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Hotel review: InterContinental Muscat (Oman)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel and/or flight review.

Today, I publish my last trip report of my holiday last April in Oman. You can read my other trip reports here:

Today (June 22, 2016): Review of the InterContinental Muscat (Oman).

Set on 35 acres of lush palm gardens between the Hajar Mountains and the sands of the Gulf Coast, the InterContinental Muscat is located in the heart of Oman’s capital. Unfortunately, the hotel – which was built in the 1970s – is in deep need of a major refurbishment (which will happen soon) and currently does not live up to the InterContinental brand’s high-end reputation. Although it’s located along the shore, the beach is public and unattractive. But despite the negatives, the hotel is big on amenities. It offers two floodlit tennis courts, a 25-metre (82 ft) olympic size pool, a lagoon-shaped pool, a fully equipped gym, sauna, and a jacuzzi. Having a good array of leisure facilities and being close to the Muscat’s main commercial districts and the airport, the hotel is still a favorite amongst business travelers and leisure guests alike. Nevertheless, it did not impress me and currently does not deserve its status as luxury hotel (even though I was able to stay at the hotel for free using this travel trick).

InterContinental Muscat features in my top 10 lists of the best hotels in Oman.

In this review (more info below my Youtube clip & slideshow):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • Comparison with other Muscat luxury hotels (Shangri-La, Al Bustan Palace & The Chedi)
  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • The InterContinental Muscat is located along the shoreline in the heart of the city‘s residential, government and diplomatic quarter. The Royal Opera House is just around the corner, and the hotels is only 15 minutes from the airport. Within convenient walking distance of the hotel, there are a number of local eateries.
  • The massive, grey and utterly ugly hotel facade may not be very inviting, but the hotel is actually quite charming and nice inside, especially in the lobby area. The latter is a soaring, seven level, open atrium which makes quite an impression when you arrive at the hotel. There are several shops and bars on the ground floor, including an Irish pub and a bakery, which offers fabulous pastries. One corner of the lobby features a Bedouin inspired tent, which functions as a separate check-in area for VIP guests and elite members of InterContinental’s loyalty program. Glass elevators in the center of the lobby take guests to the guest room floors.
  • The rooms are clean, comfortable and spacious, but that’s about it as they feature a dated, 1990s decor (more on that below). Most rooms have views of the Sea of Oman, the pools and the gardens, and all rooms come with a narrow balcony and ‘French windows’ over their entire width.
  •  WiFi is complimentary to all guests.
  • The hotel has two separate pool areas pool areas: a 25 m (82 ft) olympic sized pool is located adjacent to the main hotel building, while a lagoon-style pool is situated further away in the lush gardens. The latter, which is very popular with families, features several fantasy elements (such as bridges and fountains), and there are plenty of loungers on the lawn around it.
  • The staff is extremely courteous and will do all they can, to make your journey as enjoyable as possible, no matter the request.
  • The Intercontinental is not the most prestigious address in Muscat, which is reflected by its reasonable room rates.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

IMHO, the cons largely outweigh the pros as the InterContinental Muscat in its current state, although I am sure that the hotel could regain its reputation as one of Muscat’s 5-star hotels after a major refurbishment (which will take place soon). During my stay, I encountered several shortcomings:

  • The hotel, built in the 1970s, has not been refurbished since 1999 and it shows. Whist the rooms, communal areas and facilities are all clean and tidy, they feature a severely old-fashioned decor (except for the lobby, which is quite nice). It doesn’t have the luxurious feeling one would expect from a 5* hotel. The good news though it that the InterContinental Muscat will be undergoing a significant overhaul very soon (initial plans to demolish the hotel and build a new one were abandoned): many areas in the hotel will be tackled – including the rooms – but until then, you should not consider this hotel for a leisure luxury holiday.
  • Guest rooms feature utterly disappointing bathroom facilities that one would expect at a cheap motel but not at a luxury resort of this caliber. The bathtub is too small, and you need to take a shower while standing in the bathtub.
  • The lagoon-style pool area lacks the refinement of an upscale hotel environment, and feels more like a public swimming pool than the main pool of a hotel run by one of the world’s most prestigious hotel brands. The pool is surrounded by plastic grass (which has seen its best years long ago) and cheap plastic loungers. This would be acceptable at a 3-star property but not at a resort that claims to be 5 stars.
  • The eastside of the hotel borders a large construction site, where a new resort is being built, day and night (it is rumored to become a W hotel). This construction – which is expected to finish in 2018 – comes with a lot of noise, which can clearly be heard in the east facing rooms and the gardens. To make things worse, the hotel does not display this important information on its website, hereby somewhat misleading its future guests. If you need to stay at the hotel, avoid the rooms facing the construction side.
  • The hotel is branded as beachfront but in fact there is a very high fence between the hotel and the public beach. The beach itself is partly sandy, partly rocky, and not particularly attractive.
  • The InterContinental Muscat does not live up to the glamorous reputation of the InterContinental brand, and is way below the standard of most other InterContinental hotels.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 6/10
  • Design: 3/10
  • Rooms: 4/10
  • Food: 7/10
  • Service: 8/10
  • Overall experience: average: 5,8/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a hotel like the InterContinental Muscat (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Currently, the eastside of the hotel faces a large construction site. Avoid a room in this corner of the hotel at all costs.
  • I stayed for free at the hotel, making use of a Best Rate Guarantee. You can read more on this travel trick here.
  • Intercontinental Ambassador Membership – which can be purchased for 200 USD – comes with benefits such as guaranteed room upgrade, fresh fruit upon arrival, in-room water, in-room gift, single-room rate for double occupancy, extended checkout (up to 4pm), dedicated Ambassador check-in area, complimentary pay-TV film per stay, complimentary newspaper delivered daily, instant check-out, complimentary weekend night certificate, Gold Elite status in IHG Rewards Club, and 5,000 bonus IHG Rewards Club points.
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

