tour and working with you to reschedule/possibly refund.

Traveler’s safety is always our primary concern at Friendly Planet and we will never operate a tour that we feel is unsafe. We know that a lot can change within 24 hours and we are watching the unfolding events closely while in regular contact with our trusted Land Suppliers in Egypt and we plan to make a final decision regarding your upcoming trip early next week. Once we have pursued all options and reached a decision, we will follow up with you accordingly .

If you are reading this e-mail and have already decided that you will not be traveling to Egypt regardless, we certainly respect your decision to cancel but we apologize that we cannot guarantee a full refund at this point, however we will work with all parties involved to insure the lowest possible penalties for such cancellation.

We are hopeful that the situation in Egypt resolves itself in the coming days. If so, and if it is possible to travel to Egypt safely and with confidence, you can continue with your travel plans without interruption. If safe travel is not possible, you will have all the options to cancel and you can count on us to do whatever is necessary to recover as much as possible, if not all, of your tour payments. We are your advocates, and we work for you. Please rest assured that we have your well being at heart.

We will be following the new stories all weekend, as we are sure many of you will do, and will have a better overall picture of the implications by Wednesday of next week.

As soon as further information becomes available and a final decision is made, we will e-mail you with the news.

Best Regards,

Peggy M. Goldman
President
pmgoldman@friendlyplanet.com

Is it safe to travel to Egypt?

This post has been updated here

Political situations like the one unfolding in Egypt remind me that if you want to explore and experience the world, you need to be prepared for the unexpected. Note that I didn’t say expect the unexpected. In almost every case, the risk is minimal when traveling. However, be prepared for any eventuality because it can happen anywhere. We just saw it unfold in our own country in Arizona.

Tens of thousands of protesters are filling the streets of Cairo demonstrating that they want current President Hosni Mubarak to step down from power. When Friendly Planet Travel got wind of this, we immediately contacted our two tour groups that are in Egypt right now.

One group is in Aswan, where no protests are taking place. That tour will continue as scheduled. The second group arrived in Cairo yesterday. They are currently in the Ramses Hilton hotel, which is on the east bank of the Nile River, where they have a clear view of the unfolding protests.

Every Friendly Planet Traveler in Egypt is safe. We have contacted every traveler’s emergency contact to make them aware of this. In fact, our group in Cairo was able to tour the Pyramids and Sphinx this morning as scheduled. Egypt’s tourist police safely escorted our travelers to and from the hotel before the protests heated up.

Right now the situation for our travelers is under control, with some enjoying the sites along the Nile River on a week long cruise and others about to fly to Luxor to begin a cruise on the Nile on Saturday morning. We hope that in the next hours and few days, the situation will improve and the demonstrations will stop. Friendly Planet Travel has experience when these things happen. They’re rare, but they do happen, and when they do, we know what needs to be done to take care of our travelers.

We’re monitoring the situation closely and have a Friendly Planet Travel representative with our travelers at all times. Every two hours we receive an update on the situation from our representatives in Cairo. All hands are on deck at Friendly Planet to make sure our travelers stay safe and continue to see the beauty of Egypt.

I will continue to keep you updated on the political situation in Egypt on the blog. And if you have any questions or concerns you can write to me or call our offices at 1-800-555-5765.

Friendly Planet Travel rounds out 2010 with media mentions

Before I put 2010 behind me, I have a few more things to take care of. One those is extending thank yous to the editors who covered Friendly Planet Travel’s Captivating Costa Rica, Best of Turkey, and Pyramids and Nile Cruise tours in December. Read on to see what pubs these Friendly Planet Travel tours landed in.

Frommer’s listed Friendly Planet Travel’s Best of Turkey tour on its “5 Deals for December 1, 2010.”

Captivating Cost Rica made an appearance on “Frommer’s 5 Deals for December 15, 2010.”

Lastly, Oregon Travel Daily talked about our Pyramids and Nile Cruise when we announced new departure dates.

Thanks again editors for featuring Friendly Planet Travel. Hope you all have a happy new year!

Falling in love along the Nile

Steve and Kesa Sage in Cambodia

For some people, taking a vacation can be life changing. And I’m not talking about taking a break from the office and recharging your battery. I’m talking about finding your soul mate.

