Friday 31 October 2008

Big Surprise: Toilets at Paris Hotel and Casino Cleaner Than Most Actual Parisian Toilets

Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino
3655 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV USA

Where is it?

This casino is large, though it's not nearly as large as some of the other mammoth complexes on the Strip, like the Venetian, Wynn and Caesar's Palace, to name a few. As such, getting to the bathroom from the main entrance here doesn't take nearly as long as it would at those other places.

In fact, here you just step inside, walk past the table games of the casino and head south (to the right) towards the hotel's buffet. Once past the casino, look for the "Théâtre des Arts" (or Theater of the Arts, where the Anthony Cools hypnotist show is playing). Once you find the theater, head past the ticket office to the hallway just beyond it. Go down that hallway and you'll find the restrooms.

What's it like?

As with many other Vegas bathrooms, the ones here evoke the theme of their host casino -- except whereas the Venetian and Caesar's Palace toilets stopped short of fully wowing visitors with their thematic decor, the one here goes that extra mile in bringing the thematic vision into reality.

This place has art nouveau written all over it, best seen in the elegant white tile work on the walls, which proves instantly reminiscent of the tile you'll find in the Paris Metro stations, and the intricately designed sinks, which look like they were stripped directly from the imagination of Antonio Gaudi.

Other art nouveau highlights include the dark wood stall tools at the front of the toilet stalls and the overall cavernous feel of the place, which may just be the truest mimicry of what actual mass-market Parisian toilets are like. (Notice that I say "mass market," not "all," because I've been to some wonderful toilets inside Parisian cafes.)

Except, of course, that this place is about 10 times as clean as those mass market toilets. And it has a shoe shine guy at the entrance, as a sort of impulse buy when you're leaving. (He was busy when I passed, so certainly the tactic is working.)

The setup, as stated, is cavernous. You enter and to your immediate left are the sink stations and vanities. These sinks are beautiful -- pedestal sinks that have chic blues, whites and greens worked into their porcelain design. And with automatic soap and water faucets built into them -- which sounds like it would look awkward but somehow just works fine.

Decorative tile work lines the walls behind the sink pedestals -- white tile with highlight lines of blue patterned tile separating each sink area. Gold-framed personalized mirrors hang above each sink.

Further in, you'll find a urinal chamber with about 15 units here, each white porcelain and in true European fashion they have no privacy barriers between them. Oddly enough, the baby changing station is at the very back of this area -- seems like it should go elsewhere.

The back wall is lined with toilet stalls, also about 10 to 15 in all. They have heavy wood doors with frosted glass before them, which kind of makes them feel like you're looking at individualized train compartment doors (or doors to bordello rooms?) -- something I liked. Tiled walls form the sides of the stalls, and both the walls and door go to the floor, offering maximum privacy. The toilets are white porcelain and nothing remarkable, however.

Of course, this is a busy bathroom -- especially when the nearby show lets out -- and the tile work also serves to accentuate the noise factor some, so it's not necessarily the quietest place to make a pit stop.

But the spot is clean and avoids the heavy urine stink that tends to fill most of the mass-market Parisian bathrooms I've been in (I'm looking at you, Museum l'Orangie). But if you can look past that, the wonderful decor will more than make up for those misgivings.

Marks out of 10:

9. Almost a 10, were it not for the noise factor -- the Wynn, our current Vegas leader, manages to cover up the noise in its wonderful toilet, so why not here?

Comments to the Management:

Hard to make the place quieter since it's a very busy toilet, so I'm not sure what else to recommend here outside of moving that baby changing station elsewhere. Otherwise, keep up the great work -- you've got an excellent toilet here.

Thursday 30 October 2008

Toilets at Caesar's Palace Offer Strong First Impression But Little Else

Caesar's Palace Las Vegas Hotel and Casino
3570 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV USA

Where is it?

Like many of the other mammoth hotel and casinos on the strip, getting to the bathroom from the street requires some serious footwork. And that feat is all the more daunting at this ginormous hotel because getting to the lobby of the hotel from the Strip itself requires what seems like a half-mile hike. Not easy in the often oppressive Las Vegas heat.

Once inside you still have some distance to go to before reaching this toilet. First, pass through the ornate main lobby (rivaled in spectacle only by the lobby of the Venetian and Wynn down the street, if you ask me) and head towards the casino. On the way, look for Cleopatra's Barge Nightclub, which is a bar that is set on a ship in a large indoor moat.

