While many dream of visiting Africa, very few ever get the chance to experience everything this magnificent continent has to offer. Many note that a vacation to Africa is too expensive or not safe. Well, let me tell you, the best way to see a large amount of Africa at an affordable price is through Africa cruises!
If you are bit wary to cruising, especially to a destination where many spend most of their time on safaris and enjoying the wilderness, don't fret! Most cruises to Africa offer from 10 hours to multiple days in each port-- perfect for any safari adventure you have your heart set on.
Plus, cruise ships offer an extra sense of security, as you will have a safe place to rest your head everyday. So, grab your free cruise planner and buckle up, because we are going to go through everything you may need to know about Africa cruises!
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When is the Season for Africa Cruises?
Most Africa cruises consistently run from October to May. This means you have a lot of flexibility for when you want to cruise to Africa, whether looking for a Christmas escape or a worldwide cruise.
If you are planning to visit South Africa and the east coast of Africa, the optimal time is between the months of January and March for the best weather, wildlife, and wine. This is truly when the temperatures are the most comfortable and enjoyable with sunnier days and fascinating wildlife.
For longer, repositioning Africa cruises, you should stick to the earlier or later months of this window when the cruise ships are finding a new home.
There are some Africa cruises running year-round, which are found in the Indian Ocean isles with itineraries visiting Seychelles and Madagascar.
How is the Weather on African Cruises?
As a vast continent of 50-plus diverse nations, it is pretty hard to predict how the weather will be on your cruise to Africa.
However, if you are sticking to the east coast, you can expect warm days in port during the popular cruising season. It does not rain much during this time frame as it is during the dry season, however, it wouldn't hurt to pack your most trusted rain jacket and umbrella.
There are various climates you will experience on your African cruise, from the magnificent beaches on Seychelles and the coastal sand dunes in Namibia, to the humid rainforest of Madagascar and the steady climate of South Africa.
However, the one thing that holds fairly constant is the high temperatures throughout Africa during the year.
How Do You Plan an African Cruise?
First, you will want to get an idea of what your must-see attractions are. Most Africa cruises follow the popular itineraries of South Africa & Southeast Africa, Indian Ocean Islands, Africa's West Coast, the Chobe River, or Repositioning cruises. Very few Africa cruises are less than 10 days long, so you will want to stock up on vacation days as it is not uncommon to see itineraries lasting longer than 20 days.
After you determine the itinerary you would like, then you need to focus on a specific cruise line for the best Africa cruise ever. Each cruise line offers a unique experience for every type of cruiser. Then, you can select a date with that perfect cruise line and itinerary to book and mark in your calendar!
I highly recommend booking a balcony or higher stateroom on your cruise ship as you will not regret waking up to the breathtaking Africa cruise landscape from your own private balcony. Also, make sure to avoid the loudest staterooms onboard to completely relax on your Africa cruise.
Once booked, you will receive access to more booking options like onboard packages, shore excursions, and stateroom upgrades. I highly suggest taking advantage of these pre-travel opportunities to have your vacation planned out before you leave on your Africa cruise!
What are the Different Africa Itineraries?
There are plenty of itineraries that visit at least one African cruise port on their journey. From repositioning cruises to northern Africa adventures, there are pros and cons to each itinerary option on the cruising market.
South Africa and Southeast Africa
By far the most popular itinerary for Africa cruises runs between Cape Town, South Africa and Mombasa, Kenya where eager cruisers look forward to discovering Africa's "big five" animals in one of Africa's top safari tours.
Some of these Africa itineraries will also tack on an pre or post-cruise safari adventure primed for cruisers to discover some of the massive safari animals in either Kenya or South Africa's game reserves.
South Africa and Southeast Africa Reasons
Nature lovers, sports enthusiasts, and those who would just love to relax will fall in love with this itinerary. They will all head out on Africa cruises for fishing expeditions, wildlife-watching trips, cultural immersion, trek hiking, and much more!
Book a stateroom overlooking Africa's magnificent landscape featuring dry deserts and rolling hills alike. If you are looking for marine wildlife, you are in luck. You will more than likely spot an abundance of whales, porpoises, and other marine animals during your African adventure at sea.
