This is my review of the Jumeirah Muscat Bay resort in Muscat, Oman.
We spent a week in Oman over October half term, split between beach and mountains. Whilst I don’t often write about family holidays, Oman is having a bit of a ‘moment’ at present. More importantly for HfP readers, Oman Air is due to join oneworld in 2024 and you will be able to redeem Avios on its flights.
In the meantime, you could do what we did and fly to Dubai on Avios – or elsewhere in the Middle East – and pay for a connection. You could even be driven from Dubai but at almost five hours I wasn’t keen. Muscat Airport is astonishing – imagine Heathrow Terminal 5 with two flights per hour and you’ve got it!
We paid cash for our Jumeirah Muscat Bay stay and the hotel did not know I would be covering it. The downside of this approach is that I didn’t see everything on offer.
We stayed here for four nights, after which we headed to the mountains for three nights at the Alila Jabal Akhbar resort, part of World of Hyatt. My wife will review Alila tomorrow.
A bit of background to Muscat and Jumeirah Muscat Bay
Muscat, and Oman in general, is nothing like the UAE or Qatar. With the law blocking tall buildings (10-12 stories seems to be the maximum), the majority painted white (the airport was the only glass walled building I saw all week) and the buildings tucked in amongst the mountains – Oman has a LOT of mountains – this certainly isn’t Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha.
The first luxury leisure hotel was the Al Bustan Palace, now run by The Ritz Carlton and part of Marriott Bonvoy. I reviewed Al Bustan Palace on an Oman Air review trip in 2019. The Al Bustan is fully refurbished and sits on an astonishingly wide bay, virtually alone, but the design and layout meant that it still felt dated to me. The rooms are also a little small.
It was that trip which encouraged me to return with my family, albeit the pandemic meant that it took four years to pull off.
I am a big fan of Jumeirah hotels, having stayed probably 100 nights across their Dubai and Abu Dhabi resorts over the years. As Jumeirah Muscat Bay is brand new (June 2022) it seemed an obvious choice. I also had £500-worth of points to redeem as well as Jumeirah One Gold status, although the value of that was limited beyond a free airport transfer.
Muscat Bay is a new leisure development just outside Muscat. Set in its own private bay, it comprises the hotel – which sits directly on the beach – plus a number of homes and apartments in the hills around it. This is very much still a work in progress, but didn’t interfere with our stay at all. There is nothing of interest in the Muscat Bay development apart from the hotel, except for a small Spar grocery store.
The Shangri-La complex of three hotels, which is the other key resort option, is just across the bay. I’ve never visited this but I know it has its fans, especially as the three hotels offer more facilities between them than the Jumeirah or Al Bustan.
As a Jumeirah One Gold member I was entitled to a free one-way airport transfer, so we had a driver waiting for us in arrivals. There is no shortage of taxis if you don’t want to pay for a hotel car.
As you drive into the Muscat Bay development it isn’t entirely clear what to expect, with empty new-build properties all around. Suddenly you turn a corner and the hotel is in front of you.
The lobby is actually on the fifth floor, meaning that as you walk in you get the astonishing view above through the floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s an impressive way to start your holiday.
Our rooms at Jumeirah Muscat Bay
Because we were a group of four, and because we wanted a bit of space, we had booked a Panoramic Suite with a connecting Deluxe Ocean Room.
As is usual with Jumeirah, the rooms connected externally, not internally. This meant that we could close off a door which, when opened, gave you access to the doors of both rooms which we kept propped open at all times.
The suite had a particularly large balcony which overlooked the entire resort. The furniture design is modern and obviously everything is brand new. I will spare you photos of coffee machines etc – this is a new, expensive, luxury property and all the mod cons you would expect are here.
Deluxe Ocean Room at Jumeirah Muscat Bay
Above is our Deluxe Ocean Room, which was very spacious as you can see from this angle:
There was a very classy bathroom including, out of shot, a bath tub as well as a standalone shower:
To be honest, if I’d known how spacious these rooms would be then I might have saved a few pounds and not booked the suite, since we didn’t fully utilise the seating area.
