Introduction: An Open-Ended Journey To Oman

Introduction: An Open-Ended Journey To Oman

More From This Trip
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As promised, I intend to write more trip reports going forward. I just wrapped up a quick trip to Turks & Caicos, and Ford and I are now off on another adventure.

This trip report will be a bit different than usual, though. Typically I write trip reports after the fact, while in this case I’ll write the trip report “live.” Frankly I haven’t even fully planned the whole trip yet, as we don’t have return flights, and we may even add on some more destinations beyond what we have confirmed so far. So let’s get right into it, so that y’all know about as much about our trip as we do.

Why we decided to go to Oman

This trip was motivated partly by the destination and partly by hotels. For one, Oman is one of the coolest countries in the Middle East — it has a “real” culture, genuinely friendly people, beautiful scenery (mountains, sea, and more), and it’s safe.

On top of that, as a Hyatt loyalist, there are two points hotels in Oman that have particularly interested me — Alila Hinu Bay and Alila Jabal Akhdar:

  • Alila Jabal Akhdar is located in the mountains, and has been on my radar ever since Hyatt acquired Alila
  • Alila Hinu Bay is located by the sea, and opened in 2021

There aren’t many reviews out there about either property, so I’ll take one for the team. 😉 If these hotels are great, I’m sure others would also enjoy this Alila combination. I like the Alila brand and I like Oman, so I’m crossing my fingers that this proves to be a good trip.

The reality is that during the pandemic I haven’t done nearly as much “exciting” travel to distant countries, and for that matter it has been easy to keep pushing this off with everything else going on in life. But we finally decided to pull the trigger as we’re in a traveling mood, so hopefully this works out well. We’ll be visiting other destinations beyond the two Alilas as well.

I’m excited to check out Alila Hinu Bay!

The airlines we’re flying

Which airlines will I be reviewing on this trip? As of now I’ve booked the following:

I haven’t finalized a return yet, as I’m waiting for some sort of exciting award availability to open up, whether it’s Gulf Air’s 787-9 business class, Vistara’s 787-9 business class, SAS’ A321LR business class, TAP Air Portugal’s A330-900neo business class, Eurowings Discover’s A330 business class, or a combination of several of those.

In the individual review installments I’ll of course share details of how many points I redeemed for each ticket, how much taxes were, etc.

I’ll be reviewing Iberia’s A330 business class

The hotels we’re staying at

One of the main reasons I’m taking this trip is to be able to review Alila Hinu Bay and Alila Jabal Akhdar, so obviously we’re staying at those properties. But those won’t be the only hotels we review. We’ll also be going to Muscat, where I booked the W Hotel — it has been a while since I’ve stayed at a W, and as I’ve become older and crankier, I’m curious how I feel about the loud, throbbing music, the rock hard furniture, and the bathtubs in the middle of the room for no damn reason (okay, I’ve never been a fan of those).

We also have a quick stopover in Madrid, where we’re checking out the (fairly new) Four Seasons. Yes, I realize it’s not a points hotel, so I expect that to be the only non-points hotel on this trip. I still think many will find the review to be interesting, as this is a very special property.

Let’s hope Alila Jabal Akhdar doesn’t disappoint

Bottom line

I’m so excited to be headed to Oman, and to be able to share the experience. This is the first spur of the moment trip to a far off place that I’ve taken in quite a while. I’ve been meaning to check out the two Alila properties in Oman, and it’s finally happening now.

I’m also looking forward to reviewing some new airline products on this trip. Stay tuned, as I’m taking a different approach than usual here, by more or less writing the trip report live. Thanks so much for reading, and I hope y’all enjoy this as much as I do!

If anyone has any questions, tips, or predictions, let me know!

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  1. Jared Guest

    Check out the Wadi Ash Shab and the Nizwah Fort while in Oman. They are spectacular. Otherwise, a trip wasted this may be.

  2. Christophe Guest

    Stayed at the Alila Jabal Akhdar a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. It's an amazing place with great accommodation, delicious food, and an incredible atmosphere. Join the cooking and yoga classes. They are fun.

  3. David Wachtel Guest

    If you have time in Oman, try to get up to the Nusandam peninsula, which is actually separated from the rest of the country by the UAE. Nusandam juts out into the Persian Gulf and is famous for its "fjords", which you see through a ride on traditional Omani dhows. Amazing rock formations, dolphins diving in arcs alongside the dhow. It's actually easier to access this area in a 2, 1/2 hour drive from Dubai but well worth it.

  4. Schar Gold

    Ben I would love if you reviewed the Shangri-La Al Husn, an adults only beachfront resort a little outside of Muscat, as well as the Al Bustan Palace and The Chedi. Maybe book 1 night in each? since you're already there...

  5. alex Guest

    Where does Winston stay on these trips? With your mom?

  6. Luke Gilpin Guest

    Just a heads up that if you’re trip into and out of Qatar are separate tickets. Even if same airline - you have to quarantine for 2 days. We just ran into this on a Maldives trip.

