For the final three nights of our Oman honeymoon, we returned to Muscat, but this time staying in a different hotel, the Shangri-La Al Husn, one of the top three hotels in Muscat along with The Chedi and Al Bustan Palace.
The former we had stayed in at the beginning of our holiday before we embarked on our Oman road trip and describing it as excellent is an understatement; the Shangri-La had a lot to live up to! Unlike the last few days, we had minimal activities planned other than lying down, eating and swimming!
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Located in a beautiful secluded cove about a fifteen minute drive from central Muscat, is the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa. The location is dramatic; occupying virtually the only space between the Gulf of Oman and the mountain backdrop on the cove, the panoramic view is just stunning.
The resort is made up of three hotels; Al Waha (primarily for families), Al Bandar (primarily for business travellers) and the exclusive, child free Al-Husn (under 16s can stay in the rooms but not use the facilities), which is where we would be staying. If you are staying at Al-Husn, you can also use any of the facilities at the other two sister hotels (the same does not work the other way around).
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The resort is mega, 640 rooms, 19 restaurants and 6 pools across all 3 hotels. Al Husn houses 180 of these rooms, alongside 2 formal dining restaurants, 2 casual restaurants and a cocktail lounge.
Al Husn has a rather stunning infinity pool with a large jacuzzi attached and an exclusive 100m stretch of beach in a private cove. Our room rate also came with an impressive range of complimentary amenities including a daily afternoon tea, a (capped) minibar including alcoholic options and pre-dinner drinks and canapés served in the courtyard every evening. There are also complimentary daily shuttle services to the nearby mall and Muttrah Souk.
Arriving at the Shangri-La Al Husn
The entrance is as dramatic as the setting; white marble with beautiful water features and around 20 Ferraris lining the courtyard, surely for the guests to drive?!
It’s my first question to the gentleman who opens the car door for me; alas, no, there is an event for private owners of Ferraris in the Middle East being held there, I can look but not touch! He does quickly escort me into the lobby though, quickly placating me with a glass of something sparkly.
The design of the hotel seems to be a seamless blend of traditional Omani and the Far Eastern style of the Shangri-La’s home ground; it’s glamorous and I am not feeling so after a couple of days travelling through the desert and jumping in the sea/sinkholes/wadis.
I’m actually a bit scared to sit on the beautiful looking sofa a smiling lady is indicating for me to perch on, however I oblige and she starts to take me through the very long list of facilities available to us at Al Husn and the two sister hotels.
Luckily, it all appears to be written down and we are escorted to our room where our luggage had already been delivered. It’s REALLY nice!
The room structure was nice and simple here, Deluxe Room, Deluxe Sea View Room (which is what we opted for), a One-Bedroomed Suite and a Speciality Suite. As advertised, our room had a gorgeous view of the cove from our balcony, but I was also impressed by what was inside of our rather spacious room, a plush carpet, gold detailing along with dark wooden accents, including a beautiful latticed screen that you could slide over the window separating the bath and bedroom.
The bathroom was also beautiful, a gorgeous large tub with gold taps, a separate shower room and dressing room. Amenities included a Nespresso machine (yesss!!!), complimentary minibar (I had a daily mini pack of Ferraro Rochers and snuck out some Oreos as well), L’Occitane toiletries and a welcome basket of traditional Chinese tea.
Cocktail Hour in the Courtyard
We got ready just in time for the complimentary pre-dinner drinks and canapés that are served daily between 6:00pm and 7:00pm in the palm lined courtyard. Two ladies decked out in some gorgeous evening dresses serenaded us with strings and we find a comfy sofa to relax on and the service descends…it was a bit surreal.
So, there appeared to be no limit on the pre-dinner drinks and the plentiful service staff seemed to understand that free drinks make even the most elegant, classy and respectable person empty their glass much quicker than usual. It was quite honestly the most brilliant service I have ever encountered; they had a system, divide and conquer and never let anyone’s drink get less than half empty, double points if you can top it up without them noticing. I thoroughly enjoyed every night spent here, I found it bizarrely hypnotic watching both the guests and the staff, as well as loving the “free” wine.
Exploring the Sister Hotels
We chose that night to venture out of Al-Husn into the wider Shangri-La Resort (we only did so twice during our stay) and the first night I can only compare to how I imagine an up-scale and more scenic version of an all inclusive, cheap and cheerful package holiday in Benidorm.
It was noisy (there was a live band on the beach competing with some other music that we think was playing over the speakers), chaotic (I have never seen so many kids running around) and the food average; we dined at Tapas and Sablah that does Mediterranean and Asian Tapas.
The service was, however, speedy as anything and we were done and out of there within 26 minutes flat. This could well be our future if we choose to procreate, but for now we hurry back to our familiar, calm oasis of champagne glasses and child free calm.
Related Post: One Day in Muscat: Everything You Need to See & Do
Breakfast at Sultanah Restaurant
The following morning we went to breakfast which is served at Sultanah, one of the two fine dining restaurants at Al-Husn. We opt to dine out on the shaded terrace overlooking the ocean and are swiftly brought a “smoothie of the day”, a delicious strawberry flavour.
