We were told that the drive to the hotel would take about around five hours from Dubai, which is where we began our journey.
However, our travel time took longer as we found the check-point at the Oman-UAE border excessively confusing and time consuming, and the directions that we downloaded from the hotel’s website were poor.
Additionally, there are surprisingly few signs for the hotel when you reach the city. (Alternatively, if you fly into Seeb International Airport, the cab ride should take about 45 minutes.)
However, all was forgiven as we neared the resort, which is nestled majestically on the Gulf of Oman against a backdrop of rugged mountains. Rock formations jut out from the clear blue waters in every direction, making for a very dramatic setting.
Aside from the natural surroundings, the resort itself is well laid out and fits in well with the landscape. The property consists of three hotels, the upscale Al Husn (with 180 suites and guestrooms), the Al Bandar (with 198 rooms), and the family-oriented Al Waha (with 302 rooms), which is where we stayed. All 680 rooms and suites are ‘sea-facing,’ but in some of the rooms you would have to crane your neck to clearly see the beach.
Our room was on the second floor directly facing the beach, but our view was mostly blocked by palm trees. We found our room to be clean, but a little small and the furnishings a bit bland, although the bathroom was quite large. However, the property and its surroundings are so stunning and offer so many activities that you won’t want to spend a lot of time in your room.
Among the amenities on offer are a 500-metre ‘lazy river,’ three swimming pools, a huge spa with 12 treatment rooms, and a wide stretch of beach. The resort also offers plenty of water sports, including a dolphin tour, which we took on our last morning. The tour proved to be successful, as we saw dozens of dolphins swimming so close we could almost reach out and touch them. The crew was very friendly and they capped off our ride with a tour of the Oman coastline, which boasts ancient forts and one of the Sultan’s many palaces.
The Al Waha hotel is family-oriented with lots of kids frolicking about. The other two hotels are more geared to couples rather than families, but you will pay a premium for the peace and quiet. We found the resort’s beach and pool areas so expansive that you can easily find tranquil areas to sunbathe. You are also well taken care of wherever you choose to stretch out, with hotel staff at your beck and call offering free water and towels.
After building up a hearty appetite, the opportunities to gorge oneself abound, with no less than six main restaurants and seven casual dining outlets. We were told that if you want an outdoor seat at one of the main restaurants you have to book a few days in advance.
We opted for the buffet at Al Waha’s Samba restaurant, which specialises in Latin-American cuisine. The variety was excellent and the food was always fresh and well-prepared. For after-dinner entertainment, the resort offers two bars and a nightclub. There is also live background music at the main restaurants.
On the business side, the resort offers 11 meeting rooms, a business centre, and a ballroom that can accommodate up to 700 persons. Internet service is available in-room or at the business centre for about $5 per hour.
All in all, we heartily recommend a visit to the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa, either for business or pleasure.