    Would suggest switching to emirates and flying into Dubai if you don’t want to quarantine.

    1. glenn t Diamond

      Would be a tad inconvenient if you were transiting in <24hrs on 2 separate QR award tickets! I doubt that quarantining would be an issue.

  7. Doug Guest

    If you are going to be in or around Muscat next Friday, February 25, be aware that there may be lots of road closures for the Ironman 70.3 triathlon happening that day. Or come cheer us on!

  8. TheBestBlackBrent Gold

    Oman is awesome, the green mountain especially. Great outdoor opportunities there!
    The W is definitely better than the next door bunker...eehm, Intercontinental...but Al Bustan and / or the Shang-ri La at Barr Al Jissah are way more stunning when it comes to location and the coast.

  9. Andrew Cohan Guest

    In Muscat, the Chedi is an amazing hotel! Go for lunch and walk the grounds. One of my favorites anywhere.

  10. MT Guest

    I'm currently in Oman at the Alila Jabal Akhdar - it's a beautiful property. I would say the service is friendly but not 5 star. But the views from all the rooms are amazing. Great access to hiking trails, too.

    A 4x4 is required to reach the property even though the roads are all paved and in excellent condition.

    I know entry requirements say you need a PCR with QR code but Im not...

    I'm currently in Oman at the Alila Jabal Akhdar - it's a beautiful property. I would say the service is friendly but not 5 star. But the views from all the rooms are amazing. Great access to hiking trails, too.

    A 4x4 is required to reach the property even though the roads are all paved and in excellent condition.

    I know entry requirements say you need a PCR with QR code but Im not sure if the QR code part is actually enforced. You upload everything (including health insurance and vaccine cards) to the e-website to get your travel registration form which is auto generated. Your travel registration form is the only document checked when you enter Oman.

    Oman is a beautiful country!

  11. Yehuda Kovesh Guest

    Oman has to be the best Arab or Muslim country to visit. They are neither Sunni or Shia but Awadi. Their connection to Zanzibar which was their erstwhile capital is evident in Oman as well as Zanzibar.
    Salalah is indeed gorgeous, roadside stalls and the greenery would remind you of the Kerala coast in India (Monsoon). Just a short drive to the mountains, you might run into Jabali people (fierce looking but kind pre...

    Oman has to be the best Arab or Muslim country to visit. They are neither Sunni or Shia but Awadi. Their connection to Zanzibar which was their erstwhile capital is evident in Oman as well as Zanzibar.
    Salalah is indeed gorgeous, roadside stalls and the greenery would remind you of the Kerala coast in India (Monsoon). Just a short drive to the mountains, you might run into Jabali people (fierce looking but kind pre arab inhabitants of Oman). While on the ride you could visit the tomb of the prophet Job now turned into a mosque. It was extremely moving to be saying Kaddish at Job's tomb.
    Oman is a wonderful country and very hospitable people.

  12. Wesley C New Member

    Would you update your review at PH Milan, or maybe review a bit Lake Como Hyatt SLH portfolio?

  13. Sally Guest

    Our trip to Oman is one of the most memorable we have ever done.
    We had a private driver and 4WD We told him to throw out the tourist itinerary and take us to the places he loved to visit. We ended up enjoying impromptu coffee and dates with a local salt farmer, having our toes nibbled by fish in a wadi, the original authentic fish spa. We cheered the local soccer teams playing...

    Our trip to Oman is one of the most memorable we have ever done.
    We had a private driver and 4WD We told him to throw out the tourist itinerary and take us to the places he loved to visit. We ended up enjoying impromptu coffee and dates with a local salt farmer, having our toes nibbled by fish in a wadi, the original authentic fish spa. We cheered the local soccer teams playing in their evening beach competition. The contrast between Salalah and Muscat is incredible, particularly in the wet season. Highlights were the dawn sheep and goat market at Nizwa, overnighting in a tent in the desert and the camel market at Sinaw. The locals are incredibly friendly and welcoming, we barely saw another tourist in a week.

    My recommendation is to get off the beaten track away from the tourist hordes of the big hotels. Oman is a truly spectacular country and a great introduction to the Middle East. We would go back in a heart beat.

    I will be interested to hear if the airlines have found a solution to the locals doing a seat shuffle after boarding where harried flight crew try to negotiate female only rows as local women arent able to sit next to men. At the time I couldn't work out why they couldn't allocate a women and children's section at check in to save the delays and hassle for crew on boarding.

  14. Andrew Guest

    We just did a week long trip to Oman in November, including a few days at the Alila Jabakl Akhdar. It was a wonderful trip, and the Alila was the highlight. Make sure you go to activities - particularly the star gazing, they have a really nice setup and, Mohammed (who runs the telescope) is incredibly knowledgeable.

    We also stayed in the Al Bustan in Muscat and I highly recommend it. We stayed on...

