Spotted: Flight simulator shore excursion option in Nassau

In:
17Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is offering guests a new shore excursion that allows them the chance to (virtually) fly a Boeing 737 airliner!

The Fly A Jet Experience Jetline Simulation Bahamas shore excursion is available for guests with a stop in Nassau, Bahamas.  It allows guests to feel what it is like to pilot a B737-800NG aircraft.

"Upon your arrival, you will be greeted by a professional pilot whom will then brief you on the flights controls. After which, you will be escorted on to the flight deck where you will then settle into the captain's seat. Fasten your seat belt as you prepare for takeoff. Once in cruise, enjoy a moment to admire the view as simulated vibrations and sounds deliver an authentic experience as to what it's really like to fly a modern jet airliner. Depart from your hometown airport or if looking for a challenge trying

 

Royal Caribbean adding facial recognition to new Galveston cruise terminal

In:
17Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's new cruise terminal that it is building at the Port of Galveston will include facial recognition technology that is aimed at speeding up the process of getting guests in and out of the terminal.

At a meeting of the Port Directors for the Port of Galveston in December 2018, it was mentioned that Royal Caribbean's new cruise terminal will feature facial recognition technology.

"If you see what many made remarks made about Galveston, it is the traffic coming in, and then it is waiting in line to go through terminals... With the new cruise terminal that Royal Caribbean is building, it will be facial recognition software there so when you come into that terminal, you are going to have software recognition. The computers will see your face and recognize who you are, and they are going to know you are a paid customer on the cruise line, and then they are going to shuttle you right on through. And I think Michael Bayley said it was an hour less."

Royal Caribbean and the Port of Galveston have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the development and operation of a new cruise terminal. The new state-of-the-art facility is anticipated to open in Fall 2021.

Top 10 tips for planning your Alaska cruise

In:
17Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

If there is a cruise destination worthy of anyone's bucket list, it has to be Alaska. Royal Caribbean is one of the biggest cruise operators that offers regular service to Alaska and it is one of the top destinations in cruising today.

Here are the fundamentals of planning a cruise to Alaska to kickstart your approach and ensure a great trip to the last—and vast—great frontier.

Invest in clothing essentials

Even though your Royal Caribbean cruise will take you to Alaska during the warmer months of the year, it can get downright cold (and wet) during your Alaska cruise.

Given its northerly position and varied geography—from mountains and oceans to glaciers and tundra—you can experience several microclimates in a short amount of time, which can mean extreme temperatures in one place, and mild conditions in the next.

There are plenty of great packing choices to consider, but here are the top things to have before heading to Alaska:

Pro tip: If buying an all-new wardrobe sounds expensive, consider buying clothes on eBay.  A quality jacket is an especially costly item, but buying a gently used one from eBay can save lots, especially for kids.

Pick the right cabin (without overpaying)

One of the lessons we learned from our first Royal Caribbean cruise to Alaska was that while a balcony cabin is nice to have, it is not nearly as essential as others lead us to believe.

If a balcony stateroom is in your budget, then definitely book one and enjoy the opportunity to have a private area to enjoy the natural beauty of Alaska anytime you see fit.  There is no denying having that easy access and private space, especially when near a glacier is a lovely perk.

However, you can still have an amazing Alaska cruise by depending on public areas to enjoy the view.  Royal Caribbean's ships feature ample deck space to enjoy the view, any time of the day.  Even when near a glacier, you ought to find great viewing opportunities.  Moreover, the price of a balcony room may be so much more expensive from a interior room, that we think it is a better investment to book the cheaper room and use the money saved to invest in an amazing shore excursion.

The bottom line is consider all room categories, but do not assume you have to get a balcony room.

Pro tip: If possible, book your stateroom as early as you can.  Prices for Alaska cruises tend to only go up over time, so book early.

Book your excursions in advance

An Alaska cruise places extra emphasis on the importance of your shore excursions.  Traveling to Alaska means getting out there and experiencing the natural wonders on foot!

Unlike Caribbean cruises where you can largely "wing it" when it comes to making on shore plans, you definitely want to research and plan your shore excursions ahead of time.  There are a ton of excursion choices, both from Royal Caribbean and third-party providers, so you will need time to consider each one and read about what others have done.

