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BNL1213

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About BNL1213

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    Boston, MA
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    NCL

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  1. I just sailed on the Freedom a few weeks ago as a first time RCCL guest and was shocked at what great condition the ship was in. We loved every aspect of that cruise. It wasn't too big or too small and I really did not notice any wear and tear. The food was exceptional every night as well. We sailed in a balcony room so have no input on suites. I do agree that there are not too many reviews on her though.
  2. Thanks for reading! So glad I am not the only one who asks for a ton of pillows! Thanks everyone for stopping by! If any of you have any questions about the ship or islands/excursions, definitely feel free to ask. I am happy to answer!
  3. Friday - June 28th - Barbados Today, I wanted to be prepared to leave the ship promptly at 8:30am since our plan was to go to the Boatyard and I wanted to be sure we got a front row lounger with an umbrella, so we wouldn't have a repeat of the crazy crowded beach day in St. Kitts. Everything pretty much went according to plan and we were departing the ship right on the nose, but it was a very long walk to get to where the taxis were. They had shuttles on the dock when everyone departed the ship, but they seemed to be crowded and maybe a bit disorganized so we just chose to walk. This port was a little bit more industrial than the others, so nothing too exciting to see as we walked. We reached the end of the dock at the shopping point, where we found this sign so had to get a quick pic, which turned out to be the only photo we took all day, ugh! Sorry to you guys, but we really were just enjoying it and didn't have our phones out. We walked through the shopping area and ended up out where the cabs lined up. We were able to quickly hop in a cab as the last two people and off we went to the Boatyard. It wasn't a long drive, maybe 10 minutes before we arrived. The Boatyard was just opening and like we had hoped, we got a front row seat on the water. When we checked in and paid we were also able to sign up for the first boat to go snorkeling, which comes with the price of admission. So we went and sat in our chairs and relaxed for about an hour. It was so windy!! Some umbrellas were already blowing over and it was still early. But the sand was so soft and the water was beautiful. There was a water trampoline and a big inflatable slide in the water in front of us, as well as a long dock with a rope swing. So after about an hour, they called us to check in for our boat ride to go snorkel with the turtles. We went and checked in and were given a life vest and snorkel mask. Shortly after, we were walked down the dock to board the boat. The staff is very organized and almost a little strict about following instructions, staying seated while the boat is moving etc, which made me very comfortable, actually. When we arrived at the turtle/snorkel spot, I was surprised because it wasn't far off shore and we were just in the middle of all of these other boats. Some were actually coming in and leaving close by while we swam. It was kind of busy and we were contained to a small area with not only everyone from our boat, but others from the boats surrounding us. I thought it was really crowded and kept getting kicked around. But the snorkeling was so good!! there were so many turtles and fish to see. It was just too crowded to enjoy. we stayed in the water for about 20-30 minutes before we were loaded back up and we sailed close by to another spot which was a sunken boat. There were a TON of fish here. Again, also crowded, but I really tried to just sort of swim in place above the shipwreck and look at all the beautiful fish! We probably got another 20-30 minutes to snorkel here as well before being called back onboard. We then headed back to the Boatyard. I would say the trip was about 1.5 hours in total. Which was much longer than I expected. Despite the crowded conditions, I still can't believe that little trip was included with admission. What a great bang for your buck! So when we returned to our chairs, we felt like we may be ready for lunch so I went and grabbed some menus for us. While I was there, I realized I also got a free drink with admission. Wow! It gets better and better at the Boatyard, I thought. So we decided on lunch, which was just a couple of sandwiches and fries. They were great! good beach food. As the afternoon wore on, the party really gets going here. The bar is always filled with people in and out and hanging around. Just a great fun vibe all around. We had decided to swim out and slide down the inflatable. Hilarious trying to climb that thing. My poor DS had to yank me up because I could NOT get my fat booty up on that thing, but once I was on the platform I could climb the ladder easily and slid down over and over. Such a blast. We hung out reading and snoozing on our chairs until about 3pm. Our all aboard time had changed to much later, so I don't think we had to get back to the ship until 6 or 7pm for an 8 or 9pm departure. But since we had been at the beach since 9am, we decided to head back around 4. It was a great day, but I was so sad leaving since we knew this was our last island. Once back on board, I decided I didn't feel like hanging around on the ship while DS played basketball, so I got off and went shopping. They had a lot of little shops and carts of handmade items here so I really did some damage to the budget! Nothing too exciting to report this evening, since we just had dinner and wandered around the ship again. Saturday June 29th - Sea Day I woke up early today and grabbed some breakfast at the buffet and brought it to a lounger in the Solarium that would end up being my station for the remainder of the day. I got a great spot out of the sun overlooking the sea and cracked open a new book with a goal of finishing it by end of day. I did manage to escape for an hour to go to Sabor to do the Guacamole making class. It started out with a host showing everyone how each of 3 margarita's is made. And then they came around and asked us each which one we would like to order. So as we sipped our margarita's, the host went through step by step how to made the guacamole with all of the ingredients that were already provided on the table. Once we were complete we were able to order an appetizer and main course from the full Sabor menu. I was not expecting to not only have all the guac I made PLUS a full lunch, so I was really full when it was done! Afterwards, I was ready to go back to my lounger for a nap. My waiter had asked if I wanted dessert, but there was just no way I could've fit that in, so he brought me a to-go container with a little piece of every dessert offered. I was so touched! How sweet of him. Needless to say I enjoyed all of it at my lounger while I read throughout the afternoon. Here's a little snippet of how I spent the afternoon: DS checked in and out with me throughout the day since he spent most of it hanging with the kids he met playing basketball. But soon it came to the late afternoon point, where I needed to give up my great pool deck spot and go to my room to get ready for our last dinner. After dinner they had given everyone small cakes to celebrate Royal Caribbean's birthday We took a couple of pics with our servers who were just two of the best guys on the boat And we got a great towel animal when we returned to our room Don't judge me for the amount of pillows I use! lol While DS went to play with his new friends, I packed us all up and put our luggage out. It was so sad to leave. I always look forward to going home when vacation is ending, but this time I just didn't want to get off the boat. And I also knew we wouldn't be taking another cruise for a while. These were the best islands I had ever seen and I absolutely loved the boat. So alas, the next morning came and we had to go!! We probably left our room around 8am and headed to the buffet, which surprisingly was not as crazy crowded as I expected. Since our flights didn't leave