The breakfast spread here is immense and everything I tried over that and subsequent mornings, absolutely delicious. Breakfast is my favourite meal (it can only be topped by a champagne brunch, which lets face it, is just fancy breakfast) and the one meal I would like to have with someone who understands how amazing a great breakfast/brunch is; my lovely husband is not that person.
He regularly skips it all together, but will order a full English if he’s had a few drinks the night before. This he will consume in under five minutes and then sits there with his eyebrows raised tapping his foot as I recreate an eight course tasting menu experience with all of my different breakfast options.
I had French toast, pancakes, avocado on toast, Danish pastries, dim sum, eggs royale; it was epic. Full disclosure, I didn’t have all of this every day, much as I would have loved to, I know my eyes are always bigger than my stomach…
Relaxing by the Pool
The pool was our first chilling location, it was a beautiful infinity pool that blends seamlessly into the ocean. There is a large jacuzzi on one side and sun loungers surrounding the pool. Judging by the number of people at pre-dinner drinks the night before, the hotel is reasonably busy and there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of loungers, however on a bit of exploration there are quite a few more that originally appeared, but just quite spread out, which is great for privacy.
At least half of the sun loungers were empty for the duration of our stay as well so the pool area was very quiet. We are greeted by a pool attendant who puts some kind of cushioned blanket and towel arrangement on our sun loungers of choice and then puts all of the parasols up to protect Danny from the sun (shade is his friend).
This was accompanied by cute little ice box that has water, juice and a mini Evian face spray in it. Whenever we ran out of water or juice, then a new cool box would magically appear! Regular snacks in the form of fruits and sorbets were also brought around and there was attentive “lounger service” for anything else you required (vino for me). All of these elements added up to the best pool service and experience I have ever had, it was really exceptional.
Al Muheet Pool Bar & Restaurant
We ventured for lunch at the casual pool bar, Al Muheet, which specialises in healthy, light food. I had a Peruvian Shrimp Salad and Danny had a Wagyu Beef Burger (this was pretty much the only thing in the menu that looked less healthy).
My food was excellent but the service oddly patchy, I had finished my meal by the time Danny’s came out (there was one other table eating while we were there) with no acknowledgement that his meal had taken an additional ten minutes to arrive.
This was particularly odd as it was the same team that were running the pool service, which was absolutely flawless. Danny also proclaimed his burger “average at best” as it was a bit on the dry side. Not to worry, we had another drink looking at the view over the cliff before retreating to the sun loungers.
Related Post: An Oman Road Trip: Muscat to the Jabal Akhdar Mountains
On our return to our room there was a bottle of champagne and a dessert waiting for us to wish us a happy honeymoon from Shangri-La, a lovely touch and so nice of them, we really appreciated it. We actually decided to stay in that evening and order room service, enjoy our champagne and watch some crime dramas!
Room service was excellent, we ordered a selection of small dishes and all of which were very tasty and hot where they needed to be (I often find that with room service hot dishes can be served lukewarm or stone cold) with speedy and efficient service. This was actually one of my favourite nights, chilling in our pajamas sipping champagne in bed!
Mahhara Beach Restaurant
We tried a few other restaurants during our stay at Al-Husn, the second informal dining option we tried for lunch one day was the Mahhara Beach Bar. Both of our dishes were average here and we had the same challenge with the service as we did at Al-Muheet, with our side of fries arriving under cooked after we had finished both our meals.
The waiter did apologise for this and although he didn’t explain further, I suspect it was because they had only opened for service ten minutes before we arrived and they had forgotten to put the fryer on. Simple explanation when we ordered it or when they realised there was issue would have been great and we could have ordered something else.
Related Post: A Luxury Hotel Review: Alila Jabal Akhdar in Oman
Value for Money
Probably worth mentioning why I am being fairly critical of the beach and pool bars bearing in mind they are casual eateries; it’s because of the price.
It’s a minimum £15 for a salad or appetiser, £18 for a main and £10 for a glass of wine (based on the exchange rate at the time we went). Add on tax at 9% and service charge at 8% as generally advised at the bottom of the menus (although bizarrely at a couple of places at the Shangri-La, including the Mahhara Beach Bar, we noticed after the event that we were being charged 12.5% service charge), we were spending £60 – £80 for a one course lunch, a side to share and an alcoholic drink each. Guess what, at that price point, my expectations are sky high.
Now as mentioned in my previous post about how we booked this trip, it is the first one I have ever done without researching and I left purely in the hands of my trusty travel consultant, Sam. However, I did have a look at the website during my stay and there is surprisingly little information on there. The only menu I could actually find is the one for the pool bar, Al Muheet which does state at the bottoms that “prices are in Omani rials are subject to a 9% government tax and 8% service charge.” Despite extensive googling, I couldn’t find a menu for any of the other restaurants and not a single mention that restaurant prices are subject to additional charges.
I find it very frustrating when hotels have a lack of transparency on price; I really don’t think it is too much to ask to understand ballpark pricing before I have chosen to eat or stay there.
We also tried the afternoon tea served daily between 3:45pm and 4:45pm on one occasion (the day we skipped lunch!) located in the same place we have breakfast, the Sultanah restaurant.
