Best of Europe (start Paris) » Review by Jennifer
Started in Paris and stayed at a nice hotel (Marriott). Got to skip lines at the Eiffel tower (due to having reservations already made) and avoid long lines at the Louvre. Was given a list of recommendations of places to visit during our free time (very helpful). btw, throughout this tour, there is a lot of free time which you're given a sheet of sightseeing activities to do in each city except Berlin. But it can be challenging being efficient with your free time when you're on your own - so I would ask the tour manager the best way to travel around the city and what sight's were worth checking out (but our tour guide got easily annoyed when we asked her questions). Our tour bus driver was great and didn't mind us asking him questions. We had a great group and it was nice meeting new people and making new friends from around the world. You will likely hang out with part of the group when sightseeing during your free time. Btw, the weather was colder than I expected for July - bring sweaters.
Next stop, Amsterdam. There was a lot of free time here. Biking tour in a small town called Edam was memorable - also saw how to make clogs at a clog and cheese shop. several museums to visit - Van Gogh and Anne Frank's house. Hotel was good (free internet in the room). Not easy to get around unless you're comfortable with bus transportation - I would always go back to hotel whenever tour manager provided transportation. or else, just take a taxi with a few friends to save on cost - less likely to get lost and waste time.
Next was Berlin. Not a pretty city, but tons of interesting history. Walking tour made you learn a lot of history - unfortunately it was raining and cold during 75% of the tour- so I only enjoyed the last 45 minutes of the tour when it finally stopped raining and warmed up some. Hotel was close to the city, but not that great (free internet in lobby only, rooms were okay - I booked SUPERIOR level for hotels so I expected nicer hotels - I would consider this hotel a budget hotel). I know minimal time is really spent at the hotel since we're busy going out and touring the city but nice to be able to look forward to a little bit of luxury in a nice hotel.
We made a mini stop to Dresdin (very pretty town) on our way to Prague. This was a nice stop. didn't really have time to visit a museum - spent more time trying to figure out which restaurant to go to. by the time we ate, it was almost time to leave. Our tour manager pointed out all the interesting sites in town within a short time. I couldn't remember the place of the museum she pointed out to visit. It was disappointing when I get an annoyed look when I ask the tour manager a question- especially when I am paying her to be my tour guide. She had a huge fund of knowledge but would say pertinent info so quickly that I couldn't always write everything down - I even recorded her tips and directions on my phone (which was helpful) so I don't have to ask her.
Prague was a beautiful city. had lots of free time there. enjoyed an awesome bike tour - our bike tour guide was from the US and loved answering all of our questions - she was very helpful. Our hotel was in the city but it seems like the quality of our hotels would continue to go downhill (I kept looking or hoping it was like our first hotel in Paris). I loved Prague food and enjoyed the lunch tour cruise. It was a little chilly in this city also for the month of July. I really liked the booked tours and optional tours that Contiki provides. I just wish there were more of them during our free time, so we don't lose too much time figuring out how to get around the city on our own. I finally got to do laundry at this location (it was about $20 for a load which they wash, dry, and folded within a few hours at a laundry place in the city).
Last stop was to Rome. This is a beautiful city with tons of old history. I got to see a lot in this city. We had a booked group tour for the Vatican (no lines!) - the tour guide for the vatican was great and helped explain all the art work we were seeing. We also got to the front of the line for the colosseum (as long as you purchase the audio). Hotel was near central station and in the city. Laundry & internet shop was a few doors down. Hotel had old charm, but breakfast was terrible. Bathroom was small (due to being a very old hotel) and some rooms did not have A/C. again, disappointing hotel, but tolerable if I was doing a budget tour.
The five included dinners were very good. I especially enjoyed eating next to the colloseum.
Overall, I did not realize how much partying there was (which is optional). But after day 2, there was a party at a pub/bar/club every night until the last night. Your group usually all goes together which is good. The tour manager will usually take you to a location or recommend a location each evening. I also didn't realize how much money I spent while on vacation. Expect to spend on average 100 to 200 Euro per day - optional activities are an additional expense. Also never use the EXCHANGE offices in the city to exchange money - they are a rip off. It's better to use your debit card -they usually just charge a small fee and you get a good and fair exchange rate (call your bank to find out which european banks are best to use). In the end, you make a lot of great friends, see a lot of key things in each city, tolerate your tour manager, party every night, and sleep in a budget hotel.
Review written Jul 2012event 0.3