We always love to hear from our past passengers, and Nick Ciantar (who hails from Australia), wanted to contribute his experience on Contiki’s Grand Southern – as well as his perspective of traveling through the US. Check out his beautiful images and great write-up below!
Guest Blog Post by Nick Ciantar
Travelling the United States of America has always been my dream and the chance to do it with Contiki was unforgettable. I completed the Southern Adventure tour from Los Angeles to New Orleans (July 7th to July 19th), which covered 11 states and nine cities, and loved every aspect of the tour.
Viva Las Vegas. It is the party destination of the country and is literally out in the middle of the desert. I remember our tour guide playing Elvis Presley’s famous ‘Viva Las Vegas’ song on the bus as we entered this outstanding town. This was the first day of the tour and by the end of the first night of clubbing at Marquee – ranked in the top 50 nightclubs in the world – everyone knew each other.
Marquee nightclub was full of pumping music, streamers, dancers and glow sticks and we partied the night away on a Monday night! Even though it was the first night and we had many more memorable nights to come it, was hands down my favourite experience.
The hot, casino-crammed metropolis is filled with hotels, pokie-machines, blackjack tables, bars, pools, parties and picturesque buildings. Vegas truly never sleeps and nor did we!
After two big nights in Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon was our next stop and it was safe to say that most of us were feeling a little bit weary.
But when we got off the bus and walked to the edge of the Canyon, everyone had forgotten about their hangover and took in the breathtaking views.
The next morning we had the chance to take a helicopter ride – which was an optional activity – and I chose the 45 minute flight instead of the shorter flight which was the best decision of the trip.
As the six of us started our flight up a climb in a bigger ‘helicopter’, I remember our pilot saying to start video recording. As we went over the top of the hill, all we saw was the Canyon and it is a view that words cannot describe.
Later that day as a group we watched the sunset as we sipped champagne and it was a moment where you realize how lucky you are.
Amarillo was our first stop in Texas and everything is bigger in Texas! Two brave Contiki travellers took on the 72-ounce steak challenge that required the steak to be eaten within an hour; if done you would eat for free and receive a t-shirt acknowledging your competition of the mission. One of the daring travellers completed the challenge and we all cheered this insane effort.
This big Texas city is home to AT&T Stadium, the home of NFL team the Dallas Cowboys and the world’s largest dome structure. The 100,000 capacity stadium is a work of art that has four enormous television screens above the synthetic grass. While I am proud of Melbourne’s iconic MCG, AT&T Stadium blows the MCG out of the park.
We also had a Texas-themed dress night in Dallas and we ventured into a karaoke bar filled with Americans who were startled by our entrance. We sang our Contiki song on stage, which was called ‘All Night’ by Icona Pop, and we also sang a classic Aussie song called Khe Sanh by Cold Chisel, that got the crowd a tad confused.
Memphis is the home of music king’s Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. The world famous Beale Street hosts many blues musicians playing their music in the parks and bars, while boutique cars or motorbikes line the street every Tuesday and Wednesday.
As a group we also went to Graceland, Elvis’ home. We all received a radio audio tour and learnt a lot about his mansion and we paid homage to Elvis as we passed his burial site.
This French-inspired city on the banks of the Gulf of Mexico was definitely the best-looking city of the one’s I travelled. Old and new architecture lined the streets after the devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and New Orleans was sadly the last stop of my tour.
Bourbon Street was their go-to-place and on a Friday night we celebrated the end of a great two weeks at many of their colourful bars and clubs. This was the end for 11 travellers including myself, as the other 40 were completing the Grand Southern tour that ended in New York on August 1st.
Contiki was great way to meet new people and to experience the US. You were with these people 24/7 and got to know one another pretty quickly. At the end of most days you would have dinner and a few beers and everyone would share their fascinating stories.
Contiki is not all about following a strict guideline; you do get ‘me time’. Everyday we had an itinerary and were given optional activities that we had to pay for. If you did not want to participate in these activities, you could simply stroll the streets of that city and experience it your way.
My Contiki Southern Adventure tour was an unbelievable experience. It certainly helped to travel the US knowing you had all of your accommodation sorted and most of your meals as well. If you ever get the chance to travel, Contiki is the way to do it!
About the Author
Nick Ciantar has recently completed a Bachelor of Journalism degree at La Trobe University. Nick is a freelance journalist and you can follow him on Twitter at @njciantar.