COMPARISON WITH OTHER LUXURY HOTELS IN MUSCAT

While Oman’s most impressive hotels – Six Senses Zighy Bay and Alila Jabal Akhdar – are located far away from the Omani capital, most travelers will spend at least a few days in Muscat. If you like to stay in luxury in Muscat, you should stay at one of Muscat’s only 3 luxury hotels (so far) and not at the InterContinental:

  • The Chedi Muscat is definitely the most elegant and stylish resort in the greater Muscat area (with prices to match). One of the great things about The Chedi is that the resort has 3 magnificent pools, two of them being adults only, making it a great choice for a couples gateway. In addition, The Chedi has some of the best fine dining venues of all resorts in Oman. However, The Chedi’s location is not nearly as dramatic as the one of the Al Bustan Palace and Shangri-La Al Husn, and its beach is rather unattractive. Nevertheless, if resort esthetics and exquisite food are of upmost importance to you (and chances are they are since you are following my blog), then you should not think further and book a stay here. Read my review of The Chedi here.
  • Al Bustan Palace, currently managed by the Ritz-Carlton group, impresses its guests with a phenomenal lobby and spectacular resort grounds. It’s located on the most beautiful stretch of beach in and around Muscat (and far beyond), and that beach is for private use of its guests only which makes it even better. Last year, a spectacular Six Senses spa was added to the resort. However, Al Bustan Palace’s communal facilities are older, the accommodations are a bit worn, and the resort has not a separate adults only area. Still, if you are looking for a holiday in a unique setting along one of Oman’s most beautiful beaches, then Al Bustan Palace is your best choice. Read my review of Al Bustan Palace here.
  • Shangri-La Al Husn somewhat combines the best elements of the The Chedi and Al Bustan Palace (although without outclassing The Chedi’s design or Al Bustan Palace’s beach setting). It enjoys a lovely coastal cliff setting, has a nice and private beach, only caters to adults (tranquility guaranteed!), has many good restaurant on site, offers nice free amenties (such as afternoon tea and predinner coctails) and features a contemporary resort design influenced by Arabian elements. Having said that, while it a definitely a 5-star resort, it still feels a tad less exclusive as compared to The Chedi. Read my review of Shangri-La Al Husn here.

BEST TIME TO VISIT MUSCAT

The best time to visit Muscat is during the winter months (October to March). The average temperature during the day is about 30 degree Celsius while the nights are cooler with the temperature dropping down to an average of 15 degree Celsius. Days are sunny most of the time (although recent years have seen an increase of the number of overcast or rainy days). Summer season (April to September) is extremely hot and humid and very unsuitable for travel. The average temperature during this season peaks up to an average of 40 degree Celsius. Sometimes the temperature can go as high as 50 degree Celsius during the day.


HOW TO GET THERE

InterContinental Muscat, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, is located a 20 min drive from Muscat International Airport. Check the Wikipedia page of Muscat International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Muscat.


HOTEL EXTERIOR & ENTRANCE

HOTEL EXTERIOR & ENTRANCE

HOTEL EXTERIOR & ENTRANCE

HOTEL EXTERIOR & ENTRANCE

HOTEL EXTERIOR & ENTRANCE

HOTEL EXTERIOR & ENTRANCE

HOTEL EXTERIOR & ENTRANCE

HOTEL EXTERIOR & ENTRANCE

HOTEL EXTERIOR & ENTRANCE

HOTEL EXTERIOR & ENTRANCE

HOTEL EXTERIOR & ENTRANCE

HOTEL EXTERIOR & ENTRANCE

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LOBBY: BAKERY

LOBBY: BAKERY

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LOBBY: ELEVATORS

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CLASSIC ROOM: ROOM SERVICE

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CLASSIC ROOM: BALCONY

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CLASSIC ROOM: VIEW

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OLYMPIC SIZED POOL

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BEACH

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LOBBY AT NIGHT

LOBBY AT NIGHT

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LOBBY AT NIGHT

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4 Comments on Hotel review: InterContinental Muscat (Oman)

  1. Dear LTE,

    Presumably you are aware that the construction work next door is the new ‘W’ Hotel? Once operational the trusty old Intercon is being demolished to make way for a new one.

    Regards

    Nigel

    Like

    • Hi Nigel, while I was at the hotel, I was told that initial plans to demolish the hotel and build a new one were abandoned a couple of years ago. Instead, the InterContinental will be refurbished very soon. The W hotel next door will probably be a very nice property (it’s also located closer to the sea). KR

      Like

  2. stace29@gmail.com // October 20, 2016 at 2:13 pm // Reply

    Hello – I am booked to stay at this hotel in a couple of weeks, but after reading this may switch to the Crowne Plaza (I have 2 free nights with IHG group so these are my only options.) Do you know if the Crowne Plaza is better than the Intercontinental? I may switch if so!

    Like

    • The Intercon has got more going on around it as it is next door to a small mall and has a Trader Vics attached to it, whereas the Crown Plaza is on the top of a cliff on its own so you need a taxi to go anywhere. The CP has much better sundowner views and the terrace/bar is OK, there are no real views from the Intercon. The Intercon is more shabby as it is due for a big change soon, but I like its larger grounds and pool areas, the CP is on a much smaller plot. The gyms are about the same. Both hotels are within walking distance of ‘beaches’. Remember this is Oman, so there is no normal nightlife 😉

      Like

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