Shangri La's Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa-Al Bandar
Travel Blogs from Muscat
Oman is without a doubt the jewel of the Middle East. Very different to its neighbouring city of Dubai.
components which collectively make up the fabric of the Arabian
tapestry. One key element to the success of Oman being preserved in its
natural format is that, barring the numerous shopping malls and relative
commercialism of the airport, for the most part, those western
trappings, such as leisure parks / complexes, skyscrapers, neon lights
and the like are all conspicuous by their absence, and the elements of ...
... my forehead and tell me I'll be okay, and that my toe wasn't broken. We really didn't know. Because it really hurt. I can't afford an injury. XC is not that far off. And it was also not happy because all that constant pain that I ignore all the time was present again. But I got it handled enough to work out tonight. I miss everyone. But I am more than happy to be here. This is following my dreams. And sometimes you do that away from the loved ones. Right?
We could have used the dirham, the currency used in Dubai, to buy things in Muscat, together with the Omani rial, and the almighty U.S. dollar.
We departed the port at 6:00 p.m. for Sokhna, and expect to arrive on Wednesday. We`re looking forward to Egypt and the Pyriamids and later on, the Suez Canal.
The evening`s featured entertainer was Kenny Smiles with his comedy and his songs. The theatre was packed and the show was entertaining to the max.
How has this resort rated in the past?
Historical Traveler Reviews Shangri La's Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa-Al Bandar Muscat
Had an absolutely fantastic stay at the Shangri-la. Food was excellent, only being outshone by the service of the staff! Yes it's new and the garden's aren't fully established, but the beach is great and it's a long way from anywhere if you just want to kickback & relax. Shuttle service to the Souk & shopping runs regularly, and the cocktails are a treat. When in the Piano Lounge, we thought we could have been in a rooftop bar in New York City, it is so chic. It's only when you look out over the terrace to the beach when you get reminded you are in beautiful Oman.
A promising beginning for the Al Waha
It starts before 7am - silent, ghostlike figures slipping down to the beach through the gloaming, each armed with the essential tools: an orange towel, yesterday's newspaper, a paperback novel. On day 1 you laugh at them; on day 2 you rage at them; by day 3 you are there yourself before breakfast, undignified but triumphant, securing the all-important SUNBED.
By the end of the week, the management had intervened with a code of conduct. But all that is really needed is a job lot of 200 further sunbeds. (Cp. the Al Bustani along the coast, where everyone is apparently allotted a bed on arrival.) Perhaps the trick is to view the daily hunt as simply another traditional sport of Olde England.
The staff. What can one say about the staff? Endlessly friendly, willing, fluent (more or less) in English, smiling, doing their utmost to assist. Perhaps it will have worn off in a year. Perhaps, in a year, the hotel administration will collectively also have acquired a patina of efficiency and the daily telephone calls intended for others will come to an end. (In one week I could have travelled to the airport three times at the expense of strangers, had I so wished.) If so, it will be something of a shame. Charm presently compensates for minor irritations.
The food. Some restaurants not open. Constant buffet approach rather wearying. But generally very good. For our last dinner at the Samba (Al Waha), I had (1)a large amount of sashimi and sushi, (2) delicious grilled scallops and prawns, (3) roquefort and salad, (4) exquisite mango pannacotta, (5) a double espresso. All for 12.5 rials. Absurdly lavish breakfast buffet a great hit with the children (and the rest of us as well, to be honest). Dining a la carte is slower and more expensive, but gives the feet a rest.
Swimming-pools. Shallow but magnificent. Underwater floodlighting at night. The Lazy River is particularly successful, masquerading in the heat of mid-day as a genuine form of transport between hotels and not merely a joy ride.
The rooms. Comfortable and well-equipped. Splendid bathrooms. Strange peaty coloured water issuing occasionally from the taps no deterrent to those familiar with the Scottish Highlands.
Style. At the Al Waha, I fear somewhat lacking. No gardens to speak of. No real attempt at architecture. A trip to its rival, the Al Bustani, with its acres of green lawn and extraordinary interior, makes the point forcefully. But it is all very new and perhaps will bed down. I can't really speak of the other two hotels on the bay, except to say that the Piano Bar is very elegant and the cocktails delicious.
Very definitely child-friendly: for some, that may be a warning as much as a recommendation.
Overall, I think a success. It is trying so hard, one cannot help wishing it well.
A final warning: do not on any account travel out to Muscat by Gulf Air (though we ourselves avoided the fistfights at the airport on our return journey). Fly BA or take a boat. Swim there, if necessary (even if the Suez Canal is closed). But don't entrust your family or your sanity to Gulf Air.