    We just did a week long trip to Oman in November, including a few days at the Alila Jabakl Akhdar. It was a wonderful trip, and the Alila was the highlight. Make sure you go to activities - particularly the star gazing, they have a really nice setup and, Mohammed (who runs the telescope) is incredibly knowledgeable.

    We also stayed in the Al Bustan in Muscat and I highly recommend it. We stayed on Amex FHR and got an awesome suite upgrade. The food was wonderful and the hotel public spaces have a cool, opulent 70s vibe that is totally unique.

    We had a stopover in Doha and I ran into an issue where the Oman Air check in agent refused to convert the time on my PCR test to local time and would not accept it since it was more than 72 hours old by the clock ( only 64 hours had elapsed since the test, they refused to accept the 10 hr time zone difference). They made me register and pay for for a test on arrival before checking me in at DOH, but when I arrived in MCT they accepted my original test with no quarantine, so beware of test validity issues with stopovers.

    1. GeorgeBrown12 Member

      Your basic itinerary is exactly what I want to do! Alila Jabakl Akhdar and Al Bustan (connecting through Doha at least one direction)

  15. BookLvr Gold

    Huzzah! I'm excited for these reports! My college-aged daughter has recently declared a Middle East Studies major, and while she is going to Amman, Jordan this summer to continue her Arabic study, I know Oman is on the list of potential future destinations.

    1. Nola Guest

      Jordan is beautiful. The "Martian" tent hotels look incredible and Petra is stunning.

    2. Debo Member

      Tiffany had a trip to Jordan a few years ago and wrote some great reviews here on the blog. I'd recommend searching for those.

    3. Tomas Guest

      What Has Happened to Tiffany....???
      A valuable contributor.

    4. BookLvr Gold

      Thank you! I have read Tiffany's reviews and definitely consider them helpful!

      My daughter is very excited for Petra and wants to go to Wadi Rum even though I have pointed out that it is the summer and it is going to be very hot. Apparently the Bedouins conduct tours at sunset at this time of year so you aren't out in the middle of the day.

      She will be there for 11-12 weeks. (At least that the plan, if COVID cooperates!)

  16. Jeremy Guest

    We went to Oman in 2018 and it was amazing. Really worth visiting, Muscat, the mountains, the terrasses, the waist...we went to Alila Jabal Akhdar and it was amazing! Personally one of the best hotels I've been to. The villa was great, the food amazing, and the view.....wow.
    Also Oman is great in another way as its completely different from it's neighbours. They are open minded, welcoming, even the kind of Islam they practice...

    We went to Oman in 2018 and it was amazing. Really worth visiting, Muscat, the mountains, the terrasses, the waist...we went to Alila Jabal Akhdar and it was amazing! Personally one of the best hotels I've been to. The villa was great, the food amazing, and the view.....wow.
    Also Oman is great in another way as its completely different from it's neighbours. They are open minded, welcoming, even the kind of Islam they practice is different than any other Muslim country. It's just a really interesting and amazing country, hope you enjoy it!

  17. Josh Guest

    I just came back from this exact trip... Alila is amazing and the hiking is great.

    We also stayed at Al Bustan. Al Bustan is a must. As a hotel/Marriott guy, spend a night there instead of at the W. It's a quite epic property.

    Also the via ferrata at Alila Jabal Akhdar is a must...don't psych yourself out of doing it. The 4x4 IS a requirement...but is kind of a joke...roads in Denver are...

    I just came back from this exact trip... Alila is amazing and the hiking is great.

    We also stayed at Al Bustan. Al Bustan is a must. As a hotel/Marriott guy, spend a night there instead of at the W. It's a quite epic property.

    Also the via ferrata at Alila Jabal Akhdar is a must...don't psych yourself out of doing it. The 4x4 IS a requirement...but is kind of a joke...roads in Denver are 10x worse. All the highways are monitored by frequent speed cameras (120 km/hr) out to Alila. We think you have about 10 km/hr of leeway before they flag you.

    If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!

  18. PatONealJr New Member

    Oman is on my super short list of Middle Eastern countries to visit and has been for a long while. The Al Bhustain (Ritz Carlton) outside of Muscat is on my radar, as is the Alila Jabal Akhdar mountain resort you're going to. I did not know Hyatt acquired it. Great to know!!! . I hope you enjoy the trip, safe travels and let us know how it was!

    1. PatONealJr New Member

      ** Al Bustan. Sorry for the typo!

  19. GeorgeBrown12 Member

    Sounds like a great trip! I'd be more interested in a review of the Ritz Carlton in Muscat, Al Bustan Palace over the W

    1. C-S-T Guest

      I second this Lucky! Would love a review of Al Bustan...

  20. Vancouver - Char Gold

    Wow - this voyage to Oman will be fun; I am especially interested to learn more about your upcoming Qatari A320 Doha to Salalah flight; 90 minute flights on a Cathay Dragon A320 and Air Canada A320 are different planets - also, please take care in Salalah as it is relalively close to war-torn Yemen

    1. William Guest

      There is NO trouble on Oman-Yemen border...was just there

  21. Adrian Guest

    I went there on my last trip to Dubai-Muscat. The wife loved it and I'd definitely go again with kids. The locals were very friendly and spoke great English as well. Wanted to go to Salalah as well but the hotel staff only recommended making that trip during the 'khareef' season.