Shore excursions and onboard lectures are a must-do as they will go in-depth into the rich history of Africa. You will want to learn about the cultures of the indigenous people of Africa on your African cruise and about more recent inhabitants.
South Africa and Southeast Africa Ports
The most popular South Africa and Southeast Africa ports are Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, and Durban in South Africa. You will also enjoy other countries on your Africa cruise like La Digue and Port Victoria in Seychelles, Maputo in Mozambique, Nosy Be in Madagascar, Port Louis in Mauritius, and Pointe Des Galets in Reunion.
You will enjoy further exploration on Africa cruises at stops at Luderitz and Walvis Bay, Namibia.
A perk of Africa cruises traversing the ocean on the eastern coast is calm waters. If you are prone to seasickness, this may be the itinerary for you, versus one that transits over open, rougher waters.
Indian Ocean Islands
An African cruise to the Indian Ocean islands is perfect for anyone looking for water adventures in the warm, African sun.
The Indian Ocean islands are the ideal Africa cruise itinerary for anyone looking to going snorkeling while island hopping. The most popular stops on these cruises are Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles.
Most voyages will actually operate out of the popular South African cruise ports of Cape Town or Durban, with very few departing from either Mauritius, Seychelles, and Madagascar.
Indian Ocean Islands Reasons
Africa cruises focusing on the islands in the Indian Ocean take their passengers to some of the most remote and exotic cruise ports in the world.
Most routes will bring you through the Spice Trade Route navigating around the islands lush with green forests and towering palm trees. This Africa cruise itinerary is ideal for those looking for a more tropical African experience.
If you want some flexibility when planning one of the best Africa cruises, this itinerary is perfect. The best time to cruise the Indian Ocean is between the months of November and March, with most cruise lines running consistently through the warm heat.
Indian Ocean Islands Ports
The most popular ports for Africa cruises to the Indian Ocean islands include stops and cruise-bys in Seychelles, Reunion, Mauritius, and Madagascar.
In Seychelles, you will enjoy the refreshing landscape in the ports of Praslin and Mahe. Another cruise spot you will fall in love with in Reunion is Saint-Denis.
The popular stop in Mauritius is Port Louis, a tropical escape from the desert climate of Africa's mainland. Finally, many Africa cruises stop in either (or both) Nosy Be and Tamatave in Madagascar.
Africa's West Coast
It can be fairly difficult to find a Africa cruise to the west coast. However, if you are planning a longer world cruise repositioning cruise, or back to back cruise, there is a good chance you may find your way onto Africa's western coast. Otherwise, stick to the smaller, expedition-style cruise lines to experience this unique African cruise.
Itineraries running along Africa's Atlantic coast might visit a variety of ports between Cape Town and Senegal, offering a truly unique and culturally rich off-the-beaten-path cruising experience.
Africa cruises to the western coast frequently stop in Ghana, Togo, and sometimes the tropical Cape Verde islands.
Africa's West Coast Reasons
The western coast of Africa offers the adventurous cruiser an incredible amount of breathtaking natural scenery. Expeditions to the northern area of the Africa's west coast offer stops at the vast Sahara Desert and the colorful souks of Morocco.
With an abundance of booming cities, harsh deserts, plentiful mangroves, and tropical islands, I guarantee there is something here for everyone. West Africa cruises are pretty rare, but if you get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to enjoy one, you will not regret it.
Avid cruisers and anthropologists alike have long been drawn here for the unique cultures in the region, from the voodoo religion of Ghana, Togo, and Benin to the hunter-gatherers of Kalahari.
Africa's West Coast Ports
A popular destination featured on many Africa cruises departing from Europe is Banjul, Gambia. As the capital of Africa's smallest country, this is the point where the Gambia River enters the Atlantic.
Other Africa cruise ports further down the coast include Accra, Ghana; Angola, Luanda; Dakar, Senegal; Lomo, Togo; Walvis Bay and Luderitz, Namibia; Cape Town, South Africa; and the Cape Verde Islands.
