Stepping inside Al Bustan Palace’s lobby is like being wrapped in a blanket of incandescent, shimmering gold dust. It is at once luxurious and comforting as the chandeliers glisten and the piano softly serenades guests.
Any other welcome would be a thorough disappointment for a palace-turned-hotel managed by Ritz-Carlton. The majesty of such a building has been well maintained in the Al Hajar Mountains resort just east of Muscat.
But once you leave the lobby, the glimmer fades as you trudge, pauper-like down the never-ending corridors to your suite. The corridor walls need a lick of paint and it is so vastly spread out I could have done with a scooter to get around.
The rooms themselves are very much Ritz-Carlton – a modern take on French Renaissance decor, with marble bathrooms, mahogany desks and a chaise longue.
The hotel has 250 rooms and suites that offer garden, beach or mountain views. Rooms have a Nespresso coffee maker, comfortable beds and an unnecessarily large number of throw pillows.
I stayed in a one-room suite with private pool access – perfect for when you want a dip away from the prying eyes of clients and bosses.
As a resort destination, Al Bustan Palace plays host to many conferences throughout the year and rightly so. If you’re forced to network and listen to tedious presentations for two days straight, one needs the comfort of a pool, a massage or fresh seafood meal overlooking the beach to get through it all.
As well as three main restaurants to choose from, including China Mood, one of the few Chinese restaurants in Oman, the room service is also top-notch (it arrived promptly and tasted fresh). And the lobby serves up an excellent English afternoon tea, a perfect setting to hold quick meetings over a cup of Earl Grey and home-made scones.
The 1,204 square metre Majan Ballroom, where most conferences are held, is equipped with all the gadgetry required for any event to sail smoothly with a distinct architectural design reminiscent of Muscat’s heyday as a trade powerhouse.
If you have any excursions during your business trip, the hotel’s limousine service is available. For those on a tighter budget, the concierge can book a local taxi.
The Wi-Fi was speedy and the connection available almost everywhere on the resort.
The service however was not. Like the laid-back Muscat culture, time seems to slow down here. I almost ended up missing my flight since it took the bellboy more than an hour to bring my luggage down from the room. Other than that particular episode, the staff known as ladies and gentlemen through Ritz-Carlton properties, were polite and charming.
q&a stay cool, work from the pool
Erika Anggreini, public relations manager at Al Bustan Palace reveals more about the Ritz-Carlton hotel.
What is the history of the hotel?
It was built almost 30 years ago to host the GCC conference. The environment is very much resort, but we do attract a lot of government meetings. We have many conferences and it goes back to that history.
Is it a resort or a business hotel?
We have a different mix in this hotel, the leisure side that carries the resort experience, as well as the meetings incentives conferencing and exhibitions (Mice) that attracts the business traveller. You don’t feel like you’re in a meeting here when you can work from the pool.
How do you cater to your business guests?
We have free Wi-Fi and the biggest ballroom in Muscat. We have a lot of function rooms, 16 in total. We also have a separate parking area. At Al Bustan Palace we can’t compete in terms of location since we’re not close to the airport, but what we can offer is our ladies and gentlemen (the hotel’s staff). It helps to have the latest conference facilities, but your product can only bring you to a point. It’s the people, our ladies and gentlemen, that take it the extra mile.
Where are most of your guests from?
Leisure guests are predominantly from Europe – Germany, Italy, France and the UK. We attract a lot of GCC residents in the summer and throughout the year for conferences.
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