Friday 29 August 2008

Universal Studios: Toilets Evoke Spirit of Gotham Through Realistic Grime and Decor

Universal Studios Orlando Theme Park
New York Area Toilet
Universal Orlando Resort
1000 Universal Studios Plaza
Orlando, FL USA

Where is it?

Head to the New York section of the park, an area that has a number of sound stages that, from the outside, look like traditional NYC tenements and skyscrapers but inside house non-NYC-inspired rides like the fun Mummy coaster and special effects-driven Twister.

Once there, look for the area's gaming arcade, which can be found by locating the large sign reading "Games." The gaming arcade is set inside a corner building, with one side facing the main walkway and the other facing an alley.

Instead of going in the arcade's main entrance, which faces the street, go past it and down the alley (you'll see another entrance for the "Games" section here). Beyond that, you'll see a sign for the "Gotham Ice Company" hanging above an archway that looks like an entrance into a sewer system. That's actually the bathrooms.

What's it like?

You kind of expect the inside of the bathrooms here to evoke the spirit of NYC, given the amount of effort put into the facades of the New York area buildings themselves. And to some degree, that concept is exhibited well here.

These are large, somewhat sprawling facilities that look and feel very much like the larger toilets experienced in Islands of Adventure. Visitors here will find the urinals set up along one wall, the toilet stalls set up behind them and the sinks arranged in various stations and divided by the walls of the place.

The central area is a bit more spread out than the larger facilities at Islands of Adventure, allowing for more walking room between the toilets and sinks and such. Also, because of that roomy center, the area also feels more bustling than it is. All of which captures a certain spirit of NYC, if you think about it.

However, as you can imagine it's nothing like the real thing -- and don't expect these to be like the impressive Grand Central Station toilets), but as theme park toilets go these do capture a sense of urbanity, which I found commendable.

The decor helps achieve this: The tile work here is modest yet decorative: Standard gray tile on the floor, straightforward white tile on much of the walls and a simple black and white tile pattern about three-quarters up -- all of which combined gives it a somewhat old-fashioned turn-of-the-century feel. Think McCormick and Schmick's Orlando or Philadelphia's Davio's, just without the modernist sheen and polish and with much more room.

On the flip side, the place was also somewhat filthy -- not in the open areas but in the smaller zones where you don't look at first but then find yourself unable to look at afterward. While the toilets were pretty clean (though not immaculate), there was lots -- and I mean LOTS -- of water on the floor, and with that came a prominent stink of urine -- so strong that I wondered if half of the pee intended for the toilets had landed on the floor instead.

More disturbing were the poofs of white "substance" found beneath the sinks. I must use the word "substance" here because I wasn't sure what this stuff actually was. Was it coagulated soap suds, squished up paper towels, dragged along toilet paper or cleaner that somehow gelled in the nether-spaces of the bathroom? Either way, I stayed away from it, fearing it might spawn in the bathroom and swallow me whole.

Of course, given that -- and the smell -- the place also felt pretty much like an authentic NYC public toilet, wouldn't you say?

Marks out of 10:

6. Nice design and would have rated higher were it not for the foul odors, mass amounts of spilled water and identifiable white "substance."

Comments to the Management:

I like the place, only it needs stronger air fresheners and clearly needs to be mopped more regularly. I imagine that once the white "substance" issue grows out of hand, venerable cleaning SWAT teams much be sanctioned to tackle the job successfully.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Universal Studios: Islands of Adventure: Seuss Landing Toilets Don't Suck

Islands of Adventure Theme Park
Seuss Landing Toilet
Universal Orlando Resort
1000 Universal Studios Plaza
Orlando, FL USA

Where is it?

Head into the Seuss Landing section of the park. Once here, look for the One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish ride -- essentially just a Dumbo ride. When facing the One Fish Two Fish sign, look to your left and you'll see Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous, a cafeteria set inside a circus-tent-designed type of building.

From One Fish Two Fish, head to Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous and saunter to the right of the main entrance while facing the entrance to Circus McGurkus, follow the building around back and you'll spot the restrooms.

What's it like?

This kiddie-area toilet had me shaking when I neared. After experiencing the near-horrific mess in the park's Toon Lagoon toilets, I could only expect the worst from these facilities. After all, this is a major kiddie area of the park and it's near the park entrance -- two no-no's when it comes to discerning clean toilets.

But it turned out to be surprisingly clean. That alone may have been the biggest surprise during this visit to the park.