If you prefer to island hop, some Africa cruises on the western coast frequently visit the Canary Islands ports of Santa Cruz de La Palma and La Gomera.
If you are looking to start your African cruise from the Mediterranean, you are going to love the northern Africa cruise ports offered. With many northern Africa cruises stopping in Algeria and Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Morocco, there are plenty of culturally enriching activities for everyone!
The best time of the year to enjoy Africa cruises to northern Africa is during the Spring or Fall months as that's the best times to avoid the summer crowds of tourists and rainy winter weather.
Northern Africa Reasons
A cruise to northern Africa is like stepping back in time. As this region is close to Mesopotamia, history buffs will fall in love with the amount of ancient wonders located on the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
You can immerse yourself in plenty of ancient civilizations where kings and pharaohs ruled. Investigate the world-renowned legends and myths that were born in this impressive region on your Africa cruise.
Untold stories are truly waiting around every corner, and with the pleasant weather of the Mediterranean air and sea, you will be living in a lap of luxury. With the protection of the Mediterranean Sea, you can also expect smoother sailing-- perfect for anyone prone to seasickness.
Northern Africa Ports
Port of Casablanca, Morocco is one of the top Africa cruise port in the northern region. The weather here is pleasant practically year-round, perfect for Africa cruises. Tripoli, Libya is another popular Africa cruise port which offers a sandy landscape with warm, yet comfortable, temperatures.
Most people can expect to visit Egypt on their northern Africa cruise to the popular cruise ports of Port Said (in the Suez Canal) and Alexandria, found on the northern coast with the Mediterranean. Finally, you will most likely visit Algeria and Tunisia on your northern Africa cruise. These ports offer quaint costal towns with lively energy.
The most common way to visit Africa on a cruise is via either a world cruise or repositioning cruise. Africa cruises like this are available through a large variety of cruise lines, with cruise lengths of 20+ days common.
The itineraries vary greatly on this style of Africa cruise, with ships passing through to visit one to a couple of African cruise ports. Some ships pass through on sailings leaving or heading to Asia (especially Hong Kong and Singapore), heading over to the United States, or returning to Europe, the Middle East, or Australia.
Repositioning cruises are ideal for those trying to get from point A to point B without breaking the bank. If you have a lot of time scheduled for your vacation, this style of Africa cruise can be the most cost effective.
Plus, you will have the opportunity to visit plenty of African cruise ports without the added stress of flying out of the expensive African airports. You can also see cruise ports that you never planned on, whether on your way to the United States or heading over to Asia.
Ultimately, repositioning cruises will offer an overview of what Africa has to offer by stopping into a few ports. If you are looking to get a good look at Africa's top cruise ports, a repositioning cruise could be for you!
Types of Africa Cruise Lines
No matter what cruising experience you are looking for, I guarantee you will find it in Africa.
From 3-day weekend trips to 180-day world cruises, these Africa cruises are worth every penny. There are plenty of Africa cruise deals available for eager cruisers booking through a travel agent or directly with the cruise line.
Make sure to research diligently to find the best African cruise for you!
Mainstream Cruise Lines for Africa Cruises
Just about all the main cruise lines offer sailings to and from Africa:
- Royal Caribbean International -- Royal Caribbean offers spectacular itineraries up to Africa's most popular cruise ports at extraordinarily low prices. With this cruise line offering countless amenities for all types of cruisers, Royal Caribbean offers dozens of Africa cruises every year.
- Norwegian Cruise Line -- Norwegian (NCL) offers plenty of unique itineraries visiting Africa, boasting new discoveries around every turn. NCL prides themselves on offering exhilarating wildlife and cultural shore excursions during their NCL Africa cruises.
- Celebrity Cruises -- Celebrity Cruises offer their passengers a slightly more luxurious experience tailored to each guests' dream Africa cruise. This cruise line is popular for it's over-the-top vacation experience traveling to the diverse African cruise ports!
