Friday, March 27, 2009

Contiki Optional Excursion Review

One of the great things that Contiki offers on almost all of their trips are optional excursions. These excursions are meant to help you experience the culture more and really to enhance your trip. There is an additional cost for each of the excursions, but I recommend doing at least some of them if not all of them.

Canal Cruise
Euro 29.00
A cruise on Amsterdam’s world-famous canals is the perfect way to see this wonderful city. You’ll pass many famous sights including Dutch gabled houses, the Anne Frank house, churches and the Red Light District. The included beer, wine, soft-drinks and snacks will make your evening complete.

This excursion is great for several reasons. First, its a great way to kick off the tour and start you crazy adventure in Amsterdam. Second, its a great way to start getting to know your other tourmates. Third, you get to see the city. Fourth, can we say free alcohol? This is basically a booze cruise and its a big party with all of the tour. With our group, everyone did this excursion and we all had a great time at it, so I highly recommend that you do this one if it is offered for your tour.

Sex Show
15-20 Euros

I can't remember the exact price of this excursion, but this is one that is not advertised on the Contiki website. After the canal cruise your group takes a tour of the red light district and if you would like, you can go on a second excursion which is to get to a live sex show in the red light district. At the show you get two drinks included with your ticket and you get to watch people do all kinds of crazy things and many people from your tour may also decide to volunteer themselves to go up on stage and do some crazy things. Doing this excursion is really up to you and what you are willing to do and see.

St. Goar
Wine Tasting
Euro 8.00
A chance to sample and learn about some of the most famous wines of the Rhine region of Germany. There’s also the opportunity to purchase some of your favourites! Don’t leave your tasting glass behind – it’s yours to keep.

I really enjoyed this excursion, but I am also a HUGE fan of wine, especially sweet white wines which is all we tasted. If you don't like wine then this may not be for you, but it was really interesting to hear about the production of the wine and it gave us something to do after dinner in St. Goar which was good because if not we would have all ben really bored. It is also relatively inexpensive compared to most of the other excursions. You get to try 6 wines and eat cheese and crackers as well and again, its a good time to bond with the rest of the tour. I highly recommend this one, especially if you are a wine lover like me.

Venetian Restaurant

Euro 29.00
Our chosen venue guarantees a warm and friendly welcome in true Venetian fashion. You’ll enjoy a superb selection of local specialities and some local wine, making it an unforgettable evening in one of the most romantic cities in the world.

I don't recommend this one for the food, because honestly the food wasn't all that great to me personally. It did help in that I didn't need to find food on my own, but again, I wasn't overly impressed with the food. What I did love however, was the atmosphere and the experience of the excursion. We really got to experience Italian culture and entertainment and it was great to watch a few of the tour group really get into the culture. I think it is a good excursion to go on if you are really looking to enahnce your cultural experience and if you want to have fun with your tourmates, oh and did I mention there is unlimited red, white, and sprakling wine with dinner?

Gondola Ride

Euro 21.00
No trip to Venice is complete without a ride on the canals in a world-famous gondola. Take in the sights, savour every minute and treasure this truly memorable Venetian experience.

This is an ABSOLUTE MUST DO. Please do not go to Venice and not get a Gondola ride. This was one of my favorite experience of the trip even though the weather was bad and the water was bumpy. This is the way to see and experience Venice and it was so much fun, and really relaxing and just nice. I do recommend buying a bottle of sparkling wine for 5 euros though to enjoy on your ride. This really enhance out gonodola's experience. You can also try to get your gondolier to sing (we weren't successful, but with the water they way it was, I'm glad we weren't successful)

Guided Imperial Tour

Euro 26.00 (10-19 people) / Euro 25.00 (20+ people)
Join a local guide for an excursion back in time. You’ll wander across the cobbled stones of the Roman Forum, marvel at the Colosseum and learn why the glory of Imperial Rome still stands out in the history of western culture. Price includes entry into Forum and Colosseum.

This an excursion that I did, but I think its one that if you want to do the sites on your own, you are better off doing them on your own. If you are a big history buff, then this is somethign you need to do because you learn so much about the city and the sites from the tour guide. It was nice to have tickets to get into the attractions and not have to wait in long lines, but after the Forum, I was ready just to explore the Colosseum on my own and not deal with our crazy, old tour guide anymore. So I recommend this if you want an easy way to get into the sites and if you are a history buff, but if you aren't you many be better off doing the sites on your own. Entrance to Colosseum, Forum, and Palantine Hill are included with this excursion.

Souvenir Group Photo

Euro 11.50
A photo of you and all of your new friends is the perfect souvenir from your tour. The photo will be taken with a panorama of Florence in the background or in one of the city’s famous piazzas.

So this was the one excursion that I actually wasn't planning on doing. I really didn't think I needed a group picture because by that point I would have so many, but I caved and got it and am so glad I did now. Its a really nice picture and its probably the only one you will have of the entire group. We just happened to take ours infront of a naked statue, but other groups have taken theirs outside beautiful churches. Its a greak keepsake to have from the tour, and it really isn't that expensive (as long as you don't convert). I recommend doing this excursion.

Tuscan Evening

Euro 38.00
A beautiful setting in the Tuscan hills is the venue for our traditional Tuscan evening. Enjoy a selection of antipasta, delicious freshly made pasta, a wonderfully aromatic main course and dessert – all washed down with some local Chianti wine. A truly special evening.

This is an AMAZING excursion that you have to do. The food is incredible, the wine is endless, and the atmosphere and entertainment is great. Most people on the tour also got a little dressed up for this one which was nice to see. Its a huge meal and definently worth the cost, so I highly recommend that you do this excursion.

Space Electronic Disco

Euro 12.00
A chance to dance the night away at Florence’s largest night-spot. Your first drink is included in the price and will get you started for an evening of fun. Enjoy the great music and maybe take the opportunity to show off your karaoke skill.

So this probably seems like the tackiest excursion available, and really it is, but you will have so much fun if you go to Space Electronic Disco. It is really a great way to continue the fun from dinner and everyone just has a great time and this is where a lot of the romances on our tour began to really bloom. There is karaoke, dancing, drinking, and local Italian men, what more could you ask for? Again, the cost for this is relatively cheap and it is a really fun excursion.

Moulin Rouge

Euro 137.00
Enjoy an evening at the world famous Moulin Rouge cabaret. The spectacular show includes dancing girls, dazzling costumes, live animals and a variety of comedy acts. A sumptuous three course meal (including drinks and champagne during the show) will make this an unforgettable evening.

Obviously this is the most expensive excursion and I chose to do it because again, I wanted to experience everything and anything while I was on this trip. The food was great, the drinks were great, and the entertainment was also wonderful. If you can't budget it there are plenty of other things you can do, or if you just want to go to the show, you can buy a ticket seperately for around 80 euro and just go to the show. I recommend this excursion if it is something tou are interested in and something that you are thinking about wanting to do. If you aren't all that keen, then I would spend your money elsewhere. And if you have the budget for it, then definently do it.

Don't feel like you have to do all the excursions. I thoroughly planned out my trip and budget beforehand so I knew I had enough to do all the excursions. I am really glad I did everything because a lot of them included meals, so that was less dinners that I had to worry about on my own, and again they are meant to enahnce your experience. At the beginning of your tour, your tour manager will give you a list of all the optionals and you will pick and pay for the ones you want to do. No one will pressure you to do them all aand there were plenty of people on our tour that didn't do them all. I do recommend doing at least some of them so you get a more enahnced cultural experience.

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