Be aware that some excursions can, and do, fill up. So if there are any that you know you definitely want to do, be sure to sign up in advance online.

Pro tip: You can get first-hand shore excursion reviews and recommendations from other blog readers in our Shore Excursions message board.

Research local food

One big mistake we made on our Alaska cruise was not taking the time to research where to eat in the various ports you visit. Alaska has some amazing local cuisine, but there are a lot of pretenders alongside the great stuff.

Each port you visit will take you to some terrific spots to eat, so don't rely purely on your Yelp app once in town.  Figure out the restaurants and bars you want to go to before you leave home, especially if you are interested in enjoying the best crab, salmon and beers of Alaska.

Try not to worry about the weather

News flash: it will rain while you are in Alaska, but it is also not the end of the world.

Weather forecasts do not always match you will experience. Be prepared for changing weather daily. Be prepared with varying clothing options (i.e. wear layers).  And when it does rain, just give it a few minutes, it generally does not last long. Take it all in. And remember, many excursions go rain or shine!

Pro tip: Despite the rain, do not pack an umbrella. Instead, make sure there’s a hood on your all-weather jacket. And it is worth noting that a hood takes up far less space than an umbrella, leaving more room for your gear and adventure essentials.

Bring binoculars

Alaska is all about what you see around you, and often the very best of Alaska's natural beauty and wildlife is best seen through a pair of binoculars.

You do not need to go crazy with the fanciest binocular on the market, but being able to zoom in on a bald eagle resting, or sea lions swimming is worth every penny of a binocular.

Fly into your departure port a day early

This tip can be applied to any cruise vacation, but flying into your departure port (Seattle or Vancouver) at least one day early is a really, really good idea.

If you are flying in from somewhere east, you will have to contend with a long flight and a different time zone.  Getting in a day early allows you to rest up before a busy first day on your cruise, along with more time to adjust the time zone change.

Pro tip: Speaking of your embarkation port, pick a hotel nearby the many local attractions so you can explore these exciting and beautiful cities.

Take advantage of port lectures

Royal Caribbean offers complimentary lectures presented by higher education staff on the history and culture of the ports your cruise will visit.

It is easy to overlook these type of offerings with so many other activities and things to do onboard your Royal Caribbean cruise but do yourself a favor and check these out. The lectures provided onboard offer important context for the adventures you will take on shore later in your visit.

These lectures may not offer money saving tips or pitfalls to avoid, but they do offer the kind of insider look at these ports that I think helps improve your appreciation of each city when you go to visit them later.

Alaska cruises are not like Caribbean cruises

 

If you are used to cruising in the Caribbean, going to Alaska is going to surprise you in some ways with the different approach and experience it offers.

Cruising to Alaska is a port intensive itinerary with shore excursions that cost significantly more money and far fewer party events.  Unlike the Caribbean where the places you visit can sometimes be secondary, an Alaska cruise is all about where you visit and the onboard experience can almost become an afterthought. 

Pro tip: Always walk off the ship when in any port you visit. Even if you have nothing booked, be sure to get off the ship at every port. Sometimes the piers are a little longer in Alaska but the port towns are pretty small and easily walkable making them nice for self-guided tours. 

Consider a cruisetour

In addition to the cruises, Royal Caribbean offers expanded journeys into Alaska with its cruisetour program.

A Royal Caribbean cruise tour will take you to even more incredible destinations that no cruise ship can visit. From the coastline to the heart of the frontier, a Royal Caribbean Alaska Cruisetour land and sea package delivers all the must-see sights by ship, train, and multi-night land tour. 

Either before or after your Royal Caribbean cruise, you can book a cruise tour that combines a cruise and a land tour, which usually runs three to seven nights. Popular destinations include Denali National Park (for wildlife viewing), Talkeetna (best place for Denali views) and Fairbanks (Alaska pipeline). 

Every Royal Caribbean Alaska Cruisetour includes knowledgeable Adventure Specialists who act as guides, historians and concierges. They are by your side for the entirety of the land tour, providing insider tips and local perspective.