- Holland America -- Holland America offers cruises to Africa through the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean during the Africa cruising season. Whether cruising around South Africa or exploring the remote Indian Ocean islands, you are guaranteed to enjoy their luxurious experience on your African cruise!
Smaller Cruise Lines that Cruise to Africa
Active travelers may be looking for expedition-style voyages or cruises on a smaller ship to enjoy more time in the Africa cruise ports.
- Silversea -- Silversea offers stylish and intimate Africa cruises. Their smaller ships visit plenty of the cruise spots in Africa and the Indian Ocean on their journey. They pride themselves on their crew to guest ratio of almost 1:1 creating a personalized Africa trip for every passenger.
- Seabourn -- Seabourn offers a couple of Africa sailings every Indian Ocean cruising season. Their stunning cruise ships bring passengers to the sweeping landscapes of Africa. Popular shore excursions include intensive safaris and historic tours of the major seaport towns.
- Regent Seven Seas -- Regent Seven Seas explores the amazing desert and tropical destinations of Africa through experiences on their Africa cruises. This cruise line balances cultural, active, and foodie activities as they navigate through the warm climate of Africa.
- Oceania -- This small and luxurious cruise line offers a variety of intimate Africa expeditions on their cruise ships. Their ships visit 27 different African cruise ports, far more than most other cruise lines. That, paired with the personalized cruising experience curated by Oceania offers some of the best experiences at sea.
Popular Ports for African Cruises
No matter which cruise line and itinerary you ultimately decide on, you will likely visit a mix of these fantastic African cruise ports.
Many cruises to Africa offer trips to these popular ports of call that are consistent with most itineraries. Like Caribbean cruise ports, these ports cater to the African cruise market. If you are looking for more than touristy attractions and activities, make sure to get out of the main port area and explore.
Cape Town, South Africa
This first popular African cruise port is where you will most likely begin your adventure on your Africa cruise. This picturesque destination is surrounded by mountains, perfect for a picture-postcard to send home to your loved ones.
You will also find plenty of beaches and hiking trails for the avid nature-lover. Cape Town is home to some of South Africa's finest restaurants and wines, so definitely try and make your journey special by trying out the local specialties.
What to do in Cape Town:
Once you arrive in port on your African cruise, make your way to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (V&A Waterfront for short). As one of the most visited areas of this bustling city on Africa cruises, this seaside neighborhood offers plenty of places to see, things to do, and spots to eat. Make sure to check out the Cape Wheel while in the area!
If you prefer to explore Cape Town's natural scenery, head up Table Mountain. While hiking Table Mountain is definitely an option, the more popular and time efficient route is via a cable car. Another popular nature spot is Signal Hill, offering picturesque views of the city and coastline.
Head over to one of Cape Town's beautiful beaches at Camps Bay or the Clifton Beaches to truly relax on Africa cruises. Later, see the penguins up close in Simon's Town at Boulder Beach.
Durban, South Africa
As South Africa's third-largest city, Durban is a bustling cruise port offering a ton of culturally enriching activities and attractions. This sunny city fringes the Indian Ocean with a "Golden Mile" of pristine sandy shores.
Make sure to plan a culturally immersive day with the Zulu people-- the largest ethnic group found within South Africa. Durban also serves as a gateway to the nearby sites of the Valley of a Thousand Hills and the Drakensberg Mountains.
What to do in Durban:
The best place to start your Durban, South Africa adventure is along the Golden Mile. This bustling beachfront promenade is lined with plenty of entertainment complexes, restaurants, and shops. You can find the Moses Mabhiba Stadium, uShaka Marine World, and Mini Town all within this mile-wide area.
Another beautiful spot in Durban is the Botanical Gardens. As the oldest surviving botanic garden in Africa, it is no wonder Africa cruises stop in this South African cruise port.
To immerse yourself into the unique culture of Durban, head over the Victoria Street Market, Juma Masjid Mosque, or the Sri Sri Radha Radhanath Temple. Alternatively, check out the Valley of 1000 Hills, a beautiful area of gentle rolling hills dotted with scenic outlooks.
