Top 10 tropical cruise island destinations

1 KAUAI

Hawaii is celebrated as the quintessential, romantic Pacific archipelago of hip-swaying girls, surf breaks, pineapple plantations and coconut-fringed beaches. Lush, outdoorsy Kauai has the most glorious scenery, its red rock contrasting with emerald jungle and sapphire ocean. Get into the incredible landscapes on shore excursions that offer tubing, kayaking or zip-lining. If your budget stretches to a scenic helicopter flight over Waimea Canyon, you won't soon forget it. See gohawaii.com, cruise with ncl.com.

2 SEYCHELLES

This Indian Ocean archipelago is characterised by white sand, peacock waters and granite outcrops shaded by coconut palms. Big ships call in at busy Mahe, but your Robinson Crusoe moment can be found on expedition cruises that generally call in at the islands of La Digue, Praslin and Curieuse, eco-destinations noted for giant tortoises, bird life and orchid-filled forests. Warm waters are a snorkeller's kaleidoscope of pleasure. See seychelles.travel, cruise with varietycruises.com.

3 MARE

Fewer places say getaway more than sailing into Maré, one of the Loyalty Islands off New Caledonia. You're greeted by basalt outcrops, lagoon-like sinkholes, blinding stretches of sand and forests where green parakeets flit. Locals live in blue houses and sing in white churches with red roofs. The colours of the coastal waters are surreal, the blend of French and Melanesian culture fascinating. See iles-loyaute.com, cruise with pocruises.com.au.

4 RAROTONGA

The chief island of the Cook Islands pops out of the sea in an effervescence of reefs and rugged green hills. You're likely to be serenaded by a ukulele player as you tender off cruise ships from Avatiu Harbour. Mangoes hang from the trees, fish flop in the lagoon, coconut palms droop. Hire a scooter and meander around the 32-kilometre loop of tarmac for life in the slow lane. See cookislands.travel, cruise with pgcruises.com.

5 BORA BORA

Bora Bora is surely the most stunning of all Pacific islands, and there's no better way to approach it than by ship as its dramatic volcanic peaks, often dolloped with billowing clouds, rise from the ocean, strung with a necklace of pretty atolls. The enclosed lagoon is gin-clear and home to multi-coloured fish and turtles. Even better, the tropical splendour comes without the eye-watering costs of the island's land-based hotels. See tahiti-tourisme.com, cruise with carnival.com.au.

6 TOTOLA

With a name straight from the pages of a pirate adventure, the largest of the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean has just what you want from an island escape: friendly locals, laidback beach bars, a national park of lush forest cooled by trade winds, great seafood and fine sands. Parrotfish swim among coral and sea-fans just offshore. Ships dock at Road Town, scarcely a town at all. See bvitourism.com, cruise with royalcaribbean.com.au.

7 COMOROS

Move over Maldives: the Indian Ocean's Comoros Islands are overlooked Cinderellas only explored on expedition ships. Lying southwest of the Seychelles between Madagascar and Africa, four enchanting islands feature smouldering volcanoes, rainforest and ridiculous tropical-paradise stereotypes; cruises usually stop at the most beautiful, Anjouan. Africans, Arabs and Portuguese make up a polyglot population, and in this former French colony you can enjoy croissants and coffee at a waterfront cafe. See comoros-islands.com, cruise with seabourn.com.

8 MARGARITA

Locals call popular Isla de Margarita off the north-east coast of Venezuela the "pearl of the Caribbean" for its powdery-pale sands and neon-blue water. It's a large island with a half-million population, but its mountainous spine is remote and scenic, and yellow parrots flit in its nature reserves. Kite-surfing and windsurfing are big on its 50-odd beaches. The island is also dotted with Spanish churches and forts. See venezuelatuya.com, cruise with msccruises.com.

9 PHI PHI

Afloat in the Andaman Sea between Phuket and Malaysia, the Phi Phi Islands have long been a backpacker's dream tropical escape; Leonardo di Caprio movie The Beach was shot here. You might elbow for room on the beach or at the bar, but small-ship cruises linger off shore, soaking up crazy-cute islands that rise from the sea in sheer cliffs and hidden bays of languid loveliness. See tourismthailand.org, cruise with starclippers.com.

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10 REUNION

Reunion rises south-west of Mauritius in a staggering display of rearing mountain peaks that top 3000 metres. Vanilla and sugar, as well as geraniums and vetiver for the perfume industry, make this an aromatic place. Ancient volcanos loom and rainforest is studded with waterfalls. A largely African and Creole population, descendants of former slaves, cling to this mountainous island, planted with vegetables and bananas like a lost Eden. See reunion.fr, cruise with princess.com.

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