San Juan until 4:45pm, I had made us a plan to go to a beach club in Isla Verde. So we got our breakfast and took our time eating. As we were ready to head out, DS realized he left his backpack in the room. Ugh! So off we went rushing back to the room before it got cleaned out. Luckily our keys still worked and it was right there on the bed. So we started the debarkation process. We walked off the ship without much of a line and into a large warehouse where we went to find our luggage. After we grabbed both bags we then stood in a VERY VERY long line to get through customs. I would say that took about an hour. But once through we got right into a taxi with no wait and were soon on our way to Isla Verde. We had booked a beach break excursion through Island Marketing. It didn't include transportation to or from the beach club, but it did include luggage storage, two loungers, an umbrella, lunch, beach service for drinks, 4 of which were included in the price! the location was at the Water and Beach Club Hotel. It was not a bad deal at all. I spent most of the day just floating around in this gorgeous water knowing I had to leave it soon. Service was NOT great at all in terms of getting any drinks or food. It was like deja vu with St. Kitts and Carambola. I had to keep walking back into the hotel to see if we could just get a water. They kept assuring me someone would come by to bring us menus but nobody ever did. I went back in around lunch and found a waitress who brought me a bottle of wine in an ice bucket (NICE), as my 4 drinks, and promised us lunch would be ready soon and she would bring me some menus. So I was satisfied with that for sure!! It was another really windy day, so sand was pretty much everywhere again. But overall, it was a gorgeous spot, so we just adapted to the wind. There was no risk of umbrella's flying, they were tied down pretty well! After about an hour, we were getting hungry. And it was about 1 or 1:30 at this point. We had a plan to hit the pool to rinse off the sand before changing to head to the airport around 2:30-3 so I was getting worried about timing. I found our waitress at the entrance to the beach and asked about lunch, which she said was just chicken or burgers. Not sure why she had mentioned a menu earlier, but whatever. I was desperate and hungry. And I think ready to start going home. So we grabbed a quick lunch from the grill and ate fast. We headed to the pool at the resort and swam around a little getting clean and then went into the locker rooms nearby to change into plane gear. I had brought plastic ziplock bags to store our wet suits. When we retrieved our luggage from the porter I stuck the bag into the front pocket and off we went to the aiport. Flight home was uneventful for the most part. We had a layover in NY and barely made our connection but soon arrived back in Boston and home. So sad it's over. But hope you enjoyed my little recap. I am sorry I didn't have too many photos and probably rambled on a bit. But I thought I would give back a little to cruise critic since I had gotten so many good tips from here. Thanks all!
  4. Thursday night, July 27 Hello again! I am back for part 2 of my 7/27 day to get into the Chef's Table. I will start by saying that I waited to book my reservation until I was on ship because I was hoping the price would drop. But that didn't happen and then when I made it, as stated previously, the reservation got lost and I thought I was out of luck. But alas, it came through in that mysterious Royal Caribbean way! So I headed to Bolero to meet up per the invitation. I got so lost trying to find Bolero, btw. I kept walking right by it, because for some reason I thought Bolero was a restaurant, and that we were to meet in the bar of the restaurant. Anyway, I eventually just asked a ship's officer I ran into on my wandering and led me right over to the bar I had walked by half a dozen times. Oh well. So I immediately met a couple there and started chatting. I was a bit nervous attending this alone, but I also didn't want to miss out! And being such a last minute invitation, I didn't have time for social anxiety to kick in! The bartender handed us all champagne to sip on while we waited for our host and the other dinner attendees to join. After about half an hour, we were escorted to our table that was tucked up on a balcony in the dining room. It was a really interesting location since there were no other tables around us, but a little louder than I was expecting for fine dining. We each had our own personalized menu left at our assigned place setting, which outlined each course along with the wine pairing (check out all the wine glasses provided!!). When we sat, our host/server explained the process and what we can expect. It wasn't long before we got our first pour and first course, the Scallop Carpaccio Delicious once I removed the slice of radish. It was very strong and overtook the taste of the fish. A nice start, though! The server came by and then introduced each of us to the next wine and described course two, the Smoked Tomato Soup. omg..... omg..... so damn good. I practically licked the whole bowl. It didn't look like it would be very interesting when they put it down... i mean, looked like regular old tomato soup with a dollop of cheese and some croutons. But the taste was unreal. That smokey flavor was so addicting! and then having the wine with it. It was crazy good. Next up was the lobster salad, which was actually three chunks of lobster tail. Really interesting flavor with the sweet of the pineapple and vanilla. I may have wolfed that one down way too fast. Of course, at this point, we are three or four glasses in with wine and conversation really starts to get funny and loud. We had such a crazy fun outgoing group that it made it that much better. Our next course was not a favorite of mine at all, but I normally don't like fish with skin on, plus it was over a mediterranean flavored salad that is just not normally my jam. But that was fine because that meant I could save room for the main course coming........ And we finally were switching to a red wine. I was so surprised to see that they were serving us Caymus, which is a really really yummy Cabernet at a higher price point than I normally pay for in the wine store! So score for me! Our Chef would come out every course or two and explain how he prepared and what the flavors were in each dish and how they played off each other. Very interesting and he was super personable. Beef Tenderloin (sorry, started eating before remembering to snap - wine brain!) and finally our dessert which was a such a unique experience..... they came by with this chocolate ball: And the server came over to each plate and poured hot chocolate over it until the ball melted around a scoop of ice cream. OMG, it was decadent and delicious. At this point I am so far deep into the wine I don't remember if we had a dessert wine. I don't believe we did, pretty sure we were still just enjoying the Caymus. We then sat here for about another half hour or so chatting. Such a fun night! I was concerned at the price of it, but when it was over, I would definitely say it was worth the price for the experience. I can see how some people would be one and done with Chef's Table, but I would definitely try and do it again when we go on our next cruise in a couple of years. The dinner got over a little after 10pm which meant too late to attend the Quest unfortunately. I was looking forward to it, but at this point I was so FULL and tired, I looked forward to just going back to the room. Ok, you probably already think I am little crazy, but I have a question as a first time balcony passenger. Every night I thought it would be great to grab a drink and head back to my room to sit on the balcony and read or play a game with DS. But every time I did, it made me so uncomfortable to sit out there! I just felt like it was so dark and the waves were rough and crashing and that I would fall off, never to be heard from again. I just didn't enjoy it out there at night as much as during the day. Such a strange and disconcerting feeling. Does anyone else feel that way at night on your balcony? So that concludes Thursday. Tomorrow is our Barbados day!
