What Should You Expect At Radisson Blu?

Filed Under: Hotels


At least I’m going to assume that’s how you say “hello” in Icelandic, because that’s about what every word in this country looks like to me! 😉

I’m in Iceland at the moment, and can’t even say how thrilled I am to be here. There are some destinations I’ve always wanted to visit, and Iceland has been at the top of that list. When I landed yesterday and walked through the arrivals hall I had the biggest grin on my face. I was that excited.


I’ll have more on Iceland soon, though first have a hotel question.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I’ve been hoarding Club Carlson Gold Points for the past year, which can be an amazing value, especially in conjunction with the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card. That’s because if you have the card, the second night of every award redemption is free.

So I’m doing two nights at the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel and two nights at the Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel, for a total of 82,000 Gold Points. That’s an amazing value.

But here comes the question — I was under the impression that Radisson Blu was Club Carlson’s “high end” brand? Admittedly “high end” and “Club Carlson” don’t necessarily go in the same sentence, but the Club Carlson properties I’ve seen have always been modern, IKEAish, etc.

That was the case a couple of nights ago when I stayed at the Radisson Blu Oslo Airport. I was upgraded to a room with enough sleeping space for all of Angelina Jolie’s family (including a crib!). There wasn’t a desk or anything, but those are minor details…




Fast forward to the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel in Reykjavik. When it comes to hotels there are two things to understand about me:

  • I still “work” full time when traveling. So no matter where in the world I am, I put in 8-10 hours a day of getting stuff done. Therefore a comfortable room/working environment is important to me, and my situation is a bit different than those that say “oh, I don’t care where I stay, it’s just a place to sleep since I’m sightseeing all day.”
  • I’m a germaphobe. I know that doesn’t bode well with living in hotels full time, and I’ll admit that I’m a selective and irrational germaphobe. I guess I have a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy when it comes to cleanliness. Don’t give me a reason to wonder whether a hotel is clean or not, and I won’t. But if it’s obvious, then I start digging deeper.

Which brings me to the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel. From the outside the hotel looks quite nice, and even modern.


Sadly looks can be deceiving, as the hotel is really dated. But I can live with that as well. This is Iceland, after all — somewhere people come for the destination and not the hotel.




So what’s my beef?

The hotel has no individual temperature controls

The room isn’t very big, but when I first got here I spent 10 minutes searching every part of the room for the temperature control. The room was hot as hell. I then called the guest request line, and as it turns out the rooms don’t have individual temperature controls, and the hotel doesn’t have air conditioning.

But I was invited to open my window. Great, I figured. I have three huge windows, that will let in a nice breeze. Nope, of the three huge windows, only the top of one props open a little. That’s all.


It’s not actually that hot in Iceland, but the problem is that the room has a bit of a greenhouse effect given how big the windows are. If I leave the curtains open then it gets really hot, while if I close the curtains the air just “sits,” and it’s equally intolerable.

The shades don’t really work

Ah, Icelanad, the land of the midnight sun! Last week I wrote about how much I love hotels with blackout shades. I wasn’t expecting those here, though I was hoping for shades which at least close most of the way. Nope, not at this hotel. The shades in my room are in four parts, and no matter how I pull them, they don’t cover anywhere close to the entire window. So not only is the room hot at night, but it’s not dark either.

Furniture is gross

Like I said, I can deal with dated decor, but at least have it be in good condition. Please. My chair has more stains than the VIP room of a strip club (I’m just making assumptions here, of course I’ve never been to a strip club, let alone to the back room of one).


Everything in the bathroom smells bad

I always envisioned the water in Iceland to be purer than the Jonas Brothers (back when they were still an item). I figured I could drink out of the faucet and would enjoy taking long showers. Unfortunately the water coming out of both the sink and the shower smells bad. Like, really bad. There’s nothing quite like brushing your teeth with water that doesn’t smell good. I took a quick shower last night and tried to breathe as little as I could. On top of that, the towels smell pretty bad as well. Not sure if it’s a problem with the hotel’s pipes, or…


Am I being a princess?