Your thoughts

What are your top Alaska cruise tips? Share them or any questions you have about these tips in the comments!

Here's the one must-eat place on every Royal Caribbean ship

In:
16Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Every Royal Caribbean ship seems to have at least one place that veteran cruisers will tell you is a must-eat spot.  Perhaps it is because of a special dish, or the value the restaurant offers, or maybe it just is the only ship with that kind of restaurant.  

Regardless of why, here is our list of the number one must-eat spot on every Royal Caribbean ship. As you might imagine there is some carryover between the ships, but if you can refer to this post before going on your next sailing.

Adventure of the Seas

Izumi: Adventure of the Seas features the only Royal Caribbean ship to have an Izumi location on the Royal Promenade

Allure of the Seas

Park Cafe: Kummelweck sandwiches are a must-eat snack. 

You might also like Sabor in the Boardwalk neighborhood.  Try the guacamole.

Anthem of the Seas

Wonderland: A signature Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant that combines a fun experience with creative foods.

You might also like Cafe @ Two70 where you can find the exquisite roast beef sandwiches.

Brilliance of the Seas

Park Cafe: Kummelweck sandwiches are a must-eat snack. 

Empress of the Seas

Windjammer: Free brunch mimosas and Bloody Marys are available at the Windjammer on sea days.

Enchantment of the Seas

Chops Grille: Royal Caribbean's signature steak house is never a mistake. 

Explorer of the Seas

Izumi: Hot rock (Ishiyaki) plates are rocks that are heated to 575 degrees °F, where guests take raw meat and vegetables and cook them on the rock, right at your table. 

Freedom of the Seas

Sabor Modern Mexican: The guacamole alone is worth the price of admission.

Grandeur of the Seas

Park Cafe: Kummelweck sandwiches are a must-eat snack. 

Harmony of the Seas

Wonderland: Harmony introduced the first two-story Wonderland location and in addition to the creative decor, Wonderland is an experience and a fantastic meal.

You might also like Izumi Hibachi for a fun and creative experience, where your chef cooks your food in front of you with a splash of entertainment thrown in.

Independence of the Seas

 Izumi Hibachi and Sushi: Exotic Asian-inspired dining experience gives guests the chance to enjoy fresh sushi and experience skilled chefs cooking tableside on teppanyaki grills.

Jewel of the Seas

Izumi: Hot rock is essentially a rock slab heated up to 575°F and served with raw meat and vegetables that you can cook at your table.  

Liberty of the Seas

Sabor: The guacamole and handcrafted margaritas (made with reposado tequila) are definitely tasty.

Majesty of the Seas

Compass Deli: A complimentary venue that serves up hand-pressed paninis and wraps made to order, along with a small side-salad bar and an array of hot soups and cookies. 

Mariner of the Seas

Jamie's Italian: Family-style appetizers and freshly made pasta combine for a terrific meal. Try the Antipasti Plank.

Navigator of the Seas

El Loco Fresh: Complimentary and tasty Mexican street fare that is great for a midday snack or casual meal.

Oasis of the Seas

Park Cafe: Kummelweck sandwiches are a must-eat snack. 

You might also like Sabor in the Boardwalk neighborhood.  Try the guacamole.

Ovation of the Seas

Jamie's Italian: British Chef Jamie Oliver offers a pleasingly rustic Italian decor and the menu include his trademark "planks" -- boards filled with meats, cheeses or vegetarian bites that are designed to be shared as starter. 

You might also like Wonderland. Whimsical specialty restaurant inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Eating at Wonderland is as much about the food as it is the experience.

Quantum of the Seas

Wonderland: A signature Royal Caribbean specialty restaurant that combines a fun experience with creative foods.

You might also like Cafe @ Two70 where you can find the exquisite roast beef sandwiches.

Radiance of the Seas

Park Cafe: Quick grab and go that serves up breakfast, salads, panini sandwiches, soups. Also offers late-night snacks.

Rhapsody of the Seas

Park Cafe: Kummelweck roast beef sandwiches are a must-eat snack. 

