Guest Post: Travelling the US, Contiki Style

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.

Las Vegas

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.

Las Vegas

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!

Las Vegas

Grand Canyon

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.

Contiki Blog | Grand Canyon

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.

Grand Canyon

Amarillo

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.

Dallas

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.

stadium

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

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.

memphismemphis2

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.

Graceland

New Orleans

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.

Bonding

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.

Optional Activities

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.

Overall

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

Walter White's House from Breaking Bad in Alburquerque, NM

Walter White’s House from Breaking Bad in Alburquerque, NM

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.

 

Guest Post: Preparing for Contiki’s Simply Italy Trip

Contiki passenger JohnnyWe’re excited to introduce a series of blog posts from an actual Contiki passenger!  Southern California resident Johnny Newnes is embarking on his first Contiki trip – Simply Italy, and will be documenting his adventures when he returns.  Here is his introductory post – where he shares his thoughts about taking his first trip to Italy – a bucket list item he’s always had.  Enjoy!

Guest post by Contiki traveler Johnny Newnes

If you are reading this blog, then chances are that you are a traveler or are interested in becoming a traveler. I am one of you. I have traveled some, however, I have not traveled nearly as much as I would like to. My bucket list of places to see runs long and I can only hope to eventually check each place off of that bucket list. Looking over said list and the great number of places written on it can be daunting at times, but right now in this moment, I am completely content. Right now, I am preparing to cross off my number one destination from that list; right now I am preparing to travel to Italy.

My name is Johnny Newnes and this is my first time with Contiki. I am from and live in Orange County, CA, USA where I work as marketing coordinator for a large restaurant chain. Being a young professional in corporate America, it can be difficult to plan an adventure half way across the world, let alone actually go on that adventure. So when I discovered Contiki and the tour being offered; Simply Italy – a 12-day excursion that leads you through almost of all of Italy – I jumped on the opportunity and took it as a sign that now is the time to make this journey.

Contiki traveler JohnnyItaly is truly a special destination for me for a number of reasons. Firstly, I am half Italian by descent on my mother’s side and grew up with a strong Italian influence in my life; the cooking, the gestures, the laughter, and the efforts to mix a little of “la dolce vita” into our American lives. For me, going to Italy feels a little like going back to a former home even though I have never known that home. I am anxious to see from where part of my family hails.

Secondly, I am major foodie. I mean, growing up in an Italian family, how could I not be? Cooking, and eating, are both passions of mine that have really defined a lot of who I am. I do marketing for food, I was a mildly popular food blogger once upon a time, and I am known as the “domestic god” amongst all my friends for the dinner parties I have been known to host. Now I am heading to perhaps one of the most brilliant culinary countries in the world. I am literally counting down to that first bowl of pasta paired with a nice glass of Chianti. As a foodie, I am just excited to experience all the flavors each city we visit has to offer; and I plan to ignore my normal yogi-healthy dietary habits and eat with reckless abandon on this whole trip. Buon Appetito indeed!

Johnny 1Lastly, I am admittedly, a history buff of sorts. I have always been interested in Greek and Roman history as well as mythology. Name any TV show or movie that had anything to do with the Roman Empire, I watched it. And at last, I am going to see where all that history took place. I am going to swim in the Mediterranean, the sea that supplied and nourished some of the greatest civilizations known to man, the sea that fed half of my ancestors. I am going to be sleeping near the Coliseum, I mean, do I even have to say it? I am going to a place so richly steeped in history, art, and culture. The wait is killing me!

As I sit here trying to figure out just what shirts I want to bring with me for this 2 week trek, I am flooded with day dreams of what my time in Italy will be like; how the views of the Tuscan countryside will look at sunset as we taste wine, how the gelato will taste as it melts in my mouth, how I will feel standing next to structures crafted so many thousands of years ago. And when these day dreams are done, I know that anything I can picture in my mind’s eye will pale in comparison to the journey ahead. I simply cannot wait to finish packing and get moving.

Needless to say, I have a long and exciting venture ahead of me. I am really grateful for how easy Contiki has made this once in a life time trip possible. And I can’t wait to share my experiences with you when I return! Ciao!

Guest Post: Discovering Australia On My Own

0395AUSD2013This week, we’re celebrating all things Australia as part of the Contiki #NOREGRETS Adventure Challenge – and we just launched our new Contiki Australia and New Zealand brochure! 

