Hey y'all! Thanks so much for tuning in. It's been an exhausting 16 days overseas, but totally worth every minute as we whirlwinded it through 8 countries. It was full of ups and downs, beautiful sights and the ugly, but nonetheless a truly once in a lifetime experience.
I have been wanting to do a Contiki since I heard about it many years ago and finally convinced my bestie to jump ship and join me on this adventure. Me and two other girls went on this amazing adventure together and when it comes to time, this is the way to go to see as much as you can in such little time. There are plenty of Contikis you can do, but based on what we wanted to see, we went with the European Discovery
I think the best way to break it down is by day, so without further ado, my experience on European Discovery. Keep in mind that this is based on the tour itself as we chose to spend a day in London beforehand, which I highly recommend for not only sightseeing, but to recover from jetlag before you decide you like other people again :P
Day 1: Made it to the hotel where we checked in and have to say it was a great first impression with easy access to the underground and a smooth process as you can arrive basically any time to get initial paperwork done. While informative, all info was repeated the following day, and hence found the initial meeting with our group repetitive and a waste of time. You are better off exploring London and missing the optional meeting. This is hardly considered a Day 1 as you basically just paid for a place to sleep. Don't worry! Still managed to find Big Ben on my own!
Day 2: Woke up early and headed off to Amsterdam, where we crossed the border of Calais, France, took a ferry across the ocean, and saw the Cliffs of Dover. We arrived in Amsterdam around 7 pm, went straight to our included dinner buffet at the bottom of the hotel, and headed off to our first optional excursion. This was about $40 and was a booze cruise along the canals of Amsterdam. While I definitely think the price is inflated, this is definitely where you get your first intimate interactions with everyone on your tour. It's also a beautiful way to see the city and the guide we had was absolutely fantastic. Drink up to make it worth your while. Directly after getting off the cruise, you head directly to the red light district to see the next optional excursion, being a live sex show. Was it worth it? Yes. Was it up to the hype? I think not. If anything, it was more intriguing than anything. Liquor up and if you plan on indulging in Amsterdam's finest, be prepared to do it the following day as surprisingly, all the "cafes" close around 11.
Day 3: Free time! You quickly learn that your free time is few and far in between. Fun fact: If you want to do Anne Frank House, you have to book at least 4 weeks in advance because you now need tickets based on time slots and were definitely all sold out for the day we were going to be there. We had to be out of the hotel by 830 but nothing actually opens until around 10, so take your time by the I am Amsterdam sign and check out the flower markets if you have time. It may have been different on other days, but we just so happened to be there on a Sunday, so almost everything was closed. We chose to do the Heineken Experience on our own and it was definitely worth every penny. We had to rush through it though, because by 1 pm, we were heading back to the bus on our way to St. Goar, Germany. This is where we stopped for the night for basically a full sales spiel on beer steins, cuckoo clocks, and discounted Birkenstocks. Nonetheless, an included dinner that night and some great chats with our tour group with the whole hotel to ourselves.
Day 4: Woke up super early and headed to Munich. The optional excursion was a bike tour around Munich, which I heard was fantastic, but glad we opted out as we were quickly starting to realize there is not a lot of free time on this tour. We explored Munich, had lunch, and met with our group later that night at the world famous Hoffbrauhaus! Tip: Drink lots of German beer. It's delicious and even better, Radler. It's the norm in Germany and it's a delicious mixture of lemonade and beer.
Day 5: My favorite part of the trip was this day where we stopped in the Austrian Tyrol for some whitewater rafting. It was cold, beautiful, amazing, and left me speechless. The whole experience was unreal and doing it with the majority of our group was fantastic. After having a great afternoon, we popped in to Innsbruck, Austria and explored around a couple hours. Side note: Another selling stop where we were also involved in a Swarovski tour/ buy in. We ended the night in Hopfgarten (another Contiki owned place). Another night down by the bar, which was one of my favorites, in this cute little town.