The toilet itself looks very similar to the Spiderman toilets in Super Hero Island, in that they have a base of off-white tile on the wall that is flecked with colorful tile highlights. Only here there are more color highlights than at the Spiderman toilets. (In fact, the toilets look a lot like the ones you'd find at the Sanford Zoo -- which had me wondering if they were put up by the same company. Hmmm....)

Anyway, the setup here is pretty much the same as what you'd find at the other toilets in the park. Only it's flipped. The row of urinals is found on the right wall here, not the left, and the toilets are on the right. The sinks, like with the other park toilets, are set up front inside indentations in the wall -- only the sinks are coupled up in those indentations instead of having indentations to themselves, like they do at the Lost Continent and Jurassic Park toilets.

Also the toilets here were much roomier than some of the park's finer facilities -- on par, if not just a little smaller -- than the Hulk Coaster toilets. They were also the busiest toilets I experienced in the park, and the fact that they were clean and mostly odor free made them all the more impressive in my book.

Not outstanding, mind you -- certainly these aren't the toilets you want to hit if you're looking for some privacy and comfort -- but they certainly won't scare you off like the ones in Toon Lagoon.

Sure, I found some some water and mis-thrown towels, but at least it looked like an orderly mess. That, I think, deserves some accolades.

Marks out of 10:

8. Very good toilets for a kiddie area.

Comments to the Management:

I see this place being policed heavily by the cleaning crew -- and that seems to be working because it was definitely worth a stop. So keep up the good work.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Relaxing Style at Adelaide

Adelaide Airport
Sir Richard Williams Avenue
South Australia 5950

Where is it?

Go through check in – bearing in mind the Jet air reps are really harsh and are the only airline in the world that have ever got away with giving me a weight surcharge on my luggage – and security. Make your way to gate 25. At the back in the corner you’ll find the toilets.

What’s it like?

Once inside the terminal reminds me of Aspen airport. I guess it must be the view of the mount lofty range and the brown in the décor because Adelaide is more than ten times bigger than Aspen with proper jet ways and everything. It also felt like a relaxed and friendly place to be.

Entering the toilets I was surprised by the style. Whilst in keeping with the rest of the airport it was ultra modern with regimented square sinks floating from the wall, sleek stainless steel towel dispenser, and ultra modern urinals. It was all beyond what you’d expect in what might be described as a provincial city airport.

Indeed these facilities confirmed what I already knew, that whilst Adelaide atruggles to create a great impression overall, it is capable of remarkable style in the most surprising places.

Marks out of 10:


Comments to the management:

A great set of airport toilets.

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Best Airport: Average Toilets

Kuala Lumpur International Airport,
64000 Klia,

Where is it?

Clear check in and security and you’ll come to some shops, most of which in this case were closed. The shops are a little maze like and the signage is not the best, but amongst them you’ll find this set of facilities.

What’s it like?

Once in the facilities you’ll find they are clean and functional, but nothing special for what is supposed to be the world’s best airport. Lots of capacity is apparent, and I guess it must get busy, however really this isn’t going to influence the overall score.

The toilet it self was pretty funky and had automatic flush, that in any other circumstances would have got this place a better score, but the prison like décor blew any chance of that. The décor is grey, with more grey, and guess what – more grey. Add to that the graffiti (I’m not sure how the Malaysian government would view that) and the assorted cleaning equipment stored in the open, then you get a far from satisfactory result.

Marks out of 10:

A very average 5.

Comments to the management:

Functionally fine, but that’s all.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

War Zone Haven

Bandaranaike International Airport,
Sri Lanka.

Where is it?

From the central information point the terminal is shaped like a T. Take the leg of the T and the second toilet on your left is where we are.

What’s it like?

You know when I booked my flight and there was a stop off in Colombo I thought nothing of it. It’s just one of those places you pay little thought to when you’re making your way to wherever it is you are going and having to make a transfer. I’ve only regretted this lack of thought once before, a flight where I took Aeroflot to Nairobi and found myself unannounced in Northern Cyprus and the Yemen. This was a surprise, especially as both were far from stable at the time.

I guess this time I didn’t really have the excuse of not knowing where I was going, but the fact that Sri Lanka is once again in the middle of civil war only came to mind as the plane was landing. Passing the military section of the airport, alongside two gleaming and combat ready jets I saw the scraped out hulks of two aircraft complete with bullet holes. That’s all it took to jog my memory. Still, we do a fair bit of business here and its clear that the Tamil factions only come this far south every once in a while and are no more dangerous than the IRA were in London back in the day. And hey we upped the insurance before I left.