Serenade of the Seas

Park Cafe: Kummelweck roast beef sandwiches are a must-eat snack. 

Spectrum of the Seas

Wonderland’s Dadong: a new outpost of Chinese chef Dong Zhenxiang, renowned for his much-coveted roast duck dish.

Symphony of the Seas

El Loco Fresh: Complimentary outdoor Mexican eatery that features a terrific salsa station, where you can take your pick from homemade guacamole, fire-roasted tomatoes, pico de gallo and many more toppings. 

You might also like Park Cafe for the roast beef kummelweck sandwiches.

Vision of the Seas

Park Cafe: Kummelweck roast beef sandwiches are a must-eat snack. 

Voyager of the Seas

Izumi: Hot rock (Ishiyaki) plates are rocks that are heated to 575 degrees °F, where guests take raw meat and vegetables and cook them on the rock, right at your table. 

Cuba immersion cruise review on Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

In:
16Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Our newest podcast episode is out to help give you a quick "audio escape" to a Royal Caribbean cruise!

Episode 285 is available for downloading, which has a first-hand review from a Royal Caribbean sailing that visited three ports in Cuba.

Empress of the Seas offers sailings to multiple ports in Cuba, and this week, Bryan shares his experience visiting each one.  Bryan talks about what he did in each port and his recommendations for anyone visiting these ports in the future.

Here’s the podcast page for Episode 285. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSSStitcher or on iTunes!

Take a listen and as always, let us know what you think! Please rate and review the podcast on iTunes and leave your comments below!

Royal Caribbean's second Quantum Ultra Class ship will sail in Europe

In:
16Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's second Quantum Ultra Class cruise ship will sail in Europe, according to travelweekly.co.uk.

Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley spoke at a Travel Weekly Executive Lunch and confirmed that the yet officially unnamed cruise ship that is set to launch in fall 2020 will offer sailings in Europe.

The first Quantum Ultra Class ship, Spectrum of the Seas, will launch in April but she is headed immediately to Asia. 

This is not the first time Michael Bayley hinted that the successor to Spectrum of the Seas might not head to Asia. During a Q&A session onboard the President's Cruise in October 2018, he mentioned the fifth Quantum Class ship and indicated there is a possibility that ship will sail from the United States and Europe.

"The following year we have Spectrum two, or Quantum Ultra two, and that could possibly be coming to Europe and America."

During the meeting, Bayley alluded to the notion  the second Quantum Ultra-class ship will sail from Barcelona after her launch and visit the UK.

Spotlight: Dining at Bars on a Royal Caribbean cruise

In:
15Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

When it comes to bars on Royal Caribbean cruise ships, they are not just adults-only destinations - and they do not just serve drinks.

One of our favorite dining tips is taking advantage of certain bars that also serve food in addition to a great array of drinks.  These hidden gems are often less crowded than a specialty restaurant or simply easier to get into.

Here are a few great places to enjoy a bite to eat along with your drinks.

Playmakers Sports Bar

Playmakers offers a traditional sports bar concept with drinks, plenty of games to watch and of course, some great food choices.

Guests seated at the Playmakers bar can order from the full menu at any time. Sliders, wings and burgers are available to enjoy while you cheer on your favorite team.

Hooked

Hooked Seafood restaurant offers guests a nightly happy hour appetizer combo, where guests can enjoy a beer or glass of wine and a pre-selected appetizer.  The happy hour appetizer changes from night to night.

Sabor

On Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships, Sabor on the Boardwalk has a bar where you can order from the regular Sabor menu while at the bar.

In addition to the amazing margaritas served at Sabor, you can order guacamole, tacos or anything else. We have even seen a happy hour special offered at Sabor in the past.

Izumi

So we may be blurring the line here a bit, but Izumi does have a sushi bar in its locations that guests can sit at that is almost never full.  While not a drink bar, the sushi bar still offers the full bar selection along with the restaurant menu.

Asking to sit at the sushi bar is a great way to also get into Izumi if the restaurant is busy.