I guess I have two questions.

First of all, was I wrong thinking that Radisson Blu is Club Carlson’s higher end brand and has at least some baseline standards? I’m not expecting it to be like a Park Hyatt or St. Regis, but envisioned something more along the lines of the Oslo Airport property than the Saga Reykjavik property.

Second of all, am I just being a princess? Let me be clear, I’m just as happy at an aloft as at a St. Regis (actually, in many cases I might be happier at an aloft), assuming I can keep my room at a comfortable temperature, the water and towels smell decent, the room has the ability to get dark, and my desk chair doesn’t look like a by-the-hour business is being run from it.

Would be curious to hear what you guys think! Just a topic of conversation — this certainly doesn’t make or break my time in Iceland. This place is gorgeous, and just being outside here makes me happy. Can’t say the same about the hours I’m sitting inside working, though!

Now I’m gonna try to find a coffee shop to work from instead.

  1. Your disappointment is most definitely merited. Thinking of your recent post on branding, Radisson definitely positions their Radisson Blu brand as being upscale contemporary, so there definitely be certain universal criteria established acrross all the brand properties.

  2. I’ve always stayed at the Nordica (before and after it became a Hilton) and never been disappointed. That said, the 1919 has a much better rep than the Saga does. The 1919 is a more historic property and is much more representative of the Radisson Blu brand that the Saga appears to be.

  3. I have been kind of hit or miss with Radisson Blu as well. Our 2 night stay at Blu Royal Brussels was amazing, having the Credit Card we were upgraded to the club floor that included free water and soft drinks but we were also given the breakfast buffet for free both nights.

    Then we did two nights at the Blu Antwerp and we were kind of treated like crap, no upgrade and the place was dated but that location right across from Train Station was great.

  4. I stayed at the Radisson Blu Plaza Bangkok about a week after it opened, and it was absolutely gorgeous. Totally modern, far nicer than I ever would have expected from a Radisson. They were still ironing out some aspects of the service, but the hard product was just fantastic.

  5. Wow – I think the Park Inn there looks even better than that! Plus, it was a lot less than that (like 13,000 points for the two nights). I think that is an embarrassment for their nicer brand to look like that.

  6. The smell is probably from a high sulfur content in the water due volcanic activity. Yeah that room is pretty nasty, and no AC? I would get a new hotel room.

  7. I don’t really understand Club Carlson quality control as this is not even nice enough for a Radisson in my mind. I recently stayed at the Radisson in Duluth, MN and horrible. Radisson Blu in Instanbul was nice. And most domestic Radisson’s are nice.

    I don’t get it. Send a complaint to Club Carlson, and you will get points compensation. I got 50K recently for this.

  8. We stayed at a Radisson Blu in Rome and it pretty much looked nice but it was in terrible condition. The water leaked majorly from he bathtub/shower area and that caused the floor to have issues and the room was a little stinky also due to the water issue.

    Luckily we had individual temperature controls though. My biggest pet peeve is when I can’t get my hotel room to be comfortable so I would have been out of there!

  9. I stayed at the 1919 hotel in March. It was awesome and by far much better than the Saga. The rooms are more modern and the service was definitely 4 out of 5 stars. I’ve stayed at another Radisson Blu in Paris and have found that chain to have many quality properties that have good service, cleanliness, and a few extras to make you feel more comfortable.

  10. I think the problem is that there is little consistency across the Radisson Blu portfolio. Certainly most of the newer properties range from pretty nice (i.e. Madrid, Philadelphia) to great (Chicago), but there are a lot of older properties in the portfolio that don’t seem to fit the brand image at all.

  11. Hilton Gold got me lounge and spa access at the Hilton Nordica. Lounge access can be good value, but as you found out with the broccoli, it is especially valuable in Iceland.

  12. This one seems to be particularly bad. I had the pleasure of staying at the RadissonBLU in Aqaba (Jordan) and absolutely loved it. The room was huge (upgraded to a suite.. for no reason), grounds well kept, high quality (and free!) breakfast, great entertainment, and plenty of options for transport. I’ll be staying at another RB in Kuwait next month, and am hoping for a similar experience. I’ve always been hesitant with Carlson too, but trading 114k points for four nights at a $400/nt hotel was a no brainer.

