European Magic » Review by Joslyn
This tour was ah-mayyy-ziiiinnnggg. But it also isn’t for the faint of heart. There were all sorts of different personalities on our tour. There were couples, friends/siblings who traveled together, and people traveling alone. Some chose to do their own thing, and others joined other groups. There was enough of different types of personalities to not make anyone feel awkward, at least in my tour group.
So if you’re a couple looking to do your own thing, or honeymooning, you can easily do this tour if you want to see a lot of places in a short amount of time. BUT as I mentioned before, this isn’t for the faint of heart. We were literally on the move all the time. The only rest time you had was in the long hours on the bus. (Yes, there are LONG hours on the bus. We hit traffic on the way to Switzerland, and we were so late, we had cancel shopping and the boat cruise). A lot of people chatted up, talked to our Tour Manager, Amy, got shut eye, or took pictures of people sleeping. (I totally hid my face every time I slept, and I didn’t get caught... but there are times you’re so freakin’ tired, you can care less.)
People traveling alone, EVERYONE on our tour was nice. Yes, we played pranks and teased each other, but that was all part of the camaraderie. If there is one thing I noticed, we may joke, but people are respectful (at least on my tour). You can easily join other people, or wander off on your own.
People traveling with friend/siblings, (which is the category I fell in) you can easily have fun with your bestie and see the sites, while getting to know other people. If you’re weirded out by going with a sibling, don’t be. There were 4 sets of siblings, and they all had a blast with each other and with the group. What usually happened was that they ended up separating and hung out with new tour friends.
Tip 1: Get to know everyone and make FRIENDSSSS! What I enjoyed about the Contiki experience is that not only are you seeing new places and enjoying new experiences, but you’re thrown into an awesome social setting with like-minded people your age. They are people from different cultures, ethnicities, and nationalities. Take advantage of that! You’ll learn so much more than the cities you visit, and you potentially can start planning your next trip to visit your new friends. For sure, I want to visit Australia, South Africa, and Canada to see the beautiful places my friends spoke of and to see them!
London. The first day, it’s a little awkward. Everyone doesn’t know what to expect. No one knows each other. If they want you go to a meeting place like a pub after the initial meeting, go! Make friends. These are the people you’re going to be around A LOT. Might as well start early and break the ice. My friend and I met two girls who were traveling alone and decided to explore London. We ended up having a great time and became pretty good friends.
Tip 2: If you have the money, do all the optionals. It’s part of the experience. And you get to experience it all with your new friends.
Amsterdam. DO the BOAT CRUISE! This is the place where EVERYONE will let loose! (This is because it’s a booze cruise, no lie.) I’m a loud and sociable person, so instead of staying with the same group of people, I went and mingled with as many people to get to know everyone and break the ice. Turns out, it was the best idea I ever had. Everyone I met became my friend and we all had a blast. After that, it’s a sex show. Be open to it. It’s not super disgusting or anything. It’s people on a stage having sex. We’re adults. Some parts of the show is pretty funny. Oh, and you get two drinks at this show. After that, we partied the night away. The next morning, you get to explore Amsterdam by day. I recommend the Anne Frank Huis. It’s really amazing and it’s such a big part of World history. If you’re gonna partake in herbal remedies... cookies are weak. Just sayin’
St. Goar. This is the place you recover from all the Amsterdamage. You go on a wine tasting and a beerstein demonstration. (I went for Oktoberfest, if you’re going to do this tour, BOOK IT FOR OKTOBERFEST!) The wine tasting wasn’t all that great, but it was only 8 Euros, and you get a free shot glass. St. Goar the town is small, so going off wandering wouldn’t be all that great either since the shops close at 6 PM. I bought an Oktoberfest beerstein, and everyone back home I’ve shown it to has coveted it. (Mind you, it’s really heavy, think about that when you think of luggage requirements.) The inn we stayed at was cute and quiet. Take this time to relax because the next day is Munich.
Munich. We did the bike ride, and Tony, our tour guide, was hilarious. He was an American, so I was able to clearly understand him (though, to European credit, many speak better English than I do). It was nice seeing the sights and riding a bike again. But to the real reason I love Munich was Oktoberfest. I was one of four people in a tour of 50 that booked this trip WITHOUT knowing about Oktoberfest. Thank my lucky stars I chose this tour. Oktoberfest was flat out AHHH-MAAAYYY-ZIIIINNGG. DO IT. Even if you don’t like beer! It’s such a culture shock, and everyone has SO MUCH FUN. Partying with happy Germans and your tourmates is just fun. I can’t emphasize it enough. DO IT. AND, these tours book fast, since there is only TWO European Magic tours that do it (but there are other tours that do it as well like European Discover), just sayin’. And don’t think you can get German beer anytime, they SPECIFICALLY brew a new beer every year for Oktoberfest. It’s definitely on my to-do list, again.