Top 8 tips and tricks for Royal Caribbean's Boardwalk neighborhood

In:
14Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Boardwalk neighborhood on its Oasis Class ships is a favorite spot for so many cruisers.  The area is inspired by both the seaside piers that dot the coast of England and the nostalgic boardwalks of yesteryear such as Coney Island. 

There is a lot to see and do around the Boardwalk, and we have eight secrets that you may not know about the Boardwalk neighborhood.

Complimentary breakfast at Johnny Rockets

Did you know that Johnny Rockets on Harmony of the Seas is complimentary for breakfast?  All Oasis-class ships offer this option, but many guests are unaware that breakfast is served here, nor that it is included with your cruise fare (Johnny Rockets has a cover charge for lunch and dinner).

The Johnny Rockets breakfast menu on Oasis Class ships is a traditional American breakfast, with pancakes, omelettes, French toast and the like.  In fact, Johnny Rockets is one spot onboard Harmony of the Seas to get omelet made-to-order.

Johnny Rockets tends to be not very crowded for breakfast, because many guests are unaware of this option, and it also has a large seating capacity (indoor and outdoor seating options).

Slide down and celebrate at the bar

If you are on Harmony of the Seas or Symphony of the Seas, a fun sea day activity is to take a ride down the Ultimate Abyss down to the Boardwalk and then celebrate with a drink (or two) at the bar.

The Ultimate Abyss slide concludes at the rear of the Boardwalk, convenient to the bar at Sabor (on Harmony of the Seas) or Playmakers (on Symphony of the Seas). 

An after-slide drink is the perfect way to celebrate conquering the Ultimate Abyss!

Aft chairs with a view

If you are looking for a quiet spot to watch the ocean, many guests are unaware of an area right below the first Aqua Theater suite balcony on deck seven.

Just behind the rock wall, you can find comfortable Adirondack chairs to sit in with the perfect view of the ocean.  Rarely will you find other guests here.

Ride the carousel at night

Photo by Michael Poole

No cruise aboard an Oasis Class ship is complete without a ride (or three) on the Carousel.  Regardless of age, guests of all ages can enjoy the classic nature of this attraction.

The full-sized, traditional hand-crafted carousel was specially designed for Royal Caribbean, and many guests find this a fun family activity.  Be sure to include at least one ride at night, because like the fairs of the past, nighttime is when these rides really shine when they are all lit up.

Luckey climber

On Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean added a large climbing structure perfect for kids to try out called the Luckey Climber.

Luckey Climber is a brand of rather large climbing structures that are surrounded by a net, designed for kids to jump on and explore.

These innovative playgrounds are part art and part jungle gym that feature some very bold colors. It is a bit hidden in the back of the Boardwalk, so not all guests are aware it is there, but it is a really fun spot for kids to burn off some energy.

Eat and drink at the bar

While the kids are trying the Luckey Climber, you should to the opposite side of the Boardwalk to grab a drink and maybe an appetizer.  Sabor offers a bar on Oasis, Allure and Harmony of the Seas while Playmakers is on Symphony of the Seas.  

Regardless of which ship you are on, you can go to the bar without any reservations and sit down to enjoy a cold beverage whenever the restaurant is open.  It is a great spot for meeting friends, and there is usually a nice ocean breeze passing by.

Pre-pay for arcade credit

If you plan to let your kids enjoy the arcade on Royal Caribbean, you would be best served to invest in a pre-cruise arcade credit purchase for the bonus savings offered.

There are three options available to purchase prior to a cruise, which offers the convenience of pre-loading arcade credit, as well as a discount.

  • $25 Arcade credit for $20
  • $50 Arcade credit for $40
  • $100 Arcade credit for $80

By purchasing arcade credit ahead of time, you will ensure your kids get extra game time while saving you money in the process.

Boardwalk Balcony rooms come with special perks

Guests staying in a Boardwalk view balcony stateroom are entitled to special amenities for booking this type of stateroom.

Specifically, you will receive:

  • Complimentary meal for four at Johnny Rockets
  • Complimentary Royal Refreshment soda package for two guests
  • Exclusive rock climbing wall experience for the entire family

Boardwalk view balcony rooms typically cost less than ocean view balcony rooms, and the added amenities make it a great deal.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: January 13, 2019

In:
13Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Welcome to this week's round-up of all the Royal Caribbean news and happenings.  Hope you are staying warm and are ready to cozy up to some great Royal Caribbean fun.

