Why go to Muscat?
The port is an easy walk from the town center, souk and the waterfront's Qasr Al Alam Palace
Taxis are expensive and so organized tours are the economical choice for exploring outside the city
An architecturally impressive city within a picturesque cove, alongside great desert excursions
Muscat Cruise Port Facilities?
There's nothing to do at the actual cruise terminal, which is pretty rudimentary. From the shuttle drop-off at the port gates, it's an easy walk to the souks and the corniche.
Good to Know?
Oman is safe, and the people are gentle and polite. Be aware, however, that there has been some unrest in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings, and you should stay away from demonstrations. Alcohol should not be consumed in public (you can get it in hotel bars and some restaurants but not in regular shops), and the penalties for drugs are severe. Oman is a conservative Muslim country, and women should dress modestly; if you want to visit the Grand Mosque, you need to cover ankles, wrists, neck, head and most of your face; there is an inspection at the entrance.
As previously mentioned, the old part of the city by the waterfront is quite walkable.
Taxis line up at the gates of the port, but before you take one, agree on the price and make sure the driver understands where you're going. A one-way transfer can easily morph into an expensive "city tour."
If you want to explore farther afield, a cruise line tour or a private driver and guide are your best bets. Renting a car is not practical for a day, as you're likely to get lost either in the city or the mountains. Many people on our cruise booked private guides and drivers, some of them in groups they'd formed on the Cruise Critic message boards. Everybody agreed that these tours were extremely worthwhile. The mountain and desert safaris are expensive compared to coach tours, regardless of how you book, as you're paying for a jeep with only five or six seats, each vehicle with its own driver and guide. A privately booked jeep for two would be costly, but if you can assemble a group of six, an independent tour would undercut what the cruise lines charge.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The local currency is the Omani rial. (See oanda.com or xe.com for the latest conversion rates.) There are ATM's in a few of the banks and shops along the corniche and in most petrol stations (which double up as loo stops on coach tours, so there will be a chance to get money). In the souk, traders will accept U.S. dollars and euros, but you'll get change in rial and are likely to lose on the exchange rate.
Arabic is the official language, but tour guides speak good English. Do not expect shopkeepers to understand you; sign language works perfectly well when haggling in the souk. Many people living and working in Oman are not native Omanis, so you will encounter Indians, Pakistanis and Emiratis in your travels there.