Home / Blog / This line had the worst cruise ship bathrooms, but now it has some of the best

This line had the worst cruise ship bathrooms, but now it has some of the best

May 25, 2023May 25, 2023

Editor's note: TPG's Erica Silverstein accepted a free trip from Oceania Cruises to attend the unveiling of Vista. The opinions expressed below are entirely hers and weren't subject to review by the line.

Cruise ship bathrooms are notoriously tiny. The toilets are crammed in a corner, sometimes at an odd angle. The showers can be so small that the curtain sticks to your skin and you need to exit the shower every time you drop your soap. And there's rarely enough shelves and drawers for two people's toiletries, let alone an entire family's.

Among all the tiny loos at sea, Oceania Cruises famously had some of the smallest. Its oldest, smallest ships — the four R-class vessels — were built at the turn of the 21st century when even elegant cabins were cozy and bathrooms were minuscule, a la sailboat heads. Refurbishment projects could bring design aesthetics into the modern era, but nothing could be done to enlarge the itsy-bitsy bathrooms.

Don't think the line didn't try. It replaced the clingy shower curtains with glass doors and hid storage shelves behind the vanity mirror. However, the shower stalls remain narrow, so you bang your elbows against the doors if you shift the wrong way, and there's still only one measly in-shower shelf for shampoo.

The vanity counter can hold a couple of washcloths and a soap dish, with no room for your toiletry bag. There's not much room to turn around, and two people are definitely not brushing their teeth at the same time.

It was a huge knock for an upscale cruise line that generally wows passengers with beautifully designed public spaces, fantastic dining and some of the most comfy beds at sea.

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Oceania wasn't having it, especially its new president Frank A. Del Rio Jr. (son of company founder Frank J. Del Rio Sr.). When it came time to build the line's next ship, the 2023-debuted Vista, Del Rio's mantra, according to one of the ship designers, was "more drawers, bigger showers." Oceania's goal was to create a cabin that was "better than home."

That meant the cruise line had to step up its bathroom game.

After a few days on board this ship, I can tell you that Oceania did not just make its ensuite bathrooms bigger. It created a space that might just be the best standard bathroom at sea. Here are the pillars of its success.

When I stepped into my cabin bathroom for the first time, I was immediately impressed with how spacious the room felt. You need to take several steps to get from the doorway to the large sink vanity area. I can stretch my arms all the way out and not touch a wall. (I’m 6 feet tall and have an impressive wingspan.) I’m traveling alone, but it's clear I could fit my family of four inside this standard-size bathroom.

But you don't have to take my word for it because I travel with a measuring tape.

The bathroom is not a complete rectangle, but it's roughly 35 square feet, with 76 inches from the side wall to the shower and 68 inches from the back of the vanity to the door. The shower alone is 11.5 square feet.

This, my friends, is quite the party bathroom for a cruise ship balcony room.

Related: Everything you need to know about Oceania Cruises’ Oceania Club loyalty program

The majority of us will not actually throw a party in our ensuite, but we will all want to stash our shampoo, makeup, medicine, feminine hygiene products, shaving kits, hair styling products and more in the bathroom. Fortunately, the ship designer did not disappoint his boss — or me — when it comes to bathroom storage space.

In the shower, two 14.5-inch glass shelves can easily fit multiple people's soap and hair care products. Even better, my razor and wide-toothed comb do not fall off the shelf like they do with the traditional metal-rod corner shelves you often find on ships.

The vanity has one large pullout drawer and an open shelf below. The countertop is vast, with room to place things on either side of the sink. Next to the vanity are two shallower shelves: one that holds extra towels, and another that has space next to the extra tissue box.

The vanity alone has more storage space than many cruise ship bathrooms, but Oceania's designers did not stop there.

Turn around and in the corner between the door and the toilet is a floor-to-ceiling storage unit. Up top, a mirrored cabinet hides three shelves. A small counter holds a tissue box (but you could push it aside and use the surface). Below are four shelves.

My cabin sleeps three, and I think that many people would need to work to fill up all the storage space in this bathroom.

Related: 22 cruise cabin hacks that will transform your voyage

My cabin bathroom is not just functional. It's striking.

The tiled floor is a lovely marble gray-and-white herringbone design. The large round mirror is offset with a second metal ring, which is both eye-catching and a clever nod to the Oceania logo.

The walls are white marble tile, and the cream-colored vanity and drawers have a recessed-panel design that gives them some visual interest. A piece of abstract art in blues and neutral hues hangs above the toilet.

Given that my house has a tiny master bathroom with zero design aesthetic, I can assure you that when it comes to style, my bathroom on Vista ticks all the boxes in the "better than home" department.

My raving about this ensuite does not end with space, storage and design. It's also highly functional, likely because someone thought long and hard about how Oceania's guests would use the space.

The drawers are all quiet closing, which means no slamming of drawers or rattling when the ship sails.

The mirror has a button, which activates the mirror light when pushed. It also seems to be an anti-fog mirror because it was crystal clear when I emerged from a hot shower.

The shower has a shaving bar, also useful for anyone who doesn't want to fold in half yoga-style to wash their lower legs or feet. It has both a rain showerhead and a removable shower wand on an adjustable pole, so you have multiple ways to get yourself wet and rinse off soap and shampoo.

A Sharps container is already supplied, so you can skip an awkward conversation with your steward to request one.

Not unique to Vista but still worth mentioning are the individual bottles of green tea-scented Bulgari body lotion, shampoo/body wash and conditioner, as well as two styles of Bulgari soap.

The towels also deserve a special shoutout. They are so soft and thick — unlike the simply practical towels you might find on other cruise lines. These are the kind of towels that make you inquire as to where you can buy them because you might never want to shower without them again.

Oceania's small R-class ships are fan favorites for many reasons, and I’ve always enjoyed sailing on that class of ship. The stylish cabins and cozy beds do much to soften the disappointment of the cramped bathrooms and tiny showers.

The designers for the line's new ship, Vista, clearly read all the comment cards and took to heart the mission of not just improving upon the bathroom design but creating a wow-worthy ensuite. They used the model in all the standard cabins, not just the fanciest rooms, so even the passengers paying the least to sail the ship can enjoy a luxurious loo.

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For cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter. Related: Everything you need to know about Oceania Cruises’ Oceania Club loyalty program Related: 22 cruise cabin hacks that will transform your voyage Planning a cruise? Start with these stories: