Yes, I tried running the website from IIS on the staging server and it does the same thing. No errors in the log. The upgrade was performed on my desktop machine and the files copied to the staging server. No errors during the upgrade.
Regarding your instructions for the upgrade, that is not what the SF upgrade document says to do. I am performing a merge, not replace. I need to keep my database. It says to copy of all files EXCEPT those in the Configuration folder to the server and restart. That's it.
If you want to merge the locally upgraded website with the production website without replacing the database, perform the following:
Package the upgraded website without the configuration files from ~/App_Data/Sitefinity/Configuration.
Do not include the locally upgraded database.
Upload the upgraded package and merge it with your production website files.
Restart the website.
This triggers the upgrade process of your production database.
Browse the backend and the frontend of your local project and ensure that everything is working fine.