Each city and place we visited was absolutely amazing, we went to so many places that I wouldn't have considered going to independently. I was truly wowed by the west coast.
However having attended multiple Europe Contiki's prior to the Wild Western I have to say that the organisation of the trip as a whole was rather disappointing.
- The Me Time optional's on this trip whilst amazing, were quite expensive and thus few people would do all of them. This coupled with the fact the bus was tailored to accommodate those doing the Me Time optionals and not the group as whole (most of whom were meant left to work out how to spend their time with little direction) meant that the group became quite segregated and clique-y from the get go.
- An introduction to each city/place was simply a quick talk on the bus. No walking tour? No contiki maps highlighting the attractions of the city? These were tools that proved immensely helpful on the Europe Contiki to get our bearings and prioritise how to spend one's time, yet on this one we were quite lost on how best to spend our time.
- When the bus wasn't transporting us, we were given no information on the best alternative mode of transport besides uber? In USD this became quite expensive yet was what was recommended by the trip manager as the best alternative, despite there being viable public transport options available. We weren't given recommendations on how best to spend our spare time, which was a lot more plentiful when one wasnt taking part in the Me Time Optional. For example in Sedona, anyone who wasnt doing the Jeep tour had 4 hours to spend in the small town (which is far too long in the little town). There were plenty of small hikes nearby that the bus could have done a quick drop off to, to actually see the beautiful scenery but these options were not provided to us.
- Hoover Dam was mentioned in the Itinerary, and I got excited to see it. However the bus just drove past it on the road and pointed it out- it would have added so much more to stop for an hour and allow people to actually see it?
- The itinerary also mentions seeing Beverly Hills (reality was a quick drive through Beverly hills would have been nice to actually walk around get pics etc. especially since LA is big city to get around yourself in and only one day was spent there), and "the O.C. – Orange County. You’ll join the crew and find yourselves cruising along the unmistakable Pacific coastline" .. pretty sure on the drive from LA to San Diego all we saw was highway.
- In San Diego if you weren't doing the Zoo as a Me Time Optional, you'd have to make your own way downtown or to old town (which was a good 10-15 min drive from the hotel). A friend and I had found out ourselves that there was parks around the Zoo, and had taken the bus with the Zoo people to spend our day there in Balboa Park. We didnt actually realise before arriving how much there was to do there with many of the attractions being free- why was this not recommended as an option for those not going to the zoo?
- Route 66, the notes say we stop off at several points along route 66? Only the one stop was made in Seligman, it would have been nice to actually see the painted route 66 on the highway.
- Yosemite National Park, we were given two recommendations for a hike in the time that we spent there. One was described as being quite cruisy and other as hugely strenuous. We told that if we did the latter it would take the entire time we had at the park. In reality the first took hardly more than 15 mins and the second was uphill and tiring but certainly not to the degree that was described (we took it easy and still had over an hour to spare at the end. This meant that those who had chosen to do the easier hike ended up wasting 3 hours from inaccurate information regarding the hike durations.
- Food included was rather hit and miss. Half the dinners were great (namely San Diego and Phoenix), the rest was something I feel I’d get from a cheap takeaway store and certainly didn’t not reflect the culture of the city. Next why were breakfasts not included every day? In Europe you could count on a full buffet breakfast every morning, so you had plenty to start the day with. Instead we were left to frantically grab food at 7.45am before the coach left when there was often little around (i.e. Grand Canyon). Those that were included again some good (Vegas), others like San Francisco we were given a stale croissant and bruised apple.
- Lumping the LA to the Bay tour and Wild Western was fine until we reached San Francisco. Where the people on the LA to the Bay people left the tour, and essentially the tour might have well ended for anyone on the Wild Western as well. There was only one included dinner in San Fran, and if you weren’t doing the me time optional’s you had two days to fill in your own time with no transport and little direction. Obviously there’s heaps to do in San Fran, but being told to just get around using Uber and not having a clear idea on how you should prioritise ones time, negated the point of choosing a tour in the first place.
- The accommodation that was chosen for San Francisco, was in a questionable area. On more than one occasion my friends and I had unfortunate encounters with homeless individuals and that was dismissed as being ‘part of visiting San Francisco’.