Panoramic Suite at Jumeirah Muscat Bay
Let’s pop next door into our suite. The key addition is this large living room with, as you can just about see behind the sofa, a dining table too – which became a storage area for the stuff we were taking out with us each day!
Because the bedroom was part of a suite, it was a smaller space than the Deluxe Room that the children had, but still very smart.
The bathroom was open to the bedroom, although could be closed off if required. Toiletries were the usual Jumeirah ‘Amouage’ brand and you have a range of extra amenities (shaving kits, toothbrushes etc) if you need them.
The bathroom included this H-U-G-E shower:
If I jump out onto the balcony you can see how the hotel is laid out:
This picture, taken from a public balcony a little further along, gives you a good impression of the beach and bay – the water view from our room wasn’t as good:
The white thing in the sea on the left is a floating pier, which you can swim out to if you wish. Snorkelling, turtle watching, cycling and other activities are available onsite if you are keen.
To the right of the photo above is a pier with a restaurant at the end – albeit a pier which doesn’t extend as far as the water! In the foreground is the adult pool, which you can see better in this photo I took from the top floor:
There were a few things about the hotel which felt a little odd. None of these factors were huge issues but I did keep getting a feeling of ‘why did they do this like that?’. Jumeirah is usually so slick that I was expecting everything to be perfect, and it wasn’t the case.
The first oddity is that the main restaurant, Peridot, where breakfast is also served, only has around six outdoor tables. For a location where you can eat outside virtually all year, this was weird.
The second is that there are only a couple of sets of steps to get you from the pool / garden level down to the beach, about six feet below you, and none were in an obvious place. It was only a 30 second diversion each time but you felt the inconvenience.
The third oddity is the main adult pool, pictured above. This is very deep at its narrowest point – where you can only splash around – but far too shallow in the widest point where it should be swimmable. Instead of surrounding it with sun loungers the hotel put in a handful of cabanas, which led to people getting up incredibly early to ‘reserve’ one with a book or towel.
(For clarity, there was no shortage of sun loungers on the beach, but I think many would prefer to sit facing the main pool instead.)
Food and drink
Jumeirah Muscat Bay has a range of places to eat – the lobby bar, the main Peridot restaurant, Zuka restaurant on the pier and a fine dining Mediterranean restaurant, Brezza, on the top floor which also has a rooftop bar. If you have a suite, there is an executive lounge with the usual impressive Jumeirah lounge food spread.
We had lunch at Zuka on the pier on the day we arrived, which offers outdoor seafood-based dining in a very pleasant environment overlooking the sea. Here is a PR picture:
We never made it to Brezza and we only ate in Peridot on one evening, where there was an impressive buffet on the scale that is common in the Middle East. On the other nights we headed to the lounge and sat on the balcony with a plate from the free buffet, having had a good breakfast and a good lunch and not feeling the need for another formal meal.
The Shangri-La and Al Bustan Palace are a 10 minute taxi ride away if you want to try something different but don’t want to take the 25 minute drive into central Muscat.
The lobby lounge is here:
The spa and kids club
As it usual with Jumeirah, there is a Talise Spa. We didn’t book any treatments here due to a lack of suitable timeslots but we know from our experiences in Dubai that the company runs a very impressive spa operation.
The hotel also has a kids club. I did pop in and it was definitely one of the better ones I have seen. The shallow kids pool is opposite (not pictured anywhere).
Things to do outside the hotel
We don’t normally write about life outside the hotels we review, but as we were on holiday and doing the sights I will run through the options.
You’ll need a taxi whenever you leave the hotel but that’s not a point against Jumeirah since it would be the same wherever you stay. Uber does not work in Oman but there are some local taxi apps.
The ‘must see’ sights in Muscat are the astonishing Grand Mosque (PR photo below, women can rent appropriate clothing on site if necessary):
…. and the new National Museum. There are a couple of niche museums near the National Museum which are also worth seeing.
There is a souk on the corniche which is worth a visit although it’s not on a par with, say, Marrakech or Istanbul. There is little shopping of note – the only upscale mall we found was attached to the new Opera House and it wasn’t full. You’re in the wrong country if you want to visit a Louis Vuitton or similar.