  5. Thursday June 27th - St. Lucia, my favorite port day It was the same wonderful drill for this morning. I got up, got my coffee and walked out onto the balcony. I was treated to a very pretty rainbow! and another great view pulling into port! Today's plan was a little different from the previous days in that we had booked a private excursion for this day. I had done some research on what exactly we wanted to do and decided to go with Spencer Ambrose's speed boat and sugar beach break tour. Since we had to be onshore meeting with Spencer by 8:15, we quickly got packed up. We were due to arrive at any moment, so we went down to the gangway and stood in line for us to be cleared to depart the ship. It was a very long line, but once cleared it took us two minutes to get off the ship. We made our way out of the security area and quickly found someone holding a sign for Spencer's tours. We paid the balance we owed and were soon on our way to the dock to board the speedboat. We were definitely on our way by 8:30am and it was a SPEEDY ride. The water was a bit choppy and there was a lot of wind, so it was a bouncy ride. Luckily we were not bothered by it at all and just watched the beautiful scenery go by. We soon pulled into a resort to drop off 3 people who were only interested in the half day snorkel. We then took off towards another spot and here everyone got off the speedboat. Everyone but DS and I were being loaded onto a bus to go to the mud baths. DS and I were loaded onto a smaller boat where there were two women waiting, who were picked up from a resort nearby. Spencer had left us to go with those folks going on the mud bath tour. So we had a different guide drive us to sugar beach. But on our boat was the cooler with all of the beverages! so we were with the right guide as far as I was concerned... Off we went again and very quickly drove head on into what our guide called a small bit of liquid sunshine, but what DS and I called, as we were laying on the floor of the boat, a complete monsoon rainstorm with raindrops so big and fat hitting our face at a high speed that we had no choice but duck for cover! lol, it was crazy but cleared out quickly and the sun was back out just as we turned the corner towards sugar beach, which was nestled right between the two pitons. We got off the boat and made our way over to the public part of the beach and grabbed two loungers close to the water. We wanted to hurry and get right in and start snorkeling since there were not many people here at this point. I had asked our guide for some snorkel equipment and he handed us each a mask and snorkel tube. I hadn't thought much of the fact that we didn't get fins or a float (foreshadowing), but was so eager to get in the water since I heard this snorkel trail was amazing. We quickly locked up our valuables in our beach chair safe and made our way to the water. We had to climb and walk over a bunch of rocks to get in the water, which was a little challenging. I personally found it much easier to sit and slide in get in deep enough to put my face in the water instead of walking/wading in since the rocks were so tough to manage. When I put my face in we were immediately surrounded by a ton of fish. We went in a little more and I was shocked at the variety of fish and coral and sea life. I was so surprised it was so close to shore. As we got deeper and deeper in we saw more and more. I will apologize that this day was definitely the one day we took the least amount of pics. We just spent so much time in the water and had no waterproof camera. I really regret it since we saw so much while snorkeling here. DS kept popping up from the water to call me over to come look at this or that! We had a blast. We kept going further and further along the base of the piton following the snorkel trail. I really liked how they roped it off so you didn't inadvertently swim into an oncoming boat. So as we got out pretty far from shore, I could see we were coming to the end of the trail. But I could also see that the water was getting ROUGH out here and the current was making it a little tough to swim back towards the beach. And that's when I realized my stupidity. We had no fins and no flotation helping us...just masks with a snorkel tube. DS was just happily swimming along side of me snorkeling away, not realizing my panic. I kept lifting my head up and getting hit in the face with a wave. So I soon started to try and swim harder towards the beach against the current. I was not making good headway and getting a little frustrated and a little scared. DS will tell you this is when I went full blown panic and I guess I kicked him in the face trying to swim fast (oops). So as he was sputtering and spitting out water he swallowed (dramatic) from my apparent kick to his face, I yelled at him to FOLLOW ME BACK, THIS IS NOT SAFE! we swam our little legs off and eventually made it back to a safer spot and was able to snorkel a little more as we headed towards the beach. When we got back to the chairs DS had to continue to talk about the face kick (whatever) and insist HE was fine, and that it was me being dramatic. Maybe I was a little panicky, but I really think they should give you fins and a float vest or something. Anyway, we relaxed on the beach for a while. There were locals there making these cool things out of the tree palms, like fish and roses, so we were tipping them and they kept coming back with more and more. I loved them! It was around this time that the folks who went to the mud bath arrived to sugar beach, so it quickly got filled up. Soon after we were served a buffet lunch of chicken, rice, beans, plantains and salad. Everything was so delicious. There was a constant flow of whatever you wanted to drink and the guides were super friendly and accommodating. There was a small tent set up with some handmade items you could buy and a house with restroom and changing rooms. It really was a great spot! at this point I went back in the water to snorkel some more and was able to see even more fish that I hadn't seen the first time in. As I was coming out, I noticed a guy there with a kayak filled with fresh fruit making smoothies. I didn't really feel like a smoothie but asked if there was any way I could have some fresh fruit to snack on. Well, he made me an entire to-go container filled with all the fruit he had and explained what each one was. He gave me mango, papaya, passionfruit and some others. DS and I ate so much of this fruit. It was so juicy and delicious. I had to share it with other people sitting around me too, because I couldn't believe how juicy and fresh it was! So that's how we spent our day, just lounging, snorkeling, eating and drinking. But as good things usually have to come to an end, we were told it was time to load back onto the boat. Here we are waiting to get back on! (Do you see any injury to DS face? No? he's so dramatic!) Soon we were off on the boat at a bit of a slower pace this time. We cruised by some areas while Spencer explained where we were and what each little cove was or who had houses there that were famous. At one point we stopped and watched some kids jumping off a cliff into the water while we cheered as they did flips and such. They eventually swam over to the boat and spencer tossed them some of the soda from our cooler. We cruised on and got some great photos of the pitons as we sped away. Here is a couple of shots of the scenery and one of the coves we drove through: Eventually we made our way back to the dock, where we said our goodbyes to Spencer and thanked him for a spectacular day. I would re-do that excursion every time I went to St. Lucia if I could. Back on shore, I wanted to do some shopping, while DS wanted to get back to the wifi on the ship. So we went our separate ways. There were a lot of shopping spots right near the ship here. I got a lot of souvenirs to bring home to family and friends. I eventually made it back on the ship and to our cabin. As DS and I were discussing how much we missed our favorite waiters in the dining room since we had skipped the night before, I noticed an envelope on my bed. I opened it up and in it was my invitation for the Chef's Table for that evening!!! So apparently I had a reservation all along, or maybe I got in from a cancellation, I don't know! But I was going! And I needed to meet at Bolero's in less than an hour! DS was fine to eat at the buffet and go play basketball with his new friends, so I rushed through to try and get dressy in the short time I had. So up next (tomorrow, I promise!), I will get into deep details on my Chef's Table experience! I did take a bunch of photos and will go through the whole night.