Another great Shangri-La
Have just returned from Muscat - stayed for 5 nights at the Al Waha. The hotel is fantastic. Staff are finding their feet and it is a great resort to get away from it all and you are away from it all so my advice is to pack a few snacks in your suitcase before you go to see you through the day. Prices are expensive (nearly £3 for a small tube of Pringles and £6 for a pint of Stella) and if like us you don't really want a meal at lunchtime there really isn't anywhere locally to pop out to. Book your bus trips to the souk and shopping centre as soon as you get there as they do get booked up early. Sun beds were a problem when we arrived but a new "90 minute" rule has now been introduced so things are getting better. Fantastic pool and lazy river is a brilliant idea. If you have small children request a ground floor room to save you dragging wet kids and rubber rings through the hotel. You cannot fail to be impressed as you arrive at the resort - it is like something out of a James Bond movie and we loved it.
A big disappointment. It has opened too early. There were no sunbeds, no sun umbrellas and no towels - basic requirements for a beach holiday! If you want a combination of a school canteen and a rugby scrum, try breakfast at 9.30am, having previously got up at 6.00am to reserve one of the few sunbeds available! No sign of anyone gripping the situation and a lot of very unhappy guests. Fortunately we managed to check out and find a room at the Al Bustan along with several other refugees who were all agreed that the Shangri-La was a complete unmitigated disaster. We have previously been great fans of the Shangri-La, but I'm afraid this has probably put us off for life. It would be nice to think that it will sort itself out after a while but the lack of management and the overcrowding make this unlikely.
Chill & relax
Stayed at the Al Waha for one night and the Al Bandar for 6 nights( a mix up with our travel agent).
Both are good hotels the Al Banadar is a little quieter with less children and slightly bigger rooms.
The beach is fantastic and very safe with lots of lifeguards( we did have a problem finding seating, but beds were arriving daily).And there is a lack of shade around the pools.
The two buffet restaurants were very good and reasonably priced, didnt think much of the tapas( very expensive & not very good), didn't try the italian but lots of people said it was over priced and not worth it. The Surf cafe did very good burgers & good cakes.
The staff are fantastic and do everything with big smiles as all the Oman people seem to be so happy( must be the sunshine).
The hotels are very remote so makes it hard to just go out for meals, taxi's are cheaper if you call them yourself, we got the shuttle bus to the mall and then caught a taxi back and bartered it down to 6omr as the hotel quoted 10 omr.( There is a supermarket near the mall if you want to stock up on drinks and snacks as it can get expensive if you have children).
If the hotels are busy book the restaurants in advance ( and the shuttlr bus) as they do get booked up very quickly.
There wasnt any entertainment as such going on but that may change as they get more organised. But if your happy to soak up the sun and just chill this is the place to go.
What a fantastic place
After reading the forum pages the night before I travelled last week (there were no reviews written yet!!)I was very worried about my stay at the hotel as it was for a special occasion- our friend's 40th birthday. We were 2 familes travelling & staying at Al Waha. However, from the minute we arrived the whole trip was fantastic. Yes, there are a few teething problems as have been mentioned in other reviews with sunbeds etc but to be fair to the staff as each day progressed the problems appeared to be being addressed.(only got home yesterday). The food in both the buffet restaurants Samba( South American/Argentinian) & Tenwar( Middle Eastern) were fantastic and I would doubt anyone could complain at the standard of cuisine & the amount that you could eat if you wanted too. It was exceptionally good value at around £24 per person & the children eating free. The wine was of a high standard at reasonable prices considering you are in a 'dry' country unlike some of the UAE where alcohol is very expensive. I would also mention the piano bar which is really wonderful and again very good value at happy hour.
The rooms were spacious even with a very large extra bed for our 6 year old. The staff were all so accomodating & friendly even if at times a little stressed because of the teething problems. I cannot recommend this resort enough for families although I am reluctant too as as soon as it becomes too popular the prices will rocket !!! Cannot wait to go again.
Hotel struggling to cope with visitors
We are here for February (half term holiday in England), the hotel Al Waha is full and they are totally struggling to cope. It is impossible to get a sunbed on the beach or by the pool in either hotel unless you are prepared to go and put a towel on one by 7.00am. People are literally having to sit on the grass in order to be outside.
The ground staff are trying to be helpful, but there is no visible presence of the hotel senior management to cope with the people complaining about the pool situation, the slow and unreliable concierge service or the difficulty of getting tables in the restaurants to eat in the evening (impossible before about 9.30 if you haven't reserved).
Really not what you would expect from Shangr-La.
A shame as the setting on the bay is lovely.
