Sand-fringed isles, turquoise waters, rugged mountains and sprawling beaches…all of this and more awaits you on a cruise to the Indian Ocean.

While many will choose to venture to one of the islands for a holiday and enjoy the hefty price tags that accompany these private five-star resorts, what is great about a cruise is that you can forgo this lumpy expenditure and get the chance to visit more than one of the beautiful exotic islands, along with other exciting destinations, in one incredible trip.

Divided by the equator, the best time to visit the Indian Ocean is during the British winter or spring. So, here’s our pick of the best Indian Ocean cruises to book now for 2021.

Indian Ocean cruises: Maldives harbour
Discover secluded tranquility on a cruise to the Indian Ocean

Mahé, Seychelles

Scattered across the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean lie the 115 islands that make up the Republic of Seychelles. These sand-fringed isles are a vibrant mix of turquoise waters and luscious green landscapes, some boasting sprawling beaches and rugged mountains, others mere outcrops poking out of the sea. Full of tropical beauty and East African charm is the capital of Victoria, home to the vibrant Sir Selwyn Selwyn Clarke Market and manicured Botanical Gardens – overflowing with exotic flora and giant tortoises. To sample local delights in serene settings, head to the institution that is Marie Antionette, a restaurant set in a splendid wood-and-iron colonial Seychellois mansion.

Get on Board

7-night ‘Seychelles Yachting Serenade’ aboard Crystal Esprit, round trip from Mahé/Eden Island via St Anne Island, Praslin and Laraie Bay, departing 31 January 2021, from £5,026pp, crystalcruises.co.uk

Indian Ocean cruises: Mauritius
Mauritius is blessed with crystal-clear waters – home to stunning sealife

Malé, Maldives

The Maldives is one of those destinations everyone has dreamed of visiting, with those two little words summing up unparalleled images of azure waters, powder-white sands and fabled thatched beach huts. Perhaps the most romantic and desired destination of all, the Indian Ocean archipelago is a favourite for cruisers, who can take in its utopian islands from sun-soaked decks, snorkel among coral reefs and dine on fresh seafood in port-side restaurants. Stepping on shore in the capital, Malé, you’ll find the white-stoned Old Friday Mosque and atmospheric Fish Market, while the beaches you’ve always dreamed of are just a short Atoll Transfer speedboat away.

Get on Board

• 28-night ‘Discovering Asia with Singapore at New Year’ fly-cruise aboard Boudicca, departing 17 December 2020, from £5,499pp, fredolsencruises.com

Mauritius

Disembark in Port Louis and stroll along the Caudan Waterfront or Jardins de las Campagnie, the city park. There are traces of Port Louis’ colonial past on Place D’Armes, where the statue of Bertrand François Mahé, the count of La Bourdonnais and a former governor of the island, observes passers-by. Get under the turquoise water on a submarine excursion which takes guests to a depth of around 30m for amazing views of colourful sealife, or explore the resort of Grand Bay, on the shores of a lagoon, for relaxation and shopping in the boutiques.

Get on Board

108-night ‘World Voyage’ aboard Queen Victoria, round trip from Southampton via Mauritius, departing 10 January 2021, from £11,899, cunard.com

Indian Ocean cruises: Reunion
Pineapples grow in profusion on Reunion’s rich volcanic soil

Réunion

It’s all about volcanoes on Réunion, formed by a submerged volcano and home to one of the world’s most active, Piton de la Fournaise. The collapsed and dormant volcano, Piton des Neiges, creates spectacular canyons and gorges in the northwest of the island, so take a day’s tour to visit the giant volcanic amphitheatres (known as cirques) and see mountains, waterfalls and tropical plantations of spices, vanilla and fruits. Keep an eye open, too, for some of the 120 species of orchid that grow on the island. If you want to splash out, a helicopter ride over Piton des Neiges will give you memories to last a lifetime.

Get on Board

15-night ‘Small Islands of the Indian Ocean’ cruise aboard Coral Geographer, from Seychelles to Mauritius via Réunion, departing 1 February 2021, from £10,615, coralexpeditions.com