Oasis of the Seas made headlines this week when she had to cut her voyage short by a day due to an outbreak of gastrointestinal virus.

After a couple hundred guests became ill, Royal Caribbean decided to cancel the rest of her sailing and Oasis returned to Port Canaveral on Saturday.

“We think the right thing to do is to get everyone home early rather than have guests worry about their health,” said Rob Zeiger, chief communications manager for Royal Caribbean. “Returning on Saturday also gives us more time to completely clean and sanitize the ship before her next sailing.”

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 284th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where we debunk common reasons some people avoid a cruise vacation at all.

Over the years we have heard every excuse why some people refuse to cruise, and on this week's episode, Matt and Billy take some time to go over why these excuses are simply unfounded.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

Royal Caribbean Around the Internet

USA Today reported that gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on cruise ships are at a multi-year low.

Cruise Industry News listed 24 new cruise ships to debut in 2019 (including a Royal Caribbean ship).

Cruise Critic investigated if the US Government shutdown will affect cruises.

Top travel gadgets to bring on a cruise

In:
11Jan2019
By: Matt Hochberg

Packing for a cruise vacation means not just remembering to bring a swimsuit and formal night wear, but also helpful travel gadgets. These tech tools can enhance any vacation experience and ensure your days by the pool, at the beach or exploring are the best ones yet.

Here are some of our favorite picks for innovative accessories to bring on your next sailing. Note that we included links in this post that may contain affiliate links. Basically that means Amazon gives us a "finder's fee" commission without charging you anything extra.

Wireless Earbuds

Whether you jam out to classic reggae or prefer a Top 20 pop hit, wireless earbuds allow you to enjoy your favorite tunes without worrying about disturbing others around you.

Our pick: Apple AirPods

Phone Case Wallet

I have lost count of the times I have accidently de-magnetized my SeaPass card due to my phone being too close to it.  Until the whole fleet moves to RFID cards, you can guard against this problem by getting a phone case wallet.  They are inexpensive and will save you a trip (or four) to Guest Services for a new card.

Our pickSilk iPhone X / XS Wallet Case

Waterproof Bluetooth speaker

A day at the beach is about relaxing in the sun and surf, but passing the time enjoying those rays and waves is much more enjoyable with some great music.  Royal Caribbean does have some live music on the island, and some recorded music playing near the bars, but back at your beach chair it can be difficult to hear any of it.

We do not advocate blasting your music to disturb other guests, rather, provide a way for you and your family and friends to enjoy some background music while you take it all in.  Enjoying music among friends is a great way to spend the day, especially if you are in a cabana.

Our pick: UE Boom 3 portable Bluetooth wireless speaker

Portable device charger

Never let battery power on your phone, camera or any electronic device prevent you from capturing or enjoying the fun onboard or onshore.  A portable USB charger ensures you can stay charged up, and even allow multiple devices to be useful all day long.

Our pick: Anker PowerCore 20100

Clip-On phone camera lens

Your phone is capable of taking great photos, but with a clip-on lens, it can take even better photos.  By adding a clip-on lens, your phone can take wide-angle, close-up, or just plain spectacular shots that can rival any DSLR camera.

Our pickXenvo Pro Lens Kit for iPhone and Android

Travel Pillow

If you are flying to your cruise, you may want to invest in a neck pillow so that you can actually sleep comfortably on an airplane. 

Our pickEverlasting Comfort airplane travel kit   

USB wall charger

Since Royal Caribbean prohibits guests from bringing a surge protector (they are a fire hazard), your best bet is to bring a USB wall charger to keep everyone charged up during your cruise.  There are limited outlets in a standard stateroom, and a USB wall charger means you do not have to unceremoniously unplug your spouse's device and then later blame housekeeping.

Our pickAnker 60W 6 Port USB Wall Charger

Your thoughts

Any good cruise or travel-related gadgets we missed? Have any product recommendations (or dislike any of the things listed here)? Any questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!

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