Before reaching the entrance to Cleopatra's, you will see a hallway open up on your left that's on the back end of the slot machine section of the casino. Go down that hallway and you'll spot a sign for the bathrooms hanging from the ceiling.

What's it like?

These bathrooms make a strong first impression. Once you take the turn to go in, you'll enter a small foyer area, pass through a second door and then finally enter the bathroom proper. Quite an elegant beginning, if you ask me.

The tile on the floor in the foyer is black and white, but in a wavy, hourglass-like pattern instead of the traditional checkerboard. The walls are beige/off-white and a feature plenty of molding from top to bottom -- to the point where you might think you're entering a cruise ship stateroom or something similar.

Once inside, the decor gets decidedly simpler. Beige tiles (with some black fleck highlights) cover the walls and rather standard wide white tile covers the floor, as does some black tile highlights -- like a wider version of what we saw at Steak n Shake Winter Park, really.

Of course, the elegant woodwork and crown work continues here, although in a more muted way.

The highlight of the bathroom is the ornate vanity, which is enormous and stretching and consists of elegant cabinetry on its lower half, a long black marble counter, about sink or seven white porcelain sink stations fitted in and the same number of individual mirrors hanging over each sink.

If that weren't enough, some fantastic small tile patches separate each mirror station from the next. It's a very decorative-looking vanity indeed.

Only the automatic faucet and automatic soap dispensers seem out of place -- partly because they are ordinary in appearance and feel like they should be more over the top (like how the Wynn has them, for example) and partly because they are a bit worn down. I know the hotel has done a major renovation of late, so seeing this was a little disappointing -- knowing that little or no money was spent on making the bathrooms completely jaw-dropping, just good enough to make a strong first impression and nothing more.

The room itself is roomy, with each section getting an area to itself (a design idea that's similar with the setup of our recent visit to the new 24 Fitness in Orlando). The urinals have a chamber all to themselves, almost like a little cave just for them, and the toilet stalls line the perimeter of the place.

There are about 10 urinals here and about the same number of toilet stalls. The urinal room is reminiscent of the awful ones we found at the Florida Turnpike rest areas at Ft. Drum and Port St. Lucie -- only those were much more disgusting than these by far.

The urinals here are your standard white porcelain models, nothing special, but they are immaculately cleaned and the room itself is tidy and neat and flowery smelling (and cool, thanks to the pumping A/C). Plus, the wallpaper on the upper walls here tries to look like cracked stone -- it's all cracked and crackly -- which is a nice effect (not as neat as the wallpaper in the Luxor bathrooms, mind you, but not bad).

Of course, as we saw in the Venetian toilets, all the nice touches aren't necessarily in order. Like the hole in the wall found there, the wallpaper here is losing its adherence and is pulling away from the wall in spots, particularly around the urinals -- which of course just undermines the effects and makes it look cheaper than it is.

Also, the dividers between the toilets are a bit small and flimsy looking -- and really don't do much to provide much privacy.

The toilets are separated by neat stall doors that make more solid use of the elegant woodwork found elsewhere, though the actual stalls are nothing more than stainless steel. The stalls are roomy though nothing spectacular in terms of size -- good enough, if you will. They are also pretty clean, though one of the ones I popped into has some seriously frayed toilet paper hanging from the roll holders -- as if someone had sprayed them with water and then left them to dry.

Like the Venetian, the walls hold some nicely framed paintings and prints, mostly of Greek and Romanesque statues (like a picture of Michelangelo's David and such). A pleasant touch to give some elegance to the walls, though nothing spellbinding (and really artwork has to reach the level of what we saw the Mansion on Forsyth Park in Savannah to be spellbinding, I think.)

Also, the place manages to block out the hustle and bustle of the casino floor that's right outside -- you barely hear it once inside. Still the place could actually use more wow, strange as it is to admit.

Marks out of 10:

7. A good first impression but its offerings are inconsistent once you get past that first impression and in the end you just wish there was more here.

Comments to the Management:

Fix that wallpaper and update those faucets -- and then start working on making these toilets more spellbinding. Will all the renovations that took place here, I expected to walk in on something rivaling the Wynn but in the end got a younger sibling to the Venetian toilets.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Hole in the Wall Keeps Lobby Toilets at the Venetian from Reaching Perfection

The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino
3355 Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV USA

Where is it?

