There are currently five airlines operating at Oslo Sandefjord Torp Airport (TRF) 120 km south of Oslo with Norwegian Air, RyanAir, WizzAir, Widerøe (SAS) and KLM. Oslo Sandefjord Torp Airport low cost flights provided a great alternative for cheap and quick transportation to Bergen, Norway (BGO).

Oslo Sandefjord Torp Airport (TRF) is one of two secondary airports for Oslo, Norway along with Moss Airport Rygge (RYG) about 70 km south. Sandefjord Torp is on the west side of Oslofjord and Moss Rygge is on the east side of the fjord. Oslo Gardermoen (OSL), the primary international airport for Oslo with all the major international carriers is north of Oslo city center, about 30 minutes by train.

My initial hotel stay outside of Oslo on this trip to Norway took me to Farris Bad Hotel, a member of Choice Hotels Ascend Collection in Larvik, Norway 22km south of Torp Airport. I traveled to Larvik on the train at a cost of 249 NOK ($41 USD) with a NSB minipris discount ticket. The full price ticket to Torp Airport is 252 NOK. The advantage of a full price train ticket is you can travel at any time on the date of your ticket and a passenger is allowed to get on and off the train on the day of travel if you want to stop somewhere along the way. On the 249 NOK minipris ticket to Larvik, my ticket was only valid for a specific train time and no on-off privileges.

I was surprised to see the train stop for Torp Airport is basically a stop in the countryside with no town or facilities at the station platform. There is a small parking lot and an NSB bus meets the train for complimentary transportation from the train stop to Torp Airport a few kilometers away.

I did not even have time to snap a photo of the Sandefjord Torp train stop as the airport bus was waiting for me and took off as soon as I boarded.

The price to fly Norwegian Air Torp-Bergen was $33 USD and I paid $17 for the online price to check one bag. The  price to fly from Oslo Gardermoen (OSL) to Bergen (BGO) was $97 on Norwegian Air.

Torp Sandefjord Airport

Oslo Torp Sandefjord Airport

For train travel from Larvik to Bergen, Norway the journey is about 8.5 hours and the full ticket price is 913 NOK ($152 USD). Minipris tickets reduce the fare to as low as 249 NOK, however the fare rises as minipris tickets are sold and the minipris ticket was 459 NOK ($76.50 USD) when I wanted to travel.

RyanAir

RyanAir operates out of Oslo Sandefjord Torp and Moss Rygge airports.

I had also seen flights as low as $69 to Malaga, Spain on Norwegian or $24 to Gdansk, Poland on WizzAir as I looked for next day flights out of Torp when I thought about leaving Norway during my 3-day hotel stay at a spa resort over a persistently rainy weekend.

WizzAir Torp

Wizz Air operates out of Oslo Sandefjord Torp Airport.

Torp Airport offers free Wifi while you wait for your flight.

The Norwegian Air flight was not crowded on a large 737-800 aircraft where I had the 3-seat section to myself.

I even had the opportunity to snap some photos.

Oslofjord

View of Oslofjord from Norwegian Air flight.

The quick flight tool me from Norway’s farmlands near Oslofjord in the east to the glaciated landscape of mountainous western Norway.

glaciated Norway

Norway’s mountain glaciers and lakes in summer seen through a break in the clouds.

The clouds cleared as we flew over the west coast of Norway with views of large ocean salmon farms and hundreds of islands off the mountainous coastline. Unfortunately, the call had already been announced to turn off electronics as we flew over the west coast into Bergen BGO.

The irony is I initially booked my trip to visit sunny southeast Norway before venturing to rainy Bergen. September is traditionally one of the rainiest months in Norway with Bergen averaging 9 inches of rain and southeast Norway about 3 inches. During my four days in Larvik and Sandefjord there was about one inch of rain while this week in Bergen has not had any rainfall with temperatures near 70F.

Floyen

View from Floyen at 320 meters above Bergen on a clear summer day September 12, 2014.

