Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ryanair makes Rygge its Norwegian base

View International non-stop flights from Rygge - status November 2009 in a larger map

Ryanair has announced on a press briefing November 24th that its first Norwegian base will be at Rygge Airport. With it comes 16 new destinations in Europe from March 2010. The CEO of the airport, Pål F. Tandberg, received the news with joy, saying that this new status will mean much for the airport and passengers and local businesses.

Ryanair currently operates 6 services from Rygge to Bergamo (IT), Bremen(DE), Charleroi (BE), Girona(ES), London Stanstead(GB), and Madrid (ES).

The new status will mean that 3 aircraft will use Rygge as base and with it comes 16 new destinations from March 2010.

These airports are:
More stories on Rygge Airport
More Airport stories
Keep track of direct flights from Norwegian airports to destinations in Europe, Africa, Asia and the US

On special maps you find non-stop flights operating from Europe to the largest Norwegian airports. On these maps you will find markers that display status on different non-stop flights to Norway.

A red marker means that flight is seasonal and not in operation or that an earlier non-stop flight has been canceled. A green marker shows that there is a new non-stop flight planned to this destination.

A yellow marker means that there is a seasonal flight still operating to this airport, whereas an airplane button means that service is in operation all year around from the destination to this specific airport.

More non-stop flights from Norway to the continent
(Photo showing Check-In at Moss Airport, Rygge by EWR)

Ryanair: Toilet fee still an option

I have a few stories on Ryanair's latest whims here on Enjoy Food & Travel. In a story on June I reported on of the more inventive fees from its CEO Michael O'Leary. His idea was to remove aircraft bathrooms to squeeze in more passengers and charge money for visits to the remaining (fewer) toilets. What a bad idea!

Since we have not heard more of this idea, most of us have thought, that it had been rejected as too extreme to be deemed acceptable. For Ryanair, however, it is still an option, according to Danish website take-off.

O'Leary told press during a briefing in Stockholm November 22nd, that the airlines needs to think differently in order to survive the harsh competition in the airline industry, and said once again that charging passengers a toilet fee is still considered by the management.

What will be next? I do not know! But there will most certainly be more surprising fees introduced by Ryanair in the years to come.

Read the full story here

Lavatory on Tiger Airways by Kcdtsg)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Grand and impersonal - Conrad Brussels Hotel

The Conrad Hotels and Resorts are the flagship of the Hilton family, and are located around the world. Conrad Brussels Hotel is one of the city's most exclusive hotels, with rooms ranging in price from 700-7500 Euros per night. We were given a bargain over the net, paying a mere 200 Euros per night. It was grand, it was exclusive, but it was not nice. Having this experience in mind, you know that you do not miss out on anything when booking a more inexpensive hotel in the Belgian capital.

Area: BBBB

Conrad Brussels Hotel is located by Avenue Louise, in Ixelles, a wealthy part of the Belgian capital. This is a 20 minute walk from Grand Place and you can get to the city by subway number 2 and 6 from Louise / Louiza. You can also take tram line 94 right outside the hotel.

Avenue Louise and Place Louise are among the most elegant shopping districts in Brussels, with a wide range of designer shops and small restaurants and pubs nearby. We did, however, find the location of Conrad Brussels slightly impractical as public transportation does not run long after midnight, and we found that we had to walk to get home during late nights.

Service: BBBB

The staff at the reception provided good overall service, but seemed a little cold and distanced. I do not whether this cool attitude reflected the exclusive, but impersonal interior, but I did not find the hospitality or kindness I have experienced in other hotels.


We were allocated room 335, a classic room, facing a neighbouring street. The interior of the room reminded me of the rooms I have stayed in the US. We paid a mere 200 EUR, but full price was 600-700 EUR.

Both room and bathroom were huge, by far the biggest I have ever stayed in, with around 50 square meters / 500 square feet.

The bedroom had two, very good, queen sized beds, a comfortably sized desk, an arm chair with side table, and a TV cabinet. Plenty wardrobe space for two with bathrobe and slippers available.

Safety deposit box, easy to operate, for safe storage of your valuables.

Beautiful bathroom with shower cabinet, separate bathtub, toilet, and a large sink with plenty space for toiletries. All decorated in white china with golden (or brass) fixtures. White marble tiles and desk by sink in black marble.

Elegant classic dark green and gray colour scheme. All furniture in rococco / Louis-Seize style. Red bed spread with matching pillows. Grey wall to wall carpet.