Get to the main lobby first, which will require a bit of travel time depending on where you enter this mammoth hotel (rumored to be the second largest in the world). Following the signs to the lobby will help you get to this destination, however it will be hard for you to stay on track, considering the many elegant design distractions you'll come across along the way.

Once in the lobby, face the reception desk and make a complete about face, turning 180 degrees. When you do, you'll see a arched hallway there with the words "Restrooms - VIP Lounge" etched into the plaster (or is it marble?). Head down that hallway and you'll find the toilets.

What's it like?

The interior to this hotel has always been one of my favorites in Vegas -- right up there with the Wynn (which is the most ornate -- and has the best bathrooms in the world) and Caesar's Palace (review coming soon). I've always been wowed by the ornate ceilings of the main hall, which look like cleaned up versions of the Sistine Chapel, and the shopping mall here (which mimics the look and feel of St. Marks Square, only cleaner and filled with gondola drivers who speak perfect English) -- and those are just a few of the main attractions here (which also include great dining options and terrific rooms).

These bathrooms, at least on the surface, are top-notch. The floor is covered in an elegant marble pattern of black, maroon, white and beige tiles. The walls are covered with more beige tile that look like ancient building blocks found in ruins (something like what you'd see on the floor at the Luxor or the Lost Continent toilets at Islands of Adventure, believe it or not). The room is small for a lobby bathroom but is well spaced and always feels roomy.

The overall feel is elegant and modern with some ancient touches -- a lot like what you'd find at McCormick and Schmick's Orlando or Philadelphia's Davio's, just with a more cave-like and expensive feel to it.

There are four urinals (white porcelain) along the left wall, with the far one being the kiddie urinal. Opposite that are three spacious stalls with white porcelain toilets, with the one closest to the back wall being the handicap stall. Heavy, dark wood dividers separate the commode stalls and urinals, and while the dividers don't go to the floor (as they do at the Wynn), the material they are made of is thick enough to intimate a greater sense of privacy than what's actually achieved.

The vanity, at the front of the bathroom, features a sprawling green and white mix marble counter with gold-plated chrome automatic faucets and automatic soap dispensers and gold-plated chrome towel holders (they kind of look like elegant napkin holders, really) set in between the individual white porcelain sinks (three of them). A huge stretch mirror with gold frame is mounted behind the vanity.

As expected, it's immaculately cleaned and smelling of flowery perfume, making for an elegant visit indeed. The minimalistic framed paintings of various greenery mounted above the urinals and other spots on the walls add to that impression.

The only flaw I found was in one of the mount brackets for the urinal dividers. It looked like the bracket -- or the divider -- had fallen down at one point in the past, but instead of fixing the tile and mounting properly and setting the divider back up cleanly, the repair person seems to have taken a shortcut and just stuffed the screw back into the original hole and fortified it that way. As a result, anyone stepping to that side of the barrier will find himself facing a noticeable hole in the marble -- which certainly takes away from the high-end look and feel of the location. The whole thing reminds me of the falling wallpaper in the Caesar's Palace toilets I visited -- which also achieve a similar ill effect.

Marks out of 10:

8. Almost a 9, or even a 10, save for that shoddy repair job, which essentially drops it down to the quality of McCormick and Schmick's Orlando or Philadelphia's Davio's -- not that those are bad bathrooms to be compared to, mind you. Just expected more from the Venetian, considering how over-the-top the rest of the place is.

Comments to the Management:

Patch that hole up correctly please and perhaps we'll put you on par with some of the other great Vegas bathrooms after that.

Friday 24 October 2008

Stratosphere Toilet May Be Highest Bathroom in Vegas, But It Offers Little In Terms of Spectacle

Stratosphere Las Vegas Hotel and Casino
2000 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV USA

Where is it?

Getting to this toilet here requires going on quite a journey. First, you have to park your car and head to the central elevators inside the casino -- all while avoiding the many distractions found there (difficult, considering the hotel's reputation for loose slots on the Strip).

