Sunday, 11 March 2012

Hotel Review: The award-winning Chedi Muscat (1/3)

Perfect Tranquility, but book a suite!

I heard about the Chedi Muscat years ago when it first opened, and despite numerous visits to Oman I hadn’t ever stayed there.  On a recent visit I thought I’d try it out and after quite a  bit of trouble finding a room, I booked 2 deluxe rooms at this Conde-Nast Traveler award-winning resort for a friend and I and checked in for two nights.  

The Chedi is a beautiful resort hotel and caters for tourists who want a beach getaway.   If you are visiting for business, this is probably not the hotel for you. The hotel concept is very Asian, similar to tropical resorts in terms of landscape, with some Omani touches in the design.   We went during the week, and it was nice and quiet which was pure bliss. The other guests were mainly older couples with very few families, and it was much quieter and classier than the similar villa hotel resorts in Dubai which seem to attract a different class of tourist.

Due to the length of this review, I am publishing it in three parts, to cover accommodation, food and spa separately.
Accommodation, service and facilities

Driving up to the Chedi is a bit of a let-down because it is off a busy road and the driveway is mainly shrubbery. The drive up to the hotel is a bit shabby and desert like and at night there was barely any lighting. We were immediately put off by the lack of landscaping, but later were told that that outside area is not the property of the hotel.

The outer gate to the Chedi Muscat 

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Haitham, who seated us in the lobby while he attended to our check-in paperwork.  We were served a welcome drink and cold towel while we waited.  The lobby was the second disappointment: if u like a hotel lobby, this will disappoint (if you’ve ever stayed at the Muscat Grand Hyatt, for example,  think of this as the exact opposite).  The center of the lobby area is a large seating area and there are couches all around the walls.  The lobby ceiling is basically a tent and it doesn’t let much light in, so it is not very welcoming.  Although they told us the hotel was fully booked, at no time was the lobby full so it's not used as a central hub in the hotel.

Hotel lobby 

We arrived before 2pm which is their check-in time and one of our 2 rooms wasn't ready. They gave us the key for one room and told us to check back by 2 for the second.  We waited till 2 only to be told that the second room wasn’t ready either! At 2:10 we decided to go and have lunch and get the room after that.  I wasn’t very happy with this as I expect that check-in time can be honored.

So the first impression was not good.

The deluxe room- Great amenities, average design

Open plan lay-out of the Deluxe room*

Mood lighting at night

Couch area and TV face the bed in a studio-style

The website describes the 39sqm deluxe room as open plan, which it is. You walk in and to your immediate right and left there is an open closet area (on each side) and then the WC on the far left and the rain shower cubicle (no handheld douche) on the far right.  There is a door to both the shower and WC (which includes a toilet with bidet).  I really hated the design of this; the WC was really tight and having a shower room that was not next to the WC was odd.
WC and sink to the left when you enter the room; the open closet is opposite the sink
The shower cubicle is identical, located opposite this to the right

Sinks are on both sides of the area when you walk in

The bedroom and sitting area are in the form of a studio facing each other and there is s small desk and chair by the window. The couch is right under the tv so you can only watch tv from the bed or desk.

Although the room had floor-to-ceiling windows, they were done in a way that they are split into one large window and then a few narrower windows, so the room doesn’t get an optimal flow of light.

The wooden decor is minimalist with hues of brown, and you can feel the Asian design with everything sitting quite low (couch, bed,side tables). Room cleanliness was very good and the furniture fixtures are all good as new.

The amenities in the room are very good, with Aigner bath products, a Nespresso machine and tea kettle, a safe, ice bucket, hairdryer, and a minibar.  All water (Arwa), soft drinks, juices and beer are  provided complimentary and replenished once a day. Wine and liquers are chargeable. This is really family friendly as it's basically all you can drink!  The room also has free WiFi which is another great touch.

The airconditioning is really good if you like to sleep in a freeze like I do, but I switched it off during the day because it was too cold. The bed mattress is quite hard which is odd for a resort hotel. The night lighting is really dim which is great for sleep inducement but the corridors at night are too dim.
Dimly lit corridor at night
One of the things I really didn’t like about this room is that it didn't have a bath, which if I had known in advance I would have enquired  about their suites or stayed elsewhere, as I consider it to be an essential when I travel.  The shower didn’t have a handheld douche either, which is also not convenient.  The towels in the bathroom are placed on a shelf in the shower cubicle, and unlike the rest of room, this is really high so is difficult to reach if you’re short!
I had a room that overlooked the Water Garden, which was lovely especially at night with its flame torches and romantic lighting. 
The Water Garden

My room view, overlooking the Water Garden

My friend’s room overlooked the side of the hotel though, with a backdrop of Hajjar mountains but in hazy weather you can’t see these so you are pretty much facing grass and the hotel’s outer wall. 