  6. Hello! I will post my St Lucia update tomorrow. Sorry, wasn’t sure I still had anyone reading! 😀
  7. Not sure anyone is still reading this, but I need to hurry it through since my memories are starting to get a little hazy.... Wednesday June 26 - Antigua Spent another early morning on the balcony sipping coffee and watching us pull into port. We had a late morning excursion booked, so we had a very lazy morning. I let DS sleep in a bit and I went to the dining room to have breakfast. It seemed to me that the dining room in the morning is a little more chaotic than at dinner. There is also a buffet set up in the middle of the room. When I first arrived, I needed to wait a bit to be seated and then they tried to seat me with a couple, which I really did not want to do. I have a little social anxiety as it is, without having to eat at the same table as the third wheel. So once I was seated (alone), I ordered some eggs benedict, which arrived within two minutes and appeared that the waiter maybe just got from the buffet set up in the center of the room. So, I guess I don't really understand the point of the dining room breakfast if it's not cooked to order. But whatever, it was good and served its purpose. We had a shore excursion that was scheduled for 11:45am, so we needed to meet on the dock at 11:15. Today's excursion was the Snorkel and Kayak Eco adventure. I got back to my room, woke DS and starting packing our day trip bag. We were able to grab some coffee and muffins for him and were getting off the ship around 11. We were led to a spot right on the pier between our ship and the Disney Fantasy. We waited a little bit for a leader to walk us to the vans that would take us to this estate/home where our tour began. When we arrived, we walked through this beautiful garden along a stone walkway at, what appeared to be, someone's home. We were then led out to a dock and were loaded onto three small boats. Our boat drivers explained some of the area and vegetation and told us about the mangroves where we would be kayaking. We then arrived a small dock that had a bunch of kayaks. Most of the kayaks were 2 person, but they had some single kayaks as well. It was very easy to get in the kayaks, as the guides helped you in and held it steady. DS wanted to be the lead kayaker, so he sat in the back and mostly instructed me when he needed me to paddle each side. Surprisingly we worked very well together! But we noticed that was not the case with some other people.....there were definitely some arguments going on around us as we paddled and I may have seen one woman whack her husband with an actual paddle when he didn't know his right from his left!!! lol..... The guides took us all around this small island, making stops along the way to explain the area and the life that grew/swam there. He would pull up starfish and sea cucumbers for all of us to hold and pass around. It was so interesting and fun! The complicated parts were usually trying to get in and out of the crowded kayak circle while the guide was speaking and explaining things. everyone would laughingly bang into each other or drift along into the edges, but we all managed to get where we needed to go. I think this excursion would be great if you had kayaking experience, but may be a little bit challenging if you hadn't ever done it before. I would say we kayaked for at least an hour, maybe a bit more. I definitely felt the sun on my legs and was glad I OVER sunblocked, because we would have roasted if we hadn't. After kayaking was over, they brought us back to the dock where we were again, held steady while able to climb up a ladder onto the dock. We then boarded our little speedboats and made our way to a tiny beach. Once we docked, they told us we could climb the hill to an overlook or stay on the beach and swim, relax. DS and I chose to stay on the beach, swim and do a little exploring. The water was so beautiful and the sand was like baby powder. They had a little tent set up right on the beach where they sold drinks and other souvenirs. Once we relaxed and swam for a bit, they had us choose our snorkel equipment and loaded those of us who wanted to snorkel back on a boat and brought us to the snorkel spot. It was only about a 5 minute boat ride. We were able to just jump right off the boat into the water. Even though it was a little wavy the snorkeling was sooooo gorgeous! there were stingrays and tons of fish, and even some little jelly fish that didn't really have tentacles, which I believe is what stings. I had issues with my mask when I first went in the water. After I tried and tried to make it work for me, I realized it was actually broken where the seam met the glass so I had to trade it out for another one. Once I got that all settled I only had a few minutes to get adjusted and finish up snorkeling. So I felt like I didn't get a good amount of time there, which i was so bummed about since there was so much to see. DS saw a TON of things he hadn't seen before so I was super happy about that. LOOK AT THAT WATER!! Once we were done snorkeling, we went back to the little beach to pick everyone up and made our way back to the home base where we started from. When we got off the boats, we were greeted by the home owners who let us know that there was rum punch and some homemade (still warm!) banana bread for us, and facilities to use/change. We were able to sit and relax for a bit in some chairs in the shade. Take a look at this crazy caterpiller we saw: We only had a few minutes here before they let us know that they were loading up the vans to return us to the port. The ride back was a little hot, as there wasn't much AC in the van, but it was only about a 30 minute ride, so we survived. Once back, we quickly boarded as the ship was leaving at 5 and it was just about 4:30 at this time. Once we got onboard, I went to guest services to check to see if my reservation was booked for Chef's table, since I had never heard back nor got any type of confirmation. Guest services told me I definitely didn't show a reservation on my account and then tried to get me in on any of the days they were having Chef's table. They let me know that unfortunately they were all sold out, so I was out of luck. Ugh, I was so upset since it was really the only specialty meal I planned to have. But, again, what can you do? I just thanked them for their time and went along with my day. Not going to spoil my day, that's for sure! As I was heading back to our cabin, I decided that maybe we could get ourselves a reservation at one of the specialty restaurants that night since I wasn't spending the money on Chef's Table. I checked with DS when I got back to the room and we agreed on Giovanni's table. So I called the reservation line from the cabin and got us booked at Giovanni's for 8:15pm. YAY! And this meant, we had plenty of time to relax beforehand! So up to the Solarium I went.... I hung out, read my book and enjoyed my daquiri for a couple of hours. DS was in and out, doing his own thing. After a while, we went back to the room to get ready. I had a glass of wine on the balcony and watched the sun set.. I mean seriously..... I am so spoiled by having a balcony now. So we were ready early and decided to head to Giovanni's at 8. They seated us immediately. The restaurant was not very busy and our waiter only had our table and another table of about 5 people. Once we were seated, he came over and gave us menus and then we sat. and sat................ and sat. No drink order, no water, nothing. About 20 minutes later, he came back and I ordered a glass of wine and DS ordered a soda. again, it took FOREVER to get them. When he finally returned with our drinks, we immediately placed our order and I ordered another glass of wine. Which I timed well because it took forever to come. As a starter I got the beef carpaccio and DS got the steamed mussels. Both were delicious. Next up was the crab ravioli for DS and the Fettucini Carbonara for me. I actually got a photo of mine! It was so good, I am still