    1. Zahra Guest

      Hi would just like to say that you may not be interested to visit it in monsoon season as you are not looking for green areas and rain like us the locals

  22. James W Guest

    I wish Ben (and maybe Ford, too) would write more about their reflections on traveling as a married gay couple, especially to places like this.

    Ben has steadfastly said that he is a travel blogger, and not a political journalist, and that's fair. But safety and dignity as a queer person is a legitimate concern when traveling around the world. Even in vocally anti-gay countries, one can stay in a luxe resort like this...

    I wish Ben (and maybe Ford, too) would write more about their reflections on traveling as a married gay couple, especially to places like this.

    Ben has steadfastly said that he is a travel blogger, and not a political journalist, and that's fair. But safety and dignity as a queer person is a legitimate concern when traveling around the world. Even in vocally anti-gay countries, one can stay in a luxe resort like this and not be bothered by local laws. The locals want your tourism dollars more than they want to enforce the laws against you. But how does it FEEL to travel there? Do Ben and Ford research the laws and practices before they travel? Or do they simply go where they wish, and assume the seas of bigotry and ignorance will part before the glitz of their dollars and FF miles?

    I know I wouldn't feel comfortable going to places where LGBT folks were openly mistreated. No amount of schmoozing for my tourist dollars can make up for the fact that some places are just oppressive and hurtful. But I'm not a travel blogger, and I don't earn my living this way, so it's easy for me to have such a strict conscience.

    1. Michael Barcelona Guest

      Paradoxically, it's probably less problematic to travel in the Middle East as a gay male couple than an unmarried heterosexual couple (opposite-sex couples must by law be married or reported). Never had questions, second looks or hints of disapproval. Just be respectful of the local norms when out in public and you should be fine - nobody's out to "get you". Most Westerners get into trouble because they've created a situation with behaviour that's no...

      Paradoxically, it's probably less problematic to travel in the Middle East as a gay male couple than an unmarried heterosexual couple (opposite-sex couples must by law be married or reported). Never had questions, second looks or hints of disapproval. Just be respectful of the local norms when out in public and you should be fine - nobody's out to "get you". Most Westerners get into trouble because they've created a situation with behaviour that's no longer possible to ignore.

    2. Jimbo Guest

      It's interesting that people are usually interested in hearing from queer travellers to these countries, yet not a lot are interested in the queer experiences of their own citizens.
      The Gulf is a notoriously conservative region with some of the most draconian laws when it comes to the LGBT community, but it also has one of the most vibrant and visible (at least online) LGBT communities in the Middle East and that's because these...

      It's interesting that people are usually interested in hearing from queer travellers to these countries, yet not a lot are interested in the queer experiences of their own citizens.
      The Gulf is a notoriously conservative region with some of the most draconian laws when it comes to the LGBT community, but it also has one of the most vibrant and visible (at least online) LGBT communities in the Middle East and that's because these laws are almost never enforced, they're only their to appease the conservative base.

    3. Azamaraal Diamond

      Unfortunately a lack of local knowledge can contribute to some very weird posts.

      Sultan Qaboos (PBUH) was gay and left no heir. He was adored by the people of Oman and they accepted him for what he was. So Oman is the last place in the world to worry about sexual preferences.

  23. Ryan Guest

    I just finished a week’s stay at the W Muscat. It’s a beautiful property and the pool and other common areas were totally empty. Not sure whether it’s due to the pandemic, but definitely did not have the same party vibe as some of the other Ws. Outstanding and friendly service at every turn as well!

    Oman is currently a great place to travel to… few if any tourists and basically everything is open as...

    I just finished a week’s stay at the W Muscat. It’s a beautiful property and the pool and other common areas were totally empty. Not sure whether it’s due to the pandemic, but definitely did not have the same party vibe as some of the other Ws. Outstanding and friendly service at every turn as well!

    Oman is currently a great place to travel to… few if any tourists and basically everything is open as normal. You do need to be vaccinated, test negative, fill in an online form in advance, and purchase 30 days worth of insurance to travel there.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Ryan -- Thanks for the heads up! If you don't mind sharing, which insurance policy did you buy, and how much did it cost?

    2. Ryan Guest

      I searched online and found a policy through Insubuy (Warwick international) that included COVID coverage and quarantine/isolation costs if necessary. It was $60 for a 2 week trip. No one ever asked to see it, btw, but the government does list a 30 day insurance policy as an entry requirement.

    3. Daniel B. Guest

      Just like Ryan, we also bought it from Insubuy. Very easy process, policy available immediately with clear indication on it that it covers COVID-related medical expenses.

