The Radisson Blu Polar Hotel is the northernmost full service hotel in the world. As a Category 6 hotel in the Club Carlson rewards program, I booked a standard twin bed award for one night using 50,000 points I had earned from booking a cheap Radisson stay in Maryland. Based on the hotel’s remoteness and the cost of Norway in general, rooms were pricing at about 300 USD for a standard room so this was a fantastic use of Club Carlson points.
- Introduction and trip planning
- Lufthansa First Class Dulles to Munich
- Lufthansa Munich First Class Lounge
- Lufthansa Business Class Munich to Oslo
- SAS Economy Class Oslo to Longyearbyen
- Radisson Blu Polar Hotel, Spitsbergen
- Exploring Longyearbyen
- Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, Oslo
- Exploring Oslo
- Park Inn By Radisson Oslo Airport
- Lufthansa 747-8i Frankfurt to Dulles
- Park Hyatt Washington DC
Arrival and check in
One of the first stops off the airport shuttle bus was the Radisson Blu Polar hotel. This is one of the larger hotels in town so a group of about 10 of us got off. When I walked in the lobby I heard music blasting from the bar area and college-aged kids drinking and talking loudly. The 24 hour sun had thrown me off. It felt like midday though it hadn’t dawned on me that I was arriving around 1AM on a Friday night (Saturday morning).
I was tempted to join the party at the bar, but 24+ hours away from a real bed made me change my mind. The wait was about 10 minutes since we all arrived to check in at the same time and there was only one desk agent. The agent acknowledged my Club Carlson Gold status and let me know I would be staying in room 223. The desk agent went on to describe that breakfast was included in my rate (it appears to be in every rate) and that internet was complimentary. Finally, she handed me an actual key which is pretty cool. Ironically the last time I received a physical hotel key was at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, a hotel in a city of 35 million. I don’t know if you can find two cities more different than Longyearbyen and Tokyo. Polar opposites if you will(sorry, that was bad.)
The room was dated though functional. There were two twin beds, a desk and a TV stand. For all my stays in Norway, including a hostel, the comforter was folded up in the manner shown below. This bed was extremely soft and comfortable.
The bathroom was small and had a quirky shower. There was no shower curtain, just a large plastic door that swung open and closed. And while the water is safe to drink, the smell was a little funky.
I peeked out the window at around 2AM to see my parking lot view. The hotel is centrally located in the small town so while you may be able to see some of the fjord from the other side of the hotel, none of the views will be that great.
After the trip, I found out that Longyearbyen does not have the outrageously high taxes on alcohol as the rest of Norway so the the prices in the minibar were actually one of the cheapest places for me to purchase alcohol on the trip. For reference that half bottle of wine is 11 USD dollars whereas I got used to paying around three or four times that in Oslo.
My largest complaint with the hotel had to be the blackout shades. They don’t block the light well enough as you can see in the photo I took before falling asleep. I believe a 300 dollar a night hotel in a city where the sun doesn’t set all summer should be able to find thick enough shades.
The next morning I was headed out kayaking on the fjord but stopped in to try the free breakfast. From the lobby, I was directed into the dining room where the breakfast buffet was being set up. The dining room had large windows opening towards the beautiful mountain and fjord views.
The breakfast buffet was one of the largest I have ever seen outside of Asia. They have an interesting diet in Norway which was reflected in the buffet. There was a focus on dried meats and dried fishes some of which had a bit of a strong odor.
Since it was my first meal in Norway and I was headed out on 8 hour kayak and hike, I didn’t want to risk it and ended up plating a lot of the American Breakfast looking items.
I was the very first person eating breakfast that morning so I picked the table next to the windows and enjoyed a very relaxing and memorable breakfast. The complimentary breakfast for all rates was very well done and a highlight of the stay.
After my day’s activities, I headed back to the bar and grabbed a burger and a few beers. The hotel’s bar is actually very trendy and looks like one you’d find in a major city like New York or Chicago. They had a great selection of local beers on draft and also a few craft beers from the US. As expected, none of it was cheap. That six pack of Corona will run you 40 dollars.
The business center
The hotel provides one shared computer for use of its guests. Normally I would never use a shared computer but I brought the wrong AC adaptor and my phone was having issues so I hopped on to send a two word email to my family that read “made it.” It took me a solid 30 minutes to login to Gmail and get that email out using the Norwegian keyboard. Some of their vowels are a little different 😉
The bottom line
As is pretty obvious from this hotel review, The Radisson Blu Polar Hotel is not a destination luxury hotel. The property is very basic and functional. You can expect a clean and simple room but you won’t feel like you are staying in anything near a 300 USD per night room. The breakfast was a nice surprise and it is cool to be earning or burning points at the northernmost hotel in the world, but be sure to set your expectations.