thinking about it. For our main course, I got the Osso Bucco and DS got a second pasta as his meal, the gnocchi. And yay me, I got photos of those too! Each course took a long time in between, which was fine. We weren't in any huge rush, but it was definitely slower than we had been used to in the dining room. Once our main courses came out, I had ordered another glass of wine and that one just never showed up. By the time we were finished eating, we were both so full we were going to bust, plus I was a bit annoyed at how our server was just not very attentive. When he came by finally to offer dessert, I declined and told him just to bring us the check and not worry about the glass of wine I never received. Of course, the bill came to around $80, which was worth it for food quality without a doubt. But the service? Ugh, not worth it!!! So I was kind of bummed about the experience. But we went onto have a fun night wandering around the ship, checking out the different events. While DS played basketball for a bit, I went to Olive and Twist, had that last glass of wine and watched the beginnings of a honeymooners party that was starting in there. Then DS texted and we made our way back to the cabin. Another cutie was waiting for us: Thanks for reading! Next up is Thursday in St. Lucia, another spectacular day!
  8. Tuesday, June 25 - St. Kitts I woke up early once again to grab a coffee and sit on my balcony while watching us pull into St Kitts. Today we had booked a zipline tour through Royal. I made sure I got the first time slot at 8:30am so that we could be back to the ship before noon, because I wanted to just hop right into a taxi and go to the Carambola Beach Club for a 12noon reservation we made. Our reservation included two chairs and an umbrella (cost $30). So we got ourselves organized and headed to Studio B as directed on our excursion tickets. We got signed in and given a sticker with our number on it, then took a seat to wait for our group to be called. We then followed a guide with a placard off the ship to a point in the shopping area on the dock (below). Once everyone was lined up, they put us on a bus and off we went to the Wingfield Estate. The estate was a former sugar plantation and had some interesting sites around the grounds to check out. There were some wild monkeys swinging around the trees, which were really cool. Once we got into the check-in room, we had to fill out some paperwork, get weighed (eek!!!), and we could pay $3 for a locker to hold our stuff. It was at this point that we decided to lock up our phones because I was too nervous I would drop mine, so we unfortunately didn't get any pics actually ziplining. I guess I wanted to hold on with both hands lol! But I will still describe the process.....So after check in, we got into our gear and they did a mini test run that was about 30 feet long so you were comfortable how to sit in the harness, hold on, and what to do when it came to stopping at the end of the line. Once everyone went through it all, we were loaded into the back of a pickup truck. A little nerve wracking, that we were to just sit in the back to be driven up the hills, so I actually chose to sit inside in the back seat. Which is hilarious that it was actually THAT PART that I was scared of, since I was about to fly down a thousand foot zipline thousands of feet off the ground for my first time ever. Anyway, We got to the top of the first line. I was a little nervous stepping onto the platform for the first time, but the guides were fantastic and when they got me hooked up and feeling very safe, off I went! I loved it!! The view was spectacular! We continued onto about 5 more lines and ended up back down right where we started, at this little hut. We waited for everyone else to finish up and took off/turned in our equipment. I was thinking about getting a fresh fruit smoothie from the stand they had there when my son came up and said, "there's a guy over there with a baby monkey". Now, I had one rule for us on this vacation and that was Do.Not.Hold.A.Monkey!!! These monkey owners are swindlers for cash! They will ask you if you want to hold the lil baby monkey who is just adorable, you will snap a couple of photos of yourself with this cute little baby monkey that looks at you like you're his long lost mom, and boom!! you suddenly owe their handler $10. So that was one of my main rules. So like the good son he is, he IMMEDIATLELY said no when the handler asked if he wanted to hold the monkey. Good job my son! But then, it went down hill...... the handler looked at me and the baby monkey looked at me and I was asked if I wanted to hold him.... I looked in that baby's eyes and said immediately "OMG YESSSSSS, hand him over!!!" And DS just stood there shaking his head, mumbling, "we had ONE rule...." So anyway, here are $20 worth of monkey pics: After begrudgingly handing over my monkey cash, we got loaded up into the van and brought back to the port, arriving at exactly 11:30. We had our suits and towels packed into our backpacks so we were able to hop right into a cab and head to Carambola. Our cab driver pulled over at one overlook so I could get this photo. Such a great shot of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. We arrived at Carambola, checked in and paid our balance and were given bracelets. We were told to find a beach attendant who will escort us to our chairs. When we walked out onto the beach, I realized this may not have been the best idea for the second half of our day. It was a complete and utter MOB SCENE. There were people, chairs, umbrellas everywhere. We managed to find two empty wooden chairs with an umbrella. The chairs had no pads on them so the attendant ran off to find us some pads. And then we never saw him again. So we managed to find two different chairs that didn't require pads with an umbrella and just set up there. We were set probably 3 or 4 rows back from the water. But there were so many people we couldn't even SEE the water. Just walls of people and umbrellas. ugh. I didn't even take any photos here because I actually didn't see anything photo worthy. But we figured we would sit, relax, read and were actually pretty hungry at this point. So I looked around for the Beach Server hoping to get a couple of drinks and a lunch menu. I noticed all the way down the beach that there was ONE very very busy beach server covering all of this crowd. So I quickly decided to head inside and try and order from the bar. Side note: You must wear shoes on the sand. it is like walking on hot coals. Probably because of the type of volcanic sand it is, I would assume. It was the only beach we visited that was like that where we couldn't walk barefoot. Anyway, I went inside to order from the bar. They had menus laid out across the bar, which was a good size. There were about 4 bartenders. When I tried to place my order I was told to order my to-go lunch from the hostess stand. Which I thought was weird because I saw others ordering right from the bartender. So over to the hostess stand I went, and put in my order for a wrap sandwich and a small pizza. When I offered my credit card to pay, they sent me back to the bar to pay for it.....okaaaayy, back to the bar. I explained to a different bartender that I needed to pay him for my lunch that I ordered at the hostess stand, where I was sent from the other bartender. Even he was confused by why I was going back and forth. But we got it sorted out and they told me it would be out in 10 minutes. Rather than walk all the way back across fire to my beach chair, I decided to stay at the bar and have a drink while I waited. Another mistake because our simple little lunch wasn't ready for 45 minutes, but they told me it would be out any minute every 10 minutes, so I just kept waiting. Ugh! I finally got our lunch, grabbed a couple more drinks for us and made my way back to my chair where we sat and ate. We then relaxed a bit, made our way into the water for a bit and just chilled there for a couple of hours. At one point, I