    4. Nola Guest

      With the amount of traveling Ben and Ford do, it would seem like an annual policy covering covid would make the most sense. I bought one from Seven Corners that covers two people for about 650 and it provides cancellation coverage, covid quarantine costs, med evacuation costs, lost luggage (of course many credit cards cover that also)....

    5. Lucas Guest

      Even better Oman Air was offering 30 days insurance with every ticket when we went in Dec.

      I hit up both Alilas and the Chedi. Alila Jabal Akhdar had some serious service issues; the other Alila in Hinu Bay was kind of…soulless. will be anxious to hear your views.

    6. glenn t Diamond

      I'm thinking a normal annual (unlimited trips) TI policy with Covid cover would be adequate, rather than buying a separate 30 day Oman-specific policy.
      Any views on this?

  24. Kathryn Guest

    Hello from a reader living in Muscat! I’m looking forward to seeing your trip reports.

    The astronomy experience at Jabal Akhdar is great!

  25. magice Member

    Would love to see the (live) trip report. However, I dislike the description of Oman as a place with "'real' culture." What does that even mean? That there are places with, umm, "fake" culture? I understand if you think certain people are being fake (i.e. "showy" or "pretentious"), but if that's their culture, it's just as real as anything else...

    1. Eskimo Guest

      I'm thinking European decedents bringing their culture to America and put the "native" culture in a reservation. (while also corrupting the native with drugs, alcohol, and gambling)

    2. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ magice -- I hear where you're coming from. Look, I'm a fan of cities like Dubai, but the reality is that a vast majority of people you interact with on a day-to-day basis are temporary workers from other countries. You could take a trip to the UAE, and one of the only Emiratis you'll interact with is the immigration officer.

      I get that's the UAE's "real" culture, but if you ask someone who travels...

      @ magice -- I hear where you're coming from. Look, I'm a fan of cities like Dubai, but the reality is that a vast majority of people you interact with on a day-to-day basis are temporary workers from other countries. You could take a trip to the UAE, and one of the only Emiratis you'll interact with is the immigration officer.

      I get that's the UAE's "real" culture, but if you ask someone who travels to Dubai the first time what they think, they might say it all seemed fake. Meanwhile in Oman there are lots more opportunities to interact with locals, and to experience aspects of culture that haven't just been built in the past few years.

      That's the only thing I meant by my comment. And again, I say that as someone who kind of enjoys that in Dubai you can interact with people from dozens of countries in a single day.

  26. A.Man Guest

    Ben, as you did in a previous post about T&C, it would be very helpful to also have a detailed write up regarding your experience entering the country. Oman was a place I had to cancel due to the pandemic restrictions and I am curious the hurdles to entry now.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ A.Man -- Thanks for the feedback, I'll be sure to write a post about my entry experience.

  27. Yo Yo Yo Guest

    Why bother with the W when there's The Chedi?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Yo Yo Yo -- I'm doing everything I can to review points hotels! Let me see if I can add on an additional night at The Chedi, since I've heard so many great things.

  28. John Guest

    My partner and I stayed in Anantara Al Jabal al Akhdar resort this past December. I really enjoyed this resort and the Al Akhdar mountains. I've been to many other Middle East countries and I have to agree with you, Oman is culturally interesting. You actually get to interact with friendly locals, unlike in places like Qatar or the UAE. I'm looking forward to your posts on Oman.

  29. Michael Barcelona Guest

    Consider staying or at least going for a meal at The Chedi in Muscat - such a gorgeous boutique property - and also check the program at the Royal Opera. It's an incredible building with a visit in itself. A 4x4 is a must for Jabal Akhbar - the gradients are steep and you will otherwise be turned away at the entry control point. Make sure to visit some of the wadis (oases) while in...

    Consider staying or at least going for a meal at The Chedi in Muscat - such a gorgeous boutique property - and also check the program at the Royal Opera. It's an incredible building with a visit in itself. A 4x4 is a must for Jabal Akhbar - the gradients are steep and you will otherwise be turned away at the entry control point. Make sure to visit some of the wadis (oases) while in the North. In Salalah, the drive around Mughsail was stunning! We had no problems traveling around Oman as a gay male couple.

  30. Motion to Dismiss Member

    I would not consider TAP's A330-900neo to be an exciting product. I've flown it a few times (TAP Portugal often has very cheap paid business class fares between the US and Europe) and it just isn't special or interesting. Gulf Air or Vistara would be fascinating! (But I do see the appeal in having a review for a product that is more easily accessible.)

  31. MDA Guest

    Hire / Rent a car but don’t speed. Those pesky speeding fines have a way of finding you. Also drive to the UAE. The border crossings were entertaining.

  32. Jon Guest

    This is probably the contrarian take, but I’ve always preferred in-room tubs to ones in bathrooms. It’s more pleasant to lounge in the middle of your room than it is in your bathroom, imo. (Of course, outdoor tubs > both!)

    Looking forward to the trip report — I also love Alila properties, so I’m excited to read about these!

  33. JasonB Member

    A "live" trip report will be very cool. If you have a couple good options you're having trouble deciding between, make sure to let us readers have some input!