Stopover in Austria. We bobsledded. I’ll tell you, I LOVE watching bobsledding in the Olympics, but I didn’t expect that ride. It’s really rough, but an awesome experience. Seriously, it’s awesome to say that I bobsledded on an Olympic run with an Olympian. You stop off in Innsbruck, which has a Swarovski store. I spent a LOT here. The bottom floor has the cheaper good because they’re not technically Swarovski brand, but they’re designed by local Austrian designers with Swarovski techniques. Still very pretty. They also gave me the option to charge with American dollars versus Euros, so it saved me on transaction fees.
Venice. The first night is a chill night. Rest up, because there will be a LOT of walking when you actually get into Venice. (You won’t be staying in the actual city of Venice to keep costs low.) Get lost in this city. We went up St. Mark’s bell tower and the views are LOVELY. It doesn’t even cost much. Eat Italian food (It’s freakin’ delicious, obviously). I shopped away from the big stores and bought things at the stands. I have to say, my favorite thing I bought from the whole trip was my Murano glass ring. They have cheap leather bags, and cool masks.
Switzerland. We hit a lot of traffic so we missed out on shopping and the boat cruise, but we did go to Mt. Stanserhorn, and the views are glorious. The Swiss are very orderly and their landscape proves it. Bring a jacket, I went in September, and I wore a cotton jacket. It was enough. You stay at the Jail Hotel. It’s an experience. It’s a little scary at first, but it’s just a place to sleep. I’ve read reviews where it said it was dirty. I didn’t see that in my room.
Paris. Expect a LONG road ahead of you. It took us 9 hours, I believe. The first night is a chill night and you do the city of lights tour. It’s pretty and you learn a lot of the rich history of the French. The next day, you go to a perfumery. This really wasn’t all that great, but I did buy lovely French perfume for really cheap, and they only sell in Paris. I wear it all time now. We had 45 minutes of free time, and a group of us booked it to the Lourve to see the Mona Lisa. The Lourve is HUGE, and we literally got in, saw the Mona Lisa, and ran back to the bus. We took our group picture, then went up the Eiffel Tower, and were given free time. One day in Paris is barely getting an intsy winsty taste of Paris.
Tip 3: Extend in London BEFORE the tour starts and extend in Paris when the tour is over.
One day in Paris is seriously not enough. Make a plan of attack of what to do in Paris, ask your tour manager on what you should do and how to do it efficiently. I did the Moulin Rouge... I have to say, it was cool, but it wasn’t my thing. But most of the tour went, and you want to spend your last night with them. After that, the last night was spent at O’sullivans, the bar right next to the show, and partied our final night.
Other tips you should know. They do check your weight before you head out, but they don’t check afterward. Just be aware of any baggage allowance for your flight back home. Don’t bring a laptop. You’re on vacation. Bring a phone or iPod to do fast emails, instagram posts, and facebook updates. There are some hotels that offer free wifi. If you’re an iPhone user, download skype or viber. You can call another phone with the same app for free using internet (so you can call home on a budget). Bring a neck pillow, it’s great on the bus. TAKE A LOT OF PICTURES AND VIDEOS! I made a video for my group, which I will share with you, and I’m grateful that I can relive these moments. Emergen-C will be your friend. I took it everyday a month before I left and sporadically while I was there, I never got sick, even when I got back home. My best friend wasn’t so lucky (and she didn’t take Emergen-C). Buy jewelry and accessories. It’s a nice reminder incorporated to your every clothes when you go back to reality.
You’re on HOLIDAY! Have fun! Don’t sweat the small stuff, and just enjoy what’s around you.
I like to party. If you like to party, I HIGHLY recommend doing Contiki. If you don’t like to party, that’s okay too! You can have fun without partying. You get to see the sights, do the activities, and meet cool people in a short period of time. If you don’t like a fast pace, don’t do this tour. This tour also caters to people on a budget, so don’t expect 5 star rooms and 5 star food. In return, I got 5 star service from my tour manager and bus driver. Amy and Sergio were fantastic. I really can’t emphasize how much I’ve enjoyed this tour. I plan on doing Contiki again, and you should really consider it.
If you have any questions, feel free to message me. And here’s the youtube video I made with my tour: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__Ug3o5xVh8
Review written Dec 2012event 0.3