  13. The sulfur in the water makes everything smell like rotten eggs. Even the air. I drank the water…it didn’t taste as bad as it smells! But, you’re right the towels do smell. We rented a penthouse on Laugaveguar and found plenty of pubs/restaurants that were very reasonable. The hot dogs at the harbor were our cheapest meal and outstanding. Not sure what’s in them since we didn’t see Arctic pigs….horses? Yes. Pigs? No.

    My kids still talk about the guys who started at the top of the street (hill), dressed in white and firing fire hoses all the way down on Sat morning. Icelanders take Friday night VERY seriously. They party like its 1999! The entire city is hungover on Sat. Hope you’re there to get in on that fun!

  14. This place is a dump. Sorry but sometimes I have to say “screw the points” and I will pay for my comfort. Can you move to a better hotel? Iceland is not a place you visit all the time so I guess a bad hotel like this would kind of ruin your experience there. I would look for a better place and pay for it if necessary.

  15. Radisson Blu Wuxi stands to be one of the best Resort style hotel in Jiangsu Province.So I guess it varies.

  16. ha you should have known better to research on TA dude. The park inn is 9k and better than the Blue that you are staying at. I have stayed in all three props and the Inn is by far the cheapest and the best… What happened with review the Kuwait biz class JFK-LHR that you promised us? You had a poll and we all collectively voted for you to review it, did you chicken out dude?

  17. I was wondering why you would pick the Saga over the Park Inn (at 4x the price in points no less…). But then again the Park Inn is probably not aspirational enough… We stayed there in Feb. and got moved to a huge room on the top floor – granted the Park Inn has a bit of a East block charm but at least Breakfast was free…. The 1919 is fine – but as Gold you don’t get breakfast which is REALLY expensive. At least there’s a supermarket around the corner. Oh and if you want REALLY expensive food with no service whatsoever eat at the Lava restaurant at the Blue Lagoon…

  18. Completely valid. I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in London a few years back. Just getting in from Hong Kong. The a/c in our room was broken and all they offered was a fan and couldn’t change rooms. It was literally 95 degrees in the room (heat wave in London). It was the first time in my life I walked away from a week long non refundable reservation.. It was worth every dime. Apparently, air conditioning is optional in some places (lol)? Points and eltie status is turning me into a princess.

  19. The hot water in Iceland all smells like sulfur, that’s normal. Run the tap on cold for a few seconds and the cold water is perfectly safe to drink and very pure.

  20. Oh – and yes, the hot water comes straight from a thermal power plant. Actually these are great to visit – there’s one on the ring road about 40km outside of Reykjavik (south east). They do amazing things with geothermal energy in Iceland – e.g. sending hot water 40km from the plant to the city with a 2 degree temperature loss. So no guilt taking looong hot showers. And the runoff is used to heat the streets in winter to keep them ice free.

  21. My thoughts:

    *On the heat issue, see if the hotel can move you to a north-facing room — less sun = less “greenhouse effect.” Also check to see if the radiator is on — many older Scandinavian hotels have electric radiators that turn on/off via a dial.

    *On the shade issue, buy a cheap eye mask.

    *On the water smell issue, check to see if it’s just the hot water. That’s normal in Iceland — nearly all hot water in Iceland is geothermally heated (cheap, efficient, and environmentally-friendlu), which leaves a strong sulphur smell (like rotten eggs).

  22. Last July I had a similar experience at the Radisson Blue Royal Viking in Stockholm. The position is great to visit the city and hotel seems to be nice and modern thanks to the hall and restaurant, but the room I was assigned to was actually horrible. It had old and ruined furniture, dirty shower and carpet and a non-flat screen tv. Exactly what I wouldn’t expect from a 4S star property.

  23. I don’t think you are off base. I had a disappointing stay at the Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan in Paris last year. Extremely tiny rooms, poorly designed bathrooms, no elite recognition, etc. After seeing the assigned room, I actually jumped on the internet to see if I could get into the Park Hyatt but no dice. At least it was cheap (second night free award).

