A month ago, I enjoyed a terrific holiday with one of my best friends in incredibly beautiful Oman. I will publish my trip reports over the coming weeks:
- Trip report: British Airways B787-9 First Class London to Muscat
- Review: Shangri-La Al Husn (today)
- Review: Alila Jabal Akhdar
- Review: Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton hotel
- Review: The Chedi Muscat
- Review: InterContinental Muscat
- Trip report: Emirates A380 First Class Dubai to Amsterdam
Today (May 11, 2016): Review of the Shangri-La Al Husn hotel, Muscat (Oman).
Exclusively located on the bay at Barr Al Jissah, the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa nestles against the dramatic backdrop of the rugged interior mountains and the spectacular waters of the Gulf of Oman. The resort consists of three separate hotels: Al Waha (Oman’s first dedicated family hotel), Al Bandar, and kids-free Al Husn. This is primarily a review of the Al Hushn hotel, which offers Shangri-La’s highest level of service, amenities and privileges. Its 180 rooms and suites are amongst the largest and most luxurious in Oman, with an inviting décor inspired by royal Arabian palaces and accented by authentic Omani artworks. Guests can enjoy access to the private a 100-mere (328 ft) beach, as well as enjoy complimentary mini-bar, daily complimentary afternoon tea and pre-dinner cocktails and canapés service.
Shangri-La Al Husn features in my top 10 list of the best luxury 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 luxury hotels in Muscat (Al Bustan Palace & The Chedi)
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa enjoys a privileged, idyllic location in a secluded cove on a magnificent stretch of undeveloped, rocky coastline, where sandstone cliffs meet clear blue water. The resort ‘s remoteness is one of its man attributes, although it’s only a 15 minute ride via a beautiful mountain pass to the capital of Oman, Muscat, and a 40 minute ride to Muscat International Airport.
- The 640 room Shangri-La property is divided in three separate hotels, Al Husn (The Castle), Al Bandar (The Town) and Al Waha (Oasis), which all have a different focus but share some facilities. The 262 room Al Waha hotel is Oman’s first dedicated family resort and lives up to its name with several swimming pools merging to form a serene oasis surrounded by date palms. The 198 room Al Waha hotel resembles a village inspired by old Muscat architecture and targets meetings and conference business. The palatial Al Husn retreat is the most exclusive compound of the 3 neighboring Shangri-La properties, a suitably exclusive castle catering to the most discerning of travelers.
- The setting of the Shangri-La Al Husn is nothing less than spectacular. The resort sits atop a gently rising promontory, overlooking its two sister resorts and affording great views of the deep turquoise blue water of the Sea of Oman, which contrasts vividly with the majestic mountains that rise behind the resort.
- From the outside, Al Husn’s design is inspired by the historic architecture of Omani forts, but on the inside it feels more like an opulent Arabian palace. The high-ceilinged lobby features simple elements of classic Islamic architecture and clean curves leading to a dome that is covered in gold leaf. A beautiful hallway, lined by water parties and bronze bird statues, leads to a tranquil relaxation lounge, while the majestic check-in area is located on the opposite side. One of the lobby’s most striking features is the calming aroma of smoldering incense.
- Behind the lobby, there’s a large, serene courtyard which is the décor of complimentary pre-dinner drinks and canapés in the evening (provided to all guests). From the courtyard, stairs under an arch take you further down to Al Husn’s large swimming pool, which overlooks the Gulf of Oman and is surrounded by date palms and comfortable sun loungers. The pool appears to merge into the ocean and is heated to the temperature of a warm bath, which makes a dip possible on the more chilly Omani winter evenings. There’s also a large Jacuzzi built into one side of the pool.
- The 180 room and suites at Al Husn come in five categories, ranging from deluxe rooms to the royal suite. During my holiday, I stayed in a deluxe sea view room, which was spacious, comfortable, beautifully decorated and came with gorgeous views of the pool area and the turquoise waters of the sea. The room featured a kingsized bed, a full-size executive writing desk, thick colourful carpet, and a vast marble bathroom. The latter was stocked with an impressive range of L’Occitane products and had a spacious shower and separate toilet, with bath on one side and a wardrobe on the other side. There’s a peekaboo window between the bedroom and bathroom that can be closed by a beautiful wooden lattice-work for complete privacy.
