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Photo Review: Allure Eastern 4/14/2013 The Good Karma Cruise

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Allure Eastern Review

 

The Good Karma Cruise

 

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For a lot of reasons, we seemed to have very good "karma" on this cruise. Assistance to newbie cruisers on the roll call paid off in a big way, we actually got a "free lunch" one day and most importantly, we felt the support and love of our fellow passengers, the officers and crew, after the marathon bombings in Boston.

 

Obviously, that event happening in our own backyard while were away and out of touch was very emotional and while I can't say it cast a pall on the cruise, those of us on board from Boston were more concerned and subdued than normal. Obviously, our very first concern was for our loved ones who run, work or live in the Marathon area, and luckily, we were able to connect and quickly learn that our loved ones were spared from any harm. Had we stayed in town, there was a good chance we would have been in the city over the holiday weekend, so in reflecting about this cruise, I guess I really felt like things turned out really well in a way that could only be described as good karma!

 

A little about us:

Our family includes myself, my DH, (late 40's...really late, like turning back into a pumpkin late) DD1 age 18 and DD2 age 16. DH and I sailed on Oasis about 18 months ago by ourselves and immediately decided that we must take our daughters on this amazing ship! In Massachusetts we have an April break,. When this coincides with Easter week, we never travel because it's insanely expensive and crowded, but on years like this when Massachusetts are the only ones on vacation, it's more reasonable, so we booked a Next Cruise certificate during our Oasis cruise and then came right home and booked Allure for a combined sweet 16 and graduation cruise for our girls.

 

DH and I travel quite a bit, both for pleasure and business, and we usually cruise Royal Caribbean about once a year as a couple only get away, but lately we have cruised Royal twice a year because I like to take my mother and the girls on a short cruise during their February break. Somehow over the 20 years we've been cruising, we've managed to rack up enough Crown and Anchor points to be diamond, despite the fact that most of our trips are not Royal Caribbean cruises.

 

We like to be active on our vacations, and we enjoy shows and activities. We are "food for fuel" people rather than foodies, though I think we have pretty sophisticated palates due to our travel and recognize good food when we taste it, but we are not to fussy as long as the food is healthy and fresh. We don't gamble, or drink or shop much, so you won't find much in here about casino, bars, Diamond lounge or shops, but I will do my best to answer any questions you may have!

 

 

Preamble: This review will be a combination of photos, tips and photos of helpful paperwork, and day to day travelogue. I try not to include too many personal photos, but you will occasionally see our family in the photos (it was our vacation after all, I'm not a travel agent or going to pretend it wasn't a family vacation!). I like to share my logic for why we chose to do things. I myself find knowing the logic behind a choice in a review helps me decide if I might agree or disagree with the choice. For instance if I tell you I chose an aft cabin cause we love to walk miles and miles while cruising, but you don't like to walk- that's much more helpful than me saying get an aft cabin, "it's great" (it might not turn out to be great for you!) So it makes for a wordy review- some people love that (especially those folks like me who are always a little disappointed when the review is over); others just want photos...others just want the tips, I will not be offended if you just enjoy DHs photos, and I'll try to put tips in a different color font than the narrative, so you can ignore them or save them- your choice! And for the first time, I plan to post food porn! In the past the old menus had bored me to tears (we had them for what? 5-6 years!). It seemed to me that posting more photos of the same foods was ground that had already been covered. With the new menus, I was interested in the changes and while I have seen some good "food" reviews of the new menus, it's still fairly new, some meals may not have been photographed yet, and I hope it's of interest to people.

 

Photos: All good photos are by my DH using Nikon 1V2 with 3 lenses; 6.7 -13 mm wide angle (18-35mm equivalent, an 18.5 f/1.8 ( 50 mm equivalent) and a 30-110 mm ( 80-300 mm equivalent). Also an LED light for food porn and an AW110 for water photos. I have no idea what ANY of that means, but I have learned to nod and smile when DH talks about it and I am happy to pass along any specific photo questions to DH and do my best to translate the answers! I used my IPhone 5 for some photos and the panoramas used in each " neighborhood" in my review.