  24. Does the water smell like sulfur? I only stayed at the Nordica hotel while in Iceland and always loved it.

  25. Oh my god, that room looks like maybe the worst you’ve ever posted. It makes the standard room you had at — what was it, the Westin in Nagoya with the cruise-ship-worthy bathrooms? — look five-star in comparison.

    Looks like the hotel needs a top-to-bottom reboot, no question. Dated decor, motel-like bathrooms with no counter space, no temperature control (?!). I’d honestly contact Radisson, express your extreme disappointment with the Blu branding and the number of points you spent to redeem for the value, and ask for a refund.

  26. I think you will find the Hilton much more to your liking when you move over there. You will also find the rooms warm as well, as there is also no AC there either. The Executive Lounge was especially hot as there are no windows that open. It is only the hot water in Iceland that smells of sulphur. Try brushing your teeth with cold water and taking cooler showers, although I didn’t even find the hot water to be that offensive…but my only experience was at the Hilton so maybe it’s better there?

  27. Though this particular hotel seems to be rather displeasing, I try not to judge an entire brand for one particular location. Not to long ago I redeemed a reward night at a TravelLodge out in the Valley. The hotel was not at all the prettiest, as I’m used to Hiltons, but given the value (free) I wasn’t worried about, plus Whyndahm just doesn’t do upper level hotels usually. So since your hotel was Free and of a lower quality hotel chain, id say its not terrible. But thats just being optimistic 🙂

  28. Radisson is super inconsistent and frustrating. Had a great stay in Nice and a crappy one in Biarritz. Have had bad and good stays in Paris. Amsterdam and Istanbul were decent. You never know what to expect frankly. It is NOT a high end brand. I equate it with Holiday Inn. Maybe Crowne Plaza. (Some nice, some awful)

  29. Gross…this isn’t ok. As a fellow germophobe I am not sure how you’re actually sleeping there (or maybe you aren’t ). Am in the process of booking a trip to Iceland and based on TA ruled this place out…but the choices are limited in the package options we’re looking at-best bet seems like Icelandair Marina, but if anyone has been there please met me know 🙂

  30. I think you really need to read tripadvisor, and look at the pictures, for radisson blus. There’s some variation, to be sure. Some of them are really really nice, and it can lull you into a sense of security about the others, I think. Every brand in a chain has some examples that don’t live up to the average, but I do think Radisson especially is one where you have to do your due diligence and not rely on the name.

  31. Welcome to Scandinavia. Exactly why I’m not a big fan of going there. Expensive, crap hotels, everything feels like a ripoff compared to the rest of Europe. Of course I’m privileged enough to visit a few times each year but I wouldn’t go on holiday.

  32. Uh oh, I have a stay there coming up in November. Thankfully at only 9,000/pts per night and only for three nights. The Park Inn is leaving the chain on August 15 and they are transferring me over to the Saga at no extra points. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing at this point though.

  33. The benefits are unpredictable as well. I received full breakfast included on 2 night, “last night free” award stays at Artotel Amsterdam and Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin, but not at three different London Radisson Blu’s. All offered very satisfactory accommodation, and fantastic value with “last night free”.

  34. @ Santastico — I gladly would have, but everything else was sold out unfortunately. In this case I wasn’t even staying here because I’m points obsessed, but rather because it was the only place available. I guess now I know why!

  35. @ Ivan — I didn’t stay here because I thought it was a good option, but rather because it was all that’s available. Still hope to do Kuwait Airways very soon!

  36. 1. Carlson hotels is not what I would call a luxury hotel range by any means, and their hotels are a real hit and miss, decent AT BEST.
    2. Hey if you do not have a choice, not much to do about that, no air conditioning is a joke, every single building in the world regardless of where it is, should have air conditioning… for me it is a deal breaker if I find out before, and in some countries you do not have to look out for that, but in europe and apparently iceland you have to watch out for that…..I do not know if you are old enough to remember but years ago.. a whole bunch of people croaked in France because it was too hot… lol… like really….they did not have air conditioning.. they had to store bodies in trucks they were dropping like flies…i’ve also discovered through experience places in Russia are not air conditioned as well….this would include places that NEED it.. like clubs etc….

