Inside a palace hotel with a personalized Omani touch
In October, the Al Bustan Palace, A Ritz Carlton Hotel in Muscat opened its doors after a year-long makeover. At its inauguration ceremony, conducted across the lush lawns touching the beach, was the hashtag #thepalacereturns. For many present at the event, the hashtag provided not just an opportunity for an Instagram-worthy picture, but also a moment to be nostalgic about the three decades old palace hotel.
Built in 1985 to host the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit, the Al Bustan Palace went on to set high standards in luxury hospitality. Set against the backdrop of the Al Hajar mountains and a coastal stretch, the hotel has Omani history at its heart. In its vicinity are some of the city’s oldest heritages like the Muttrah Fort, Old Muscat and the old settlement of Sidab.
Walking into the palace hotel is almost like walking into a place within the city that is an intersection of two worlds - grandiosity of Omani heritage and ultra modern international luxury.
The palatial architecture, complete with its trademark crystal chandelier (which is also the world’s largest), intricate handcrafted wall coverings, and an ambience that is heavily influenced by Arabian art, history and culture, is a rich sensory experience.
The standard of ‘luxury’ and service at a Ritz Carlton property is without doubt one of the finest in the hospitality world. So how does a palace hotel that has already set a high benchmark in hospitality reinvent itself? The answer lies in ‘personalisation’, achieved by incorporating Omani culture, renowned the world over for its hospitality and warmth.
Luxury today is about the element of personalised service that encompasses everything, from design to room service to food and beverages. It’s about tailoring an experience for the guests. It is precisely for this that the hotel takes the personalised-touch approach.
“The days of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach are long gone,” says Katrin Herz, general manager of Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel. “True luxury in hospitality is not about facilities, it’s about creating story-telling lifetime experiences. When people visit a destination, they want to live and appreciate the culture, and we play a major role in making that happen to create cherished memories.”
That personalised touch
While Omani heritage adds its own regal touch to the operations and services - from the greeting upon entry with Omani coffee and dates to a frankincense-infused farewell - the palace hotel has also made history with its interior design.
For the very first time, the sultanate’s Royal Estates Royal Court Affairs has stepped in and helped re-imagine the refurbishment and design. The influence is visible right from the lobby to the rooms. The newly renovated rooms are inspired by the patterns of the mashrabiya and there are a lot of Omani arts and crafts on display. The corridors are laden with photographs that highlight the stunning landscape and places in the sultanate. “Every aspect of Al Bustan Palace takes references from Oman’s rich culture and heritage and is redefined through modern luxury to tantalise the five senses,” says Katrin, adding, “At the Ritz-Carlton, we are constantly inspired by the destinations where we operate.”
The recently added Lagoon Suites remain the jewel in the crown. As the name suggests, the rooms come with an all-day (and night) access to the lagoon-like pool from the attached balcony area. Inside the rooms, be it for the floral arrangements or the edible chocolate display in the shape of khanjars or dallahs , there is a culturally-inspired vibe. The rooms even offer an element of a ‘hi-tech’ personalisation - a personalised welcome addressed directly to you displayed on a smart TV and the functionality of syncing your e-mails and digital apps.
To top it all, the property, spread across 200 acres, gives its guest the most unique gift of a private coastline.
The experience of sitting by the cabanas along the coastline and enjoying the azure waters of the Gulf of Oman is as priceless as it gets.
Some interesting facts
DOME OF DOMES: Rising 38m from the Atrium Lobby, the iconic grand dome is 3m taller than the Taj Mahal’s marble dome and is structurally strong enough to hold the 5.5 tonne crystal chandelier centrepiece.
DIAMOND IN THE SKY: The HPS/Czechoslovakian-designed chandelier in the Atrium Lobby measures over 18m in length and weighs 5.5 tonnes. Beneath the chandelier sits a 3.5m tall and over 2.5 tonne custom-designed fountain with a large crystal vase at the centre that shimmers from the sprinkles of light above.
UNCHAINED MELODY: The Majan Ballroom houses a pipe organ installed in 1985 by Mander Organs of London, and until today, is still maintained and tuned annually.
THE PALATIAL 8: Considered a lucky number in many cultures symbolising prosperity and harmony, the Al Bustan Place, A Ritz-Carlton Hotel, embraces the number eight throughout the property. The hotel is shaped as an octagon with eight Presidential Suites on the eighth floor.