Turned up after nine at night after a long drive from the airport (30-45 minutes depending on your driver; taxi from the airport is a fixed rate of 10 OMR, paid at the booth outside the terminal), handed my reservation to the desk staff, who found no trace of it. Blamed on the recent switch from Intercon to RC. No quibbling : booked into my requested mountain view room, b&b, and 30 OMR a night lopped off the rate without my having to utter a word.
From then on, nothing but good. The staff - many Omani - are helpful, polite and never in your face. The rooms are clean and the complimentary minibar's restocked every day with water, fruit juices and soft drinks. The restaurants are superb and the food's faultless. I took merciless advantage of the buffet breakfast in Al Khiran every morning, went back for the buffet dinner a couple of times - a different theme every night of the week - but had my most memorable meals in the beach pavilion, where you can eat inside or at tables on the sand by the sea. Highly recommended. Three courses, no alcohol, 33 OMR.
The hotel is a long way from town, so drive or rely on taxis - the concierge will call one and I never had to wait more than five minutes - or the free twice-daily shuttle bus, which stops at Mutrah souq and the Sabco centre, a small shopping mall in Qurum. If you use the bus you get a couple of hours to mooch around, so be quick or grab a taxi for the return.
Quibbles and niggles :
- Yes, the food is expensive. Welcome to the Gulf. That said, the buffet breakfast cost me two thirds what I paid for a cooked breakfast in the Yas Hotel in Abu Dhabi, they have no qualms about serving bacon and pork to non-Muslims and I couldn't fault a single morsel I ate the entire time I was there.
- Alcohol is expensive. That alone made me glad I'm teetotal.
- Free wifi is a given in most chains, and it's about time Marriott/RC manned up and offered it to all, especially in a hotel this expensive. I used Omantel's 3G on point of principle and found the signal perfectly acceptable.
- Not all of the elevators travel down to the pool and restaurant level. If someone in your party has mobility issues make sure of their room location when you book or you face a long trek along the corridors or round the atrium.
- I would've appreciated a couple of extra stops on the shuttle bus, say near the Muscat Gate or the Al-Alam Palace and perhaps somewhere else in town, rather than it just being a shopping trolley with an engine.
- No room service menu in the room. One button on your bedside phone offers 'Instant Service. Anything you want...anytime !', which conjured up all kinds of interesting fantasies, not all of them involving being charged 600 OMR for a beefburger. A menu of staples with guide prices would be nice.
I've read a lot about the refurb stripping away the Al Bustan's original charm, and although I'm inclined to agree that the expanses of earth-hued marble and the huge chandeliers are a little disappointing the atrium is still a beautiful, quiet place to while away a couple of hours with a drink and a book.
I'm not often eager to revisit the hotels I stay in, but I'm already planning my return to the Al Bustan. Don't go there expecting the noise and sparkly tinsel you get in Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Go there to relax, eat well and discover a little of Oman and you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Set against a dramatic backdrop of rugged mountains, Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, lies solitary amid an emerald green oasis with 200 acres of lush beachfront landscaping. We are a top choice among hotels in Muscat, Oman, offering accommodations and public spaces that overlook the glittering azure waters of the Gulf of Oman. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Booking.com, Expedia, Agoda, Odigeo, TripOnline SA, Hotels.com, Ebookers, Evoline ltd, Cancelon, 5viajes2012 S.L. and HotelQuickly so you can book your Al Bustan Palace, A Ritz-Carlton Hotel reservations with confidence. We help millions of travellers each month to find the perfect hotel for both holiday and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
- Also Known As:
- Intercontinental Hotel Muttrah