So I guess I was surprised when I got into the terminal building. I really wasn’t expecting it to be so bright. The whole building was absolutely gleaming. A spotless, granite floor stretched in to the distance down the hall. This was a temple for the aeroplane. Whilst not huge – I certainly noticed the arrival of 180 Japanese tourists joining the same flight I was – it inspired confidence. And the staff were some of the friendliest I’ve come across.

And that brings me to the toilets. When I walked in there were two cleaners with a flooded floor. It seems that’s the way the clean toilets here. Flood the floor and sweep the water into the drain at the end. I decided to go to the next toilet along but these cleaners were having nothing of it and insisted that I should wait and they’d get out the way. Frantic activity followed and they cleared the floor, and placed toilet paper on the seat and ushered me in to the cubical. This is extraordinary I thought slightly amused.

The toilets themselves were spic and span and quite stylish in keeping with the rest of the airport. A shelf that gave plenty of room for bags and coats was availiable. The door was had an elegant slider and as is the norm in asia there was a sprayer that was almost blinding. They were obviously clean as could be, but once the toilet paper was removed you could the see the seat had seem some serious wear and tear. That made me glad that I’d had the service from the cleaners.

So knowing what was likely to come next I went about searching for some cash. No US dollars to be found I hoped some Astralian dollars would have to do. And give these guys credit where it was due they were over the moon. Good on them.

Marks out of 10:

8. Worth tipping for.

Comments to the management:

Unexpectedly good. Just get the toilet seat changed.

Monday 18 August 2008

Singapore’s Changi Airport has Spotless Shine

Area D
Changi Airport

Where is it?

Changi Singapore is a maze of a place. No, that’s not strictly accurate. It’s actually easy to find everything once you realise its scale because the signage is fantastic. However, it is huge and has lots of gadget shops that are really very interesting and, quite frankly, distracted me from the task of finding the next plane.

Add to this that I came to this particular toilet twice (on my first and third pass through this airport on this particular trip) and you’ll get the picture as to why I really don’t have a clue how to direct you there.

However you can use this map (the best map I’ve ever seen of anywhere let alone an airport) to find it. It’s in terminal 1 towards gate D40.

What’s it like?

I was looking forward to Singapore. My boss had told me “you could eat your breakfast off the pavement” and that’s the sort of place I like. Clean, tidy and neat. Changi didn’t disappoint and is a fabulous airport. My first stop was after a flight from London on a transfer to Kuala Lumpur. With no desire to eat I used the facilities and wrote the first draft of this blog.

The sinks had great marble surrounds. The toilet cubical was clean and had handy metal shelves to put things on that you don’t find in the UK. But it was the attention to details that went beyond what you normally find in the average airport toilet (which are pretty good these days) that made this place stand out.

I particularly liked the tall urinal. Am I over egging the pudding when I say it’s a piece of sculpture? It’s just fantastic and stately. An old English gentleman of a urinal!

Add to that that there was a working clock that gave accurate time and flowers that at least looked real from a distance and you have a comfortable place to pee.

So why did I have to re write the blog? Reviewing the pictures later in the trip showed that the toilet was just too bright for my camera. Eyal may well be worried about being caught taking photo’s in airports and as he rushes gets blur on his pictures, but I wasn’t rushing. Second time around I just had to try again and put some special effort in to the process. Let the camera settle… and snap.

Well, you’ll see the results weren’t too great. The conclusion had to be that these toilets are the shiniest I have come across. WOW.

Marks out of 10:

9. Just blinding.

Comments to the management:

Super, Super, SUPER.

Friday 15 August 2008

From Spices to Scooby Scam at Sir Stamford’s

Fort Canning Centre
Fort Canning Park

Where is it?

Well this is the whole point of this blog.

Finding these toilets turned into a 25 minute trek around the park. The location of the toilets was a mystery of Scooby Gang proportions. I kid you not, more than a little desperation was creeping in towards the end. Where were these damned toilets?

The mystery started in the spice garden, a replica of the one that was on this site when Sir Stamford Raffles, who founded Singapore for the British East India Company, had his bungalow before the site was militarised. In the distance I saw a sign for some toilets and feeling the need set of through the jungle to find them. After struggling through the undergrowth, avoiding some shady looking children with clipboards, I found some steps to climb. Eerily quiet I watched out for tigers – you never know – as I climbed towards the first sign. They said go right so I did. Taking in the view over the city from the veranda I ploughed on guessing they’d be just up the way.

