In October, my husband and I honeymooned in the Middle East, as Oman has been on my bucket list for many years. We were only able to stay in Oman for 5 nights during our whirlwind trip, so we decided to base ourselves at the grandiose Al Bustan Palace Ritz Carlton in the capital, Muscat.
I redeemed 240,000 Bonvoy points for the 5 night stay in a King Pool View room. Thanks to Bonvoy’s 5th-night-free bonus, that equates to 48,000 points per night. In comparison to the cash rate at the time, I was able to spend only 48K Bonvoy points versus having to pay $500+ a night out of pocket.
In addition, at check in – likely thanks to my Titanium Elite Marriott status – I was given an upgrade to a 1 Bedroom Executive King Suite with a mountain view, which retails for over $1,000 per night.
Located 50 minutes from the airport and a 15 minute drive from the core tourist attractions of downtown Muscat, Al Bustan is situated on a jaw-dropping stretch of coastline.
The resort is nestled on a private stretch of beach between the beautiful Sea of Oman and the striking Al Hajar mountains.
Originally built as the Sultan of Oman’s guesthouse for visiting foreign heads of state, the Al Bustan Palace is breathtaking both inside and out. Being a landmark in Oman, the resort also offers an alluring range of facilities and amenities, which cater to even the most discerning of global travelers.
Renovated in 2018, the property, overall, befits its palatial moniker. Its facilities, public areas and amenities are all an impeccable mix of traditional Omani decadence and global sophistication, but I think the rooms have not aged well and they could do with another refresh.
All of that being said, this hotel has the fantastic five star service that you would expect to receive at any Ritz Carlton worldwide, and the hotel facilities will totally knock your socks off – just check out the hotel lobby, which has the largest crystal chandeliers of any hotel in the world!
The resort has 250 guest rooms and suites, which all have views of the staggering Al Hajar mountains or of the sparkling Sea of Oman. Deluxe Lagoon rooms also have not only sea and garden views, but they have private terraces, which offer direct, easy access to plunge into the lovely lagoon pools.
During my stay, we were upgraded to a 1 Bedroom Executive King Suite with a mountain view.
The room had all of the modern features you would expect to see in a Ritz Carlton suite: a plush king sized bed, flat screen TVs, a desk, separate living and dining room, an outdoor balcony with a sitting area, mini bar and two walk-in closets providing ample luggage and storage space. The bathroom was a nice size and was decked out in decadent marble, with two vanities, a soaking tub, and a rain shower.
The room was very nice, and we enjoyed the spaciousness of an upgrade to a suite. That being said, I expected the rooms to be nicer, and more modern, given the recent renovation of the hotel in 2018. In my opinion, the room was a little tired and there wasn’t any real “wow factor.”
While it was very comfortable, if you are the type of traveler that likes a contemporary and modern hotel room – and if you spend a lot of time in your room – then there might be other hotels in Muscat that better fit your travel style.
The Guest Experience
Where the Al Bustan really shines is its overall, fantastic guest experience, attentive service, stunning resort facilities and amenities, and its variety of delicious dining options.
The vast coastline surrounded by towering cliffs makes for a picture-perfect backdrop, and Al Bustan’s private beach is undoubtedly the best of any hotel in Muscat. For travelers looking to enjoy a beach holiday and relax, in between exploring all of Oman’s cultural attractions, then the Al Bustan is without-a-doubt your best option in the capital.
There is so much to do and enjoy at Al Bustan that if you don’t even want to leave the resort, then you wouldn’t have to. Included in the nightly room rate are the following:
- Internet access
- Beach + pool chairs, umbrellas, children’s beach toys and snorkel gear
- Ritz Kids Club
- Family Aqua Land – a large children playground including a kids swimming pool, mini zip line, and water playground
- Fitness center
- Complimentary shuttle transportation to Muscat’s Old Town
- Tennis courts
- Business center
- A variety of daily, on-site activities (Note: some activities will incur an additional fee)
For an additional fee, the hotel also offers the following activities and amenities:
- Spa (more on my experience can be found below)
- Yoga studio
- Selection of non-motorized water activities including sailing, kayaking, paddle boards and more
- Shopping at the hotel’s numerous boutiques
Throughout the property there are 7 restaurants and bars, which offer a variety of international cuisines. Foodies will love the diversity of the dining options, with many of the venues affording stunning ocean or poolside views.
- Al Khiran Kitchen – Enjoy panoramic scenery from the restaurant’s two-level terrace, and indulge in an internationally inspired menu. Take a seat outdoors for a relaxing meal overlooking the pool and ocean, or stay inside to watch the chefs in action through the open kitchen.
