Flanked by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and topped off by the Mediterranean Sea, the African continent lends itself perfectly to a cruise.
Find ships cruising into ports in Namibia, South Africa, and Mozambique as well as sailings across to Madagascar and Seychelles, or sail down from Mediterranean Europe to some of North Africa’s jewels.
Best cruises to Africa
From serious voyages to short breaks, this multifaceted continent has a little something for everybody.
Best for beach hopping: MSC
MSC focuses most of its itineraries on Mauritius, an idyllic island that sits in the Indian Ocean, and the untouched coastline of Mozambique. Days can be spent sunbathing on Flic en Flac beach, swimming with the local pod of dolphins or hiking to spectacular waterfalls.
With no more than 350 people onboard and a healthy 1:1 staff-to-guest ratio, there’s no denying that the Silverseas fleet are some of the most luxurious ships to sail the Indian Ocean. Opt to stay in the Oceanview suite which comes complete with a private veranda and butler service.
Best for cruising down the Nile: Viking River Cruises
Awarded the “Best River Cruise Line” for 14 consecutive years by the people of Travel Weekly, you couldn’t be in better hands for a cruise into the heart of Egypt. Its small ships allow you to get even closer to those less-visited destinations along the Nile where you’ll discover the temples of Dendera and pyramids of Giza.
Room service included
No free alcohol
No price matching
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Embrace life at sea with one of Costa’s five cruises that last upwards of 115 days and stop off at many of Africa’s key ports. Set sail from Europe, and spend a month exploring Africa’s islands out in the Indian Ocean and it’s southern countries, before continuing your adventure to South America.
Best for off-the-beaten-track destinations: Azamara
Striving to provide a more port-heavy itinerary, with fewer days at sea, guests onboard one of Azamara’s high-end cruise liners will have time to explore coastal gems such as Port Elizabeth and East London, places that are seldom visited by other ships.
Best for all-inclusive packages: Cruise & Maritime
Cruise and Maritime has recently rolled out a series of all-inclusive packages, so you can enjoy unlimited amounts of the things that you love. Packages include anything from gratuities and priority seating to a premium beverage package.
No free room service
No free alcohol
No price matching
Visa, Mastercard, American Express
How we picked the best cruises
Africa is vast, and choosing the best type of cruise for your personal wants and needs can be a tricky business. That’s why we’ve narrowed down the top cruise liners sailing to the continent and categorized them by what they can offer you.
Despite their differences, we made sure that each of the cruise liners on this list offers a well-rounded itinerary that allows passengers enough time to explore onshore and to relax onboard. We also considered facilities on the ships including staterooms, dining and daily entertainment and compared this to the price point to make sure you’re getting value for money.
When is the best time to go to Africa?
Africa is a huge continent and the climate varies from country to country. Cruising season generally starts from October and ends in May, with December and January considered to be the busiest months.
If you’re hopping on a cruise for two weeks or less, you’ll need to decide which part of the continent you want to see. Here are a few common itineraries and when’s best to cruise them.
Southeast Africa. The countries of Southeast Africa are best explored from November to April, though you’ll want to book during the shoulder seasons of October and May for quieter waterways and lower prices.
West Coast. Stops along the West Coast of Africa are usually part of repositioning cruises or longer world voyages, which can be found at different times throughout the year. If you’ve got your heart set on the islands of Cape Verde, it’s best to cruise between November and June when temperatures are idyllic and the chances of rain minimal.
Indian Ocean Islands. Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar are the most popular islands to visit during a cruise to Africa. While small-ship cruises are available to Seychelles all year-round, prime time sailing is April/May and October/November. Madagascar and Mauritius are both best visited from April through to December.
The Nile. Cruising down the Nile is ideal from October to April when temperatures are cooler, and you’ll be able to explore the temples of Aswan and Luxor without any trouble.
Chobe River. Cruises to the Chobe River are generally available all year round, but you’ll want to visit from August to October for prime wildlife viewing opportunities. Unfortunately, this is also the hottest time of the year. Avid bird watchers should consider visiting during the wet season — December to April — to enjoy the most active birdlife and cooler temperatures.
What are the must-do cruise excursions in Africa?
Africa’s huge variety of shore excursions give you plenty of opportunities to tick off some of those bucket-list items.
Cape Town, South Africa. Once you’re finished exploring the vibrant city center of one of South Africa’s capital cities, take a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain for panoramic views of the city and beyond.
Nairobi, Kenya. You’ll want to plan for a couple of overnight stays when you visit Nairobi to experience the true beauty of Masai Mara National Park where elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo and rhinoceros roam freely.
Mahé, Seychelles. As one of the largest islands in Seychelles, Mahé offers visitors beautiful beaches, turquoise waters and only the freshest barbequed seafood.
Walvis Bay, Nambia. Hidden behind Walvis Bay is one of the world’s oldest coastal deserts, the vast Namib, which can be explored via quad bike or hot air balloon.
Full of wildlife, unique cultures and mesmerizing landscapes, a cruise to Africa is the place to let your intrepid urges run wild. Make sure to check out these cruise deals, to ensure you’re getting the best rates on your booking.
Frequently asked questions
With the exception of world voyages, most cruise liners leave from one of South Africa’s two cruise terminals: Cape Town and Durban.
Cruises to Africa last for a minimum of seven days with many cruise liners offering two or three-week itineraries. Longer world voyages also include ports in Africa and can last anywhere from 30 to 130 days.
It’s best to bring plenty of US dollars in small denominations, as these are generally accepted throughout Africa. If you need to change dollars into local currency while you’re there, it’s easy enough to find a local bank in most port cities. South African rand, Zambian kwacha, Mauritian rupee, Kenyan shilling, Egyptian pound, and Seychellois rupee and are all available to buy in the US too.
Lily Jones is a travel writer at Finder. She also writes for other titles and manages her own blog, A Lil Guide. Lily graduated with a degree in Russian and Management studies from University College London in 2016. Having discovered her passion for travelling at a young age, she has lived in many cities around the world including St Petersburg, Melbourne and London. Other than travel, Lily has an innate passion for all things food.
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