had ordered another drink from the beach server when he happened to walk by, but he unfortunately never came back with it. I wasn't really surprised, since I had no idea how he was keeping up with all of these people's orders alone! So after a while, we decided we would probably enjoy ourselves a little more back on the ship. We packed up our things and asked the front desk where to get a cab. She quickly called someone over to help us and he walked us out to a waiting van. And off we went back to our ship. I totally regret wasting my afternoon there and wished I had found something else to do. But there are worse days than being on a crowded beach in the Caribbean. Once back onboard, we relaxed in our room and on our balcony. We were parked very closely to the Disney ship, which was fun when they left the port since the ship's horn plays all the disney songs as it pulls out. And then aaaahhhh, I get my view back! I went off ship for a while and did some shopping in the port, which had a ton of stores to wander around in. When I got back on, we got ready for dinner and once again had a delicious meal! This is the only photo I took that night, so I have no idea what we ate or even what we did for the evening. Kind of a weird day overall. We agreed that the ziplining was probably the best excursion we've done, but St. Kitt's turned out to be our least favorite stop. Oh well. More to come, since tomorrow was a FAVORITE -- Antigua!!!
  9. Thanks! Yes, you can do whatever you want..... hang out on the catamaran, ask for the dingy to take you over to the beach. No obligation to snorkel at all. I actually wished I spent a little more time sitting on that beach taking it all in. You will really enjoy it!
  10. Monday June 24 - St. Thomas I woke around 6am very excited for our first port! I had booked us on the ship excursion Champagne Catamaran Sail and Snorkel to St John/Honeymoon Beach today and was really looking forward to it! I had wanted to go to St. John but was pretty intimidated about taking ferry's and taxi's so thought this would be a nice easy way to see a bit of Honeymoon beach and St John from the water. So as I said, I woke at 6am and snuck downstairs to the promenade to grab a latte. They had coffee set up for self serve but the specialty ones weren't available until 6:30, so I went back to the room and got our stuff organized for the day and went back to get my coffee after 6:30. I went down every morning between 6:30 and 7 and never stood in line or had any delay getting my specialty coffee. And we were only one deck above the promenade so it was so easy to just run down there every morning. I got back to our cabin and went out on the balcony to enjoy my coffee and watch us pull into port. My view from my balcony in port: According to my excursion ticket, we needed to meet on the dock at 8:15 for our 8:30 start. So I woke up DS to get him going so we could grab breakfast at the buffet before heading ashore. This turned out to be the only morning we did this because it was kind of crowded in there and we felt really rushed and then afterwards really full. So at 8:15 we stood in line to get off the boat and went out the gates (towards the blue house in the pic above), and there were people there holding placards with the excursion name on it. We found ours and stood there until our driver loaded us onto the bus. We were on the bus and going at exactly 8:30 so there really is no wiggle room. You definitely need to be on time or you will get left behind. The bus took us to a boatyard where we met our catamaran. I would be remiss not to mention that this bus ride was like being on a roller coaster..... fast, sharp turns, up big hills, then speeding down big hills. OMG, I was holding onto the seat in front of me for dear life!!! I never truly felt like we were going to crash, just the roads are curvy and hilly. It was fun though. We arrived at the catamaran, which was gorgeous. The crew welcomed us, and had us all take off our shoes on the dock. They kept them in a bucket on board. DS and I grabbed a good spot at the front near the railing so we could watch all of St. Thomas as we sailed by. It took about 45 minutes to get to St. John. We anchored a ways off the beach and got our snorkel gear and were able to walk down a ladder into the water. We saw so many fish and turtles here. There was a reef we followed to a certain point. The current got a little strong to turn around and swim back to the boat so we were able to walk out of the water and walk along the beach on the powdery white sand, then get back into the water at the end and follow the current back to the boat. We snorkeled for about an hour and a half, I would say. There was a crew member in a dingy who would pick people up from the beach and take them back to the catamaran, or vice versa, if they got tired and didn't want to snorkel anymore. They also rode around in the dingy looking for turtles and calling us who were nearby, over to see. So great! The party really starts when we headed back towards St. Thomas. They serve rum punch and champagne as well as some crackers and cheese. They introduced us to the Rum-mosa, which was like a mimosa but with rum punch instead of oj. As you can imagine, it packed a punch! The crew took very good care of us, topping off drinks, entertaining us. They were outstanding at their job....multi-tasking at it's finest since they were sailing the boat, serving the drinks and just being general entertainers and talking to all the guests. They had a variety of t-shirts for sale and took credit cards for purchase, so that made things easy! We were dropped back at the dock around 12:30, I guess and then back on the bus. The ride back didn't seem as bad, but that could be thanks to the rum-mosa's! We explored the port area for a bit when we got back, and did some shopping, took some photos etc. After a while we got back on board and were pretty hungry so decided to go check out Johnny Rockets. was great for a mid day snack since our dinner wasn't for another 5 hours. Plus I think we worked up a good hunger from all that snorkeling! After lunch I went and hung out in the Solarium while DS went to explore the rest of the ship for a bit. I loved the solarium. It was the only spot on the ship that had padded chairs. It didn't have the loud craziness of the main pool but was consistently busy. I always managed to find a chair or two. There were a lot of waiters walking around taking drink orders, but if I didn't manage to grab a waiter, I just walked up to the bar in the Solarium and ordered from them. DS is 16 so he was allowed in to hang with me as well. I thought it was 18+ but all of the signs said 16+. So that worked out great for us! I spent a couple of hours there reading my book and finally went back to the room around 6, to get ready for our 7:30pm My Time dinner reservation. When I returned to the room, there was two folded bathrobes for us on the beds. Muhammed came through for us!! I was so thankful that I went out to find him down the hall to thank him. He was just the nicest person. OMG, I miss him! So after showering and using our robes to get ready, we headed to the dining room. No line at all, we just walked up to the desk, checked in, and were brought right to our table. Seamless! And again, the meal and service was outstanding. I can't remember what I got for an appetizer this night, but I ordered the mushroom risotto for dinner and skipped dessert because I was going to explode at this point. SO MUCH FOOD. DS got the Chicken Parm for his meal and this dark chocolate cookie/brownie bake for dessert with ice cream. You can see from the look on his face how good it was. After dinner, we wandered around the ship for a bit. DS went back to the room to change and went to the sports deck to play basketball. I did a little casino/drink stops along the way, eventually making it back to the room around 11 and discovered we got our first towel animal ! So cute! So that was our day in St. Thomas. Next up is Tuesday in St. Kitts!!