One of our reservationists recently discovered that a couple booking our Taste of China tour had first met on another one of our tours. Their relationship blossomed and they got married. Their love story is very sweet and I wanted to share it with you.

Let me set the scene.

It was November of 2007 and Steve Sage, a firefighter from Denver, was on Friendly Planet’s Pyramids and Nile Cruise program. The plane had just landed in Cairo and Steve was on his way to see the pyramids with his group tour members.

Kesa Young, from Casper, Wyo., was on that same tour traveling with her sister and niece. Kesa was jet-lagged when they landed, but she was still ready to marvel at one of Egypt’s masterpieces as the group rode the bus to the pyramids site.

Little did Steve and Kesa know that this trip was about to change their lives forever.

Steve was a seasoned traveler and experienced at taking solo trips. He had booked the tour with Friendly Planet because on a previous trip to Egypt, Steve barely had any time to experience the ancient wonders. He was eager to return and and spend time seeing the Sphinx, touring Cairo, and more.

A history buff, Kesa had always wanted to see Egypt. She often traveled alone, but this time she wanted to share this experience with family. Since none of them had visited Egypt before, Kesa’s sister wanted to book a group tour to make sure no one got lost in an unfamiliar country.

The group disembarked from the bus in front of Pyramids at Giza. Kesa, her sister, and niece explored the towering monuments that have stood for the last 46 centuries. Close by, Steve was doing the exact same thing. When they once again boarded the bus, Kesa noticed a handsome man sitting alone.

On the ride to the hotel, Kesa approached Steve and introduced herself to him. And as she describes it, she was “smitten” right away. Since Steve was alone, Kesa found it easy to keep him company at every opportunity they were given.

Kesa wasn’t the only one noticing things that first day in Egypt. Everyone in their group tour noticed the chemistry right away, and they all played an important part in kindling of their romance. Group members would suggest they sit next to each other at dinner, or encourage them to go on an excursion together. With the group’s help, Kesa and Steve spent a lot of time getting to know one another on the trip.

At the end of their nine days together, Steve was going on the Petra extension and Kesa was heading back to Casper. On the last morning of the Pyramids and Nile Cruise, Steve woke up early to have breakfast with Kesa and see her off.

They exchanged e-mails and phone numbers and went their separate ways. Kesa wasn’t sure what to expect of her new-found relationship with Steve. Would she hear from him again? Then a few days later, her phone rang.

On the other end was Steve. He had just returned to Denver and they picked up right where they left off in Egypt. Now that they were back in the U.S., Steve joked that he never thought he’d have to go to Cairo to meet a girl from Casper.

Denver was only four hours away, but Kesa had just quit her job and was moving to Chicago to attend pastry school. For the next six months they flew back and forth to see each other, and it wasn’t uncommon for Steve to surprise her with a visit at school.

When Kesa finished pastry school, she moved to Denver to be closer to Steve. After almost two years of dating, Steve and Kesa decided to tie the knot in a style the suited them best — Las Vegas on Valentine’s Day 2009.

Before taking their vows, Kesa and Steve took the plunge together out of an airplane to skydive the morning of their wedding. It might have been in the desert, but they assured me that it wasn’t warm 15,000 feet up in the sky.

Today Steve and Kesa are happily married and living in Denver. They’re looking forward to touring China with us on an upcoming departure. And this time they’ll share the full experience together.

Thanks to Steve and Kesa for sharing such a personal story. I never knew that as a group tour operator I could also play cupid. ;)

Tips to get your travel photos to say a thousand words

A picture is worth a thousand words is cliché but true. When I look at photos from my adventures around the globe, it always brings back a flood memories and stories.

I was talking to Trae Roberts, Friendly Planet Travel Reservations Manager, about photography and he offered some great advice on what type of camera or lens you should bring with you on vacation.

He gave some great tips, so I asked him to jot down his ideas for a guest post. Keep reading to get Trae’s tips on how to get some great shots when you travel. And if you have some of your own photography advice, please share it in a comment on this post.


My best advice is to get a large memory card and click away. See what sticks, and make sure you don’t eliminate pictures based on how they look on your camera’s screen. Upload them to a computer that has a large monitor to see if the picture is a keeper.

If you’re interested in animal/bird viewing, then I recommend using at least a 300 mm camera lens. The large SLR cameras might be a pain to carry, but so worth the reward! Your pictures will come out crystal clear and the range you get is fantastic.