There were a wide selection of lovely teas on offer and we were presented with a selection of finger sandwiches, cakes and scones.
Let’s face it, no one can do an afternoon tea better than the British but this was actually quite good, particularly the sandwiches. Danny is not a fan of afternoon tea; I am very much a grazer and like to have small amounts frequently (that’s the theory anyway!), whereas Danny will have two massive meals a day. He agrees to try this with me as it is complimentary and I have promised him he can pick the restaurant that evening.
Capri Court Restaurant
He chooses Capri Court, an Italian located (shock horror) outside of Al Husn in the wider resort. However will I cope given our last experience… luckily we have a late reservation due to the afternoon tea, so it is significantly quieter.
The setting is rather beautiful (we opted for a table inside) and the food was absolutely delicious and it actually ended up being my favourite meal during our stay. The service was excellent, very attentive and our friendly waitress helped me work out what I was going to eat when I decided I loved everything on the menu and couldn’t possibly decide.
If you are staying at any of the hotels at Shangri-La, love Italian and would like a romantic meal (or any one of these things in fact), this would absolutely be my recommendation.
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The Beach at Al Husn
I managed to persuade Danny to join me on Al-Husn’s private beach for our final afternoon, a beautiful secluded cove. It is about a five minute walk from the hotel and has bathroom facilities and a place to borrow snorkelling, paddle boarding and kayaking equipment (all complimentary), with food being served at the Al Mahhara Beach Bar.
You get the same service here as you do at the pool and there are plenty of sun loungers, but set relatively far apart from each other so they don’t dominate the space.
The sand here is not as stunning as we experienced on our private lunch on our drive back to Muscat, but considerably better than that of The Chedi. I swim in the sea for a bit, the water is a bit choppy but lovely and warm and very clear.
There’s also a separate section where the sun loungers are facing the other way overlooking another cove on the opposite side where you can watch the sun set behind the mountains. This was truly stunning and we were also lucky enough to see some turtles clambering the rocks.
Dinner at Sultanah Restaurant
I had tried to book something called Dine by Design for our final night but had unfortunately been unsuccessful (this is what you get for not planning in advance). This is where you can design you own menu with the chefs (don’t worry, they give you guidance and options to choose from) and then you can have a private dinner on the cliff overlooking the bay. They only take one booking a night so if you do want to do this, book in advance.
Instead they set us up at a lovely table outside in the Sultanah restaurant a bit further away from everyone else, complete with a little surprise of candles and rose petals! I’m not usually one for that kind of thing, but I was all happy and chilled from an amazing couple of weeks so actually thought it was a lovely touch. The view over the sea was also spectacular and really nicely set by fire pits surrounding the outside decking.
The food and service were again superb, there is clearly a marked difference in quality between the formal and informal dining options, despite a similar pricing structure and applied service charge. The evening was slightly dramatic though as it rained, not sprinkling, but an absolute downpour.
The staff were ready though and with the same purpose with which the serving staff pour our drinks during “complimentary cocktail hour”, moved us all with surprising speed beneath the decking covers. We only got slightly wet but our rose petals blew everywhere so the whole restaurant got to enjoy them! It was a lovely way to end our honeymoon and a really enjoyable final night.
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Final Thoughts: Shangri-La Al Husn
We were collected at 5:30am the following morning so got to watch one last sunrise from the car. The hotel had done us each a little breakfast pack-up to have on our car journey which we ate in silence as we drove to the airport and looked out at that stunning Omani landscape once more.
The Shangri-La Al Husn is a true luxury five star hotel. The stand outs for me are the location, the epic pool service, the food and service in the formal restaurants; in fact the overall service was generally exemplary. The complimentary “extras” were well thought out, generous and added value, pre-dinner drinks were my favourite!
I often find that in bigger resorts you can lose that personal touch that I love so much. Al-Husn, however, have retained it for the most part, as shown by the special attention they gave to us like the bottle of sparkles to celebrate our honeymoon, decorating our table on the final night and the whats-app updates from the concierge whenever we asked them to arrange something.
However, the quality of the food and service in the casual eating locations of Al-Husn is not to the standard I would expect given the price. I would also be aware that due to the size of the overall resort, it could be a bit noisy in the evenings if there was entertainment on at neighbouring hotels.
It’s a fifteen minute drive from Muscat, not a deal breaker for us by any stretch, but worth being aware of. It is a very big resort, however Al-Husn definitely retains an exclusivity the other two hotels don’t have. I am generally a fan of smaller, boutique hotels, however the Shangri-La has done good job of the “hotel within a hotel” concept and it didn’t feel so huge, unless we left Al-Husn to access the larger resort. Because of these two factors you could spend a week here and not feel like you need to leave a hotel (a plus or a minus for different people!)
Address: Muscat 100, 644 Oman
Phone: +968 24 776388
– Book the Shangri-La Al Husn Resort & Spa at Booking.com, Agoda or Hotels.com.
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There are currently no direct flights from the USA, but there are lots of connection options; Muscat is only an hour’s flight from Dubai.
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