Further afield, we booked a guided tour to Wadi Shab and the Bimmah Sinkhole, both of which offer unique swimming opportunities. You need to be in decent physical shape for Wadi Shab, which involves an hour long walk – partly along narrow unfenced cliff faces, partly through water – to a spectacular cave with its own waterfall.
The entrance to Wadi Shab is via a small local ferry boat:
Compared to Wadi Shab the Bimmah Sinkhole (a big hole in a park where an underground cave was exposed) is a far easier swimming option:
Jumeirah Muscat Bay sits on a lovely spot, with such a level of privacy being very rare in the Middle East. Even when all of the residences in Muscat Bay are sold I doubt it will make the beach noticeably busier day to day. If you are only used to Jumeirah properties in Dubai then this is on a far smaller scale, but large enough to have a range of eateries to keep you busy.
As with the Al Bustan Palace and the Shangri-La, Jumeirah Muscat Bay stands alone, needing a taxi to get around. Wherever you stay you can’t avoid that.
As I said above, there are a few quirks about the design of the outside areas which frustrated me. It was also cooler than I expected, but I think this was just bad luck – I’d be surprised if Oman was noticeably cooler than the UAE next door in late October.
Muscat itself is well worth a few days of your time although the list above is pretty much it in terms of key sites. It’s absolutely somewhere that you should visit, especially if you are more used to the UAE, although I’m not sure that it justifies repeat trips.
In terms of the hotel, I preferred Jumeirah Muscat Bay to the Al Bustan Palace because of the small rooms at the latter. You can read my Al Bustan Palace review here if you want to compare.
The way to ‘do’ Oman, however, is to combine a few days on the beach with a few days in the mountains. This is why we left Jumeirah Muscat Bay and headed off to Alila Jabal Akhdar – review to follow.
You can learn more about Jumeirah Muscat Bay on its website here.
Earning points at Jumeirah Muscat Bay
Jumeirah has its own loyalty scheme, Jumeirah One, which we reviewed here.
If you are booking direct you might as well sign up. It is a revenue based scheme, meaning that you will receive points worth just under 4% of your ex-tax spending.
These can be redeemed against a cash discount at check-out on your next Jumeirah stay. If you are London based, another option is to use them towards the cost of a meal at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower or Jumeirah Lowndes in Knightsbridge. You can also transfer out your points to Emirates Skywards, albeit at a very poor rate.
Your points are valid for two years. You can extend them every two years by popping into either of the London hotels and buying a cup of coffee!
How to book
I’ve not given detailed pricing examples in this review because, frankly, it is all over the place depending on the time of year. It is more useful to say that you will pay less than at a comparable resort in Dubai but more than you’d pay in Ras Al Khaimah.
Go next Friday 15th December and a Deluxe Ocean Room will cost you £517. A similar room at Jumeirah Al Naseem in Dubai will cost £938, whilst the InterContinental in Ras Al Khaimah is £235.
Jumeirah has an exclusive booking programme for luxury travel agents called Passport To Luxury. Our partner Emyr Thomas (contact him here) is a Passport To Luxury approved agent.
If you book via Emyr, your booking comes with free breakfast, $100 of hotel credit, late check-out / early check-in if available and an upgrade if available. You will usually pay the same as the flexible rate on the Jumeirah website, although on some previous Jumeirah stays Emyr has been offered a better rate.
I can say, based on past experience, that if you have any special requests such as connecting rooms then it is substantially better to book via Emyr than book direct. Jumeirah loves to say ‘if available on check-in’ for special requests and will rarely commit, but ‘Passport To Luxury’ agents have direct contacts in the hotels who can ensure these things are done and are prepared to put it in writing.
Hotel offers update – February 2024:
Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.
Want to buy hotel points?
- Hilton Honors is offering an 80% to 100% bonus when you buy points by 12th March 2024. Click here.
- IHG One Rewards is offering an 80% bonus when you buy points by 7th March 2024. Click here.
- Marriott Bonvoy is offering a 35% to 40% bonus when you buy points by 31st March 2024. Click here.
- World of Hyatt is offering a 20% discount when you buy points by 9th April 2024. Click here.