To eliminate the need for a tripod, any lens you purchase over 200 mm must have vibration reduction (or equivalent) in order to reduce movement blur. Most experts suggest spending more money on the lens, more so than the body of the camera. I prefer Nikon for its ease of use, quality, and durability.

I’ll leave you with these last two tips. Anyone using a camera in a dusty environment, such as Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, etc., should not make it a habit to change their camera lens. Dust and dirt are the worst things for a camera body, and changing lens leaves you vulnerable in environments like these. And most importantly — bring extra batteries!

New 2011 departure dates announced for Friendly Planet’s Pyramids and Nile Cruise

It’s finally easier to get a seat on Friendly Planet Travel’s signature tour to Egypt. Almost every tour sold out in 2010, so we’re jam-packing the beginning of 2011 with nine new departure dates for the Pyramids and Nile Cruise. They include: Jan. 12, Jan. 26, Feb. 9, Feb. 23, March 9, March 16, April 6, April 27, and May 4.

Egypt’s contrast of ancient treasures and contemporary cities has made it one of the world’s most popular travel destinations. It’s pyramids, temples, and architecture are just the tip of the iceberg. So we’ve put together nine first-class tours highlighting the most desirable sites and exotic locales Egypt has to offer.

Starting in the cosmopolitan city of Cairo, you stay on the bank of the Nile River in the Ramses Hilton or Cairo Sheraton hotel. Here you’re just a short drive from the pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Seeing these elaborate structures that were built by man 46 centuries ago will take your breath away.

Next fly to Luxor and walk the Temple of Karnak, one of the most overwhelming monuments of the Pharaonic legacy, and Luxor Temple. Then board the five-star Tamr Henna ship and settle into your outside balcony cabin.

From there you begin your luxury excursion down the Nile River. The first stop is in Esna to see the Valley of the Kings and the Deir El Bahari mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut. After Esna comes Edfu, home to the Temple of Horus, Egypt’s best-preserved temple.

Continue sailing to Kom Ombo to the Temple of Kom Ombo. It overlooks the Nile and features fascinating drawings on the walls, including detailed drawings of surgical instruments. Lastly, you’ll disembark in Aswan to enjoy a tour by felucca. It’s a swift Egyptian sailboat that takes you around Elephantine Island, once the center of modern Aswan.

Head back to Cairo by air to sightsee in the cosmopolitan city or take advantage of an optional guided tour of Old Cairo. If your time and budget permits, why not opt for the extension to the Lost City of Petra in Jordan. You’ll roam the Monastery and Treasury at Petra, the Amman Citadel, the Roman Amphitheater, and more with your English-speaking guide along to explain the highlights of this amazing site.

Packaged in the price, from just $2,099, are roundtrip flights from New York (JFK) via EgyptAir; five-star hotel accommodations at the Ramses Hilton or Cairo Sheraton; four nights aboard the five-star Tamr Henna ship in outside balcony cabin; all internal flights; ground transportation and transfers, with assistance and porterage; daily breakfast buffet and all meals aboard the cruises; comprehensive sightseeing programs, including a half-day in Cairo featuring the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx, and all touring on the Nile cruise; and professional, English-speaking local tour guides.

Although we just announced these additional departure dates, we expect them to sell out quickly. Don’t wait long to reserve your spot! If you want to experience Egypt, book the nine-day Pyramids and Nile Cruise for $2,099 by Oct. 20.

To enjoy a longer stay in cruise including a 7-night Nile cruise, Friendly Planet also offers the 12-day Treasures of Egypt tour for $2,199. Also available is the eight-day Pyramids and Petra tour for $1,799, which offers a taste of Egypt’s antiquities in and around Cairo plus a visit to Amman, Jordan’s capital and the amazing Petra.

If you have any questions, visit our website for the full itineraries of each tours. And as always, feel free to write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team.

Three Egypt tours fit for a Pharaoh

There are few places in the world with more mystery and majesty than Egypt. The contrast of ancient treasures and modern marvels is what tempts travelers year after year.

The one conundrum travelers find themselves in is this: With over 46 centuries of history, there’s so much to see and do in Egypt. That’s why we offer more tours to Egypt than any other country. Right now we’re discounting all of them.

But don’t let the prices fool you. You’ll feel like a Pharaoh staying in five-star hotels in the heart of Cairo, and touring the most elaborate pieces of structure built by man.

