The entertainment onboard the vessel itself consists of a stereo system and several CDs (most of which have been compiled and left by former guests), the camaraderie of the guests themselves, and the interaction with the crew. It doesn't sound like much, but on a journey of this type, it's really all that's needed. One of the more joyous moments of our cruise came on the last night, after the Captain's Farewell Supper, where almost every one of the guests sang along with Don McLean's American Pie. All of us, with the exception of my traveling companion (who happened to be my mother), had grown up during the '60s and could belt out the words with abandon.
There are also some board games, and a small library of both regional travel books and novels, most left by prior guests.
The bulk of what constitutes the "entertainment" quotient on L'Impressionniste, though, is the ability to see and experience, close-up, the region through which we are traveling. In Avignon we visited both the 12th-century Palace of the Popes and the Chateauneuf du Papes winery. In Arles, we saw the Roman Coliseum, known today as the site of "corridas" (bullfights), and walked in the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh. In Aigues Mortes we dined at a local restaurant and visited the Constance Tower, seeing for ourselves how the Crusades affected the history of France. We also had the opportunity to walk the ramparts of this medieval walled city. In Marseillan we got to visit the Noilly Prat vermouth distillery, to taste the three vermouths produced and to purchase Noilly Prat Amber, which is only available in Marseillan. In Agde, at the end of our voyage, we visited the charming, tiny village of Pezenas, climbing its narrow cobbled streets as Laurent, our knowledgeable and engaging tour guide, gave us a glimpse into life in the 1200s.
Along the way, on the Canal du Rhone a Sete and later on the Canal du Midi, we were witness to the wildlife of the Camargue, a protected wetlands with famous white horses, black bulls, pink flamingos and sundry other species including egrets, pelicans, terns and wild ducks. We waved at the men in overalls who fished along the banks, learned about the culture and significance of "les taurreaux" (the bulls) around Aigues Mortes, and later, as we passed between Sete and Marseillan across the Thau Lagoon, we were witness to the acres and acres of oyster beds and learned about the culture of oysters and mussels in the region.
In the afternoons, as we cruised along our route, we would sit at the large upper-deck table, sipping wine and munching hors d'oeuvres that had been specially prepared for us, and our conversation and laughter completed the circle of our onboard "entertainment."
There's one inside public room and one-and-a-half outside. The small covered deck has a small table, and the large open deck sports a table big enough for all guests.
The inside space, known as the "saloon," serves as the dining room, bar, living room, relaxation area, conversation pit, and, depending on the crowd you're with, the dance floor. It isn't big, but it's well laid-out with banquettes along the walls and two small armchairs, a small bar and a long dining table that seats 14. It's a cozy space for conversation, for reading, and -- because it's flanked on both sides by big picture windows-- for seeing the route if the weather isn't good enough to be outside. When the weather is good, though, outside is where you want to be. The big teak table on the upper deck is surrounded with teak lounge chairs and pads. It's a comfy spot for sitting and watching the scenery as the barge wanders lazily through the canals and rivers that make up this route. Whether you grab a beer from the fridge or the crew serves wine and canapes, it's a convivial spot. It's also surrounded with terra cotta planters filled with flowers and herbs; it's not unusual to see the chef come out and snip something or another for that night's supper. At the very bow, in front of the upper deck, is a hot tub that seats six. It was pretty chilly most evenings on our voyage, but the whirlpool did get used a couple of times.
The lower deck is covered and has a table for four. The view isn't as good, but it's a quieter and more private place to hold a conversation or to enjoy the out-of-doors with a good book.
L'Impressionniste has touring bicycles available for both men and women. Guests on our journey used them in Vallabregues to visit the little town, and in Maguelone to ride the mile or so to dip their toes into the Mediterranean Sea.
Other than that, the fitness routine depends on how much walking one wants to do while ashore.
Children under 18 are not welcomed on standard cruises, but L'Impressionniste is available for whole-boat family charters, in which case they are fully accommodated. Cribs and high chairs are provided and meal choices can be arranged in advance.