European Magic » Review by Christen
I just returned from the the European Magic Tour and had a fantastic time! This was my 4th time to Europe, but first time traveling with a tour group and I have no regrets choosing Contiki. It made traveling very easy and I was very happy that it wasn't a "Follow my umbrella" guided tour around Europe. I was still able to take in the sights as a individual, but still have planned activities if I wanted to participate. It was the best of both worlds.
Reviews of the Stops:
London: I recommend arriving a few days early or taking the free transfer back after the trip to take in the city. There isn't any planned things here with Contiki, but there's lots to do! My friend and I missed the Meetup meeting on the first night. Don't worry about this, a sheet is posted outside the Basement door with all the info you need. I never felt left out because I didn't attend.
Amsterdam: We stayed at a Best Western, so it was a really comfortable hotel stay. Since we arrived at night, we hopped right into the "nightlife" of Amsterdam - aka (pot and sex). I opted not to go to the sex show and I didn't regret it. It saved me 22 euro and the people on my tour said it really wasn't that great. They could tell that the people were just going through a routine. I did find it interesting to walk through the Red Light district to the sex show with the group since this is part of Amsterdam culture. I was glad that I was able to experience this part but didn't need to do anything else. There is free time in the morning and I recommend going to the Anne Frank House. You wont have time to do anything else that morning, but the tour was really worth it. Our group arrived late to Amersterdam after a slight bus problem in Belgium so we weren't able to take the canal cruise. Contiki bought us all public transport passes to make up for it, which was nice. While in Amersterdam, definitely try stroopwaffles! They are delicious.
St. Goar: Definitely just a stop over place. There isn't really anything to do in the town, but the wine tasting that Contiki sets up is nice. All the wines are really sweet though, so it's great for those that are new to wines. Plus you get to try ice wine which is expensive to buy on its own. Hotel Montag was also nicely redone for the stay.
Munich: Personally, I just love this city and have been before. The bike tour was really well done and the guides for funny and interactive. Really worth the time. The stop for dinner at the biergarten was great. You're going to wish you had more time in this city. Our hotel was amazing too. Easily the best stop.
Innsbruck: I loved the chance to bobsled (even though we almost missed it because we were late getting on the road and the bus driver got lost...). The bobsled is really short though so it almost doesn't seem worth the money, but how many times can you say you've bobsledded on an Olympic course? I recommend sitting in the front seat of the bobsled to avoid getting jostled around too much and take the recommendation to hold yourself upright like the instructors say. The town was really nice, but we didn't get to stay long because we were behind schedule. It would've been cool to explore more. There isn't a tour at the Swarovski Crystal store, they just welcome you and then you shop. If you're looking to buy something nice as a souvenir then it's a nice place to spend time. Otherwise, I would just enjoy a nice relaxing lunch in the town.
Switzerland: It was too bad that this was our one rainy day of the trip, because the low hanging clouds made it difficult to see the mountains. Since you have to pay for the optionals beforehand, pray for a clear day here! I really couldn't see anything from the stop of Mt. Stanserhorn because of the clouds, but they cleared when the second half of our group was up top and they had great pictures. It was fun to be that high up a mountain though, just wish the weather was better but thats not something anyone can control. The stop at the watch/knife store is really not anything worthwhile, just a time filler. If you want to buy one of those then it's worth it otherwise it's obviously a company that has joined with Contiki. They also own 4 other stores all connected. I recommend walking a little further down the street where there are other shopping places. Just one street up from the jail hotel is a bunch of big shopping names. The JailHotel was interesting. You just have to take it for the experience. There was nothing wrong with the room (aside from our musty bathroom because it doesn't air out). I was glad we only stayed there for one night, but it was just an experience and something you can say you did. The boat cruise would've been nice if the weather was better. It was raining so noone could go on the top deck and the captain sounded really bored. He had some interesting facts, but noone was paying attention. I listened and actually found it interesting, just wish we could've seen the sights.
Paris: What a crazy city! I thought the traffic in NYC was bad, but it doesn't compare to here. The driving tour that our Tour Manager took us one was really great. She was very informative and it allowed us a chance to see where everything was located in order to kind of plan for the following day. I then went up the Eiffel Tower that night which was totally worth it because it saved so much time the next day. Plus I got to watch it sparkle which was beautiful (it shimmers for five minutes on the hour beginning at 10pm, 11pm and midnight). The next day I toured the Opera Garnier (where Phantom of the Opera is set), Norte Dame (go when there is a free guided tour, it saves you from waiting in line) and the Museum D'Orsay (closes at 5:30, be aware). I opted not to do the Moulin Rouge because of the price although everyone said it was fantastic! Instead, a few of the other people from the tour and myself went to the grocery and bought food and wine for a picnic under the Eiffel Tower. It was perfect. We ended the evening with a river boat cruise and then met the rest of our group at O'Sullivan's bar to enjoy our last night together. It was a great day.
I had a great time on this tour and really enjoyed meeting everyone from around the world. We had a great mix of people and everyone really got along and cared about one another. Our Tour Manager, Tamsyn, was incredible. Very sweet and knowledgeable. It's unfortunate that this was her last tour because she was fantastic.
As an American, we are a very time driven, schedule driven society. You will never receive a full time itinerary with hours listed for the full trip. Each night your Tour Manager will post the timings for the following day, but don't expect to receive one before hand. What you see on the website for the full trip is what you get. You come to realize that with traffic and large groups you don't always stay on time. They don't give you a timed itinerary so that you don't freak out about being behind. You will still get to do everything, but you might just not stay in one place for as long.
Also, know that you will spend long driving hours on the bus. Bring a good book (or 2 or 3) and prepare to catch up on your sleep here! They stop at nice services though to get meals and snacks.
Overall, I was highly pleased. It was just what I was hoping for and I made some incredible memories. After this tour, I was given a taste of many countries and now I can decide where to return to.
Review written Jul 2014event 0.3