Then, you have to go to a ticket booth and purchase admission tickets to the hotel's observation deck, which is 1,149 feet above the street below -- the highest observation tower west of the Mississippi, states the stats on this landmark. (The observation deck also plays host to three thrill rides, which take you even further high up and test the rider's guts when it comes to dropping that distance.... if you know what I mean. Of course, in the ads and video I saw of the rides, they really didn't look too intense. But once you're up there and get a better perspective of what's going on, you can see why they are described as being frightening thrill rides -- you feel the height of the building every step of the way.)

After buying admission tickets ($13 per person as of this writing), you have to make your way to the super-fast elevators that take you to the top. This sounds easy but really isn't, since the path to the elevators requires that you walk through a very tacky (and very expansive) shopping mall filled with just about every tacky (did I say tacky?) Vegas souvenir you can think of -- and just about every kind of foul smelling fast food vendor imaginable. The walk through the mall takes a good 20 minutes if you're going at a good pace.

When you finally reach the super-fast elevators, you have to pass through a security checkpoint and then wait for an elevator to arrive. The trip to the top takes only 30 seconds (our elevator operator said the lift system is the fasted in the world) -- so fast that your ears pop several times on the trip because of the change in air pressure.

Once at the top, you'll enter a 360 degree observation deck which houses a number of pay-to-use binocular devises, some displays and posters showing what you can look at in the distance, several benches, a fast food counter (with hot dogs, pretzels and such), a Starbucks (the highest one in the world, I was told) and lots of windows for sightseeing.

The bathrooms are located at opposite ends of this conundrum. The women's is located pretty close to the exit area for the incoming lifts -- you'll see a sign for them almost immediately after arriving.

The men's is harder to find, as you have to walk around to the other side of observation desk and look for the entrance to the down elevators. From there, you have to look a little harder, since the sign for them isn't quite as noticeable and large as the women's.

From the main roundabout pathway, face the entrance queue to the downward elevator and look to your right, for a small hallway about 10 feet in from the path. Down that hallway is a door leading to the men's bathroom.

What's it like?

With all that set-up, and the view you receive, you kind of expect the bathrooms here to be somewhat spectacular -- and they are not. This is a small restroom, about the size of a typical fast food establishment's facility, and about as impressive, and nothing more.

While that isn't terrible, it is also disappointing. These are the highest toilets in Las Vegas, located in the highest observation tower west of the Mississippi. Could they at least play up to its surroundings, like the bathroom at the Signature Room at the 95th in Chicago (slide 5 in this slideshow, if you're interested)?

As is, these are pretty run of the mill, boring, bland and in need of some touching up. It's a compact place and somewhat tight-fitting (much more than expected), with two stalls set against the back wall, two urinals set to the left of the stalls and a two-sink vanity station opposite the stalls. Two paper towel dispensers hand on the wall opposite the urinals.

The walls here are painted green, and the floor features a small and black interchange pattern on it, made up of small tiles -- similar to what we found on the floor at Steak n Shake Winter Park, only with a few more framing tiles used here.

There are two toilet stalls here, one handicap and one regular, both with white porcelain units. The handicap is pretty roomy but the regular stall is a bit tight-fitting -- just like the set up at Steak n Shake Winter Park. The two urinals, set next to one another at the front of the room with a privacy barrier between them, are also white porcelain. the toilets seemed in working order but there was some scum buildup on the grout and sealers -- though nothing horrendous.

The vanity, to the left of the urinals, features a two-sink station, both white porcelain, set in a black fiberboard counter and a badly chipped mirror hanging overhead. There is a supply cabinet under the sink vanity where the cleaning supplies are kept -- one of the doors to that cabinet was missing and you could see the supplies clearly. (Reminiscent of the bathroom at Country Ham 'n' Eggs, only without the homespun decor.)

The faucets here are of the push-button variety, like what we saw at IKEA Orlando, only these stayed on a little longer than those. There were also counter-fixed soap dispensers and a power outlet to the left side -- I guess in case you want to have a shave at the highest bathroom west of the Mississippi?

Also worth pointing out is that there is a baby changing area (about as basic and bare bones as the one found in our recent trip to Babys R Us in Orlando) -- so if you want to change your baby in the tallest observation tower west of the Mississippi, you'll have a chance to do so here. Why there are two boxes of tissues atop the baby changing area is a mystery to me.

And finally, there are the paper towel dispensers -- two of them, different models completely, with neither one fitting the decor of the bathroom much and one being automatic and one manual. The automatic one wasn't working. The manual worked but was fixed strangely in the wall -- as if it'd been knocked down from its wall inlet, fixed up again, and then re-fixed in a way that kept it up there for the time being. Pretty shoddy, to be honest.

Cleanliness-wise: Not bad. As said, some grime here and there. Odor-wise: Not too bad, but it did feel a bit dank in here.

Marks out of 10:

4. Normally a 5, but dropped a notch because of the disappointment I felt after entering. Should have more WOW considering its location.

Comments to the Management:

NEEDS MORE WOW! And a good scrubbing, and some minor repairs to fix the many anomalies. But more importantly -- it needs more WOW!

Thursday 23 October 2008

Scuffmarks and Wear and Tear Spoil Comfort Level Some at Cavallari's Toilets

Cavallari Gourmet
1954 W State Road 426
Oviedo, FL USA

Where is it?

From the front entrance, head left, past the cashier counter to the back wall, which is covered with coolers containing various food and drink. Turn right and head to the back corner of the place, passing the place's meat and deli counters along the way, until you reach a small hallway with a cooking range and grill on your right.

Go down that hallways and you'll find the bathrooms.

What's it like?

This charming neighborhood gourmet store is something of an anomaly in Orlando. Whereas New York or Miami are filled with such businesses (Laurenzo's in North Miami Beach is a favorite), Central Florida foodies seem fonder of gourmet mega-stores like Whole Foods or Fresh Market Orlando than smaller, more community driven stores like this, who make food their passion instead of profit.

Not that I am against Whole Foods or Fresh Market, as they offer regular shoppers in the area some seriously good options, but they also have an impersonal quality about them that makes the shopper feel less appreciated than he or she would at a place like this. When you walk into a smaller establishment like this and the owner remembers you from your previous visit, and then proceeds to mention that he's got something you've just got to try, it means something to the everyday shopper. (Such was my experience at Strollo's in Winter Park, which isn't quite as expansive as this place in terms of gourmet groceries -- the emphasis is more deli-style dining there -- and I received a similar vibe here.)

Visitors here will find a slew of gourmet meats, veggies, fish, imported canned and dry goods, specialty foods prepared in house and much more. In fact the selection is so wide that you'll feel a little claustrophobic walking through the overstuffed aisles. The fish department is one of the freshest I've seen in town and the meats are gorgeous -- particularly the homemade sausages. Another highlight is the collection of homemade pickles, which include everything from traditional cucumber to green beans to watermelon rind. Strolling the aisles here while hungry can be dangerous both to your calorie count and to your wallet (as expected, prices are higher than at a regular supermarket), though foodies won't complain.

Service is friendly and down to earth and accommodating, and I liked how (in waiting for the butcher to tidy my order) the cashiers were quick to offer a snack of BBQ potato skins (salty but addictively delicious) to while away the time. Nice people here and great quality product on the shelves.

Speaking of Strollo's: That's what the bathroom here reminded me of -- with a good pinch of Mama Mia's Italian in Sebastian thrown in. Not exactly the same, mind you, but they capture the same spirit as those.

The toilets are simple one-baggers that have been gussied up some to appear more comfortable than a standard, bland single unit. And they are more comfortable than the standard single unit. But they aren't quite in the same league as, say, Strollo's, which I consider to be a true bathroom milestone in terms of one-baggers.

The upper walls are painted dark red, the lower walls and floor have an off white tile on them. The toilet (no urinal) and sink are your standard white porcelain models. The toilet sits in the back corner of the room, right next to the waste basket (which crowds in a little too tightly to the commode), and the sink sits in the front corner. A soap dispenser, automatic paper towel dispenser and oval mirror hang over the sink, crowding it some. On the walls hang some generic artwork -- classy yet slightly hackneyed still-lifes and pastoral scenes (like what we've seen at La Brazas Chicken, for example, or at El Bodegon, or at the aforementioned Mama Mia's Italian).

It's a clean environment and virtually odor free. The only issues I had were the very noticeable scuff marks on the door (facing in) and some very noticeable chipped paint on the wall above the sink, between the soap dispenser and the mirror. Not the worst case of paint chipping I've seen (the flaky walls at High Tide Harry's come to mind for that) and not the strangest place to find scuffmarks (that would be the Aloma Cinema Grill and the WhyNot Lounge) -- it's pretty clear here that people like to open the door here with their feet, but then again why not just use the handle, you know?