  11. The ship! Got tagged for alcohol in his luggage, but it was actually my hairdryer! lol mini golf Main dining room menu night 1
  12. Here are some photos from around San Juan. Please let me know if there are any issues seeing them. I don't have much experience with adding photos here: Castillo San Felipe del Morro and San Cristobal Fortaleza Corte Chocobar
  13. Thanks! She's a beauty for her age. Thanks for joining! You will have a blast! I will go through all of our excursions and what I would've done differently. One thing I would've done is booked a hotel in San Juan in Isla Verde on the beach. We spent all of Sunday post-cruise at that beach. Beautiful!!! It depends on what you want to do in San Juan prior to boarding. I loved doing the rainforest tour prior to getting on the ship because it was so nice to see that part of San Juan and since the ship wasn't leaving until the evening, it worked for the schedule. I believe the crowds boarding dissipate as the afternoon wears on. Wow! that is a gorgeous view! I wish we had that! I hope you enjoyed your cruise. We loved it so much.
  14. Sunday, June 23 We had scheduled a rainforest tour to take prior to boarding our cruise, so we could see just a little more of San Juan. And wow, was I glad we did! Months ago, I had reached out to Tour with Ellis to book, but he was going to be on vacation while we were there so he referred me to Albeny Medina, who was very good at communicating all of our choices and narrowing down exactly what we wanted to do. We chose the 4 hour rainforest tour for $65 per person. We woke around 8am and ran to Starbucks to grab some coffee and pastries. Our pick up was scheduled for 9am right in front of the hotel. I checked us out and left our luggage for the day with the porter, (who was also the front desk clerk, checking people in and out, so there was a bit of wait for this) who gave us a ticket and let us know we could come back anytime to get it. No time limit. As we waited, I got a call from Benny. He was a little difficult to understand but what I could gather was that he said he was on his way, and just a few minutes away. Shortly after, a gorgeous big black Mercedes van pulled up. A gentleman named Martin got out and introduced himself and told us we were going with him. This made me a little nervous and I asked where Benny was, as we had been in quite a bit of contact and he never mentioned he wouldn’t be doing our tour, plus i don’t believe he mentioned it on the phone a few minutes ago. Again, that could’ve been me not understanding his accent. Martin assured me he would take very good care of us. So we hopped in and off we went to another hotel to pick up two more people who would be joining us for the tour. Martin was born in New York but is Puerto Rican and has lived there since he was a kid. Being from Boston, we gave him a little lip about NY sports team and he gave it right back to us. At this point, I knew we would have a fun day. So we picked up two women and were soon zooming down the highway towards El Yunque National rainforest. I would say the ride was 30+ minutes. Martin did a great job explaining the views and various vegetation along the way, and once in the rainforest, he said how it has been since the hurricane and what is still in recovery. The roads were especially damaged but still driveable just bumpy. Our first stop was Yokahu observation tower. Martin hopped out and immediately took our phone and started taking photos of us in front of the tower. He knew where to have us stand to get the best shots! We climbed the tower while he waited below. I thought the climb would be worse than it was, but it was not too difficult at all. We stopped a few times on the way up to take photos out the little windows. There was a great breeze blowing in through the windows too, which helped keep it cool. The view up top was so gorgeous. Rainforest all around us and the ocean off in the distance. It was so worth the quick climb! We took a ton of photos and made our way back down. Martin explained a little about the area and tower. We took some more photos and then headed to La Coca Falls. It was a beautiful waterfall that you could climb up some rocks to get some better views. Now this climb was a little more treacherous and I was glad we had worn our Keens. You need to be in decent shape to climb the rocks, to be able to pull yourself up and keep steady. From far below, Marin took pics of us high on the rocks near the top of the waterfall. Climbing back down was even more treacherous and I actually climbed down on my butt a few times which made it way easier. Again, the view and waterfall was very much worth it. This was probably about an hour here between both stops. Our next stop was a river/pool area named Las Damas in the mameyes river. This area seemed to be really popular with the locals, as there were a lot of families there with picnics on the banks. We played around in the deep pool areas of the river and climbed on the rocks. Again so happy we wore keens since it was really rocky. Martin held onto our phones and continually snapped photos of us playing around. He used some of the rocks to make different color pastes and drew clay “tattoos” on us. He had clean fresh towels for us to use and dry off, handed us bottles of water without us asking....Honest to god, he was one of the best tour guides of our trip. It was like hanging out with a friend all day. A friend that waited on you hand and foot! When we were done there, maybe an hour or so, he asked us what we wanted to do for lunch and if we were interested in trying some authentic Puerto Rican food. Ummmm YES! So he drove us to this little road side hut that had all sorts of empanadas they were making onsite, plus all this fresh fruit you could buy, and smoothies they would make to order. They had a lot of bbq, meats,etc. My normally very picky son got a crab empanada with some white rice and fried plantains. And inhaled it. Except the plantains which he handed over to me (yay!). I got bbq wings, spare ribs and rice/beans. We both got fresh fruit smoothies. This lunch was absolutely outstanding. We got a ton of food and I think spent less than $20 for both of us. We sat eating and chatting. I was trying some different hot sauces with my rice. Oof, some were literally fire in my mouth! It was a great day so far! But sadly our tour was coming to an end. Martin dropped us back at the hotel soon after at exactly 1pm and we said our goodbyes. I am still in disarray with unpacking but will definitely come across his contact info for anyone who wants to book and will post here. I can’t highly recommend him enough! We quickly grabbed our bags from the porter and ordered an Uber. I will say that Uber’s in San Juan are so easy and fast. You need to be ready to go when you order because we found that each Uber was maybe a 2 minute wait. If that.... anyway, into the Uber we go.... and this is where I really started to bounce in my seat with excitement because two minutes into the ride i spotted my ship! We were there in five minutes and into the mayhem of