The title of this post is a lie.
It should really be called “Weekend at Al Bustan Palace, A Ritz Carlton Hotel, Which Just Happens to Be in Muscat” because well, I really didn’t see much of Muscat while I was in town. What I did see was an awful lot of Al Bustan. Not a bad thing.
There was a particularly good World Traveler Plus flight deal on the round-trip to Muscat, so I snatched that up when I saw it. And then there was Al Bustan, a place I’ve read about for ages and always wondered about. The Sultan of Oman keeps a place here…I was hoping to meet him, but sadly he wasn’t around.
My arrival in Muscat was not, unfortunately, auspicious. There were two parts to this:
- BA has started serving “snack boxes” instead of a full breakfast on long-haul flights. I was handed an egg and cress sandwich and given a choice of breakfast bars. After a few bits of the egg and cress sandwich, something just didn’t feel right. Keep reading.
- At one point in the taxi from the airport, we took a sharp turn and all my belongings went flying. Including my UK mobile phone, which I didn’t realize at the time.
So I arrived at the hotel only to figure out that I didn’t have my mobile phone with me. (Thankfully, the hotel knew the taxi driver and he returned with my phone about 20 minutes later, while I was still a mess in the lobby.) Then as soon as I got to my hotel room, I promptly vomited egg and cress and Strawberry Nutrigrain Bar all over the carpet.
After the very nice man from housekeeping cleaned up after me with the heavy duty carpet cleaner, I passed out for three or four hours. Remarkably refreshed, I made my way to the pool.
And I never left for four whole days.
OK okay…except once, to go to the spa for a very good (but not amazingly great) massage.
The pool at Al Bustan is lovely. Oddly, I had it to myself for most of my stay, even though there were hundreds of other guests lounging poolside. Do people not like pools? I do not understand.
I also left the pool one other time, to go to the souk. It was nice. Very local. And I was struck by how much Omanis like patterns and jewelry and embellishments. But it was hot and I had that pool to get back to, so I didn’t stay very long. Also, I had made a faux pas and although my arms were covered, my legs weren’t. I definitely got one long “You should know better” look as I was wandering through the gold souk. (Note I saw many Western tourists in many skimpy outfits so in comparison, I was in good shape. But be respectful, friends.)
I *really* liked Al Bustan. The lobby is fantastic and the hotel staff are just so very lovely. (And so very international.) I was pleasantly surprised by many of the food and beverages offers — in a lot of hotels these days, it’s hard to get away from lunch for less than $40 USD. But Al Bustan had “All You Can Eat Taco Night” and daily happy hour specials. Well done. The breakfast buffet was also one of the best I’ve ever seen.
The only downside to Al Bustan — the whole country actually — is that Skype and most other VoIP services are blocked. So you will need a VPN! Read my VPN post for more about this.
Al Bustan is now closed for most of the year as it undergoes significant renovations. (I believe day passes to the beach will still be available.) I’m not sure how they can improve on perfection, but I look forward to returning in 2018 and seeing what they’ve been up to. You should too.