  37. I agree with most that this is really a problem with consistency. A few of my recent stays:

    The Radisson at LAX is terrible (I really should have known better). I was upgraded to a suite and given free breakfast, but the bed was broken and terrible to sleep on.

    The Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Dublin was fantastic! I was upgraded to a HUGE suite with access to a private (ish) elevator and free (and unlimited) breakfast delivered to the room.

    The Radisson Blu Chicago is also a great spot. I wasn’t upgraded, but I had a good stay. It’s also beautiful on the outside.

    The Radisson Colorado Springs is fine. It’s old, but it’s not in terrible shape. It helped me earn a ton of points back when one night at a Radisson was incredibly lucrative.

    I’m staying at the new Radisson Blu Bangkok in a few weeks and hear it’s pretty great. I hope that’s true!

  38. Like some other readers on here, I’ve stayed in some really beautiful Radisson Blu properties around Europe with super locations, modern rooms and amenities and well-trained staff, but they don’t seem to have a standard. Thanks for the details about this one in Reykjavik. I’d be disappointed in that room too.

  39. Hey Lucky… Sorry to hear about your “blue” experience at Radisson Blu in Iceland. We’re planning a trip there next month and that would’ve been my second choice had I not lucked out with an awesome industry rate at the Hilton Nordica. If you get a chance, peek in there for me. 🙂

  40. Oh dear – your room looks worse than some of the old airport Radissons here in the USA! Honestly, I’m surprised at you Lucky! With your high standards for cleanliness, was sure you would have obsessively researched your hotels before booking. As you now know, the Saga gets a lot of bad reviews.

    After seeing the room, would not have accepted it & asked for a recently remodeled room or at least a clean biz class room. If refused, then would have found another hotel or called the Hotel 1919 to see if you could arrive 2 days early, as they are only a few miles apart, correct?

    I am usually quite happy with Radisson Blu hotels, but I always check recent reviews, as some hotels with that name are not up to 4, let alone 5* status.

    In spite of the sulfur smells & ratty chair, enjoy Iceland – can’t wait to read your review as it’s on my list too!

  41. I was just in Iceland in June – amazing country! A couple notes – yes the water is supposed to smell like that….quite odd brushing your teeth with the smell of rotten eggs! As others have mentioned, its the sufur content. However, if you talk to any of the locals, they will tell you that the tap water there is super clean and quite drinkable!

    On my Iceland/Northern Europe trip I stayed at quite a few Radisson Blus…they really run the gamut of new and contemporary (Radisson Blu Plaza Helsinki has awesome and functional design features), to REALLY dated (Radisson Blu Hotel Norge in Bergen and Radisson Blu Ridzene Riga). WIth that being said, Radisson Blu did a good job of recognizing my gold status (business room upgrades at nearly all of them), and having free breakfast goes a long long way in pricey Northern Europe!

    Enjoy your trip!

  42. Jay – in some countries, the government controls the data air conditioning is turned on and off. I ran into that at the Sheraton in Urumqi, China. Was there in October; hotel couldn’t cool a top floor suite that was exposed to the afternoon sun cuz govt had already turned off A/C. And staff couldn’t comprehend that I might prefer to give up my upgrade to get a cooler room.

  43. Having just stayed at several Carlson Club hotels this summer I can stay that I wasn’t really impressed with the Radisson Blu line. I stayed in the following hotels:

    Park Inn Reykjavik: (Points) Was dated, but cleaner than this.
    Radisson Blu Salzburg: (Points) VERY traditional feeling, but very clean.
    Park Inn Linz Austria: (Paid) NEW! MODERN! Fresh! Awesome room!
    Park Inn Bratislava: (Points), upgraded to the Business floor. HUGE modern very nice room.
    Radisson Blu Beke Budapest: (Points) Dated, but clean.