  34. TBH Guest

    I stayed at the W in Muscat in February 2020. Absolutely stunning property and loved the location and the amentities. Maybe it was because of the fear of the impending pandemic (even though there were no restrictions around the property by that time yet - i.e., bars/restaurant closures, masks, etc.), but I did not get the sense that this property had the blaring music everywhere you go or the typical full on party vibe you...

    I stayed at the W in Muscat in February 2020. Absolutely stunning property and loved the location and the amentities. Maybe it was because of the fear of the impending pandemic (even though there were no restrictions around the property by that time yet - i.e., bars/restaurant closures, masks, etc.), but I did not get the sense that this property had the blaring music everywhere you go or the typical full on party vibe you expect from some W properties - especially not anything you can hear from your rooms, even if you had the balcony window open to the pool area. I do not believe I was there on a Friday or Saturday night (possibly Saturday but I forget), but I almost wished the resort was more lively. There were definitively people enjoying the various bars, restaurants and hookah beachside bar, but it was a more subdued, enjoyment of company/relaxing vibe. I also was not around much during the day so maybe there is more action around the pool then. Lastly, I recall the bedding being very comfortable, and although I think the bathroom/shower wall was visible to the rest of the bedroom (there was a curtain you could pull if wanted), the bathroom was still distinctly separate from the living space rather than a tub plopped in the middle of the room as you suggest. Also great about the W is that it is in a very safe area where you can easily walk off the property about 10-15 minutes and have an abundance of amazing and more authentic restaurants to try where you can experience the true Omani hospitality, but the options at the W were great too.

    Love Oman overall though so hope you enjoy the trip. I went solo as an extended layover on my way to India and decided to rent a car to visit the forts in the interior of the country and it was so easy to do with their highway system. In the city was a little trickier as there are parallel running access roads running along side the main road so you have to pay close attention to your GPS if you have it to ensure you get on and off the access roads when necessary. Even in the old area around the corniche and souk though, it was fairly easy to get around.

  35. Anthony Guest

    Any concerns about being LGBT in Oman. I have avoided going to Dubai and elsewhere out of not wanting to deal with potential legal issues. I see that there are laws that carry prison sentences. Is this not enforced? I'd love some insight here.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Anthony -- While I of course take issues with the laws in many Middle Eastern countries, I can't say I've ever encountered any sort of issues, and I'm not sheepish about my relationship with Ford, or booking a room with one bed. Perhaps this is something I should discuss bigger picture in a separate post.

      I also think it's important to recognize that generally laws are against gay acts, rather than being gay as...

      @ Anthony -- While I of course take issues with the laws in many Middle Eastern countries, I can't say I've ever encountered any sort of issues, and I'm not sheepish about my relationship with Ford, or booking a room with one bed. Perhaps this is something I should discuss bigger picture in a separate post.

      I also think it's important to recognize that generally laws are against gay acts, rather than being gay as such. And in a way that's an important distinction, since there's nothing illegal about sleeping in one bed, being "gay married," etc.

      Anyway, good topic for another post once I return from this trip, I think.

    2. Anthony Guest

      I've been married to my husband for 15 years and we're together 22. Believe me, we're not making out in the streets at this point. LOL. I just have the feeling in the back of my mind that some busybody hotel employee will call the police and say "two men just checked into a room with a king bed."

    3. JDawG Guest

      I've wondered about this earlier. When going to T&C you mentioned filling out arrival forms. Those are usually done one per family - do you fill out a single one with Ford, even in countries where your marriage isn't recognized, or do you tell alternative facts to their immigration services that you are not married?

      Also I'm faircly certain that you sleeping with Ford in a single bed in a country where gay acts are...

      I've wondered about this earlier. When going to T&C you mentioned filling out arrival forms. Those are usually done one per family - do you fill out a single one with Ford, even in countries where your marriage isn't recognized, or do you tell alternative facts to their immigration services that you are not married?

      Also I'm faircly certain that you sleeping with Ford in a single bed in a country where gay acts are illegal would very much be considered a gay act. And yes, there are plenty of countries where being gay married is illegal. In some countries even talking about gay people is illegal - as it may soon become in Florida.

    4. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ JDawG -- For countries where it's one form per family, I've filled out a single form for both of us. That being said, I can't think of any particularly controversial countries I've been to since being married that also had arrival forms (many countries have done away with those).

      I'm more than happy to be schooled on laws, so if the UAE, Qatar, Oman, etc., explicitly ban two people of the same sex from sharing a bed, please do point me to that.

    5. JDawG Guest

      So Oman only criminilazies same sex erotic acts. Whether sharing a bed is an erotic act - I guess the courts would decide? Examples from other countries are not hard to find, Google is your friend. https://www.sbs.com.au/news/briton-jailed-for-touching-man-s-hip-at-dubai-bar for example.