Day 6: After a long day on the bus, we made it to VENICE!!! This city is so breathtaking, but you really don't get much free time here, so I advise all those to skip out on the Venetian optional dinner here. We arrived in the mid afternoon, ferried it in, and headed straight in to a walking tour courtesy of Contiki. Next, we were quickly rushed on to our Gondola ride on the Venetian canals by a very annoyed gondolier. While something I have always wanted to do, it was definitely one of the biggest disappointments. In this case, do it for the photos. The tour was great and we learned a lot, but SKIP the dinner and enjoy Venice. The food was nowhere near up to par and in a very commercialized place.
Day 7: Roma! This was another walking tour of the city that I think I would have gladly missed, but hey, it's part of what you paid for, so why not? It was disappointing that we arrived so late in the night, but was glad to at least see parts of Rome at night including the Trevi, Pantheon, and the general beauty of Rome.This day was the taster of Rome to say the least. Unfortunately, not many photos came out well at all since it was so dark. This was the last of the daylight outside with Napoleon making an appearance in the background.
Day 8: More Roma!! This was another excursion that we were very happy to miss out on, which was to the Vatican. While I'm sure it was beautiful, it was great to get more free time to roam the city and get our photos at the iconic sites during the daytime. We went back to the Pantheon, the Trevi, had a beautiful lunch in a side street cafe, and already had to meet back with the group for the next optional excursion, being the Colosseum. This excursion is worth it due to entering as a group, but warning: Your feet will be exhausted, you'll be extremely tired, and ready to pass out by the time you get home. Wear comfy shoes this day is the biggest tip.
Day 9: We made it to Florence! Went on another fascinating walking tour, which I think it's safe to say you can skip. However, there's not much to see in Florence without going too far, but nonetheless, Florence is another beautiful city. We saw sights like the Pont De Vecchio, the statue of David, and learned about the histories of legends like Michelangelo and Da Vinci. Rubbed the Bronze Boar for some wishes to come true! The best part of this day was an amazing Florentine dinner with the tour (Do it!) and hanging out with them at one of the best nightclubs in Florence! Only downside was finding our own way home, but such a great night with great people.
Day 10: Spent one very long day traveling to Switzerland. Here is where we got roped in to an open top cable car up to Stansehorn. While beautiful, hardly worth the 50 Euros they charge to head up there, you pretty much have no other choice as it is a stop that we make on the way to our destination. However, feel good knowing you can't get it cheaper there. When we got to Switzerland, we barely had any time to settle in before we were making our way to dinner and out to the other optional excursion; a cruise on Lake Lucerne. Personally, this is an excursion you can also opt out of so you can actually explore in the 5 hours you have in Switzerland. Contiki is smart about making sure you arrive in to the town after everything is closed and making sure that you leave at 8 am the following morning where the only two stores open at 8 am are opened especially only for Contiki full of Swiss watches and army knives.
Day 11: Drove all day (one of the longest bus rides of the trip) until we arrived in Paris around sunset. Paris at night? Stunning. Tour of the city by bus and an inclusion of the trip up to the Eiffel Tower with all of the lights was all wonderful. Once again, super disappointing that we basically arrived at 8 o clock at night, but thankful that we basically had the whole next day free. A huge letdown that was not disclosed was the fact that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays and of course, that is the one free day we had. Just something to note. This is a good night to get your rest. However, there is a super sketch bar also owned by Contiki nearby if you wanna check it out, which we did for a few minutes before we decided sleep was better.
Day 12: All day free in Paris!! I've never felt so free, but also this marked the last day of the tour. Unfortunately, we had to pay for our own transport around the city, but it was super easy to get around. This day, we went back to the Eiffel Tower to get some day pics, the Notre Dame, Arc De Triomphe, Ponts de Arts, and just walked around exploring the city. We loved just being able to explore for once and to top the end of the trip, we signed up for the last excursion, being a cabaret show and dinner. It was a wonderful show and the unlimited alcohol always makes it worth your while. We chose to end our stay in Paris, but overall a fantastic trip.
In my next post, I'll talk a bit more about the pros and cons of a Contiki and what to pack now that I've done one! Until next Tuesday <3