 

(Photo of the photo kit)

 

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Note the special LED light on the far right- DH bought this to light food for the food photos; so you can imagine the looks we got at dinner each night when he was lighting the dinner plates. Every night we would have a collection of waiters, headwaiters, and beverage waiters gathered around to see what the heck was going on! I think some thought we might have been irradiating the food:p Once we explained what was going on they tried to sell us the photo cook book that was being offered for sale during our cruise. (it looked great, but frankly wouldn't help with a Cruise Critic review;))

 

 

Bad photos are mine or ones I insisted he use even though they don't meet his high standards. For this review, I didn't have DH take a lot of "this is what the ship looks like" photos- there have been a lot of excellent recent Allure (and Oasis) photo reviews with pictures of everything from the pool decks to the condiments on Labadee ( I'm lookin at you, Gambee;)). Also, we had already " explored " this class on Oasis, and in the end, this was our vacation, and we chose not to retrace those steps for this trip. I decided to discuss each neighborhood in the context of my travelogue and will include panoramas using my IPhone 5 or photos my DH found interesting to take; a slightly different approach I hope people will enjoy!

 

Additionally, I'm pretty good at saving ephemera and will include scans the Cruise Compasses every day, and photos of as many menus as nights we had in the MDR and also other docs that are helpful with planning. I won't post the "specials" because there are just too many pages and I think the "deals" change so much from cruise to cruise depending on what is moving or how bookings in the spas or restaurants look on any given week. The excursions doc "Explorations", isn't here either since the info can be found online. But if you have specific questions, I am happy to look stuff up for you!

 

Teen perspective : Because we traveled with teens I will include my DD2's advice...her screen name is...CruiseEm, for teens in green (her fav color after blue) along the way...easy to pick out if you have (or are) a teen and easy to ignore if not!

 

Planning: Anyone who has read one of my reviews or seen my ...ahem..wordy contributions on CC will know I love to plan and for me doing that is part of the fun of the trip! I will include my planning tips for normal people, when I think that they would benefit anyone and help prevent grief during your trip. If you are like me and like to go to Nth degree with planning, I would refer you to my Oasis review, where I have a whole section detailing how to "plan" yourself silly on this class of ship!! Of course you could come aboard without planning a thing and have a great time...and for those who like to vacation that way...great! For those who like to plan I will warn you...things will change, and that's more than ok too! Just for fun, I will post my pre planning schedule here...

 

(Spreadsheet)

 

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and I will post my notated "after" schedule at the end...that ought to give you an idea of how fluid my "schedules" are! But having one helps me keep up with the reservations, allows me to keep the things I know I really don't want to miss prioritized and gives me a place to take notes about the day. (So I can bore you all with the details on CC later!)

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Pre night: 4/13 Saturday: A day where you really want to hear about the bungee jumping instead

 

Packed and had plenty of time to get organized before the airport. We flew out after 6 PM and our flight was delayed due to the storms in Miami delaying the aircraft we needed from arriving in Boston on time. ( I know this is like the part of the Amazing Race we all hate: the part where they all wait in the airport lounge stressing over delays and boarding, when all we really want to see is the bunging jumping into a gorge in New Zealand! Don't worry...the figurative bungee jumping is coming!)

 

We arrived in Miami late and unfortunately caught the 11pm shift change in baggage handlers and waited a good hour before the baggage carousel started moving! Once we had our bags we were in a cab and on our way to the Fairfield Fort Lauderdale cruise port and airport. Cab to Fairfield was $48.

 

We booked the Fairfield for a couple of reasons :

 

1 We'd be arriving too late to shop/ dine or otherwise enjoy amenities of a hotel, so we just needed a bed. There are no shops near this hotel, except a gas station across the street. And there were no amenities, such as restaurants , bars etc.

 

2 Continental Breakfast was included in a lobby area with cereal, pastry, bagels, yogurt, whole fruit, milk, juice, coffee

 

3 The whole place cost us $165 with taxes

 

4 It was about 3/4 of the way from Miami to Port Everglades and we figured that was about right for a late flight in.

 

5 The Fairfield offers a "separate" area with a pull out couch, this gave us very little extra room as we had hoped. But it didn't matter since all we did was crash and check out.