All apparently well cleaned, but the drawback with carpet, as it makes the air slightly stuffy. Minor wear and tear on bathroom fixture where gold (or brass) had been worn off. You had to pay in order to access the free wireless network, a disgrace in a hotel charging so much per night.

Breakfast: N/A

We got a bargain, but I think even paying guests have to pay a whopping 30 EUR for breakfast buffet, and an extra 7 EUR to be served in your room. A breakfast this expensive is clearly a waste of money, and we decided to pay a few Euros in the neighbourhood.

Facilities: BBBB+

Conrad Brussels could offer guests:
  • Entertainment: Loui Restaurant, Café Wiltcher's, features a outdoor terrace with access to an internal courtyard. The Lobby Lounge ideal for snacks and afternoon tea.
  • Exercise: Swimming pool, spa and exercise room at Aspria Avenue Louise (Fee 25 EUR)
  • Well being: Good A/C system, WLAN (paid service), extra PC by reception
  • Maintenance and hygiene: Overall good, but carpets in corridors
Price: BB

Conrad Brussels has a wide range of rooms, from large suites to classic rooms. Rate for a classic room was around 700 EUR, which is a horrendous price, in a city where you easily can find decent accommodation for half the price.

We were given a special rate of 200 EUR per night per room, that is said to be a bargain. When returning after the weekend, I still did not have that feeling that it had been worth that price. Why?

With all its grandeur, Conrad Brussels did not make me feel welcome. It turned out to be an impersonal experience.

So would I stay there again? No I would not, and if I wanted another luxurious hotel experience in Brussels, I would certainly return to the classic elegance of Hotel Metropole.

Rating the Conrad Brussels Hotel experience: BBBB (3,83 points)

A grand hotel experience in Brussels. Large, and very impressive lobby area. Location in major shopping area, but located 20 minutes away from the historic heart of Europe. Very expensive rooms, and you will have to pay extra for breakfast, internet access and to get admission to exercise centre. At this price, you could so much more in other, and more personal hotels in the European capital.

Conrad Brussels Hotel
Avenue Louise 71,
10-50 Brussels
Phone: +32-2-5424242
Guest Fax: +32-2-5424200
Hotel website

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hurtigruten in smoother waters

The cruise along the Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkenes, has been called the most beautiful cruise in the world. The Hurtigruten company, has however, struggled to stay afloat in these financially demanding times. The economic result from the 3rd quarter of 2009, indicates that the battered company has entered more profitable, smoother waters.

Hurtigruten, the Norwegian coast cruise line has carried goods and people along the long Norwegian coast line for 116 years. The company has suffered through hard times and had accumulated a large budget deficit.

The good news for the company is that it ends third quarter of 2009 with a 127 million NOK (15, 2 mill EUR) surplus and it expects a result before taxes of +157 million NOK (18,7 mill EUR) in 2009. This after the company has axed over 200 jobs. Lower fuel costs is another major factor. The good result is in contrast to last years 126 million NOK (15 mill EUR) deficit.

This is good news for those of us believing that this old institution was on its deathbed. Besides being a great cruise, it is also a life line for many of the smaller communities on its way, as it delivers much needed goods as it cruise along the coast.

Ports visited along the coast during the 6 day northbound cruise with Hurtigruten.

View Hurtigruten - northbound 6 day's journey in a larger map

The northbound cruise starts in Bergen, on the Western coast of southern Norway. During the 6 day journey the ship will dock at 31 ports along the long Norwegian coastline. The ship will take you from the mild, lush scenery on the western part of Norway, far into the Arctic region.

The company also offers other cruises to destination in the Arctic regions as Greenland, Svalbard and Antarctica, as well as cruises on the Baltic sea and the Channel Islands.

You can see more of what the Hurtigruten has to offer here

On destinations along the coast here on Enjoy Food & Travel

Earlier stories on Hurtigruten

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

UPDATED: Long hauls flights with Norwegian may start 2010

Norwegian Air Shuttle is expanding its services. 200 000 more passengers chose Norwegian Air Shuttle flights September 2009 compared to the same month last year, and the airline had 10 million passengers last 12 months. The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, reports November 21st that the Norwegian budget airline has applied for slots in Bangkok and New York, and flights may start Summer 2010.

The only non-stop flight from Oslo to New York is today operated by Continental. Thai Arways operates one non-stop service from Oslo to Bangkok. Feel Air, another new budget airline may also launch direct flights from Oslo to the same two destinations in 2010.