Relaxing Holiday at Al Bandar
Just to mirror the views posted by others, stayed at Al Bandar for 8 days in Feb 06. Thought the hotel was very nice, although still some facilities not open. Liked the feeling of peace & seclusion at this resort as this was what I was looking for this holiday. Quality of food and drink is excellent, and when this hotel irons out some of it's creases, will be lovely indeed. I had no qualms about recommending this hotel to friends who are staying in March. I feel that this hotel will appeal to people used to staying in 5* hotels in Dubai - but are a bit fed up with all of the hustle and bustle. My favourite place in the resort was the Piano Lounge. Great atmosphere, great cocktails and great service from the staff here. I was informed by the staff that Shangri-La have brought in lots of experienced staff from overseas to 'train' local staff, and in a year or so, the majority of staff will be local Omanis (who we found very nice and friendly)
I liked the fact that Al Waha was clearly a family resort and there were more adults / business travellers at Al Bandar (I have no kids), but in the evening it was good to be able to use the facilities at both hotels (great buffet at Samba in Al Waha) Would consider returning again, but only if Madinat Jumeirah is full (or too expensive!)
P.S. watch out for 17.4% tax / service charges.
Fab relaxing chill out hotel!
As one of the first reviews of this hotel, I will try to cover all the main points concisely (could be hard!) but also suggest some of you read some of the recent forum pieces for other information.
The resort is quite a way out - about 35K from the airport, so consider this in your plans! The hotel offers a transfer service but a taxi is much cheaper and they're not as bad as mentioned in the previous review. Also the hotel has a twice daily shuttle service to either Mutrah Souk or a shopping area (which has little in it), we found that we couldn't get on the shuttle more times than could (even with 24 hrs notice!) & so had to resort to taxi's, which add up! We stayed for one week in the Al Bandar 5*+ at the end of January. We were aware that it was still in a soft opening and that not all of the facilities were open (ie. Spa, some food & beverage outlets etc.). Our room was a basic seaview & was very adequate. The bed was big & comfortable and the bathroom was spacious with a GREAT shower. It had a balcony overlooking the pool area and plenty of complimentary bottled water each morning & evening - so no complaints there! We were on a B&B basis and the breakfast buffet is superb with plenty of good quality, fresh produce & you can eat enough there to last till dinner. In the evening, the options were either our hotel or the 5* Al Waha (fully open) - both have a buffet or A La Carte menu, & there is an Italian in Al Bandar (which I don't personally rate - not bad, but not great value). The evening buffet is about €30, but the selection, quality and service in both is outstanding. There's a good wine list in both ranging from about €25 upwards. The Al Bandar has a piano bar which has a happy hour from 6-7pm (two for one) and make the most of it -it's good value, especially the cocktails! The beach is a private bay and is lovely, as are the pools at both hotels, and both areas have very comfortable sunbeds and plenty of towels. There is also a healthy supply of lifeguards! There is a beach/pool service for food and drinks which was very efficient. Overall the staff are superb, a little OTT at times but maybe that will change when the hotel is full (but not too much I hope). Because the resort is not fully open, there were teething problems, but overall I would highly recommend it for a 'chill out' holiday and I will definitely return!
For those of you who dive, the Oman Dive centre is next door (about a 20 min walk) and provides an excellent professional service.
Al Bandar plus general
Stayed in hotel from 26th Jan for 6 nights.
OK so the finishing touches were being applied to the Al bandar but they were unobtrusive (apart from when lifts were out of service)!
It is a wonderful resort, that can only get better with time.
Transfers - relaible and friendly, good info about Muscat, were waiting as agreed, slightly overpriced (£85 return) but safer than a taxi!
Restaurants - favourite was at Al Waha, the Samba restaurant. Remember that none of the Al Husn restaurants were open, nor were the Tapa and Mokha at Al Bandar. Buffet approx RO12 per head. Wine started at RO10 per bottle. Cocktails, and there were many, were from RO2.4, beer from RO1.9. Piano bar was a lovely way to round off the evening with a drink and relaxing music while sitting out on the balcony.
Beach - lovely and sandy, volleyball court on beach, limited watersports. Turtles eggs due to hatch around 15th March!
Pools - very refreshing, plenty of pool space. Not so much room to sit round them. But this brings me onto the sun loungers, they were the most comfortable I have ever sat/laid on.
Rooms - I was in the cheapest of the Al Bandar and this was more than adequate. V comfortable, wonderful bed, shower lovely but bath a bit on the small side.
Service - very polite and swift, can be over attentive, always there to put napkin on your lap. Took plates away too quickly, even if people on table still eating. In fact they took mine once when I was still eating!
Area felt very safe.
All in all it was a wonderful week, and I will be going back next year. Thoroughly recommend it.