What better way to showcase the Land Down Under than by welcoming our new US Marketing Coordinator, Christy, to the team!  She recounts her first trip abroad sans parents and tells you what you should keep your eye on when you travel to Australia.

Check it!

 

Guest Blog Post by Christy, Contiki Marketing Coordinator

“FREEDOM” is the initial thought when embarking on your first trip without your parents. While the adventure is unforgettable, you soon realize buying things for yourself can be expensive. During the summer of 2006 at the ripe, rebellious age of 15, I went to Australia for a month on a student ambassador program. As it turns out, traveling with counselors instead of your parents is not as “free” as I thought (tape on hotel room doors is a real thing). Representing America in a positive light was a challenge, especially when the hit song of the time is Petey Pablo’s Freek-a-Leek and you catch yourself singing it in public… whoops! Aside from these personal problems, it was a great experience!

0416AUSD2013

Australia is the perfect trip if you want to get your feet wet about traveling alone. Accents aside, even though they are a completely justifiable reason to visit Australia, it’s a country as diverse as the United States. It offers the comfort of the same language and cultural similarities, but has enough differences to be very exciting and adventurous. The realization that I was going to be visiting during Australia’s winter may have crushed my dreams of returning a bronzed goddess, but that by no means meant my trek from Cairns down to Sydney wouldn’t be the ultimate summer holiday.

The month-long ambassador program gave me the opportunity to see the incredible sights from a tourist’s point of view while also feeling like an Aussie. From farm stays where I learned to milk a cow, crack a bull whip, and jump in a river (which I later found out was teeming with crocodiles), to home stays where I saw what the school experience is like. I was able to sample the culture of Australia as well as enjoy some of the more adventurous cuisine- crocodile, kangaroo, emu…oh my!

Here is my Top 7 “Must See” list of the East Coast of Australia:

1. Great Barrier Reef (on Contiki’s Snorkel to Adventure)

145AUSD2006Nemo’s been found, but you can still find some of his relatives and friends while seeing one of the top sites in the world! Beware of the jellies!

2. Whitsunday Islands (on Contiki’s Island and Rainforest)

WhitsundaysA wonderful and picturesque place to take a breather after a few days of intense travel.

3. Surfer’s Paradise (on Contiki’s Sun Seeker)

138AAUSD2006Gorgeous surf and people, entertainment center of the Gold Coast, all around great city.

4. Sydney Opera House (on Contiki’s City to Surf)

1355AUSD2013Touring the Opera House is a great experience, but try to go to a concert there to fully appreciate the acoustics.

5. Sydney and Sydney Harbor (on Contiki’s Sydney New Year)

 1275AUSD2013Take a tour on a boat through the harbor and then wander the city.

6. Bondi Beach (on Contiki’s Reefs and Rainforests)

0612AUSD2013The quintessential Australia beach.

7. Aboriginal Sites of New South Wales (on Contiki’s Rock and Red)

 alice springs

Every trip needs history and what better way to learn it than testing out a didgeridoo and throwing a boomerang?

——–

210849_10151061799634001_524690529_oI embarked on my trip with more than 30 strangers. I returned utterly knackered with “thong” tans (not what you think), a new vocabulary, and 30 friends. I’m looking forward to my next trip, when I can drink with the locals and shout “Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi!”

About Christy

Christy is Contiki’s Marketing Coordinator and hails from Lake Arrowhead, Calif.  She graduated with a BA in Communications and a minor in Spanish.  Her great loves include traveling, Disney, pop-punk, food, craft beer, snowboarding, and the San Diego Super Chargers

Guest Blog Post: My Contiki Memory

Guest Blog Post by Jenny E., Contiki traveler

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an unexplainable love for the United Kingdom, despite having never been there. Then in July 2013 I made the leap over the pond for three weeks with a few friends. I did the London Explorer with Contiki, a self-guided, 4 nights, 5 days package during one of the weeks and spent the other two weeks traveling the country.

Our first week was spent exploring Birmingham and towns near there. We went to Warwick Castle – which was very informative and entertaining but also slightly gimmicky and full of tourists. We also went to Cadbury World (not worth the trip, trust me) and Stratford-Upon-Avon (very much worth the trip!).  We saw Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus at the Royal Shakespeare Company, which was an amazing performance – but I wouldn’t expect anything less. As for Birmingham, there isn’t much sightseeing there, but the produce at the Bull Ring Markets is to die for, and the Museum and Art Gallery is fairly impressive.

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