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Reviewed October 7, 2011

Stayed at the Al Bustan for the second time at the beginning of September and was especially interested in any possible changes that may have occurred as a result of becoming part of the Ritz Carlton family in July of this year. Needn't have worried in the slightest as our holiday could not have been surpassed. Familiar faces amongst the members of staff are still there, always a welcome and a smile......food still as great as ever. Our holiday last year fell during Ramadan and so this time we were able to sample the delights of the Al Maha Lounge....what a fantastic place to 'chill'. We're already planning another return in 2012...Inshallah!!

  • Stayed: September 2011, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank mrsyobi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 6, 2011

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.

Room Tip: Choose a high floor if possible and a room near the elevators which descend straight to the restaurant/beach level.
  • Stayed: September 2011, traveled solo
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3  Thank voronUK
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 2, 2011

This was our first time back to the Al Bustan Palace for some years (and the first since it changed to a Ritz Carlton). First thing we noticed was the change to the fabulous lobby. Upon arrival we immediately looked up to see the "stars" and then the (mainly) blue mosiac-type tiling on the walls. Both now gone (apparently they were falling down and the whole had to be refurbished). In their place are spectacular chandeliers and gold tiling - equally stunning as before but somehow I missed the old lobby! Check-in - quick and professional. The room we were originally allocated turned out to be a long way from a lift (not good for husband with gammy leg!). Immediately given another room nearer the lift. The rooms were evidently left-over from the "Old Arabian-style" ones (evidence of which was still in the bathrooms). Sadly this contrived to make the rooms look tired and dated which, as we were on a special offer, we couldn't really complain about. The infinity pool? Fabulous. A lovely outlook when having breakfast and excellent for dipping in to cool down in the Summer heat. Nice touches with cool box replete with cold water, water-spritzers, cold flannels and chilled fruit kebabs/iced-smoothies/ice-cream regularly brought round by the staff.

The buffet restaurant was excellent (and we've eaten in the Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi/Shangri La, Muscat, so we can make the comparison). Staff were attentive and very good (without being fawning) and special mention goes to Domenique. What a nice man and very helpful. Chinese restaurant a bit of a let down. Quite rowdy. Can't fault the food and presentation but it was not the "Chinese" we are used to in London - so more our problem than the restaurant's. Booking is essential as it is very popular with people from outside the hotel as well as the guests and in the Summer the number of covers is reduced as the outside isn't used. "Marjan" (?) was "closed for refurbishment". The Beach Pavilion was a bit of a let-down. Had two meals there. First time we both had lobster. Excellent, but they got the accompaniments wrong and to add insult-to-injury they were lukewarm. Tried it again the next night - the lobster was over-cooked and the BBQ of meats was a joke. Unbelievably small portions and the scraggy piece of chicken (no idea what the "cut" was!), was incredibly tough and overcooked - inedible. Again the accompaniments were cold and underdone. Sent it back. To be fair, though we argued that we wanted to pay the full price as the lobster had been eaten, when the bill came it had been taken off. Would have much preferred the food to have been better rather than the refund of it. The buffet seemed to win out every time.

So, in summary:

(a) Hotel - still spectacular
(b) Staff - biggest asset
(c) Food - bit of a moveable feast, apart from buffet
(d) Rooms - tired (only saw two, of course, but other guests mentioned it, too)
(e) Wifi - ought to be complimentary like many other luxury hotels
(f) Complimentary tea/coffee etc available in-room a nice, and welcome, touch
(g) Room service - fast and tasty

An excellent holiday was had by these two old farts, apart from one or two minor grievances. Very much looking forward to our next visit ...

Room Tip: The "Lagoon" rooms looked interesting (ground floor) and the third floor (so that you get a better view of the sea) would be my tip if, like us, you're one of the "poorer" guests!
  • Stayed: September 2011, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Carol D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 1, 2011

They've got all the elements of a 6-star hotel: an elegant lobby, enormous domed atrium, cheerful staff dressed in local costume, comfortable rooms, tidy bathrooms decorated with colourful Arabic tiles, wonderful buffet meals, etc. But what's more, the staff accommodated what clients need as possible - our flight arrived early at 5am and they managed to get us a room at 6am without any additional charges (whilst most hotels claim this as an "early check-in"). All drinks in the fringe were also complimentary. Importantly, there's a gorgeous private beach as well as a well-landscaped garden! Based on my experience, this hotel, in no doubt, deserves to be one of the "1,000 places before you die".

  • Stayed: September 2011, traveled with friends
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4  Thank leeyikki
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 24, 2011

From the moment we arrived everything was perfect; reception, room, staff, food, atmosphere I could go on. It was a truly amazing place to stay and incredibly relaxing. The staff were helpful courteous, welcoming and always smiling. The food was amazing at all the restaurants. The decor was beautiful, but the lobby was magnificent. Our room was great as were the room staff This hotel is a must stay when in Oman.

  • Stayed: September 2011, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank maggiew1961
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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