"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.