Marks out of 10:

7. A decent bathroom but those scuff marks and that chipped paint drop it a notch.

Comments to the Management:

A wonderful store, that it is. Just need to cover up those scuff marks, tidy up the paint some in the bathroom and move the trashcan a bit further away from the toilet.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Angular Design Does Little to Differentiate Steak n Shake Toilet From Its Fast Food Brethren

Steak n Shake
818 S. Orlando Ave
Winter Park, FL USA

Where is it?

From the front entrance, and with your back to the door, head through the dining room to the back left corner of the place. There's a small hallway there leading to the bathrooms.

What's it like?

This Illinois-based chain is yet another of those eateries that offer a throwback to 50s-era dining, reminding people that in the 50s all people ate were burgers, fries and like-minded diner food, right? The restaurants are designed to look like old-fashioned malt and burger shops of that time, complete with interior designs based on the black and white checkerboard patterns that were popular then and employee uniforms based in starched white shirts and paper grill-cook hats.

Of course, it's also a fast food restaurant, only that here you experience full-blown table service instead of ordinary counter service. The offerings are the same essentially, though -- burgers, fries, chili, milkshakes. There are also soups, some chili mac dishes and some desserts and some salads, but nothing too mind blowing or adventurous. (Big Boy Diner, which has a similar design and menu, offers miles and away more variety on its menu -- and better food, in my opinion).

The burgers here are decent and because of its 24-hour schedule it offers a better option for middle of the night munchies than Denny's. Though I won't say that the burgers are better than what I can get at the Fillin' Station or Fuddruckers, or even Whole Foods (if we're talking Orlando) -- or even Jack in the Box, if we're talking elsewhere, since Steak n Shake's food kind of falls into the category of the latter. But it's not bad and well-priced, provided you go light on the mustard (if not, the burgers become too tangy).

The bathrooms are what you'd expect from your typical fast food joint. The walls are covered in white tile (similar, though not as gleaming white, as the tiles found on the walls at the IKEA Orlando bathrooms) and the floors are covered in a small white and black pattern that was similar to what we found in the bathrooms at Theo's Kitchen, only with a greater emphasis on pattern and much less grime, and the WhyNot Lounge, only this place has smaller tiles on the floor than that one.

The bathroom itself has an odd shape -- rectangular, but with angular lines and tight corners created by some non-traditionally set up toilet stalls. There are two stalls here, one handicap and one regular, and the handicap has a fat back end and thin opening, which in turn jets out into the common area like the top part of a pentagon and thus creates a hard angle in front of the room's lone urinal, which hangs midway through the entrance to the handicap stall and regular stall.

As a result, the passageway around the urinal to the regular stall becomes pretty tight -- and even tighter still if someone's at the urinal and you want to get by to hit the regular stall, which is tucked away into the deep, back corner of the room, down this narrow entrance way. Not exactly convenient, if you think about it, but because the stalls are made of wall and tile, there isn't much flexibility to how one can shift the design any.

Granted, the handicap toilet is pretty roomy, whereas the regular toilet is a bit skimpy, but both are perfectly serviceable. They house white commodes with black seats, and the regular toilet had some fiercely blue water in it, making me wonder if it'd been used at all that day (I arrived for dinner, so there was no doubt that others had visited the toilet before me) or just skipped it because it was too hard to get to.

The sink is in the very front of the place -- a two-station unit with white sinks set inside a gray Formica counter. Standard pull-up faucets, with soap dispensers hanging to each side and a large mirror behind it. Pretty Teutonic and straightforward -- like the rest of the place, which reminded me a lot of the Chick Fil-A I visited in Raleigh, only that was a little cleaner and lacked the crazy angles in its design and was overall more functional for more multiple users.

Marks out of 10:

6. Teutonic and clean but not quite up to speed of others in this category.

Comments to the Management:

The angular shape of the toilet stalls are definitely unique but not as user friendly as you'd hope them to be. Though, as stated earlier, not sure what can be done about that. Otherwise, the place could use a good scrubbing with bleach and perhaps some brighter lighting. And please flush that blue stuff away from the regular toilet -- I haven't been that distracted by the color blue in a bathroom since my visits to Teremok in St. Petersburg, Russia and the Abbey in Deland.