But as I got to the end of the veranda and to the edge of the site there were still no toilets. Who stole the toilets? Backtracking the centre of the veranda I decided to pop my head in to what is ostensibly a cookery school to see the smallest of sign for the toilets up a stairway that really looked like it headed to nowhere. Abandoning any caution I followed the arrow upwards.

Once up there was an even better view of the city, but that didn’t matter. WHERE are the toilets. I really started to worry when I saw the sign for the Archaeological Lab. Do people really take that long to find the toilets? Really! By this point I was almost giving up and looking for the nearest plant pot.

Rounding the corner it seemed that there was a dead end. I went down there anyway (maybe there would be that flower pot?) but then the toilet door revealed itself. At last. Phew.

What’s it like?

After a trek of that length you’ll probably be too busy doing your thing to notice the surroundings. Once you have time to look you’ll find the facilities to be fairly comfortable although pretty damned hot. The fan doesn’t make much difference when you have humidity like this. The sinks are robust but stylish for a park. The toilet pan could have been cleaner, but that was the only blip in an otherwise spotless site.

Marks out of 10:

7. Releaving!

Comments to the management:
Scooby signage could be more helpful, as might aircon.

Thursday 14 August 2008

Style and Utility Don't Inspire at National Museum

National Museum Singapore
93 Stamford Road,

Where is it?

Parking at Caning Walk take the back entrance heading over the footbridge. Once in the building proper see the mural – pictured – to your right and head left. The entrance to the toilets is on your left. Follow the arrow at the end and the toilets will be right there.

What’s it like?

You know this particular day had turned wet and was disappointingly cool for an otherwise pleasantly humid time of the year in the city. What do you do when the weather turns bad? OK you shop. But what do you do once you’ve looked at a whole mall full of computers and gadgets…? You find a museum of course!

I passed through the museum and took the opportunity to use the facilities as I was on an informal walking tour of the city highlights. It’s an impressive place and a great space for showing art and coping with the many visitors that must come here. There was also a exhibition of furniture on that showed some pretty innovative, funky furniture that was comfortable and utilitarian at the same time.

The toilets make a good first impression as well. You are greeted with sleek black counter white tile and steel fixtures. All perfectly utilitarian: all perfect robust for the many visitors. But…

These toilets were uninspiring and pretty uninviting. I wanted to take my time and rest my feet a little before the next stage of the walk but the fact was these toilets were uncomfortable and just wanted you to move on your way. Rather like McDonalds’ seats they were designed to allow you to do you stuff in comfort but ust at that point they become so uncomfortable.

That said they had clearly put the effort in to keeping these toilets clean with the rota up to date! a great automatic paper dispenser, but given we’re getting used to the Dyson hand driers in the UK that can’t save these toilets.

So, the designers of these toilets were skilled in meeting their brief. Shovel people through clean, functional, moderately stylish toilets as quickly as possible. That just doesn’t make for the best toilet experience. Maybe they should enlist the young designers to do a better job?

Marks out of 10:

8. Perfectly utilitarian but certainly not comfortable with it.

Comments to the management:

Clean but mean.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Quality Abounds at Pan Pacific

7 Raffles Boulevard ,
Marina Square,

Where is it?

From the check in head toward the back of the hotel and around to the left. In the corner you’ll see a set of toilets.

What’s it like?

I was on the phone to home as I walked into the room to be greeted with a fabulous view. I obviously voiced my opinion as the response down the phone was “well if its that good you won’t be taking me then”. Well as it was the business executive floor and kids are certainly not allowed I guess that will be the case. Let’s just say I just wish that all the hotels I visit on business could be like this.

The bathroom in the room was pretty damned spectacular, but lets stick to the public toilets. Not being near the main entrance I’m sure this toilet sees much use. Still, there’s been no expense spared. These toilets rival all but the most outrageous in Vegas.

The thing that struck me the most were the doors to the stalls. Walnut with veneer inlay means you know the designers are trying to make an impression. Add to this there is a vanity area at the entrance so you can check your tie is just so without getting in the way of others.

Then there was the choice. Four sinks, a row of urinals, five stalls, and two sinks. All this choice just for little old me? Then there is the style of the place. Granite on the walls. If only my house was built with such quality.

Overall I could spend plenty of time in these places any time. Oh I look forward to my next visit.

Marks out of 10:

10. Yeah I want to live here.

Comments to the management:

Pan Pacific Perfect