All in all, the room was not what I had expected in terms of design and comfort, although the provided amenities were good.  For around OMR 150 per night, I expected something much fancier with a much better bathroom.  I had read online reviewers who had said that if you are staying here, to stay at a suite or not to bother, and I couldn’t agree more.

The Suites – best  accommodation option

The true glory of this hotel is in its villas and the area behind the main building. The villas section is at the back of the property and completely unexpected if you don’t know about it.  Nice lush greenery, white-washed villas with dark wood, big hefty palmtrees. We went to look at the 67sqm suites- and these are really the only accommodation worth staying at if you’re coming. 

Villas come in 1 and 2 storeys, but only offer 1-bedroom suites

The living area in the suite*
Larger bedrooms are available in the suite, with king beds.
Kids can be  accommodated on the sofa benches in the living area*

Large bath in the Chedi Suite*
Separate shower cubicle in the suite

Each suite comes with a private terrace or balcony overlooking a water garden 

Suite's terrace view

Lush greenery and beautiful palms form the landscaping of the  hotel grounds

One bedrooms are available only, for 2 adults with a maximum of 2 kids who can sleep on the sofa benches in the living area. The suites come with a really large bathroom, including bath and separate shower, a large seating area, and either a great terrace or balcony where you can enjoy quiet scenery.  The villas don’t come with their own pool so you would have to use 1 of the 3 common pools- all of which are gorgeous.  Some of the villas are two storeys, consisting of two separate 1- bedroom suites, so if you are coming in a group or as more than one family, you would need to try to book a two storey villa with two separate suites so you can be together – they don’t have 2-bedroom suites.

Beautiful landscape

Other than the driveway, the hotel grounds are beautifully landscaped and maintained. Flame torches and candles form the main lighting at night. The beach is nice and long, but we went during a busy time and all the deck chairs were taken. There are three pools, all of which are quite large and gorgeously tempting to swim in.  There are many scenic options with seating to enjoy the view or to have a meal. The gardens are immaculately manicured, and at night the waterways and walkways are all candle-lit making it a very romantic—though very dark—setting.

The gardens at the back of the hotel in the suites section

The Chedi Pool

The Serai pool

My personal favorite, the Long Pool, overlooking the sea

The Long Pool at night, with the spa in the building to the left

Deck chairs at the Chedi Pool

Private sandy beachfront

Quiet and calming beach area for hotel guests

Manicured gardens at the Chedi against stark contrast of white buildings

First class Service

Service at all times was first class although I wasn't happy about the room not being ready at check in time.  The staff in all the restaurants we tried were very professional, (special mention to Rajan at the Restaurant), both for in room- dining and restaurants.  Haitham, who handled our check-in, helped us over the course of our stay and was very courteous. Housekeeping was quick to attend to requests, and aimed to please.  I called them by mistake for something I wanted from the valet and they were very helpful and saw to my request.  Later that day I called them for something else and the person who answered remembered my earlier request and asked if it had been attended to. 
Each night, a card is left by Housekeeping with an Arabic word: here "alsa'ada", or happiness

Most notable of all was that the hotel staff were mainly Omanis, and were dedicated to high service, at all times friendly and helpful.  As a Gulf woman, I usually feel uncomfortable being served by Arabs at hotels but they were very respectful and accommodative and it was quite inspiring to see.

So overall, the accommodation is a bit disappointing and dark. The indoor space all needs more light and at night, the gardens are also too dark (we walked to the Beach Restaurant at night for dinner and could just barely see where we were going).
If I were to stay there again, I would not stay at a normal room - either come as a couple and stay in a suite or if you are part of the #foreveralone club then bring a group of friends, rent a villa with two suites and make a spa escape weekend out of it. 

The hotel has won numerous and repeated awards.  A sampling of the awards received for the hotel itself are as follows, with additional awards won for food and spa:

  • TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards | 2012   Top 25 Relaxation & Spa Hotels and Top 25 Trendiest Hotels in the Middle East.
  • Conde Nast Traveller UK | 2011   Readers' Travel Awards - No.19 in The World's Top 100 - Best Overseas Leisure Hotels in the Middle East, Africa & the Indian Ocean
  • Conde Nast Traveller UK | 2009  Readers' Award - No.1 in Spas in Middle East, Africa & Indian Ocean
  • Commitment to Quality Award | 2008  The Leading Hotels Of The World
  • Conde Nast Traveller UK | 2008  Readers' Award - No. 1 in Leisure Hotels in Middle East, Africa & Indian Ocean
  • Conde Nast Traveller UK | 2008  Readers' Award - No. 2 in The World's Top 100

Stay tuned for the continuation of this review in our next post, covering food at The Chedi!
Unbeatable landscaping with palmtrees reminding you that you are in one of the most beautiful countries in the Gulf!

Images with an * are taken from the hotel website:

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