Opulence By the Sea: A Review of the Al Bustan Palace, A Ritz-Carlton Hotel (Muscat)

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• Review: Norrsken Lounge (Stockholm Arlanda)
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• Review: American Express Lounge by Pontus (Stockholm Arlanda)
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• Review: Qatar Airways A350-1000 “QSuites” (Business Class)
• Review: Four Points By Sheraton Doha
• Review: The Westin Doha Resort and Spa
• Review: Al Safwa First Class Lounge (Doha)
• Review: Qatar Airways 777-300ER “QSuites” (Business Class)
• Review: Sheraton Oman Hotel (Muscat)
• Review: Al Bustan Palace, A Ritz Carlton Hotel (Muscat)

Nestled in between the rugged Al Hajar mountains and the glittering Sea of Oman you will find the elegant, 5-star, Ritz-Carlton beachfront property – Al Bustan Palace – a top choice among luxury hotels in Oman…so I decided to check it out.

HOW I BOOKED IT

I have the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card [READ MORE], and I receive 1 Free Night Award every year after my card account anniversary valid for redemption for a single night up to 50,000 points.

I decided to stay two nights but stayed 3 FULL days (I’ll talk about the details below). I redeemed the free night certificate for the first night and redeemed 50,000 Bonvoy points for the second night.

Rates charged for the specific nights that I visited:
1st night: 160 OMR (~$415 USD)
2nd night: 205 OMR (~$532 USD).

Just to recap, I had stayed at the Sheraton Oman the night before. I had checked out of the Sheraton, enjoyed an amazing scuba diving adventure, and was now checking into the Al Bustan Palace.

BACKGROUND

Al Bustan Palace is (arguably) one of the most iconic properties in the Middle East. The hotel opened in 1985 to host the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit and to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Sultan Qaboos’s accession to power.

In 2011, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company entered into an agreement with Oman’s Ministry of Tourism to acquire the full management of this legendary palace-turned-hotel, after it underwent a multimillion-dollar refurbishment.

MY EXPERIENCE

As I drove to the fairly isolated hotel property (approximately 50 minutes from the airport), I could not help but notice how beautifully scenic it was.

As I approached the hotel property, I was impressed with the massive, fort-like entrance. Although the exterior of the building is not extremely impressive, I was excited as I knew it had undergone an intense renovation only a few years ago.

I was welcomed by two bellhops. One quickly opened the driver-side door and the other inquired if he could assist with any bags.

I did not require any assistance, but it was nice to see the bellhops working as warp speed. 

Fairly impressed with the entrance, it was a different story once I entered the hotel.

As I entered the hotel, I immediately noticed the light smell of incense filling the air and my jaw dropped as I saw the majestic 38 meter (~124 ft) high atrium lobby.

Between the spotless marble floors, symmetrical pillars, domed ceiling, and gold clad walls, it was hard not to be impressed. The design of the lobby created a feeling of almost religious ambience, reminiscent of a cathedral or mosque.

Burning Incense (lobby)

The lobby’s highlight is to be found at its center, a beautiful octagonal fountain beneath a 19 ton chandelier, which boasts the largest amount of crystals designed into a hotel’s chandelier in the world to date.

Again, I was promptly welcomed to the property by another hotel associate that directed me to several reception desks located to the left of the entrance.

Mohamed stepped from behind the desk and jovially said, “…be sure to tag us in those amazing photos that you just took, ok?”

“Definitely!” I responded.

Typically, I’m not a fan of small talk but Mohamed took my last name, made me laugh, informed me of my free breakfast, and upgraded me to a larger room all within a matter of seconds. It was seamless and so fast that I’m not quite sure if he took my credit card for incidentals or not.

Unfortunately, Cyclone Kyarr had impacted Oman a few weeks earlier so he also handed me this letter…

Nonetheless, I had my key in hand was headed to toward the elevator.

When I arrived on the 8th floor, I followed the signs down the quiet hallway to room #872.