*****

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. Check out current hotel loyalty program offers across all the major chains in Loyalty Traveler’s monthly hotel promotions guide.

Follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

There are quite a number of Americans in Bergen, Norway. I did not come across any Americans during four days in the southeast Norway coastal towns of Larvik and Sandefjord. So I guess it is not surprising to discover USA branded Bergen. Think Starbucks, McDonald’s, Burger King, 7-Eleven. And of course there is the ubiquitous Subway sandwich shops I have seen all over Bergen, Oslo, Sandefjord and even Larvik, Norway.

Yet, these USA branded Bergen businesses have a distinctive character you are unlikely to recognize in the USA.

Take a look at these USA brands in Bergen.

Starbucks

Starbucks Bergen, Norway

Starbucks Coffee next to the Hanseatic League Museum.

Across the street from Starbucks is McDonalds.

McDonald's

McDonald’s Bergen, Norway

I wonder if they serve Coke Zero at this Middle Eastern café?

Coca-Cola

CocaCola Coke Zero at Ali Baba Bergen, Norway

I recall 7-Eleven stores all over Singapore, so not too surprised to find them in Bergen, Norway too.

7-Eleven Bergen

7-Eleven Bergen, Norway

Then there is Subway, the home of the 25 Norwegian kroner ($4.25) six-inch skinke (ham) sandwich. They metric size the small sub as 15 centimeters here.

Subway

Subway Larvik, Norway featuring the 15-cm skinke sub at the bargain price of 25 NOK ($4.25 USD).

All the Subway shops I have seen look like normal Subway.

Of course you can go uniquely Norwegian with seafood you won’t find anywhere in the USA.

Whale hamburger

Whale Hamburger is distinctively minke and Norwegian.

*****

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. Check out current hotel loyalty program offers across all the major chains in Loyalty Traveler’s monthly hotel promotions guide.

Follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

When the SAS Hotel in Bergen, now the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Bergen, was constructed in the late 1970s beside the Bryggen UNESCO World Heritage Site, local groundwater began leaking into the hotel construction site. Groundwater beneath historic Bryggen maintained foundational strength and a waterlogged oxygen-poor soil environment preserving cultural artifacts from the thousand year old trading center.

Bryggen UNESCO

Iconic Bryggen buildings of Bergen, Norway are UNESCO World Heritage Site

The effect on historic Bryggen and the iconic row of wooden merchant warehouses was two-fold. As the soil moisture content fell with the groundwater table declining by as much as 2.5 meters along the waterfront, oxygen infiltrated the vacated space and allowed microorganisms to move in and accelerate the decay of cultural artifacts underground. A millennium of wooden timbers and artifacts buried underground from Bryggen’s past faced rapid deterioration. An even more noticeable effect from the loss of groundwater is the famous Bryggen skyline and 61 world heritage site listed buildings alongside the Vågen waterfront began to settle and sink.

Read More…

A Carlson Hotels 25% discount rate for stays to September 30, 2014 is available for hotel bookings by 11:59pm CT on Friday, September 12 in the Americas. This sale applies to participating hotels in radisson.com, radissonblu.com, countryinns.com, or parkinn.com brands in United States, Canada, Caribbean and South America. These rates have same cancellation policies with no penalty as Best Available Rate (BAR).

Radisson 25percent Sep 12

Clarion Collection Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord, Norway is a unique hotel offering an historical whaling culture experience with thousands of artifacts decorating the public spaces. The county of Vestfold, Norway is where the towns of Larvik, Sandefjord and Tonsberg are located. Vestfold is the historical whaling center of Norway with 10% of the population involved in commercial whaling from 1920 to 1970.

While traveling from Larvik to Sandefjord-Torp Airport, I departed the train and spent a few hours in Sandefjord to check out Hotel Atlantic before flying to Bergen. I read many guest reviews on TripAdvisor stating Hotel Atlantic has an impressive display of Norwegian whaling artifacts. Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord is ranked #1 of 5 hotels in Sandefjord with an 83% favorable rating.

