Taking a cruise that calls at one or more ports in India promises an unparalleled experience for any world traveler. There's no better way to experience this incredible country's intriguing and complex cultures, vivid landscapes and unforgettable port cities packed with treasures. When cruising, you'll enjoy the benefits of an all-inclusive seafaring ensemble of accommodations, transportation, meals and expert tour guides. Over a dozen major cruise lines offer itineraries that feature destinations in India, between them presenting options ranging from one week in Southeast Asia to months-long voyages encompassing several continents. Ports of embarkation for these cruises are spread across the globe; however, cruises to India in the one- to two-week range generally start in Asia or the Middle East.
Major cruise lines offering cruises to India include Crystal, Costa, Cunard, P&O Cruises, Celebrity and Holland America. Cruises calling at Indian ports are also available through several luxury, boutique and small-ship lines, including Silversea, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas and Windstar. Viking, better known for its river cruises, also offers cruises to India through its Viking Ocean Cruises branch. Available cruise itineraries change from season to season, so check often for up-to-date offerings by these companies and others.
Cruise Ports in India
Mumbai (Bombay), the most populous city in India, is the most commonly featured cruise destination in the country. It's on the west coast of India and features two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and the Elephanta Caves. Other major port cities in India are Cochin on the southwest coast, known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea and the one-time trade link between Europe and Asia, and Goa (Mormugao) with its famous beaches, laid-back vibe and Portuguese colonial architecture. A few cruises also call at Mangalore, a scenic maritime city on the Arabian Sea, and Chennai on the Bay of Bengal, home to one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in Hinduism.
One- to Two-Week Cruises to India
Costa Cruise Lines presents the shortest available voyage to India with its seven-night India and Maldives cruise. It's a one-way cruise from Mumbai calling at the Indian ports of New Mangalore and Cochin before ending in Malé in the Maldives. Costa also offers a 14-night round trip that adds Colombo in Sri Lanka and Goa before returning to Mumbai.
Celebrity's 12-night Arabian Sea and India cruise from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, takes you to Goa and Mumbai, then Muscat in Oman. The line's 15-night Best of India and Sri Lanka cruise, also departing from Abu Dhabi, adds New Mangalore and Cochin, along with Colombo, Sri Lanka. From there, the voyage heads to Phuket, Thailand, and ends in Singapore.
Cunard's 14-day Singapore-to-Dubai cruise calls at Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Langkawai in Malaysia, then Chennai and Cohin before ending in Abu Dhabi. Cunard also has a 14-day Dubai-to-Singapore cruise featuring a different lineup of ports of call: Doha in Qatar, Muscat in Oman, Goa, Colombo in Sri Lanka, Phuket in Thailand and Penang in Malaysia.
Taking a little over two weeks, the 16-day Pearls of the Indian Ocean cruise on a luxury yacht offered by Windstar Cruises takes you to eight destinations including Dubai and Singapore, the ports of departure and arrival. In India, you'll stop at Mumbai, Mangalore and Cohin, followed by the ports of Galle in Sri Lanka, Phuket in Thailand and Malacca in Malaysia.
Longer Cruises to India
Cruises to India lasting three weeks or more feature additional destinations in East Asia, the Middle East and Europe. World cruises exceeding two or three months take you even further across the globe, calling at three or more continents and oftentimes crossing oceans at the Panama Canal. Among your options are Viking Ocean Cruises' 21-day Passage to India featuring six countries and Oceania's 40-day Sacred Sojourn from Singapore to Rome.
Costs: The lowest prices for cruises to India (at the time of publication) range from around $400 to almost $7,000, with upgraded room rates running significantly higher. This translates to around $60 to $315 per night. Taxes, fees and port expenses are additional. Look carefully at what the advertised rates include. Also factor in the cost of flights to and from ports of departure and arrival, as well as any hotel stays. You can make these arrangements through your cruise line or independently. Travel insurance is another cost to consider.
Weather: When cruising to India and other destinations featured on such cruises, which are generally in the tropics or desert regions, expect warm to hot weather year-round. India also experiences frequent heavy rains from June to September.
What to wear: In addition to considering the climate of India and other featured cruise destinations when packing your suitcase, also consider their cultures. India and most countries in the Middle East have conservative cultures where tourists are expected to dress modestly as a matter of respect. In some countries, including the United Arab Emirates, modest dress codes are enforced by law. Loose-fitting clothing that covers you, at a minimum, from your shoulders to your knees is the best option. Beaches and private resort areas are generally an exception. If you plan to visit religious sites, bring a scarf or similar item (or purchase one very inexpensively in India) to cover your head. Also be aware that some Hindu temples do not permit leather goods. Some cruise ships have dress codes, ranging from smart-casual to black tie, for evening meals and events, so be sure to check those requirements before packing.