Fun Fact: The hotel’s 250 rooms and suites are spread over 3 wings and 9 floors. However, the 9th floor is reserved exclusively for the use of Oman’s monarch, Sultan Qaboos.

Upon entering my suite, I noticed a small lounge to my left that included a large flat screen television, two lounge chairs, a desk with two chairs and a built-in mahogany book case.

Returning to the hallway, the door directly in front of me (or on the left in this photo) was locked so I’m unsure what was on the other side. The door on the right led into the remainder of the suite.

Opening the door led to a small hallway.

On the left side of the hallway there were two small closets with (again) mahogany built-in clothes racks, a safe, dresser drawers for storage, slippers, an iron, and an ironing board.

Directly across the hall was the bathroom. We will return to this momentarily.

Turning to the left and continuing down the hallway, I walked into my living room that included two lounge chairs, and a large sofa bed on an extremely plush area rug. Another highlight of this area was the recess ceiling that created a relaxed ambiance after the sunset.

On the table was a large bowl of fresh fruit, silverware, and a welcome note personally signed by the director of rooms.

Beside the entry hallway was a minibar and a menu that included the prices (both in English and Arabic)…

But the aspect that really impressed me were the amount of “welcome snacks” delivered to my room after check-in. I already had a fruit bowl but later a chocolate cake was delivered, a plethora of pralines, and some small candies that were sprinkled with coconut.

I’m not sure if this is standard practice or they assumed I was “VIP” because of the room but it definitely made me feel very welcome.

Another aspect that really impressed me was the attention to detail. Although simple, everything in the room had a place and was purposeful. For example, complimentary bottles of water in every room, floor to ceiling “black-out” curtains, Bose surround sound bar on the TV…

…quality loose leaf tea in an ornate vessel…

…and plush, and textured decorative pillows.

I stepped out onto the balcony and enjoyed the amazing views and watched the sun disappear behind the mountains.

I returned through the living room and turned left into the bedroom where I was greeted with a large (and extremely comfortable) king bed, two lounge chairs, and ornate headboard and light fixtures.

Note: This is challenging to see in this photo but the AL Bustan logo is subtly embossed in the leather headboard.

After taking note of the amount of hand-crafted wood work in the suite, I noticed a small work desk, large mirror, and another large flat screen TV (with Bose sound bar).

I continued into the bathroom where I noticed 4 bottles of water displayed on 2 separate sinks, 2 extremely soft Al Bustan robes, 2 large vanities…

…and behind the frosted glass, a toilet, bidet, deep soak tub and shower…

…all highlighted with UK-based Asprey luxury amenities.

Although it was only 5PM, I’m solar powered. Given the sun had set I decided to check the comfort level of the bed. The room had various settings for the lights. I picked the ambient “bedroom relax” setting and the next thing I knew, it was 4AM…I guess it worked.

Having slept for nearly 12 hours (which never happens), I decided to explore the property.

I returned to the front desk where I was greeted by Mohamed.

“Mr. Robinson, please tell me about your room.”
“There are no words to describe it. Thank you.”
“My pleasure. What can I help you with this morning?
“Quick question..my flight departs very late tomorrow…like 1AM. Is it possible to receive late check out?”
“Yes sir, I will put a note on your account for 8PM checkout.”

8PM is more than adequate. I wasn’t, specifically, requesting 8PM checkout but that is an example of the type of service that I received from the moment I walked through the doors.

From there I made my way around the property. With three onsite restaurants and two bars, there is no need to worry about going hungry. The food is excellent (and expensive).

China Mood, one of Al Bustan’s signature restaurants, has claimed its position as one of the top Asian restaurants in Oman serving authentic Chinese cuisine.

The hotel’s ground floor features a variety of shops (and fresh flowers) where you can buy jewelry, clothes, and traditional Omani handicrafts.

The hotel featured two smaller swimming pools. If you prefer to be away from the action, I recommend booking (and/or requesting) the “lagoon access rooms,” which are quite unique as you can go straight into the pool from your private terrace.