Hotel Atlantic is as much a museum as a hotel. Despite torrential rain falling as I walked from the train station into town with no directions known, my stop to see Hotel Atlantic was well worth the visit. The hotel is only one block, about 100 meters from the train station.  Whaling artifacts displayed around the hotel property rival, and in some ways surpass, the collection and displays at the Whaling Museum in Sandefjord.

Hotel Atlantic

Clarion Collection Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord, Norway

Hotel Atlantic opened in 1914, less than a decade after Norway’s first commercial whaling expedition launched for Antarctic fishing waters in 1905 from the Sandefjord port. The vast wealth from the whaling industry made Sandefjord the richest town in Norway for a period of the 20th century.

Hotel Atlantic whaling ship model

Thorshavet Sandefjord model whaling ship

The Hotel Atlantic lobby entrance has a whale harpoon cannon and large model ship of a commercial whaler. There are many harpoon cannons displayed around the hotel.

Between 1920 and 1990, 2.7 million whales were caught worldwide. Of these, about 350,000 blue whales were killed. It is estimated there were about 275,000 blue whales worldwide before commercial whaling. The peak year for blue whale catches was 1931 when 29,649 blue whales were killed. Estimates for current blue whale populations range from 8,000 to 14,000 worldwide.

Hotel Atlantic blue whale

Blue Whale – Bluhval

A recent report published this past week states the California Blue Whale population is around 2,200 or 97% of its pre-whaling population. An estimated 3,400 California blue whales were caught from 1905 to 1971. The California blue whale population is the largest concentration of blue whales remaining in the world. Being from Monterey, California, the months of August and September are the time of year most likely to spot blue whales in Monterey Bay, California.

Hotel Atlantic harpoon cannon

whale harpoon cannon, Hotel Atlantic Sandfjord

Blue whales were too fast for whaling ships until the harpoon cannon was developed.

Hotel Atlantic whaler lookout

Whaler display, Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord

Guaranteed that the dining rooms of Hotel Atlantic are unique for a hotel. There are several small rooms along a hallway with each room featuring artifacts from whaling ships.

Rope Knots room

Rope knots dining room, Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord

I did not count the rooms. I think there were six or eight small rooms with each giving the feel of being inside a ship.

Hotel Atlantic dining room

Dining room, Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord

 

Hotel Atlantic radio room

Communications dining room, Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord

The processing of a whale involves flensing the layers of blubber. These long blades are displayed on the walls for viewing with your morning coffee.

Hotel Atlantic blades

whale flensing blades, Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord

The breakfast buffet is served on a small boat.

Hotel Atlantic Breakfast boat

Pol III Larvik Breakfast Buffet Boat, Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord

There are display cabinets with hundreds of ivory carvings. There is amazing craftwork in many of these pieces.

Hotel Atlantic ivory display

Carved ivory art collection, Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord

While ivory is most commonly associated with elephant tusks, there are also ivory tusks from the walrus, narwhal and ivory teeth in sperm whales.

Hotel Atlantic harpoon

Harpoon cannon and whaler ship photos, Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord

Even the Hotel Atlantic carpet has a whale pattern.

Hotel Atlantic whale carpet

Whale pattern carpet, Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord

In the hall stairwell to guest floors is a large diorama of the South Georgia Island Norwegian whaling station.

Hotel Atlantic diorama

South Georgia Island whaling station diorama, Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord

There are historic photos on different floors of the hotel.

Hotel Atlantic photos-1   Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord whaling ships

1920 to 1940 was the heyday of whaling in Sandefjord when more than 70% of the town revenue came from whaling and over 10% of the population was employed in whaling.

In 1935 one barrel of whale oil sold for 42 Norwegian kroner. The income from one blue whale was around 6,300 NOK or the equivalent of about $34,000 USD today. Norway’s whaling industry produced around 160,000 metric tons of fats from whale oils in the 1950s. The fats were used for food items like margarine and industrial lubricants. Norway processed about 1/3 of the annual 500,000 metric tons of whale oil worldwide in the 1950s.