Here are Friendly Planet’s Egypt tours.

Pyramids and Nile Cruise. Stand in the shadow of the Sphinx and gaze at the pyramids of Giza on this $1,699, nine-day tour. Walk the temples at Luxor and Edfu, visit King Tut’s tomb, old Cairo, and more. Then relax on a luxury excursion down the Nile River on the Tamr Henna for four nights. If you want more, an optional four-day extension to Petra is available.

Pyramids and Petra. On this eight-day, $1,699 tour, embark on an inspired exploration of the pyramids of Egypt, the oldest and only standing Ancient Wonder of the World. Stroll through the world-famous Khan El Khalili bazaars to try your hand at bargaining for unique jewelry and clothing. Then cast your eyes on the remarkable lost city of Petra in Jordan, one of the Seven New Ancient Wonders of the World.

While you’re in the neighborhood, take advantage of the four-day Dead Sea extension. There’s no other place in the world where you can float (without a raft!) in the saltiest and lowest body of water on Earth. Even better, it’s said that the mineral-filled seawater can take years off your skin. ;-)

Treasures of Egypt. And if you want more than a week in Egypt, this 12-day, $2,099 tour will satisfy your appetite. Be mesmerized by Egypt’s sweeping natural beauty on land, then board the M/S Tulip for a seven-night Nile River Cruise. You’ll dock at Edfu, Aswan, Kom Ombo, and more. While at port, wander the world’s greatest open air museum at Luxor and tour Abu Simbel, the site of the Great Temple of Ramses II and one of the most magnificent of all temples in Egypt.

Here’s what’s include in the prices: roundtrip flights from New York (JFK) via EgyptAir, fuel surcharges, arrival and departure transfers, all intra-Egypt flights and group transportation, superior hotels, many meals, comprehensive sightseeing tour programs, English-speaking tour guides, and much more.

To lock in these prices, book the Pyramids and Nile Cruise by June 16, Pyramids and Petra by June 2, and Treasures of Egypt by June 23. I can assure you of one thing. You’ll be itching to return to Egypt after just one visit.

For complete details about the tours, itineraries, and their extensions, visit the website. If you have any lingering questions, write to me directly.

Experience the mystery of Egypt on Friendly Planet’s 12-day Treasures of Egypt tour

As the third part of this week’s Africa series, I’d like to take you north. Egypt is the land of fascinating culture, mesmerizing history, and sweeping natural beauty. And there are perhaps few places in the world more revered for its mystery and majesty.

FP_Egypt.jpg

Once again, Friendly Planet is defying skyrocketing travel prices to bring you a fantastic, truly first-class Egypt vacation deal fit for a pharaoh. On our Treasures of Egypt tour, you’ll spend 12 days exploring the famous Sphinx and pyramids at Giza, the temples at Luxor and Edfu, King Tut’s tomb, Old Cairo, and so much more, for only $2,299.

For the second leg of the journey, travelers will be treated to seven nights aboard a luxury cruise on the Nile aboard the 5-star M/S Tulip cruise ship. As always, roundtrip flights, transfers, touring, and many meals are also part of this vacation package.

Have a look at the Friendly Planet Travel Web site for more information, departure dates, booking, and a full itinerary.

Customer testimonial from a certified globetrotter

I’m sure by now you’re all aware of how much I enjoy getting feedback from our customers, and how important that feedback is in making Friendly Planet Travel the best company we can in terms of service, value, and overall experiences for our customers.

FP_suitcase.jpg
All feeback is important, but it’s especially gratifying when an experienced traveler gives us the stamp of approval. That’s why the following testimonial, from Jim Villalpando of Taylorsville, Utah, meant so much to us here at the office. Jim and his wife Gloria have gone on numerous Friendly Planet Travel tours, including Egypt, Israel, Petra, Thailand, and Cambodia, as well as tours throughout Europe.

"What can be said that has not been said? Price, value, your tours are an exceptional value. We have been on five friendly planet tours to date and wil be going on our sixth trip to India, Nepal next month. What ever you’re doing, don’t change the formula until we’ve finshed the seven wonders of the world thru friendly planet tours. Great value on all the tours we’ve taken thus far.
 – Jim & Gloria Villalpando Taylorsville Utah"

 

 

 

 
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About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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