Al Bustan Palace stands proudly on approximately 200 acres of exquisite, palm tree lined, gardens and manicured lawns. Plenty of sun lounges, hammocks and cabanas are spread throughout the the gardens.

Before reaching the main swimming pool, I passed a towel station where each guest is provided with towels and lunch pales with complimentary bottles of water.

The property include an olympic sized swimming pool. Although it’s unlikely that this pool will ever feel too crowded (because of its size), you can also take a refreshing dip in one of the other two other pools (mentioned above) that wrap around the hotel wings and mainly attract guests that want to escape the occasional screams of splashing children.

Fresh seafood with dining outdoors can be enjoyed at the Beach Pavilion restaurant.

Al Bustan Palace also has a half mile (1 km) private beach. However, because of the storm, I trust this does not exemplify the Ritz’ quality standard.

Understandably, many customers were extremely (and audibly) frustrated with the clean up efforts. I would be frustrated also had I spent ~$500/night.

The hotel offers water various activities like paddle boarding…

Al Bustan Palace has excellent facilities for children. It has an outdoor kids playground as part of their Recreation Center. The RitzKids Club also offers daily activities for children and a kids pool.

The property has a tennis court…

…and on the far end of the property, there is a fitness center where I was given a guided tour…

Al Khiran is the main restaurant. Each evening, a sumptuous buffet based upon a different culinary theme is offered. However, I found the extensive breakfast buffet to be the food highlight of the day. The breadth of choices and number of food stations, offering both cold and hot items (including Omani specialities) probably made this one of the most abundant hotel breakfast buffets that I have ever experienced. Another great perk is that the breakfast buffet is open until 11 am.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…

NOTE: MANGOSTEENS ARE HEAVEN ON EARTH!!!

Although the resort is perfect for a lazy beach holiday, the hotel’s location is quite isolated and there is very little else of interest within walking distance (in terms of shops, restaurants and sightseeing). You will need to need to take a taxi to the city in order to visit tourist destinations. The good news is that the hotel provides a daily complimentary shuttle to Muscat’s old town (this service has to be prebooked).

Again, because of the hotels secluded location, guests will spend most of their days on the resort. And the hotel management is clearly aware of this as they charge premium food and beverage prices. For example, breakfast was 15 OMR (~$39 USD) if you did not have elite status.

The time went by so fast! The next day I had a seamless 4PM checkout…

…took one last photo of the property…

…and walked to my car.

….no, no…that’s not my car. My Escalade rental did not make the cut for parking at the front door. I had to walk to the actual parking lot. 🤣

BEST TIME TO VISIT MUSCAT

The best time to visit Muscat is during the winter months (October to March). The average temperature during the day is about 86 degrees (30 C) but pack layers as the nights can get much cooler 60 degrees (~15 C).

Summer season (April to September) is extremely hot and humid. During the summer the AVERAGE temperature can easily exceed 105 degrees (40 C).

FINAL STAMP

Marriott Bonvoy members with Gold status (or higher) are treated extremely well with benefits such as free (and fast) WiFi, complementary room upgrade (when available), early check-in or late check-out (when available), and free breakfast.

Pro-tip: You receive Gold status by just having the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card [READ MORE].

Overall, I had a great experience and would not hesitate to recommend this property if anyone visits Muscat.

My Ranking:

  • Location: 9/10…this is tough to score. If you’re looking for an isolated retreat, it’s a 10. However, if you’re seeking to explore Muscat, this is a 1 because of it’s isolation. Personally, it was perfect for me (hence the amount of sleep I obtained).
  • Design: 8/10
  • Rooms: 10/10
  • Food: 8/10
  • Service: Impeccable but 9/10…only because I got frustrated getting out of bed and opening the door for the “treats” they continued to deliver.
  • Overall experience: 9/10

Have you ever stayed at Al Bustan Palace? What was your experience?

5 comments

  1. I agree with you! Mangosteens are yet my favorite fruit on the planet. I learned about them in China from an artist from Dominica. My jaw would’ve been on the floor from that breakfast bar alone!

    Liked by 1 person

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