By 1960 the population of whales worldwide had declined precipitously and the whaling industry impact on Norway’s gross domestic product dropped from around 2% in 1950 to 0.5% in 1960.

Over the next 25 years there was international pressure to preserve endangered whales species. In 1986 an international moratorium on whaling was adopted by the International Whaling Commission. Norway filed an exception to the moratorium and has continued commercial whaling since 1993 for minke whales, a whale species that is not endangered.

Norway’s annual whaling season ended in the past couple of weeks for 2014 with 729 northern minke whales killed by Norwegian whalers, the highest number since Norway resumed commercial whaling in 1993. The global population of minke whales is currently estimated to be about 180,000.

Clarion Collection Hotel Atlantic Sandefjord is a fascinating hotel museum documenting Norway’s whaling culture. In another post I will share photos of a hotel suite I saw at Hotel Atlantic. The staff at the hotel were kind enough to hold my luggage while I also visited the Sandefjord Whaling Museum and the Southern Actor in Sandefjord harbor, a commercial whaling ship built in 1950 and restored in 1996 for tourism.

Much of the data in this post is taken from the Sandefjord Whaling Museum displays.

whaling monument

Whalers Monument, Sandefjord, Norway

Whaling Monument, Sandefjord, Norway.

Southern Actor

Southern Actor, 1950 commercial whaling ship restored in 1996 and open in summer for tours, Sandefjord, Norway

*****

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. Check out current hotel loyalty program offers across all the major chains in Loyalty Traveler’s monthly hotel promotions guide.

Follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

Boston Marriott Long Wharf 22,500 points with free valet parking is one of the 50% off reward hotels offered for Marriott Rewards Flashperks on Thursday, September 11 starting at 1pm ET, 12 noon CT, 10am PT.

• Half off the regular Marriott Rewards points cost for this category 9 hotel.
• Includes a $25 dining credit per night and complimentary valet parking for one car; normally $48.
Stay dates: Oct 2-5, 23-26; Oct 30 – Nov 2; Nov 20 – Dec 15
• Up to 10 rooms available per night.

Maximum 4-night stay using the Marriott Rewards Flashperks discount rate.

Sample rate for October 2-5 for 3-nights stay is $329 per night. This offer is a high redemption value for Marriott Rewards points and free valet parking  takes care of one of the high expenses in staying at a downtown Boston hotel as a leisure drive-in traveler. $400+ hotel value for 22,500 Marriott Rewards points is a great redemption value.

Boston Marriott Long Wharf website. But, you need to book the 50% reward rate for Boston Marriott Long Wharf at the Marriott Rewards Flashperks site available on Thursday. I bet this offer will be gone in less than 24 hours.

Marriott Boston Long Wharf

Boston for holiday shopping makes for a nice Thanksgiving week getaway if family plans are not in your plans or if you need a good excuse for why you need to stay at a hotel while visiting family in the Boston area.

After two nights of a 3-night stay at Farris Bad spa Nordic Choice Hotels in Larvik, Norway in a downgraded room from what I had booked in July, the manager was trying to figure out how I was going to pay for my room with points when there were no Choice Privileges points in my account. Part 1 of this hotel stay explains why I was in a downgraded room: Hotel Review: Farris Bad, Ascend Collection Larvik, Norway. The hotel had no reservation for me in their system when I arrived on a crowded Saturday afternoon.

Interestingly, the reservation no longer was visible in my Choice Privileges account on Monday morning when it had been visible on Saturday just after check-in. The previous hotel stay I had in Norway, Clarion Collection Hotel Bastion, also was not listed in my account reservations. Clarion Royal Christiania Oslo, the first hotel stay of this trip  was still showing and all five remaining Choice Privileges reservations for Norway were visible.

