Best of the Bathrooms

"Eeewwwwwwww!!" was how my friend Walt punctuated a factoid he recently e-mailed me.

Can't say I blame him. Walt told me dentists recommend keeping your toothbrush at least six feet away from a toilet bowl to prevent airborne particles that result from the flushing contaminating it.

Hmmm, one more good reason to keep that lid down on those shipboard vacuum toilets.

Apparently dental authorities aren't kidding. Effectively, "we keep our toothbrush in the outhouse," Dr. R.Tom Glass, a research authority on toothbrush hygiene and professor emeritus of oral pathology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, observed to USA Today last year. "If it's not cared for properly, your toothbrush is a substantial health risk, with the razor blade being a close second."

For me, tidbits such as Walt's and Dr. Glass' begged the question: What about on a cruise ship, where it isn't likely passengers ever get a bathroom big enough to protect their toothbrush by a margin of six feet? Indeed, some cabin bathrooms are so tiny that storing the brush sufficiently far from the toilet bowl means keeping it on your bedside table!

My curiosity was duly piqued. I wondered if any shipboard bathrooms might be commodious enough, if you will, to give you a running shot at proper toothbrush hygiene.

As a result, I discovered some rather dashing loos at sea -- not to mention a few on some vessels that are bigger than entire cabins on others. But, as a rule, not too many shipboard johns exceed the 36-square-foot back-of-the-envelope minimum I used as a toothbrush-safety yardstick.

The bathrooms described below represent relatively typical ones for the given ships mentioned -- the type most passengers on board might wind up getting.

  • On Radisson Seven Seas' all-suite Navigator, the palatial marble bathrooms measure nearly 6 feet by 8 feet, yielding approximately 46 square feet of space. Clearly, it's a contender. Each bathroom includes both a separate glass-door shower stall (no plastic curtain to fuss with) and a full-size tub, long enough to actually recline in. Creamy colors and buttery marble countertops, lots of open glass shelves to store stuff on, and jewel-like lights conspire to make you look, well, rich. But if you want to really safeguard your toothbrush on this ship, opt for stateroom No. 934. Its bathroom measures nearly 66 square feet.

  • The all-marble bathrooms in a majority of staterooms on Silversea's Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper -- i.e. Vista and Veranda categories -- measure an impressive 53.8 square feet. They feature a double sink/vanity with plenty of storage space on open-glass shelving above the sinks and wood shelves below, and, of course, a full-size bathtub and separate glass-enclosed shower.

  • The bulk of the bathrooms on both Disney Magic and Wonder actually are a bath and a half. The aggregate measurement -- approximately 38 square feet -- seems acceptable for that toothbrush, but just at first blush. Because of the split configuration, each individually enclosed compartment actually is somewhat snug: One side, at 16 square feet, houses a toilet and sink and definitely sounds like a brush with trouble. The other side, at 22 square feet, has just the shower/tub combo and a second sink, making it a good choice for the family brushes. Combined, of course, these are great for families. Ceramic tile and lacquered pear-wood cabinetry even lend a "residential" feel.

  • At approximately 38 square feet, the majority of bathrooms on Seabourn's yachtlike Pride (in categories A to A3) also just skim the toothbrush margin, though they are beautifully appointed. Adorned with gleaming white marble shot with swirls of smoky gray, these boast his-and-her sinks, large mirrored vanity cabinets and enameled baths with shower facilities.

  • On Cunard Line's QE2, cabins in Princess, Britannia and Queens Grill categories are among the ship's more plentiful--featuring 216 bathrooms with beige marble flooring, burnt sienna marble vanity units and bird's-eye maple woodwork. Approximately one-fourth of them range from a respectable 40 square feet up to a comfy 68 square feet. A trio of other staterooms in this category, though, might be the runaway winners. Boasting bathrooms equipped with full whirlpool tub, separate shower and two sinks, these measure 111 square feet -- nearly the size of entire staterooms (including bathroom) on some ships. Aptly on the Queen, the separate throne room alone in these babies measures 37 square feet.

  • Relative to bathrooms on many mass-market ships, Carnival's feel downright enormous; nevertheless, they flunk the toothbrush test. For example, the typical bathroom on Spirit--in all except the lowest categories and suites--measures only 26 square feet. Brightened by a vivid sea-green color scheme, it has a rectangular shower stall with plenty of elbowroom and lots of storage space, including open glass shelves. Destiny-class ships, with only two bathroom types -- standard and suites -- are a bit bigger: 29 square feet in standards and 34.5 in suites. Just don't expect them to look like Martha Stewart decorated them -- unless bubble-gum pink is your color.

  • On sailing vessels, bathrooms are petite. Nevertheless, some are nifty. For instance, on Windstar vessels, nearly every nautically inspired head is identical in every cabin category. The atypical layout -- sort of circular -- measures only 30 square feet. Despite the limited space, a compact and efficient design gives it a surprisingly spacious feel. Teak floors augment the nautical theme, and dark-toned woods line the cabinetry and wraparound wall mirrors, which also serve as storage space for toiletries, etc.

  • Finally, for passengers who are inclined to carry their toothbrush with them to meals, a public loo makes storing it irrelevant. Nevertheless, one pit stop is definitely worth singling out for uniqueness. Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas has a public john for men that's still the talk of the industry. Located outside the ship's Island Grill restaurant on deck 11, the bathroom is exquisitely appointed (I know; I peeked). A bank of sinks trimmed in neutral pearwood and lush plants strategically placed lend the area a soothing feel. But its most notable amenity is the freestanding deep-green malachite-like pissoir -- complete with planter top and waterfall -- that faces directly out to sea through a huge wall of windows. Maximum capacity: "four persons of good manner," said a spokeswoman for the line.

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