boarding. We quickly found our baggage drop line which was according to deck #. The line moved quickly and we dropped and went to check in. I need to back up here and give a small complaint about Royals website. I was completely unable to print my sail pass online. I called them numerous times to fix it, and they assured me it would be ready to print the next day, only to have it be the same thing day after day, phone call after phone call. I had completely finished every tiny check in detail so i know that wasn’t the issue, i was just never able to click the link to print our passes, it was always grayed out. I had a feeling this may hold us up for a bit in the boarding process and boy it sure did. So before we entered the terminal, I had to get a temporary boarding slip. Then when we got to the counter we had to fill out and redo all the check in paperwork again. They also tried to tell me I had a $260 balance that needed to be paid. I, of course knew this was not the case, and didn’t want to sign anything that agreed to that balance. I couldn’t board the ship unless i signed off on it but they wouldn’t charge me right away, they directed me to go to the customer service deck to straighten out. It wasn’t a great start because I was so annoyed, since all of this I know was their website issues wasting my time. A LOT of time. My son was super helpful here because i was pissed and he just kept it in perspective that it’s not the customer service persons fault, it was a website issue that they have no control over. Thank god he kept me in check because I’d say it took us more than two hours to get through this whole process and get it straightened out. A lot of standing in lines..... telling and retelling my issue. If i was pissed that whole time it would’ve ruined the start to my trip so i just tried to be reeeeaaalllllly patient. I luckily was finally helped by the manager at the service desk and she wouldn’t give up until she figured out what caused the charge. We finally narrowed it down based on the amount of the charge. Come to find out, I had originally booked and paid for the Key, then realized about a month before our sail date that it was probably a waste of money so cancelled it and just booked the voom internet for two devices for $130. So saving myself approx $130, which was credited back to my credit card within a few days of cancellation. Well, I guess royal still wanted me to pay for that key. So it showed I owed that full amount. Once we figured it out, she was able to clear the charge and we were finally on our way. Let the vacation begin! We made our way first to our room to drop our stuff and get me a much needed drink! We checked out our room and balcony. I had never booked a balcony room before and had booked a guarantee at a great price, which ended up being on the 6th deck, starboard side between midship and forward. I found out our cabin # about a month prior. It was just a standard sized room but i was so excited to see what a good size the balcony actually was. It was a great sized room for the two of us! When we got there our beds were already separated and everything we needed was there like all of our excursion tickets were in an envelope, our drink cups, and the invitation to the CC meet and greet, (which we missed, ooops). I had pre-booked the deluxe beverage package just a couple of weeks before the trip after swearing for months I would just pay per drink since I couldn’t imagine spending more than the $47 per day, especially being off the ship so much every day. Well needless to say, I was sooooooooo glad I did and definitely surpassed that amount by far every day between multiple glasses of sparkling wine, frozen cocktails, coffee, shakes, and a ton of bottled water. My son just got the basic soda package and was happy. The soda station near us by Sorrentos pizza was out of coke and sprite for the entire week, which was weird. But he made do with all the other options they had. As we were checking out the promenade they had folks there getting passengers signed up for dining packages. They talked me into doing the chefs table on Thursday night. My son had no interest in joining and I thought it would be a good time to do our own thing for dinner since we would maybe be sick of each other by then! They wrote out a slip for my reservation and told me someone would call to confirm the reservation within a day or two. We we wandered around the ship some more and ended up on the sports deck playing mini golf and ping pong for a while. My son was in awe of the sports deck. We quickly went and got him registered for the teen club so he could join the activities on the sports deck when he wanted to. i think it was probably around 6pm by now and I wanted to go shower and get ready for our My Time Dining at 7:45. We were still in our rainforest hiking clothes so were ready to get cleaned up! We we met our room attendant Muhammad on our way back who was a complete doll. Once we we were getting ready I quickly realized that sharing a small room and bathroom with my teenson will cause some privacy issues. So I wrote this long note to Muhammad explaining our issue and begged for two bathrobes even though i knew only longtime loyal royals got those and this was our first time on a royal ship. I also attached to $20 to the note and crossed my fingers. We left the room and headed to dinner. Our my time dining room,was on deck 3, so we headed that way and encountered a huuuuge line to get in. Even though our reservation was at 7:45, we probably got seated around 8. So not terribly late. We got a great spot by the windows and two of the best waiters (Franco and Eldon) on the ship that we had every night all week. We ordered everything at one time, appetizers, main course and dessert. Everything came out timely and quickly. I had ordered a glass of prosecco as soon as I sat down and when it was delivered (quickly) I immediately ordered another, which showed up just as i was finishing my first ( they are small glasses, don’t judge!). I then ordered a third halfway through my dinner course and it showed up shortly there after. Eldon kept up this three prosecco pattern for the rest of the week and brought double cokes for my son as soon as we sat down every night too! Anyway, dinner was pleasantly surprising! The food quality was great! I was so happy! We set sail while we ate which was exciting to watch us go by the forts! We were on our way! We wandered the ship after dinner for a while. My son decided to go up to play basketball and I went back to the room to read since it had been a long day. I fell asleep for a bit and my son came back around 11:30 talking about the pick up 3 on 3 game he played at the courts and met some kids! Great start to our trip.... we went to sleep knowing we’d be pulling into St Thomas the next day and had some fun stuff planned. Im going to take a break and will pick this back up later today, I need to start some laundry. I hope you don’t mind all the details and the blah blah blah. Feel free to ask any questions!
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