    6. Commenting Commenter Guest

      @Lucky, I think it's not an issue until it is. All it takes it's one unpleasant situation to turn everything upside down. I would err on the side of caution always, just in case, and would opt for a double room, for example. Better to be extrasafe than sorry. I would love for you to address this on a separate post.

    7. Azamaraal Diamond

      Sultan Qaboos was gay so I would expect that Oman is not at all a problem with sexuality unless his successor has changed the culture.

  36. JSMD Guest

    Be careful driving to Hinu Bay! Plenty of camels on the highway!

  37. Daniel B. Guest

    @Lucky: Be careful when planning to do the PCR test at the designated area of the airport's parking lot. The results of the test can only come to an Omani phone number - foreign phones would not receive it. Several people warned us about this in October when we were there. I got the hotel concierge to give me their number, and that is how we got the results.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Daniel B. -- Hmmm, thanks for the heads up. I don't think Oman has a testing requirement on arrival anymore if you got tested before you arrive, or am I missing something?

    2. Kyle Guest

      He's probably talking about when leaving, typically need a test for your next destination. Google Fi didn't work there, so I imagine any of the other carriers wouldn't connect to the local "partner" network either. I'd recommend buying a SIM at the airport and using that during your stay. Oman is generally expensive, but the SIM w/ data and local number wasn't too bad

    3. James Guest

      Hi,

      I travel frequently to Oman. While it’s true Google Fi didn’t work at one time, it has been perfect on my last two trips (October 2021 and Feb 2022). I was using it as esim in an iPhone 12. It is particularly useful since it has a built in VPN, which easily enables FaceTime or other VOIP services .

    4. Daniel B. Guest

      Exactly - I was talking about the COVID-19 PCR test at the airport BEFORE heading back to the US, particularly now, that you have to do the test the day before (and not 3 days before as it was when we visited).
      Also, even they they encourage you to register for the test in advance, and they even have registration QR codes next to the testing area, even without registering they will do the test (we didn't register since my phone was not working there).

    5. tcATL New Member

      Definitely worth springing for one of the video call rapid tests for the trip back in situations like this.

    6. Stan P Guest

      He meant testing upon departure , the countries that don’t require testing before departure are very few.

  38. Clare Guest

    I’m living in Oman, next to the Hyatt in Muscat. It’s a great place!!

    1. Liz Guest

      Hi Lucky,

      We just returned from Oman and l have to recommend the Ritz Carlton Al Bustan in Muscat. My husband and I have been staying there for past 20 years, and first tried it when when it was an IHG property. Wonderful place plus If you want to avoid the airport for a returning Covid-19 test, the hotel has its own clinic with RT-PCR testing and we received our results in 24 hours. Just...

      Hi Lucky,

      We just returned from Oman and l have to recommend the Ritz Carlton Al Bustan in Muscat. My husband and I have been staying there for past 20 years, and first tried it when when it was an IHG property. Wonderful place plus If you want to avoid the airport for a returning Covid-19 test, the hotel has its own clinic with RT-PCR testing and we received our results in 24 hours. Just an FYI, we could not get Oman’s tessudo app (for Covid results) to work on our US phones, would recommend carrrying your CDC card and entry permit with You in event you need to prove vaccination status. This happened to us only at 1 large shopping mall.

  39. NFSF Gold

    Curious what made you choose the Four Seasons Madrid over the newly renovated Mandarin Oriental Ritz?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ NFSF -- We had heard amazing things about the Four Seasons and it's also a new property with a lot of history. I'm sure the Mandarin Oriental is great as well, so maybe I can check that out next time.

  40. Peter Guest

    Surprised you didn’t engineer BCN to MXP on Singapore lie-flat or Qatar First out of DOH (Cathay metal and the Al Safwa).

    Availability? :-)

    1. Lukas Guest

      He did get QR F to Male on Cathay Pacific metal (for a future trip, I assume), so I guess there was no need to do it this time again.

  41. Anna Guest

    Wouldnt a better title be:

    An open ended journey to a few chain hotels that happen to be in Oman

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Anna -- While there's usually a points angle on this blog, this journey really is about the destination here. We love hiking, and Alila Jabal Akhdar looks like it has an incredible setting. I also really enjoyed my time in Muscat last time I visited. I've been wanting to return to Oman even before Alila was purchased by Hyatt.

    2. Margie Guest

      I lived in Oman for many years and even worked in some hotels (eg Chedi, Al Bustan, Crown Plaza). The hotels are all much of a muchness and will reveal little of the culture or charm of Oman. Latterly, when I was out and about, I stayed in clean budget hotels and wandered out to eat locally.

  42. Alvin Guest

    Ben that doesn't look like an Iberia A330?

    1. HChris Guest

      You're right. The seats are identical on A330 and A350 but one can tell by the square-shaped overhead bin handles that it is indeed the A350.

    2. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Alvin -- Good catch, indeed that's an A350 cabin. But it was the only media image I can find, so stay tuned for the review of the A330 with actual cabin pictures.