Nosy Be, Madagascar
As the world's fourth largest island, Madagascar offers a diverse array of natural wildlife. Most Africa cruises that visit Madagascar stop at Nosy Be, a volcanic island nestled off of the northwest coast of Madagascar.
While this resort isle is popular, it is definitely not overrun by tourists. You can find plenty of snorkeling and diving opportunities along Nosy Be's incredible beaches and the diverse wildlife at the protected Lakobe Reserve.
What to do in Nosy Be:
Nature-lovers will enjoy Lokobe National Park where they can take a wooden boat ride through the reserve. Here, you can find several species of lemurs and plenty of Nosy Be's remaining endemic vegetation like ravenala, vanilla orchids, and ylang-ylang.
Africa cruises will most likely discuss the importance of natural preservation in Madagascar. Lemurs are a large part of this, so make sure to head over to Lemuria Land to learn more about this unique species.
If you prefer to stay near the sea, check out Andilana beach which is nestled on the island's northwest tip. You may be able to spot humpback whales, whale sharks, and sea turtles during your marine adventure!
If you are one of the few lucky cruisers who gets to visit Kenya, I guarantee you will fall in love with Mombasa. As a principal port on Africa cruises, Mombasa mixes a rich urban history with adrenalin-rushing safari expeditions.
Mombasa is simmering with African, Asian, European, and Middle Eastern influences which cultivated a unique culture. You will find plenty of historic sites like Old Town and Fort Jesus-- a 16th-century Portuguese fortress-- within Mombasa.
What to do in Mombasa:
Beach-lovers will love this popular port on Africa cruises and should definitely start their adventure at either Bamburi, Diani, or Nyali beach. You will also be happy to know these beaches are near delicious local eateries.
History buffs should immediately seek out Fort Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Even though it is slightly damaged, you can still tell that Fort Jesus was built in the shape of a man. You will find a wide array of ceramics and pottery reflecting the Mombasa cultures at this beautiful site.
Other things to do in Mombasa on Africa cruises are strolling the streets of Old Town, taking a trip to Haller Park, and scuba diving at the Mombasa Marine National Park.
For those cruising through the Indian Ocean, you will not regret double-checking that Mahe is on your itinerary. This slice of paradise offers a remote escape located around 1,000 miles away from the closest spot.
This destination frequently visited by Africa cruises offers warm weather year-round and some of the most magnificent beaches in the world! The main island, Mahe, is one of the most tourist-friendly spots, boasting pristine white-sand beaches and turquoise waters.
What to do in Mahe:
Most Africa cruises will dock in Mahe at Seychelles' capital city, Victoria. This is a great spot to start your adventure, as here you will find an abundance of restaurants, shops, cafes, bars, and markets.
With over 50 beaches nestled along the coastline, the best one has to be Beau Vallon. This pristine beach is a fantastic spot to relax, with market stalls and fruit selling found along the edge of Beau Vallon.
Try out the local cuisine. There are so many excellent spots to eat on Mahe, from authentic Creole, Indian, and Asian, to Spanish and Italian dishes. To try out some of the delicious spots, head over to Bazar Labrin, one of the most famous Mahe street markets.
Walvis Bay, Namibia
While historically, Walvis Bay has been deemed as an unsafe cruise port to avoid whenever possible, cruise lines and tourism boards have worked extensively to open this beautiful place up for safe exploration.
Walvis Bay is the popular gateway to the incredible Namib Desert. As the world's oldest desert, you can find Earth's highest sand dunes contrasting against the deep blue Atlantic Ocean.
What to do in Walvis Bay:
The most popular excursions on Africa cruises to Walvis Bay explore the nearby Namib Desert. Therefore, I highly recommend booking a desert tour to learn about the history of this dry land and explore the region immensely.
Alternatively, head over to Sandwich Harbor (around 35 miles south of Walvis Bay) located in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Here, you will find a dune desert and a flamingo-lined beach.
Another great spot to visit on your African cruise is Pelican Point. This is the perfect spot to get on the water via kayak or canoe alongside Walvis Bay's pelican population.