    Overall our Park Inn stays for less money/points were WAY better than the Radisson Blu’s.

    Will be giving Radisson Blu another try in November while in Oslo.

    As for the water, its the sulfur. Hot water comes directly from underground springs and has the sulfur. Cold water shouldn’t be as smelly.

  44. I’m sure you will find the 1919 much nicer! Of course there aren’t many other chain hotels in the city (Hilton is in a horrible location IMO). Make sure you go to Grillmarkadurinn (The Grill Market) and try a horse or whale fillet

  45. Jay — Hard to justify the expense of installing a/c when the average summertime high temperature in Reykjavik is somewhere between 55-60 degrees.

  46. We stayed 4 nights at the Radisson Blu 1919 last November. 2 of us with Club Carlson cards so 2 reservations. Booked Business Class room at 66k , second night free, included breakfast and upgraded rm. Hotel was modern, clean and service excellent. Excellent location. Fantastic time, cannot wait to return in summer months. Did my homework and read many reviews. You will have much better time at 1919. So sorry stay did not start at 1919.

  47. I stayed at the Radisson Blu Downtown Dubai when I visited Dubai and it definitely had the same sort of feel to me: budget, with a bit more creature comforts. Definitely not a premium experience.

  48. The water in Iceland is all natural; what you are smelling is the sulfur.. so it is not the hotel nor the decor nor.. its the water.. It is safe to drink, which I would not do in the States..

  49. I have had great experoiences with a number of Radisson Blu all over Europe, in South Africa and Asia. I’ve also had nice stays at art’tole, Park Plaza and Park Inn properties. I find them to be generally more stylish than their local Marriott/Hilton/IHG counterparts and great value through Club carlson.
    I do check Tripadvisor before I make any booking, with any chain to avoid the kind of negative experience you had here. As much as you travel, I’m shocked that you don’t.

  50. I agree that the room does look dated and I think it looks like a bare bones version of the room pics they show on their website without decorative things like color duvets, modern art, etc. As for the AC, hotels without AC can be common in Europe and I have even experienced it in other chain hotel properties in Germany and other countries. Overall I wouldn’t be excited to get that room either but as you said….people probably don’t spend much time in their rooms in Iceland.

  51. Regardless of having been called a hotel princess on many occasions myself – I think your complaints are certainly valid.
    Branding gives us a certain perception and a level of expectations. If you are going to put Brand X on the hotel we expect a certain standard. It’s a shame that hotel chains have difficulty maintaining their branding throughout their properties.

  52. People (self included) pay money to go to spas in Central Europe where they pride themselves on the healthy mineral water with high sulfur content. It’s good to soak in and to drink. Buy a special spa cup that cools the hot water more quickly so you drink your medicinal dose without scalding your hand. Mmmmmm! The first time I encountered that smell, I turned up my nose. Now I bury my face in the towels. Ahhhh. I changed my mental associations so that now I go into silly-grin-relax-mode at the smell of sulfur. Try Piešt’any in Slovakia, Harkany (or just about anywhere else) in Hungary, or Varaždinske Toplice in Croatia. Sorry, no aspirational properties.
    Piešťany has a restored Art Deco hotel and has a variety of activities, but not too upscale. The salt cave should be good for germaphobes — breathe in those detoxing ions in a sterile environment. Hey, maybe you’d want to try the mud wrap! I plan to try it next year.

  53. with radisson blu hotels, it pays to do some research beforehand. Some are quite good/modern/clean and some really need an overhaul. The ones that are good dependable 4*(dublin/stockholmwaterfront/copenhagenroyal/oslocentral/ offer the Nespresso Coffee machines (in their business class roons/suites) and a solid breakfast spread.

  54. The Radisson blu in Dublin was pretty nice. Had a suite there on the top floor and was very pleased with the room. Guess it just depends on each property.

  55. Hindsight is always 20/20, but for 13.5k for 2 nights (with the cc visa) the rooms at the park inn there are larger and in better shape, and it includes hot breakfast. That being said, at least the 1919 will seem like quite an upgrade compared to the saga.

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