Scandinavia & Russia Plus » Review by Samiah
The sights on this tour was amazing. Up until we got to Stockholm, it was hostel staying with 4 people in the room, and also on the ferry to Helsinki. After that, it was hotels, and you only have to share the room with one another person. I lucked out and had awesome roommates. The only hostel that wasn't the greatest was the one in Geiranger Fjord I think, and that was because we had no hot water to shower. But otherwise, not so bad.
The sights were definitely amazing, in Copenhagen, it was recommended from others that went, don't waste your time at the Carlsberg Brewery tour, they no longer brew any beer there, it's just a self guided museum that took like 10 minutes to go through. Also, on our day to go to the Carlsberg museum, there was an Iron Man race going on, so our tour bus was trapped and unable to leave the city, so the group took a free shuttle that is offered to take people to the museum. Our tour manager said it would only take 10 minutes (one of her many lies), it didn't, it took like half an hour, and those that went, were very disappointed. But if you want to go, I would suggest doing it on your own.
The food within these countries was amazing, I definitely loved the open faced sandwiches that I had the opportunity to try. But, it is expensive in Scandinavia, I would make sandwiches from breakfast and save them for our lunch stops. You'll notice breakfast isn't really breakfast like in Scandinavia, it's a lot of deli meats and cheeses with bread. There is one stop that we had for lunch where the tour manager will take your order the day before, try to pack your own lunch if you can, the food was horrible. This was at Boyarbeen Glacier. Also, the only tour meal I honestly thought was worth it, was the Russian beef stroganoff meal, all the other tour meals that you pay for as an extra, are not worth it. If you get the chance, check out other places for meals.
Of all the other excursions, the bobsled was really fun!! The smorgasbord on the ferry was overrated, but if you're up for the unlimited booze (gross wine and beer), then have at it. The Viking bike ride was a lot of fun, the guys that run that tour were great! The river cruise in St. Petersburg was beautiful!! Your tour manager arranges for you to buy cheap liquor, but if you open the bottle and don't finish it, you won't be able to bring it back on the bus. Our tour manager failed to mention that and made people throw out their paid for liquor that they bought from her!! People even asked if they could put it in the trunk area of the bus and collect it back at the hotel since they're were boxes for them, but she said no (this was our tour manager, not sure how other's are (more on her at the end)). The ice bar in Stockholm was neat, you get a certain amount of time in there, I was wearing a dress and managed to survive, if I can do it, so can you!! The ballet was cool in Russia, I wish we had more time exploring the Kremlin in Moscow, but our local tour guide was rushing us. To be honest, it was just the food excursions that were not the greatest, but all the other ones were! Avoid going to the souvenir shop in St. Petersburg that the tour manager takes you to, it's not worth it, just go to any other one on the streets, it's all the same stuff, and you'll probably save a little money.
If you get the chance, definitely check out a hockey game in Russia, especially in Moscow, so much fun and energy!! It's not included as an excursion, but some of us in our tour wanted to experience it, so another traveller arranged it for us and it was awesome!! Our tour manager was not happy about this because she was more concerned about losing her commission because people did not want to go to this circus thing, that is one of the optionals (which got cancelled because it was closed for renovations).
This next bit is about our tour manager, her name was Magde, and she was the worst tour manager I've ever had, and I've done 8 contiki's. I found her to not be very helpful, as well as others, throughout the tour. For example, some people did not want to do certain excursions, so when it came to finding our where to meet the group after an excursion were to end, she was not helpful in letting people know how they could meet up with the group. It was as if, she was punishing them for not coming. I don't think that's fair, because a lot of people had to budget themselves for the trip and could not do every excursion. Magde was also very short and rude to people on the tour if they wanted some more information about things, we realized she wasn't a tour guide, but she should have a bit of knowledge about some stuff. For example, with past contiki trips that I have done, I've had tour mangers make up little tid bits of other sights we could do during our free time, which is something everyone appreciates. Magde couldn't really be bothered. My biggest pet peeve was when one of my friends got hurt on the tour and Magde was absolutely useless. FYI, stay away from the monkeys in Russia, my poor friend, who I met on the tour, got bit by a monkey. When I told Magde that this girl needed a doctor immediately because she needed a tetanus and rabies vaccination, it was the biggest inconvenience for her. She felt that the priority was to find the guy with the monkey and see if the monkey was clean. My friend, who works as a vet tech, and myself, a Registered Nurse, argued with her that was not the route to take, my friend needed a doctor!! She finally listened and had the local tour guide help us locate an English hospital in the city. Now, in the past, when I've had to go to the hospital, or someone else needed a doctor, I've had tour managers arranges for this to happen, or accompany whoever needed help. Not Magde, she made my friend pay a local friend of hers 30 Euros to drive her to this hospital, and then didn't even accompany her to the hospital, I went with my friend. Where was our tour guide during this you wonder??!! She was getting drunk with all the rest of our group at a local bar! Nice tour manager, right?! And to top it off, she left the group in the bar, without helping some of them out who wanted to leave with her, and left the local guide drunk as a skunk with the group. Some of the tour members had to take care of the local guide because she could not even stand on her own! After this medical fiasco, other people on the tour starting coming to me asking for help when they were not feeling well, and there was another girl who needed a hospital as well because her leg had swollen up so badly, she may have had a clot. Again, Magde acted like it was such an inconvenience that someone got hurt.
So, while I did have fun on this tour, if you can find out who the tour manager is, and if it happens to be Magde, either do your own extensive research on what to do, or switch tours if you can. She does many other tours. On a side note, our tour driver, Paolo, was amazing and helpful when Magde would not come through.
Review written Sep 2016event 0.3