The Sun Deck, which also has an outside area, is home to the indoor air-conditioned lounge and bar, a relaxing area with sofas and easy chairs set around tables. This is the main place where passengers gather to chat, upload photos, read and catch up with world events through the potted online newspapers that are printed each day in English and French. The two barmen seem to be on duty all day long, serving specialty coffees, sodas, milkshakes, wine and cocktails. Each night, there is a featured cocktail of the day, and pre-dinner drinks are served with bowls of snacks.
Most nights a movie is screened on the large flat-screen TV in the lounge, themed to the destination and in English or with English subtitles. On our trip, they included "The Killing Fields," charting the harrowing Khmer Rouge campaign; the tiger movie "Two Brothers," which was filmed in Cambodia; and "The Lover," based on the affair between French novelist Marguerite Duras and her lover Huynh Thuy Le, whose former Sa Dec home is visited on an excursion.
One morning the chef stages a vegetable-carving demonstration, and on other days, the local guides provide a fascinating insight into the geography, history, culture and customs of their respective countries. Each evening, before dinner, the cruise director gives an overview of the following day's activities (also contained in the daily schedule left in the cabin each night) and answers any questions.
Daily shore excursions (on occasion, two a day) are included in the cruise price. They were all punctual and well organized and covered a myriad of sights and experiences, including Angkor Wat, day and night markets that were a great place to pick up souvenirs (and where the U.S. dollar is universally accepted), floating fishing villages and a cruise through inland waterways on a small local boat (sampan). Crewmembers were always there to see us off and hand out bottles of water, and greet us back onboard with very welcome cold towels and a chilled beverage.
In one corner of the Sun Deck lounge is the cruise director's desk and along one wall are a small selection of board games and books (with a few English-language titles), and a couple of display cabinets with postcards, local souvenirs and a few Croisi-branded items for sale. Passengers can also purchase notebooks, pens and other items onboard to take as gifts on the school visit.
Outside the lounge, next to the alfresco seating area, there's a 24-hour complimentary tea and coffee station with coffee and hot water urns, Nescafe sachets and assorted tea bags. Passengers can also help themselves to sweet and savory snacks and -- rather novel -- cut off bananas from a huge bunch hanging from the ceiling.
Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship, although the signal can be slow or nonexistent in remote areas. A laptop is available at the bar for passengers to use free of charge.
Indochine does not have elevators.
Due to the size of the ship, there is no need for intrusive public announcements. A hand-held gong is used for early wake-up calls and to alert passengers to mealtimes and shore excursions.
The Sun Deck is adorned with lush, tropical plants and aft is a sunbathing area with 10 loungers. Directly outside the lounge is an alfresco seating area, with a sun canopy and cooling electric fans, where smoking is permitted. Another open-air seating area is located forward, and comfortable rattan chairs are also dotted around the Upper and Sun Decks, which are more private and good spots to watch the passing river scenery.
For such a small vessel, it's a welcome surprise to find an onboard masseuse. Treatments are an absolute bargain when compared to those found on many ocean ships (so much so, some of my fellow cruisers booked almost one per day). Similarly, no tip is added to the price and there is no "hard sell" to buy any products.
The short spa menu includes a facial and a selection of Thai, Khmer and aromatherapy treatments, including a foot massage, full-body massage and head, back and shoulder massage. All treatments, apart from the foot massage, can be booked for 55 or 85 minutes. Prices start at $13 for a foot massage (highly recommended after sightseeing) to $35 for an 85-minute facial. Although the therapist on my cruise spoke little English, she was friendly and professional and my very firm, thorough and traditional Khmer massage was an incredible value at $15 for just under an hour. (Not knowing what to expect, I decided not to book the longer $20 session, and then wished I had!)
Treatments are carried out on the bed in passengers' cabins, or in a dedicated spare cabin if one is available during the cruise. The spare cabin is often one near the engine room, but we spoke to a fellow passenger who said she didn't notice any excessive noise during her massage when the ship was moving. If you're concerned, book your treatment for a time when the ship is moored.
There is one token exercise bike, incongruously situated on the open deck behind one of the seating areas on the Sun Deck. I never saw anyone use it, apart from a couple of passengers who got on it for fun to pose for photographs. Plenty of exercise can be gained from walking around on the shore excursions.
River cruising in Asia is not geared to young children, and there are no onboard facilities for them.