Turkey & Greek Island Odyssey » Review by Vanessa
I've never taken contiki or been to Europe before so I'm glad this was my first experience... I went on this trip alone as did most of my tour mates so it was easy to make friends and get along with most people. I was looking for a cultural experience, not a frat party on a bus and I'm glad to say I had a great experience. Turkey really blew me away, our tour manager, Ahmet, was really informative and accommodating. He made sure everything that was supposed to be done was done with enough time for us to enjoy everything but also rearranged the schedule when needed. The accommodations were fine... Nothing extravagant but just a place to sleep. The food provided on the tours were also just fine... Mostly buffets which is a great way to taste a little bit of everything but also wasn't the greatest in flavor. The food you buy on your own time while exploring is really great and tasty! Excursions in Turkey were moderately priced, I didn't join it but I heard the Turkish dinner was great, Pergamum (Asklepion) and Pamukkale were also great! Once we got to Greece everything was go, go, go! This was the part of the trip everyone was most looking forward to but enjoyed the least! The cruise is an actual cruise filled with other contiki tours and many, many other people not part of your tour. Our tour manager, Stacey, was great but couldn't do much as everything was contracted through the cruise line. Let me warn you that the excursions in Greece are very expensive and not all of them are worth it, I guess you can decide based on your budget. If you purchase excursions, make sure you're on time for meeting them b/c they will leave without you! Patmos was a beautiful island, the St. John Monastery is also nice but if you don't mind the hike, it's a beautiful one and the monastery fee is only 6€ and the Grotto is 3€ as opposed to 47€ they charge (you just don't get tour guide info). We were allowed 2 hours of free time on Patmos but there's not much to do and shopping is quite expensive. Rhodes was also an insanely beautiful island, I thought this excursion was worth it cause it's quite a bus trip to this side of the island. Our local tour guide was terrible though, he never once pointed out the bathrooms and was smoking while he was giving the tour! This is the only tour where riding the donkey up is worth it, you can walk down and do some shopping (5€ each way for the donkey ride and 47€ for the excursion). We're allowed a bit more time on this island, but choose what you do with it wisely. Stacey took us to a beach that's a bit of a walk but it had a cool diving board about 30 meters out in the water with 3 levels of diving heights.... Unfortunately the water was COLD and the sand was more like jagged pebbles... I left early to do some shopping before getting back on board. The next day was a true disappointment - I chose not to do the excursion cause it was expensive and a very early wakeup call (51 or 57€ and the people who went on it said it wasn't worth it and they didn't have any free time) but it didn't matter cause all aboard was at 11am so if I wanted to see the island I had to wake up early anyways, as we would be sailing to Santorini afterwards... The excursion on Santorini was partly worth it, it takes a while on a crazy winding road to get to Oia (the village everyone sees in pics of Santorini) but we were only allowed 4 hours in total on the island! It took almost 1 hour for everyone to get off the boat by tender and almost another hour to get to that side of the island!! Once there we were only allowed 1 hour to explore! We didn't even have enough time to explore Fira cause the last tender was leaving and we would miss the boat! Our local guide, Maria, was great but 55€ was almost not worth it. I decided not to do the excursion in Athens and explore it on my own but I heard it was the best one yet in all we've done in Greece. We found out later that you can disembark at Santorini and stay there as long as you like and take a ferry or flight back to Athens. I also advise you to bring extra money and also have Turkish Lira upon arrival or exchange in Istanbul. Shopping is much cheaper in Turkey so buy stuff there, and bargain hard especially if you plan on paying in cash. I think it was a great trip, if you're considering this trip I advise you to come to Turkey a few days early and stay in Athens a few days longer (the accommodations provided by contiki on both ends is quite pricey, you can do better on your own). I'd definitely come back to Turkey and explore more Greek islands as well.
Review written May 2014event 0.3