    3. Sebastian Guest

      Hi Ben,
      Just Out of interest, on which day are you flying MIA-MAD, as I'm booked on the 25. Would be nice to see the guy I'm following for years already. Greets from Costa Rica/Germany

  43. Marcus Guest

    Make sure to go to Nizwa in Oman!

    1. MDA Guest

      Agree. Love this place!

  44. Boardstiff Guest

    We are just currently finishing a 3 week tour of Oman. Both of the Alila properties are fantastic! The GH in Muscat is quite tired, but it worked for us. Great Globalist recognition at all properties! Enjoy

  45. Daniel from Finland Guest

    I would be so happy if you could fly Finnair from Dubai via Helsinki to the US. They’re saving themselves to death right now and it would really help the community if international bloggers (honest and not the ones Finnair gives out free flights to) reviewed their current product.

    Anyway, enjoy your trip!

  46. Barry Guest

    You could always do your return through Dubai with its many opportunities for hotel and flight reviews.
    If you do, I can meet you guys for a drink.

  47. Niko_jas Guest

    Looking forward to these reviews and following along vicariously. The best of OMAAT!

  48. AJ Member

    I can't wait to read this review. Oman is a hidden gem and the people are amazing! But as (previously) mentioned, get the AWD. They are ADAMANT about it.

  49. DenB Diamond

    As you age and become grumpy, there are compensations and rewards along the way, which you must recognize or you'll miss out. One of them is the bathtub in the middle of the room. French bathwater product and French champagne. One can enjoy it alone, but why waste water?

  50. AlohaDaveKennedy Guest

    Been to Oman several times. A nice place to visit and a stark contrast to its neighbor, Yemen.

  51. RetiredATLATC Diamond

    Have a great trip @Ben, looking forward to your "live" reports.

  52. Sam Guest

    Lucky, just came back from Oman. We stayed in the Anantara Jabal Akhdar, W Muscat, Alila Hinu Bay and a desert camp.

    Our favourite hotel was the Anantara. Alila was nice but the landscaping is incomplete, so looks like a beautiful hotel in the middle of a construction zone. Anantara was one of the best hotels we stayed in - upgraded us to a Pool Villa with our GHA Discovery platinum status.

  53. Daniel Guest

    Hope you enjoy, though your expectations are probably a bit to high for the Alilas.

    We stayed at the Alila a couple years ago and we thought it was pleasant but nowhere near as impressive as the bloggers raved about.

    Also, they are incredibly serious about the 4WD rule and they check every single car even though it’s a paved road.

    We rented an SUV for that purpose, but at 1am when...

    Hope you enjoy, though your expectations are probably a bit to high for the Alilas.

    We stayed at the Alila a couple years ago and we thought it was pleasant but nowhere near as impressive as the bloggers raved about.

    Also, they are incredibly serious about the 4WD rule and they check every single car even though it’s a paved road.

    We rented an SUV for that purpose, but at 1am when our flight got it, we failed to check that it was in fact AWD. We had to pay like $300 USD to have someone drive us up the paved road to the hotel, felt like an absolute scam.

    1. Kyle Guest

      Yes, requiring AWD on that road is a little scammy. Any old car would be just fine to make it up to Alila. We also paid the hefty R/T fee.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ Anthony -- While I of course take issues with the laws in many Middle Eastern countries, I can't say I've ever encountered any sort of issues, and I'm not sheepish about my relationship with Ford, or booking a room with one bed. Perhaps this is something I should discuss bigger picture in a separate post. I also think it's important to recognize that generally laws are against gay acts, rather than being gay as such. And in a way that's an important distinction, since there's nothing illegal about sleeping in one bed, being "gay married," etc. Anyway, good topic for another post once I return from this trip, I think.

7
James W Guest

I wish Ben (and maybe Ford, too) would write more about their reflections on traveling as a married gay couple, especially to places like this. Ben has steadfastly said that he is a travel blogger, and not a political journalist, and that's fair. But safety and dignity as a queer person is a legitimate concern when traveling around the world. Even in vocally anti-gay countries, one can stay in a luxe resort like this and not be bothered by local laws. The locals want your tourism dollars more than they want to enforce the laws against you. But how does it FEEL to travel there? Do Ben and Ford research the laws and practices before they travel? Or do they simply go where they wish, and assume the seas of bigotry and ignorance will part before the glitz of their dollars and FF miles? I know I wouldn't feel comfortable going to places where LGBT folks were openly mistreated. No amount of schmoozing for my tourist dollars can make up for the fact that some places are just oppressive and hurtful. But I'm not a travel blogger, and I don't earn my living this way, so it's easy for me to have such a strict conscience.

4
Michael Barcelona Guest

Paradoxically, it's probably less problematic to travel in the Middle East as a gay male couple than an unmarried heterosexual couple (opposite-sex couples must by law be married or reported). Never had questions, second looks or hints of disapproval. Just be respectful of the local norms when out in public and you should be fine - nobody's out to "get you". Most Westerners get into trouble because they've created a situation with behaviour that's no longer possible to ignore.

3
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