Being Oman-based and trapped by the ever-changing COVID-19-related travel restrictions, staycations within Muscat and Oman are the only shot I’ve got. In my curiosity of sampling the international hotel pool and my flirting with IHG loyalty, I wanted to give Crowne Plaza Muscat OCEC a try as a hotel guest rather than a frequent diner at their fabulous Thai restaurant, Charm Thai. LOCATION: Businesses are all about “location, location, location”, and off the cuff this property might come across an odd choice: it’s part of the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre, a large, purpose-built convention facility with the five-star JW Marriott, four-star Crowne Plaza and a three-star Ibis Styles [construction has yet to start on this one] complementing it. The greater plot it sits in is a masterplanned development called Madinat Al Irfan, which will encompass residences, commercial activities and outdoor spaces - but absolutely none of this has been built yet and it doesn’t seem like it will soon, so the immediate area is rather sparse except for the lovely wadi and greenery just below one side of the hotel. On the plus side, the isolation makes for a relatively peaceful experience at the hotel, without the noise you’d get from revving engines and general activity like at hotels in Qurum. The hotel is also next to a major highway and feeder roads that connect it easily to the rest of Muscat with minimal fuss. Muscat International Airport [MCT] is approximately a ten-minute drive from the hotel, and can be easily accessed via taxi, rental or hotel car. ENTRANCE/LOBBY: The hotel’s unassuming beige exterior, punctuated by large windows, angular protrusions and a curved end, sets the tone for the general theme of the design: corporate, well-built and very tame. The driveway is bordered on either side by generous amounts of shaded and unshaded parking, and a multistory parking garage is also available for guests on a complimentary basis. Upon entering the lobby, one is greeted by a curvy light fixture which looks either like a fingerprint or a topographical map, with a concierge desk on the right and the reception desks on the left. Plenty of seating in groups of two or four are dotted throughout the central space under the feature light fixture, and large windows flood the space with light. Check-in was a bit frazzled: I arrived on a Sunday afternoon, the start of the work week in Muscat, and I believe several guests were checking out. Only one reception desk was manned by an Omani associate, Maiyasa, while two other Omani male associates seemed more interested in talking to one another and disappearing in the back rather than helping control the crowds or seeing if they could help guests. This being the age of COVID, we weren’t temperature-checked as we walked into the hotel [although they’re usually good at this] and no social distancing measures or proper mask-wearing were actively enforced by the staff; a local man stood directly behind me and was repeatedly coughing rather discomfortingly, and even as I moved away several times this issue was not proactively recognized or addressed by the staff. When I finally got to the counter, Maiyasa processed my check-in, acknowledged my IHG Platinum status, and informed me of an upgrade that was graciously arranged by the hotel’s upper management. The room was not initially ready and we were told to wait for a few minutes, but then we had keys issued and were quickly told that the room was in fact ready. ROOMS: Access to the guest room floors is via keycard access for an extra bit of security, with four elevators available. As the hotel moves away from plastics, the keycards are made of wood and are very cool to handle. I booked an entry-level room but was upgraded to the best-in-house Diplomatic Suite on the fifth floor. Located at the end of the hall, the double door opened onto a small foyer and hallway that extended to the bedroom and guest bathroom on the left, and the office and main living area on the right. At approximately 158 square meters of living space, this is a very spacious suite. The main living room features a dedicated dining area with dining table and six chairs under a feature light fixture, a living area with two couches, two chairs, coffee table and large television, and a separate kitchen-like area with a full-sized refrigerator, sink and storage for dishes and cutlery. The living room opens onto a large terrace overlooking the pool below and wadi beyond, with sea views to the left and mountain views to the right. The terrace was furnished two four-top tables, two sun loungers and a couch, making it perfect to relax on. There is an office within the suite with a desk, office chair and two seats as well as a television within the room. A guest bathroom is available just down the hall from the office to the left of the main entrance. The private space of the suite consists of an entry foyer leading to a walk-in closet straight ahead and the bedroom to the left. Fitted with a comfortable king-sized bed, chaise at the end of the bed and an armchair, the bedroom was conservatively furnished in a similar aesthetic to the standard hotel rooms, with views over the convention center and the emptiness of the upcoming Madinat Al Irfan development. The ensuite bathroom featured a large Jacuzzi front-and-center, with a double vanity and shower stall on one side, with a separate toilet room on the other featuring the commode, a bidet and another sink. A large peek-a-boo window overlooking the bedroom forms part of the bathroom design, and I didn’t notice if there was any curtain or privacy barrier to close it off. The bathroom also features a large window overlooking the outside world, but there are heavy-duty curtains to close those views off. Air-conditioning is individually controllable. I was looking very forward to using the beckoning Jacuzzi but it sadly wasn’t working during my stay - the little screen kept