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We can't live without 'em of course, and the cruise lines of the world seem to realize just how important bathrooms are, sinking time and money into designing user friendly, attractive loos.

And that's no small feat. There are upwards of 1,500 to 2,000-plus bathrooms on today's largest mega ships when you include both cabin and public facilities.

Though cabin bathrooms are generally pre-fab units built off-site and plunked into each stateroom at the shipyard, that doesn't mean they're boring little utilitarian boxes. The best are outfitted with stylish finishings like ceramic tile, stone, solid wood, and veneers.

"Even for something as mundane as bathrooms, we spent a lot of time on the details," says Bob Holland, vice president of Resort Development for Walt Disney Imagineering, about the Disney Wonder and Disney Magic.

They may be the smallest rooms on a ship, but there are big issues that must be figured into their design, from weight factors that impact the size of bathtubs and how much stone can be used to considerations of maintenance and the strategic location in heavily-used public areas.

"The bathroom is a very important space in any cruise ship," echos Executive Architect Gunnar Aaserud of Petter Yran and Bjorn Storbraaten Architects of Oslo, the designer of numerous cruise ship bathrooms.

Indeed.

Disney Magic and Wonder (Disney Cruise Line, 888/DCL-2500; www.disneycruise.com)

"The Disney Cruise Line ships were built with families in mind. This prompted us to develop a split bathroom design which allows multiple members of the families to get ready at same time with added space," says Ozer Balli, vice president of Hotel Operations for Disney Cruise Line. One room has a toilet and sink, and the other a shower/tub combo and a sink; both offer storage space. "We wanted to make sure the same level of quality details we have in the rest of the ship is brought into the bathroom as well," says Disney's Holland, who adds they use real ceramic tile on the walls and floors. The bathroom d¿cor matches the rest of the stateroom, from the Mickey Mouse head cut-outs in the lighting fixtures, to the faux wood, rope detailing, and embossed doors. No standard ho-hum cans for these ships!

Norwegian Dawn (Norwegian Cruise Line, tel. 800/327-7030; www.ncl.com)

The pair of gigantic three-bedroom Garden Villa suites on deck 14 features truly stunning ocean view bathrooms with a whirlpool tub and separate shower. The focal point of the ultra-stylish interior is the signature-piece vanity, which features glass sinks seemingly floating above chromed metal pillars, a design created by Sweden-based Tillberg Design. Other high-end touches include solid Cherry wood window blinds and cherry laminate cabinetry and wall panels. And who can argue with the yummy L'Occitane toiletries?

Silver Whisper and Silver Shadow (Silversea Cruises, tel. 877/760-9052; www.silversea.com)

Supremely elegant to match the staterooms they're attached to on these suite-only ships, the bathrooms are ultra spacious and offer a separate glass shower stall as well as full sized tub. A long vanity with double sinks completes the picture. You'll want to spend hours here admiring the cherry wood and generous use of granite. Cushy extras include Frette bathrobes and Aqua di Parma toiletries.

Seven Seas Navigator and Voyager (Regent Seven Seas, tel. 800/285-1835; www.rssc.com)

The stateroom bathrooms on the all-suite Voyager and Navigator are very similar to the Silver Shadow and Whisper, offering the same great extra-long bathtub, separate shower stall design and overall luxury and spaciousness. The toiletries are from Aveda.

Volendam and Zaandam (Holland America, tel. 877/724-5425; www.hollandamerica.com)

Pretty in pink, these spacious powder rooms boast ocean views and are strategically located just outside of the main dining room, on the Upper Promenade deck. Four vanity tables have large mirrors and stools upholstered in buttery-soft pink leather. Underfoot is rose-colored carpeting. In explaining the inspiration for their design, architect Frans Dingemans said he wanted to give passengers a taste of the luxuries first-class passengers enjoyed on classic liners of years gone by.

Voyager of the Seas (Royal Caribbean, tel. 800/327-6700; www.royalcaribbean.com)

Among the most talked about cruise ship bathrooms may be one of the public men's rooms on Voyager of the Seas, located just outside of the Windjammer/Island Grill restaurant on deck 11. Not only does it offer sweeping ocean views from floor to ceiling windows, but the forest-green marble urinal bank is certainly unique. (Ladies have been known to sneak in just to have a peak!) Hosting several users at one once, this urinal-cum-object-de-art houses a planter up top and a soothing waterfall, creating a most civilized pit-stop. Fella's -- who knew relieving yourselves could be such a classy experience.

Pride of America (Norwegian Cruise Line, tel. 800/327-7030; www.ncl.com)

Offering comic relief for users as well as functionality, all the ship's public men's rooms sport goofy cartoons right above the urinals. "We wanted to do something more fun than you see in hotels and resorts, something that people could chat about," says Trevor Young, vice president of Hotel Newbuilding and Refurbishment for NCL. "We decided to do something comical and offer a little bit of clean toilet humour." Badum ching. NCL commissioned a cartoonist and digitally printed the images right onto the charcoal-black ceramic wall tiles. The rest of the funky bathroom features bright lipstick-red basins and toilet seats, and lots of mirrors and chrome moulding. Where's the disco ball?

Norwegian Jewel (Norwegian Cruise Line, tel. 800/327-7030; www.ncl.com)

The ship's 10 Courtyard Villas were big news when this new ship debuted last year. They share a private sun deck plus a courtyard, complete with a pool, hot tub, shaded sunbeds and even a small gym. Each villa has it own impressive bathroom with sweeping ocean views. In these spaces reside a whirlpool tub, separate shower, and vanity with double sinks. Rosewood veneers on doors and walls along with polished ceramic-like tiles create a luxurious feeling, along with the L'Occitane products. With these loos, who needs to ever venture out to the rest of the ship!

Wind Star, Wind Spirit and Wind Surf (Windstar Cruises, tel. 800/258-7245; www.windstarcruises.com)

How refreshing, bathrooms that look like they actually belong on ship! Each of the cabins on these stylish yachts have teak-decked, nautical-style bathrooms that are not only attractive, but among the most functional at sea. Though very compact, the smart layout features three circular spaces, one occupying the shower; another, the toilet; and the middle, a mirror and vanity stocked with -- you guessed it -- L'Occitane toiletries. "Within the limited space, it is probably the best design ever conceived from an aesthetic point of view as well as from the practical point of view: comfort of the passengers and maintenance," says Jean-Claude Potier, owner of the original company, Windstar Sail Cruises. Couldn't have said it better myself!

Sea Cloud (Sea Cloud Cruises, tel. 888/732-2568; www.seacloud.com)

The Sea Cloud was built in 1931 as the Hussar by E.F. Hutton for his wealthy socialite wife, Marjorie Merriweather Post. The heiress spared no expense to decorate the four-masted barque and spent two years filling the ship's interiors with antiques, French Provencal furnishings, and marble and gold-plated fixtures. The bathroom in Post's exquisite personal suite, Owner's Suite No. 1, is covered in white Italian Carrera marble. The marble sink has gold-plated faucets in the shape of swans and gold inlay around the sink's edges. And it doesn't end there. Check out the gold foil swirls in the white-painted wood panelling covering the upper part of the bathroom walls. "When Marjorie Merriweather Post was building the ship she insisted that all of the fixtures be gold, as she believed gold was easier to clean than brass," says company spokesman Michael Mcintosh. Now, do we really think Post ever cleaned a thing in her life?

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