- NOTE: Daily breakfast buffet for 2 at Al Khiran was included in my room rate even though I paid with points!
- Le Petit Chef – At Le Petit Chef, you’ll encounter the best of theater and dining in an immersive culinary experience presented by the world’s smallest chef. Featuring cutting-edge 3D technology and digital mapping, Le Petit Chef will take you on an interactive journey right at your dinner table. The show is paired with themed music and props, all served during a delicious five-course meal.
- NOTE: This was one of the most fun dining experiences of my life and the food was fantastic as well!
- China Mood – Authentic flavors and age-old rituals make China Mood an unforgettable culinary experience. Immerse yourself in a menu that highlights delectable, regional Chinese dishes such as Beijing duck, Dim Sum and Yangzhou-style fried rice.
- NOTE: I lived in China for 4 years, and I have to say that China Mood had some of the best Chinese food that I have ever eaten outside of East Asia!
- The Pavilion – Admire the sunset from the beachfront deck of The Pavilion, one of Muscat’s most romantic restaurants. Showcasing unparalleled views of the Sea of Oman and specializing in fresh seafood dishes, this restaurant is a destination in and of itself, and provides a spectacular outdoor dining experience.
- HOT TIP: Brunch at The Pavilion is THE place to be in Muscat on a Friday. Not only is there live music right on the beach, but the over-the-top food stations (ex: Texas BBQ, Sushi Bar, Donut Wall, etc.) make The Pavilion the best brunch hotspot in all of Oman.
- Blu – Light meals, snacks and refreshing beverages are served at this poolside bar overlooking the sea. Surrounded by palm trees and directly overlooking the main infinity pool, BLU offers a casual outdoor dining experience with both locally and globally influenced food and beverages.
- Al Maha Jazz Lounge – The lounge instantly transports guests to the 1920’s and 1930’s with the smooth sounds of its resident pianist. The only venue of its kind in Oman, the lounge offers a nightly repertoire of jazz, soul and blues. Comfortable leather furnishings and cozy, candlelit corners invite guests to unwind, while transporting them to the nostalgic golden age of jazz era. Premium cocktails and gourmet appetizers — all combined with the exceptional Ritz-Carlton service — make Al Maha the perfect place to sit back, relax and enjoy a tipple.
- Atrium Tea Lounge – Set beneath the lobby’s 125 foot-high dome and surrounding an elegant fountain, The Atrium Tea Lounge offers a sophisticated setting for a time-honored tradition. Afternoon Tea is presented with a selection of traditional tea sandwiches and appetizers, a decadent display of mini desserts, and freshly-baked raisin and plain scones. The experience is complemented by the sounds of a live musician, all while sitting under the twinkling crystals of the world’s largest hotel chandelier.
The Al Bustan Palace spa was another shining star of the property, and my treatments there were one of the top highlights of my stay. The Arabian fort-inspired structure is a whopping 33,000 square feet and offers a true five-star wellness experience.
The beachfront sanctuary pulls from Omani culture both for its design and its treatments, which highlight locally sourced ingredients. Treatment rooms include six hammam rooms, and separate ladies’ and gentlemen’s relaxation areas including infrared saunas, ice fountains and steam rooms. On top of that, the spa is also home to a private ladies-only beach.
If going to the spa is on your list of to-do’s while on vacation in Oman, then I highly recommend indulging in the Royal Arabian Hammam treatment – it was absolutely divine! One of my favorite things to do in the Middle East is to take an afternoon to relax at the spa and to enjoy a hammam.
And the Al Bustan Spa’s hammam treatment was one of the best I’ve ever had!
During this 80 minutes of heaven on earth, you’ll first enter a private steam bath to soften your skin. After, you’ll be scrubbed from head to toe in black soap and enjoy a hair wash, a scalp massage and a mini facial. Next, you’ll revel in a delightful foam bubble body mask, and you’ll finally relax all of your cares away with a soothing back massage. It’s pure bliss indeed!
If Oman is on your bucket list, and you are a Marriott Bonvoy loyalist or fan, then I would definitely recommend booking at the Al Bustan Palace Ritz Carlton in Muscat. While the rooms could use a little facelift, the resort, overall, is beautiful and majestic, and the service is top-notch.
In addition to that, the hotel’s location along a private stretch of coastline makes it the perfect resort for those looking to get in some beachfront R&R, while also being able to explore all of the fantastic sights and culture that Oman affords!