restarting and none of the buttons would do anything. Be warned that the lights are a bit finicky: all the lights come on when you enter the room, and are controlled by touch-sensitive switches that don’t necessarily turn off what you want them to. Wi-fi is complimentary for members of IHG Rewards, with fast connection speeds and very good coverage throughout the room and property. FOOD/BEVERAGE: The hotel offers five restaurants and bars: Mosaic for all-day dining, Charm Thai for the best Thai food in the capital, Le Petit Belge for Belgian food [as it were], the Wadi Bar by the poolside and Connexions in the lobby. My rate included breakfast, which we took at Mosaic. Due to COVID, the regular buffet is gone but has been replaced by one of those concepts where it’s still a buffet, only you point at what you want and a staff member handled all the food and dishes for you. I must say that the quality and selection were fantastic, and easily exceeded the offerings at the Crowne Plaza’s luxury-level sister hotel, InterContinental Muscat; cheeses included cheddar, blue and Taleggio, there was an Asian-style poached fish, two kinds of leafy greens and mezzes such as baba ganoush, labneh and an excellent hummus were up there in addition to the staples of cereal, fruits and such. Staff took orders for egg dishes, and they were brought to our table. I think I’m still full from the gigantic omelette I received! We had drinks and a bite at the Wadi Bar on the first night, and lunch on the second day. I had Negronis while my partner had a generous pour of red wine and we shared a quattro formaggi pizza, while lunch consisted of a kale, quinoa and avocado salad, seared teriyaki tuna with chopped mango and tomato, and a veggie panini. The food was fresh and very well made, and the staff mix up a mean Negroni. Annoyingly, Charm Thai, which I’ve been to several times before, is closed on Sundays and Mondays, and we found this out the hard way over our Sunday-to-Monday stay. We arrived at the hotel around 1:30 PM ravenous, and were told by the reception that the only choice to eat at the hotel was room service, which was very inconvenient… and, as we later found out, untrue since the Wadi Bar was technically open. We instead went out of the hotel for lunch. LEISURE: The hotel has a large, lovely swimming pool on the lower ground floor with plenty of loungers, a separate kid’s pool, grounds to walk around in and a tennis court. The hotel also has a spa, Uru, but we didn’t partake in its facilities during our stay. I’m not sure if they’re open or not given the wildly-fluctuating rules in Oman at this time. FACILITIES: The hotel has spacious meeting facilities and is ultimately a feeder hotel for the adjacent convention center. With the pandemic and a ban on events and gatherings, these were all silent, but are ready for when things hopefully open up again. SERVICE: First and foremost, I have to express my deep gratitude to the hotel’s upper management and new general manager, Adam, for the exceptional upgrade we received. The hotel’s F&B manager, Nishant, is also great. I want to give special mentions to Joey at the Wadi Bar, Moe at Mosaic and Maiyasa and Shadia from the reception for their friendliness and professionalism, and for making interactions pleasant. I do have some constructive criticism for the property in the form of empowering their staff to rigorously enforce COVID-related rules such as the aforementioned crowding/coughing issue I encountered at check-in and by asking guests to properly wear their masks when dealing with staff and wandering indoors. This is an Oman-wide problem, and a lot of it stems from the cultural schism between locals acting untouchable and service staff who are not supposed to question them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this needs to change - rules are rules. I would also urge the management to better staff the front desk and make sure that the male associates shape up - poor Maiyasa works super-hard checking people in and out, answering phones, delegating orders to staff, keeping the hotel running and still being pleasant under all the stress, and she could use real help. OVERALL: For a four-star hotel competing in a crowded and heavily-branded market, Crowne Plaza Muscat OCEC punches above its weight with very competitive rates, good food, clean facilities and well-intentioned staff. A bit of fine-tuning will serve it better, but I have faith that the new management will do right by it especially with all the new energy and fresh ideas they plan to inject into the hotel. I’ll be back.…
Mr Nishant Tyagi, F&B Manager, told us about the hotel's brunch together with other reasons to choose this hotel. He was extremely helpful, professional and definitely one of our main reasons to go back. We celebrated a friend’s birthday and stayed over for the weekend, which included the brunch on Friday. We were so impressed! Birthday cake and a fruit basket were arranged for our friend in his room, our rooms were also spotless, spacious and modern. Brunch was out of this world! We couldn’t stop taking pictures of the displays of mouthwatering, DELICIOUS FIVE STAR FOOD! Even the General Manager came to greet us at our table. We will definitely be back. Friendly staff, beautiful hotel, great amenities!
We had a great stay. Thank you for being part of my husband birthday getaway. You made it memorable. Staff are accommodating especially in Mosaic Restaurant. Sumptuous food were served hot. Kudos to all staff for awesome service ☺️ Highly recommended 👍
The staff are great! We really enjoyed our stay and Beverly at breakfast was very sweet and helpful! All the staff were very friendly and i would recommend staying at the Crown Plaza! Exceptional service
Stayed with friends for 2 nights. The breakfast for both times were great, specially the freshly cooked omelette. Their service in Mosaic was excellent. Rooms were clean. Will definitely come back. Keep it up!