- The in-room amenities are great. Fresh fruit is replenished daily, and that’s the case for the complimentary mini-bar as well. The latter is generously stocked with sweets, savoury snacks, soft drinks and two cans of beer: all these are free (the liquors are chargeable).
- Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa provides it guests with 600 meters (1970 feet) of pristine coastline, including a very large beach. In addition, Al Hash boasts its own beautiful stretch of sandy beach that is accessible to Al Husn guests only and where the bare golden cliffs plunge directly into the sea. It’s only a 5 minute stroll down the path from Al Husn to the beach, although buggies can take you there as well if you wish so. The private, golden sand beach is 100 m (328 ft) long with plenty of shaded loungers for all guests. Adjacent to the beach, there’s also a sandy terrace that provides terrific views of the rugged coastline and faces the west, so guests can enjoy sunshine till the sun sets at the horizon.
- Al Husn is an adults only hotel, which is a welcome respite from the madness that you may encounter at other beach resorts. The fact that children are not allowed guarantees tranquility around the pool and on the beach.
- Each day, between 3.45 and 4.45 pm, complimentary English-style afternoon tea is served on Al Husn’s terrace, which consists of little sandwiches and savouries, scones with cream and jam, and tiny delicious cakes all nicely presented on a three-tier cake stand.
- Each evening, between 6 and 7 pm, complimentary pré-dinner drinks and canapés are served in the courtyard.
- The Shangri-La comlpex offers a wide choice of more than 20 restaurants at all of its three hotels. At Al Waha hotel, guests can enjoy the international cuisine of Samba, or pick up a child-friendly meal at Surf Café. Al Bandar hotel is home to Capri Court, featuring contemporary Italian cuisine, as well as Tapas & Sablah for an outdoor dining experience. Al Tanoor provides an Arabian dining buffet experience with many open culinary stations. Two of the resort’s best restaurant are found at Al Husn hotel: Sultanah, a stylish restaurant with a luxury cruise theme; and Shahrazad, the only authentic Moroccan restaurant in Muscat. At the beach, Bait Al Bahr serves traditional Omani seafood. Food is of very high quality throughout the resort and priced accordingly.
- The hotel is managed by the Hong Kong based Shangri-La Hotel Group, which currently owns and/or manages 95 five-star deluxe properties under the Shangri-La brand with a room inventory of 39,000.
- The unfailingly friendly but unobtrusive staff is flawless. They are present but discreet and respectful of the guests privacy. The service they provide is excellent (as you would expect from the high-end brand Shangri-La). The pool service is exceptional and the best I encountered at any hotel worldwide: the staff delivers ice-cold water, juices, and a refreshing Evian spray in little individual cool boxes. It’s these little touches that make all the difference.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
I absolutely recommend Al Husn for a relaxing stay in a beautiful surroundings and indulgent luxury. The adults-only policy, magnificent private beach, and extensive range of free goodies (e.g. complimentary minibar, afternoon tea, and predinner drinks and canapés) makes this hotel a standout. Nevertheless, there are some things you need to know when booking a stay here:
- The Shangri-La resort has long been the sole resort on this magnificent stretch of coast, but things are about to change, as other developments are taking place along the shore (such as a new Jumeirah resort). However, the arrival of new competitors may only further rise the bar for the Shangri-La.
- Because of the adults-only policy, families may feel out of place at Al Husn. Children can stay in the rooms and have breakfast at the restaurant, but cannot use the facilities (pool, beach) of the Al Husn, although they are more than welcome at the Al Bandar and Al Waha facilities.
- The number of lounge chairs around the pool is a bit limited, and it may be hard to find one when the hotel is full. Because of this, I noticed that some guests block some of these seats for the whole day, although they don’t use them at all.
- The water in the pool is heated wich is a blessing during the colder winter days, but it will not feel very refreshing during the hot summer days. I would recommend the hotel to only heat the pool in winter.
- Al Husn is definitely in a different league as compared to the other two Shangri-La properties Al Bandar and Al Waha. The website is a little confusing, so make sure that you book a room at the Al Husn hotel, or you may end up being disappointed.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 8/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 8/10
- Service: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8,4/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Shangri-La Al Husn (and/or receive many free perks).
- 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 only have 3 choices (so far):
- 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.
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
Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa is located a 40 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.