The application for slots may result in flights starting as early as Summer season 2010, starting in March coming year. This depends on the interest for this product in the market, and flights may be postponed to 2011, if interest is low. Norwegian consider offering business travelers and those paying full price more comfort on the new long haul flights, e.g. more leg space.

The airline is, according to the Norwegian newspaper Finansavisen, planning 15 new long-haul non-stop flights from Scandinavia to destinations in the US, Asia and South America. Today the airline's only long-haul flights are from Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo to Dubai.

The new flights will be flown with leased Boeing 767 or Airbus A330 with room for up to 300 passagerer.

More on long-haul flights to Oslo Airport

New non-stop flight from Oslo to Bangkok

More flights Oslo-Reykjavik - New York

New non-stop flights from Oslo to New York and Bangkok from 2010?

Recession hits SAS transatlantic flights hard

(Photo: Arpingstone)

Monday, November 23, 2009

A tale of a cat

(November 19th 2009) This is a short tale of a city cat! When visiting Le Cirio, a Brussels tavern, you will find it well guarded by this feline specimen. I wonder what my previous employer, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, would have done, if they had found a cat in an Oslo restaurant?

I do not know whether it is the same cat, or a son, daughter, nephew or a niece of the one I met frequently when I stayed there in 1999. Whatever, it is good to know that a cat still lurks around in the old interior.

This picture was sent by my friend Ketil, the day before I will meet him in Brussels, Friday November 20th. He has, as I, taken a fancy to this mascot. Cats are, in my mind, mysterious and calming creatures, with a pretty good ability to enjoy life. The cat at Le Cirio, does not mind the guests nearly as much as the attention it gets from the guests.

I certainly look forward to meet an old friend again, as I take my first refreshing sip of Leffe Blonde in the old interior at Cirio. More will definitely come on the subject.

More on this charming tavern

See more on Le Cirio here

A tale of another large cat

In the presence of the Lion King

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Breakfast not included

Batteries not included!!?? The most irritating for a kid, when opening a Christmas gift, is to find out that the lovely mechanical gadget from mum, dad, an uncle or aunt needs batteries (that are not included) to run. As a traveler, I am equally unhappy when I find that breakfast is not considered a part of my hotel experience. I am, in these cases, not always inclined to pay for a morning meal that often is highly overpriced.

I have been in Brussels this weekend. When ordering a room in the European capital over the internet there is a wide range of hotel rooms available at a price ranging from €40-200. Many have breakfast included in the price, whereas others charge all from €5-29 for breakfast.

If would gladly pay €5, a very reasonable price for breakfast, but think what meal you could get for €30. In this case you may choose a breakfast to your taste at a fraction of the price.

€6 versus €16,04

I love bacon and eggs for breakfast during weekends. When visiting Barcelona this summer, we found that our hotel, Acta Millennia, charged €16,04 (!) for breakfast. We thought that a little steep, and decided to find a cheaper alternative.

As we roamed through the neighbouring area, we found many small places where you could get a substantial morning meal from €5. I ordered an omelet, bacon, toast, juice and coffee for €6, saving €10 for lunch.

Seated on the pavement, with busy traffic just meters away, it was hardly the best place to enjoy our meal, but there were more than enough food for us to be satisfied to lunch.

When should you pay for breakfasts on hotels?

The answer to that question depends on several factors.

Price is one major factor. If you have paid a low price for a room, and is offered an equally good breakfast deal, take it. As when I stayed at Thon Hotel Bergen Brygge, recently. When I paid less than 100 EUR per night for a room, it was a good price, and paying an additional 8 EUR for a good breakfast is definitely worth the price.

Another point is what you pay for. During my stay at Hotel Alizé in Marseille in 2006, we paid for breakfast once and what we were offered was jam and fine pastry, not my favourite choice. A good piece of advice is to check what is served, before you make up your mind and pay for breakfast at the hotel.

If you help yourself to a small selection of what a traditional breakfast buffet has to offer, you have another reason not to buy a overpriced meal. Whereas I tend to help myself greedily to bacon, eggs, cold cuts and cheese, others only take a piece of pastry, yogurt, or cereal. If you choose to pay 30 EUR for that you'll probably eat the most expensive piece of pastry in your life.

A good alternative if you stay in a five star hotel, and will not use a large sum for that five star breakfast. Do check out the neighbourhood for small bars and cafés where you can get a breakfast to your choice as well as your wallet.

Breakfast stories on Enjoy Food & Travel

Berlin - Breakfast at Bell Chicco

Breakfast at El Fornet d'En Rossen

Breakfast in America