I explained my Choice Privileges points were deducted at the time of booking the reward stay in July and I had no points in my account because I redeemed all  216,000 Choice Privileges points for 13 nights at Nordic Choice Hotels in Norway.

She asked that I check back in 30-minutes after she contacted her people in Oslo to find out what to do about my hotel stay.

When I returned an hour later, she said it was all cleared up. The Oslo office confirmed that I had booked a Deluxe category room for three nights. She apologized for the mix-up and gave me the key for another room for my last 24 hours at the hotel.

I was looking forward to being in the Deluxe room with ocean view that I had originally booked.

Farris Bad Room 340 Kaupang suiten

Farris Bad Kaupang Suiten

Farris Bad has six named suites.

Read More…

Communication Breakdown

The words I did not want to hear upon arriving at Farris Bad, Ascend Collection Hotel Larvik, Norway on a Saturday afternoon after paying $42 for a 3-hour train trip south of Oslo were, “I am so sorry, we have no reservation for you in our system.”

There was a line of weekend guests at the spa hotel and the cancellation without penalty period for my Choice Privileges points had run out 30 minutes before. I sat in the lobby and fired up my computer to find the Choice Privileges reservation for Farris Bad.

Farris bad exterior

Farris Bad, Ascend Collection – Nordic Choice Hotels spa resort, Larvik, Norway.

The reservation was made in July and still showed as active in my Choice Privileges user profile. The receptionist replied, “That does not look like a number that we use for reservations. Can I have your Nordic Choice Club account number?”

After explaining that this reservation was booked using Choice Privileges points and not Nordic Choice Club points, she responded that she did not know that was even possible. Read More…

Thought I would give an update on Norway now that I have completed six days of my 13 day trip. Six days in Norway and $6 spent on food so far. I have not been lying awake at night with hunger pangs either.

The duvet overheating me is what wakes me at night.

Nordic Choice Hotels are feeding me well. Each day I have had smoked salmon, bread, brie, assorted fruits, yogurt, an egg, a salad, juice, several double lattes and more. Every hotel has complimentary breakfast and I am now staying in my second Clarion Collection Hotel where they also serve a light dinner buffet.

I am not shedding the pounds like I expected on the Norway diet. The 12-mile hikes help, but looks like I might need to boost the activity level. The Clarion Collection Hotel Havnekontoret in Bergen has free bicycle rentals for guests. May have to up the activity level to 50-mile bike rides to get the Norway diet on track. There are plenty of mountains here in Bergen to hike too.

I walked by a packed Irish Pub in Bergen Tuesday evening. Price of a pint is 96 NOK or $16 US. I have not had a beer in a week. That is probably something I have not done in 30 years. Sober living in Norway is not bad; particularly since I encountered several drunks today for the first time on this trip. Half of them were American tourists. I think the other half were Brits. I blame it all on those low cost carriers serving Bergen and leaving tourists with too much spare cash.

The train to Bergen from Larvik would have been $90 and 9 hours. The NSB.no website kept coming back with a message of fail every time I tried to buy a rail ticket online. No matter which credit card I used.

Flew Norwegian Air instead on a $33 ticket plus $17 for a checked bag.

$50 and 50 minutes to fly from Torp Airport in Sandefjord, about 80 miles south of Oslo in the area where I was staying at Farris Bad spa resort. Another $15 for the airport express bus from Bergen BGO Airport directly to my hotel.

Norway is expensive if you buy food and stuff. In six days I have spent $150 on transportation for three train tickets, one bus ticket and one airline ticket. Only $6 spent on food. Nordic Choice Hotels provide plenty of food to get by for the day.

And Clarion Collection Havnekontoret provides a free bicycle too.

Bergen at night

Bergen, Norway. Clarion Collection Hotel Havnekontoret is building seen on far left.

*****

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.

Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. Check out current hotel loyalty program offers across all the major chains in Loyalty Traveler’s monthly hotel promotions guide.

Follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

 

I even had a Subway ham sandwich. If you eat ham, Subway is possibly more prevalent than McDonalds in Norway. They have a special 25 NOK ($4.25) 6-inch ham sandwich that I have seen advertised in a dozen or more shops in the five towns and cities I have been.

Transportation is where my money has been spent

For many years from 2003 to 2010, I was SPG Platinum and a Starwood Hotels advocate. When people complained the earn rate for SPG points was too low compared to the cost of award nights, I responded that in my case I could figure, on average, I earned around 1,000 bonus points per night through SPG hotel promotions. That meant a free weekend night at a category-2 hotel every 3 paid nights. In 2003 there were a good number of category 2 hotels in SPG. My average hotel night spend has not changed from $100 per night in the past decade.

In the past few years it seems many hotels in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live and tend to frequent hotels opted out of SPG promotion bonuses.

SPG Double Take May 1 – July 31, 2013 – Double points + 500 bonus points for each mobile booking. 8 California hotels not participating

SPG Take Two Sep 1-Dec 15, 2013 had 15 California hotels not participating. Double points + 2,500 points every 5 nights, up to 10,000 bonus points after 20 nights.

SPG Bring on the Nights Jan 5-April 30, 2014. All hotels system-wide participated. Earn 2,500 bonus points every 5 nights, up to 20 nights and additional 5,000 bonus points for 25 nights.

SPG Earn Away May 1 – July 31, 2014. Double points on stays and triple points if Sunday night included. 14 California hotels not participating.

SPG More For You Sep 15-Dec 15, 2014. Double points on 2-night stays and triple points if weekend night included. 21 California hotels not participating.

I see that I was also negative in titling my post of the SPG Earn Away promotion. Yawn! Why Starwood 2x/3x points May 1-July 31 bores me after yesterday’s title on SPG More for You. My opinion on weak SPG More for You Double and Triple Points promotion Sep 15 to Dec 15, 2014. Not very creative titles and I should try and skip title commentary in the future on promotion posts. I realize I could locate the promotions better if I use the hotel loyalty program promotion offer.

Notice though that SPG is not very creative with their promotions. Over the past two years, it is double points or you need to stay five nights to get a bonus. I remember the  SPG promotion offers were better and more creative back in 2003 to 2007 leading up to ‘great recession’ years. The lack of higher value promotions is what has kept me away from SPG for the past couple of years. Meanwhile hotels have continued to climb to higher category levels while the price of Cash & Points stays increased by over 20% too.

Why did I not know award nights combined with paid nights turn the entire stay into an SPG award stay?

I think I have only stayed at Starwood Hotels a handful of times in the past two years since 2012 when I participated in the SPG Amex Stars program. I like Starwood Hotels, but I have not been finding them to be the best value for my travels in recent years.

That is why I was shocked to see the FAQ stating

If part of my stay was reserved using a Free Night Award or SPG Cash & Points, will my stay qualify?

No, Free Night Awards and Cash & Points do not count as qualifying stays for this promotion. Even if part of the stay is reserved using an Award and part is paid, the member will not receive bonus Starpoints for any part of the stay.

Now that I have gone back and researched this issue, I see that term has been in SPG promotion FAQ since early 2013. Somehow, it never registered with me before. Probably because I did not bother with any of the promotions. I have been too busy racking up free nights with Marriott, bonus points with IHG and getting discount extended stays with Club Carlson, Hyatt and IHG.

Starwood Preferred Guest is a great program if your employer is picking up the tab for your 50 nights a year. The SPG Platinum treatment is great.

Loyalty Traveler tagline is ‘Hotel Value for Frequent Guests’. Turns out I have found plenty of hotel programs also offer great value through hotel loyalty promotions with a selection of fine hotels besides Starwood Hotels.

I still like Starwood Hotels. And I’ll keep staying in Starwood Hotels.

Still, I think this is a poor decision on the part of SPG to deny points for paid nights if they are in conjunction with award nights. Seems like irrational logic to me.

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