HOTEL INSIDER: AL BUSTAN PALACE MUSCAT, OMAN
Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel is Oman's finest—a tranquil oasis between the Al Hajar mountains and the Sea of Oman in the outskirts of Muscat. The beachfront retreat boasts elegantly manicured gardens, a private sandy beach, several pools, four restaurants and a luxurious Six Senses Spa.
The palace was built to host the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit and in 1985 and the Ritz-Carlton has managed the property since 2011. The massive, fort-like building may not look like a luxurious palace from the outside, but once you enter the majestic 38-meter (124-foot) domed atrium and are greeted with the scent of frankincense and the traditional Arabic coffee and dates, you can't escape the feeling of visiting an Arabian palace or even a cathedral.
LOCATION OF THE AL BUSTAN PALACE
The location of the hotel is a little isolated but the hotel offers twice a day a complimentary shuttle service, leaving at 8.30am to Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (returning at 10am) and at 4.30pm to Muttrah souk (returning at 7pm).
The airport is roughly 30-minutes drive and Muttrah souk about 15 minutes. The closest attraction is the Marina and the concierge can book dolphin-watching tours as well as other tours in and around Muscat.
DRESS CODE OF THE AL BUSTAN PALACE
The dress code in the Al Bustan Hotel is resort casual. Oman is an Islamic country, but the the dress code is surprisingly relaxed for both men and women. Feel free to dress like you would in any other resort in the world. For dinners, men are advised to wear long pants and closed shoes and women not to wear sleeveless tops.
AL BUSTAN PALACE ROOMS AND SUITES
The Al Bustan Palace's 250 rooms and suites are spread over several wings. Navigating the labyrinth of hallways may be challenging. Furthermore, some of the hallways leading to the elevators look like service areas.
All rooms in the hotel have a balcony or terrace with views either over the sea, the garden, or the mountains, and the Lagoon Access Rooms on the ground floor have direct access to the lagoon from their private terraces. During our stay, we saw only one person in the lagoon but the birds seemed to enjoy the water.
An important thing to note that as of February 2020, only the lower three floors have been renovated while the rest have a dated decor, only one outlet to charge your phone, and a slightly musty smell. The Deluxe Rooms, renovated or not, are also quite small, and this goes especially for the bathrooms.
In the renovated rooms, the refined decor inspired by Oman's culture and heritage, incorporates lush textures and neutral metallic tones of the Ritz-Carlton brand. The artwork pays homage to Oman's artists with prints and watercolors depicting Omani silverware, jewelry and dallahs.
The rooms feature a minibar, tea- and coffee-making facilities with Nespresso capsules and the Parisian Dammann Frères teas. The bathrooms are well stocked with Asprey London toiletries.
ROOM TIPS FOR THE AL BUSTAN PALACE
• Stay on floors 1 - 3
• The best views are from the sea view and the garden view rooms
• Stay in the Junior Suite or any other suite if you need a large bathroom, the deluxe room bathrooms are very small
AL BUSTAN PALACE RESTAURANTS
Al Khiran serves breakfast and dinner buffets, highlighting the freshest local produce and flavors from farms across the Sultanate. The dinner buffets feature different themes: Indian on Mondays, steak on Wednesdays, seafood on Thursdays, and Arabic food on Fridays. The sumptuous breakfast buffet is complete with traditional and Arabic breakfast favorites, freshly made juices and pastries. The restaurant's delightful outdoor terrace has dazzling views of the infinity pool and the ocean.
China Mood serves refined Chinese cuisine in a traditional Asian setting. The menu highlights regional dishes such as Peking duck and Yangzhou-style fried rice.
Al Turkuaz showcases the finest Ottoman traditions and Turkish specialties.
The Beach Pavilion Bar & Grill serves locally-inspired seafood dishes and grills and has an attached bar and shisha lounge.
The open-air Blue Bar on the beachfront next to the infinity pool is a place to go for a light lunch and drinks during sunbathing sessions.
AL BUSTAN PALACE SERVICES, FACILITIES & SIX SENSES SPA
Service in the Al Bustan Palace Ritz-Carton is friendly and attentive, if occasionally a little slow. Guests can lounge by the beach and the pool or keep active in the gym or on tennis courts. Various water sport activities are offered by the beach such as sailing, kayaking and snorkeling. The beach itself is sandy but the ocean water may have a green tint from algae and there are signs reminding to be wary of jellyfish. Most guests are taking a swim in the infinity pool rather than the ocean.
For those who have forgotten a swimsuit, there’s a shopping arcade on the lower ground floor, where you one find anything from clothing to gifts and Gucci watches. The Six Senses Spa booking center and a travel agency are also located in the arcade.
The Six Senses Spa, a short walk or buggy-ride away, offers Thai massages, hammams, scrubs and facials as well as steam rooms and perfectly hot Finnish saunas for men and women separately. The prices are from 48 to 68 riyals for massages, from 48 to 65 riyals for facials. Besides the spa, the hotel has a manicure/pedicure and hair salon in the lower ground floor's arcade.