Club Carlson Options in Reykjavik: Radisson Blu Saga Vs. Radisson Blu 1919

Jul 17, 2013

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When I decided to plan a very last minute trip to Reykjavik in Iceland last week, I naturally weighed up my hotel options carefully and decided on  to take advantage of my favorite Club Carlson credit card perk by staying at not one, but two, of their properties there – first at the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel, and then the Radisson Blu 1919.

I redeemed 38,000 points for a two night stay.
I redeemed 38,000 points and $0 for a two night stay.

While Radisson has a reliable collection of properties around the world, the deciding factor was that I could use my new Club Carlson credit card to get me a 2 night stay for the price of one on points. For a total of 38,000 Gold Points, I was able to stay at the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel from Wednesday to Friday. A standard room on those same nights was selling for 190 EUR per night (about $248 – Iceland is not cheap), so each point got me about 1.3 cents each in value.

The view
Sadly, I did not have a room with a view.

The hotel’s location was about a 15 minute walk from the center of town, which wasn’t too bad as it allowed me to soak in the sights while I walked but wasn’t quite as central as the description on the website suggested. Despite being close to amazing landmarks like the Iceland Glaciers and the Gullfooss Waterfall, the view from my room was disappointing – overlooking a parking lot and a nondescript building.

Wine amenity
Wine and a chocolate covered strawberry were a nice welcome gift.

However, the cleanliness of the hotel and the fact that they let me check in at 11 am when I arrived were both awesome and made up for the lack of appeal out of the window. After having a five hour flight from JFK to KEF – although it was in the relative comfort of Delta BusinessElite – it was a welcome relief to be able to relax in my room as soon as I arrived.

Another nice touch was that I received a welcome gift of white wine (surprisingly from Argentina!) and a chocolate covered strawberry.

My room
My room at the Radisson Blu Saga in Iceland.

I stayed in a standard non-smoking room that was approximately 20-25 square meters in size.

Complimentary WiFi and a flatscreen TV added to the room's appeal.
Complimentary WiFi and a flatscreen TV added to the room’s appeal.

Along with complimentary (and speedy) WiFi, the room was equipped with hardwood floors, a flatscreen TV with satellite and pay-per-view television, and a coffee maker.

The marble bathroom was spacious and some come with bathtubs.

The marble bathroom had a single vanity and was stocked with Anne Semonin bath products including body lotion, shower gel, conditioner and shampoo.

The bathroom featured Radisson's signature Anne Semonin product collection.
The bathroom featured Radisson’s signature Anne Semonin product collection.

The Radisson Blu Saga has three on-site dining options. The Grillio restaurant is eight stories above street level and offers stunning views of the city and fine dining. Restaurant Skrudur is more basic with buffets for breakfast (only in winter), lunch and dinner, plus a huge fireplace to huddle around. Mimisbar and Lounge has burgers, beers and colorful cocktails.  I only ordered room service lunch one day and had a delicious salmon burger with undercooked sweet potato fries. You win some, you lose some.

There is also a fitness center with weights and cardio machines to burn off all that traditional Icelandic food, and a spa offering full service massages along with a seawater Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room.

Radisson Blu 1919
The historical exterior of the Radisson Blu 1919.

Checking Out the Other Radisson Blu
Following a brief stay in the sparse Hotel Holt (I will write more about my experiences there and why I don’t trust TripAdviser reviews later this week!), I checked into the nearby Radisson Blu 1919 hotel. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to book it on Club Carlson points as they weren’t available on those dates, but at least I was earning more during my stay for a future trip. I paid 334 EUR ($440) per night for a 2 night stay Saturday through Monday. Although that is more than I normally like to pay, I did get a Junior Suite with a king bed and I wanted to check out another Radisson property in the city – plus, as I said, Iceland is not cheap!

My Junior Suite at the 1919 cost
My Junior Suite at the 1919 cost 334 EUR per night

Although more expensive in cash and points than the Saga (44,000 points per night) I have to admit that I much preferred the 1919 property. The location is much more central and the exterior of the building has a more dramatic historical design to it.

Although there were no points rates for my nights there, when you can get it for 44,000 points – it can be a steal, especially during peak periods when room rates are through the roof. The location was perfect and the staff and rooms are both impeccable. I stayed in the Junior Suite, which is about 35 square meters and has a loft-style feel to it thanks to the high ceiling and offers plenty of room if you were to be traveling with children (there is a 35 EUR charge for an extra bed). Along with a deluxe bathroom, robe and slippers, added extras included Iceland Pure water bottle upon arrival, complimentary WiFi, laundry service for one item, and a Nespresso coffee machine.

My Club Carlson Gold Elite membership gave me even more rewards.

As a Club Carlson Gold Elite member, I got the added perks of free water and fruit upon arrival, early check-in and late check-out, and 15% discount at the 1919 Restaurant and Lounge – along with earning points and redemption stays for each night I was there.

The extensive breakfast buffet cost the equivalent of $22.
The extensive breakfast buffet cost the equivalent of $22.

The impressive breakfast buffet included an array of fruit, granola, cereal, yoghurt, baked items along with hot plates and some interesting local delicacies, costing 2,700 Icelandic Krona ($22 or 16.80 EUR). The 1919 restaurant prides itself on creating delicious international dishes with local ingredients and in-season produce, while the 1919 Lounge was a great spot for a cold beer in the cozy lounge soaking up the stunning city view. There is also an on-site fitness center.

A huge club sandwich and fries was an ample room service meal.
A huge club sandwich and fries was an ample room service meal.

My light lunch of a club sandwich from room service was equally as tasty (although not authentically Icelandic, sometimes when I travel I miss American classics!), with thick pieces of grilled meat amidst perfectly toasted bread.

No wine this time - but I got another chocolate covered strawberry!
No wine this time – but I got another chocolate covered strawberry!

Again, I got a sweet welcome gift of a chocolate covered strawberry plate, but no wine this time.

Overall, both properties were enjoyable – and far superior to the Hotel Holt that I sandwiched in between them! – but my heart was won by the location, service and admittedly more expensive room at the Radisson Blu 1919.

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