Muscat, the capital of Oman, is completely different from the rest of the Emirates on the Arabian Gulf. It is conservative, restrained and magical. Many of its buildings have been carefully preserved. The traditional architecture of the city stands in sharp contrast to its rugged terrain and natural beauty. The old waterfront port of Muscat is what greets passengers when the cruise ship docks. It is hemmed in by terracotta-coloured mountains which gradually turn pink in the early morning sunshine when the call to prayer reverberates across the rooftops. The city has been a thriving port for centuries. Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama landed in Oman en route to India in the late 15th century.
Who goes there: MSC Cruises, Cunard, Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises, Silversea, Seabourn, Azamara Club Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises.
Cruisers like: The old walled city has ancient alleyways, museums and the vibrant Mutrah Souk, Muscat’s oldest market on the waterfront where you can haggle for frankincense, silverware, fridge magnets and even a khanjar, the traditional silver dagger of Oman. The remote Musandam Peninsula is separated from the rest of Oman by Dubai, but worth the journey. It is fringed by white sand beaches and dramatic, rocky mountains rise from the interior. Khasab, a small port at the tip of the peninsula, is where you board traditional dhow cruises to the fjords where you can watch dolphins, go kite-surfing, snorkel or scuba dive in the clear but chilly waters.
Best for: Family holidays, young and mature adventure seekers who want to discover the charm of Oman, Muscat and Khasab.
Getting around: Its best to be part of a tour group or hire a private car. Some ships offer a shuttle service to the main waterfront souk markets.
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