Surrounded by striking mountains on one side and soft sandy shores along its coast, Muscat was already a thriving port in ancient times. As the capital of modern Oman, parts of the city still retain their medieval appearance, with two old Portuguese forts, Jalali and Mirani, flanking the rocky cove around which the city is built. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Muscat was an important outpost for the powerful kings of Hormuz. It was this role that prompted the Portuguese to claim Muscat in the 16th century. Following Oman's re-conquest in 1650, the Portuguese era in the Gulf ended.
Since the mid-18th century, members of the Al-Busaidy dynasty have been the rulers of Oman. From the time of Sultan Qaboos Bin Said's accession to the throne in 1970, the Sultanate has gone from an underdeveloped country to a modern state with imposing government buildings, hospitals, new roads, and a university and sports complex. Muscat's picturesque old buildings still co-exist with modern commercial and residential quarters, giving the city an ambiance all its own. The seaside palace of His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, offers a spectacular sight, as it stands between steep rocky hills.
Greater Muscat covers a huge area divided into three sections: the old port area, the main trading and residential area and the modern Central Banking District. Sumptuous villas and deluxe hotels are part of an on-going building boom. Strong development in tourism has given Oman a new role as an intriguing, fascinating and safe destination.
Oman is full of treasures - from historic fortresses, castles and traditional buildings to captivating landscapes and gracious people. Its advent into the modern age has managed to blend age-old mystique with a taste of the 21st century.
Please Note: Guests should dress conservatively when going ashore. As a rule, women should not wear miniskirts, shorts, sleeveless or low-cut tops and men should always wear a shirt in public. Beach wear is limited to resorts.
Photographs should never be taken without people's permission, especially women, who may be greatly offended. Taking pictures of government buildings, embassies or anything military in nature is prohibited.
The ship is scheduled to dock at Port Qaboos, about one and a half miles (nearly two and a half kilometres) from the Old Town. As this is a container port, guests are not allowed to walk within the port area. A shuttle bus operates to the port gate (where taxis are stationed) and also drops off and picks up guests at the entrance to the Muttrah Souq.
The Muttrah Souq is one of the most famous markets in the Sultanate of Oman. Its narrow, twisted alleys are clustered with tiny shops. Busy both in the mornings and evenings, the souq closes down between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Shops are filled with brass utensils, decorative fabrics, pottery, Omani daggers and other traditional souvenirs. The fragrance of frankincense and spices adds an exciting flavour to the commercial activity. The local currency is the rial. Most vendors accept US dollars.
Muscat offers a staggering diversity of cuisines - from French to Indian, Italian, Japanese and Mexican, to name just a few. Elaborate buffet meals can be found at five-star hotels.
Muscat's attractions are covered in the organized excursions. If sightseeing independently, be aware that most of Oman closes down between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. The Grand Mosque is open to visitors from Saturday to Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. only.
Private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Shore Concierge Office on board, but are subject to availability of cars and English-speaking guides.