Port Louis, Mauritius
As the capital city of Mauritius, Port Louis is known for its magnificent French colonial architecture. Nestled between a deep-water harbor and a coral reef, this main port visited by Africa cruises was founded in 1736 by the French.
Most visitors note the beautiful private beaches lining the coastline. Others find the bustle of the downtown streets and beautifully preserved colonial buildings to be the highlight of their visit on Africa cruises.
What to do in Port Louis:
The most popular shore excursion during Africa cruises in Port Louis is the Blue Penny Museum. This quaint museum has been dedicated to the world-renowned Mauritian one-penny and two-pence stamps of 1847.
To immerse yourself into Mauritian culture, head over to Port Louis' Central Market. This spot has been the center of the local economy since Victorian times and is an excellent place to experience the local life.
Later, head over to Pere Laval's Shrine, a shrine of the French Catholic priest and missionary Pere Jacques-Desire Laval. Many miracles attributed to pilgrimages have happened here, contributing to Port Louis' rich history.
Zanzibar is Tanzania's most popular cruise port. Africa cruises visit this archipelago located 23 miles from the mainland Tanzania. This port serves as a base for traders traveling from the African Lakes region, India, and the Arabian peninsula.
Life in Zanzibar moves slow, so ready to relax and take in the local culture during your visit. Things in Zanzibar frequently won't make sense, don't always work, and can seem to take a while. Once you accept that you will have to move slower during this port, Africa cruises sound all the better!
What to do in Zanzibar:
Start off your adventure to this Africa cruise port by heading into Stone Town, the central point of Zanzibar. Because of its strategic location right off the coast and its protected harbor, Stone Town has converted from a fishing village to a trading center.
Another great option is to take a private boat trip to snorkel is the surrounding waters. Depending on the tour you choose, you will find yourself at sandbars and lagoons alike!
Later, explore Jozani National Park where you will find the Zanzibar Red Colobus, monkeys that only live in Zanzibar. This is a great spot to visit if you are traveling between Stone Town and Paje Beach.
From the peaceful islands located right off shore to the fun dance classes to Mbalax beats, Dakar offers a steep contrast to the relaxed lifestyle found in Zanzibar, Tanzania. You can easily spend most of your time browsing the quirky markets in Dakar.
Africa cruises frequently bring their passengers to this port for guests to explore the history and natural landscape of the area. At the end of the day (before your cruise departs of course!), enjoy one of the local drinks overlooking the crashing ocean waves.
What to do in Dakar:
While Dakar is not necessarily mountainous, you can explore Monument de la Renaissance Africaine during Africa cruises to discover the Deux Mamelles topped by a 49-meter-high copper behemoth.
Later, head over to the island of Goree to learn about Senegal's history of brutality through the slave trade. As a UNESCO-listed island, you can respectfully explore more than 20 slave houses and roam the somber streets of this historic isle.
Head 40 minutes out of Dakar to Lake Retba, a lake with saline content as high as 40% (more than that found in Jordan's Dead Sea). When the conditions are right, you will notice the waters turn into a shocking pink color. So pack your swim suit and head over to this unique natural wonder on your African cruise.
Africa cruises tend to visit this beautiful cruise port to explore Gambia's international significance. While this low-rise Gambian capital may not be as advanced of a visitor hub as one would imagine, it certainly offers some spectacular sites for you to explore.
If you prefer to explore further out from the country's capital, you can explore Serekunda -- Gambia's most populous region -- or Gambia's coastal settlements of Kololi, Koto, Bakau, and Fajara.
What to do in Banjul:
Start your Gambia adventure at Arch 22, a 36-meter-tall arch that towers over Banjul's Independence Drive. This massive structure was built in 1996 to celebrate the successful military coup on July 22nd, 1994.
Immerse yourself into the Gambian culture at the Albert Market. This bustling area is found on Liberation Avenue and offers a maze of alleys filled with local shops and stalls for you to explore on your African cruise.
Anglers will love the sport fishing opportunities found in Banjul. Either rent a long canoe or book a outboard motor trip to the Oyster Creek to enjoy a fishing trip to the area's mangroves.