 

(photo of Fairfield room)

 

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You can see in this photo that the room was really cramped- it's called a suite in that the space is somewhat separated, but in reality all this does is chop up a regular sized hotel room so that there wasn't much room for luggage or people to move around. Luckily, we didn't stay there more than 10 hours;)

 

Tips for pre night hotels: (and a little discussion of where to get alcohol or ummm...sunscreen)

 

There is much discussion about pre night hotels...here are some tips about the 3 major "zones" (don't know if these are "official" but it's how I think of the areas) and what they have to offer, starting with the cheapest. Only you and your travel plans can dictate which is best.

 

I had hoped to include a google map for each area, but the links aren't working for me...but I've listed a few of the hotels in each area, so you can plug them into google maps and get an idea of what is in each neighborhood.

 

There are more hotels obviously, I just noted ones I've seen reviewed here or noticed while driving by. We've stayed at the Fairfield, Marriott Harbor beach and Rennaisance, so I have "stayed" in each neighborhood and can give you advice about those hotels in particular. DH has an office in N Ft Lauderdale, and travels there several times a year, so we are starting to get to know the area pretty well!

 

Zone 1- Airport/Dania Beach

 

-cheapest

-some offer " suites" well suited to larger families or couple traveling together

-some offer weekly onsite parking for those driving to port and a shuttle.

-many offer a free FLL airport shuttle, which can save a few bucks

-fewer bells and whistles, good for shorter stays, just a "bed"

-most not near shopping/ more industrial area not good for picking up last minute things ( ok , lets just say it aloud- I really mean wine, or in my case sun lotion. I honestly require about the equivalent of two liters of sun screen, so in lieu of wine, I bring sunscreen on board- for years I've had to bring this in on my checked bag, because what I need would never fit in a quart bag. We've often had the bag with my sunscreen mysteriously get checked for contraband - I've assumed this must be the reason why it's always the last bag to show up, so you can imagine my delight that I can now bring my 2 liters of sunscreen on board with impunity...oh happy day)

 

 

Homewood Suites

Marriott Fairfield

Sheraton

Courtyard by Marriott

 

 

 

Zone 2- SE 17th Ave

 

-a little more expensive

-closer to port; you might even score a room where you can glimpse Allure or Oasis in port; most offer a shuttle..

-lots of shopping nearby where you can walk to get your ...umm, sunscreen, after you land. There is a Winn Dixie on Cordova just a couple of blocks up from most of these hotels as well as a liquor store on Cordova, and a Walgreens right on SE 17 th where you can actually get... umm... sunscreen.

-handier to some chain restaurants such as Starbucks, Panera Bread, if you have a longer stay and need eats.

 

Embassy Suites

Marriott Renaissance

Comfort Suites

Hyatt

 

 

 

Zone 3 Harbor Beach area, located over the bridge and on the beach

 

-pricey, but with lots of amenities (pools, beaches, activities) for longer stays.

-a bit further from port, but you can walk down the beach to the jetty to see Oasis and or Allure sail out if you will be staying Sat or Sunday evenings at 5 PM

-this is a residential area with resorts on the beach, so you cannot walk to a store easily to buy your ...umm sunscreen. There is a store, Beach Package Store, located at the end of Las Olas Blvd- which would be a long walk, but a short cab ride. and Las Olas Bvld is the main upscale shopping drag in FLL too.

-you will be largely captive to pricey hotel restaurants for food (we had an 80 lunch for 3!) unless you cab or have a car

-if you have a car, parking is prohibitively expensive per day at these resorts ($25/day at Marriott)

 

 

Lago Mar

Marriott Harbor Beach

Bahia Mar

 

 

So which you choose is up to you, based on how much time and money you have and how great your need is to score some ...ummm, sunscreen, before you sail.

 

I will advocate here that you not let the "port shuttle" tail wag the dog! In general most hotels offer a port shuttle (especially those in the airport and SE 17 th St area) but these are usually priced about $7-8 pp plus you'll need to tip the driver a buck a person. The shuttles require you put your luggage in trailer behind the shuttle, just another place for it to get left behind, or picked up by another person.

 

Unless you have a ton of luggage per person, we have found that a cab, which leaves when you want it to, with your luggage placed in the trunk under your supervision, costs about $15 plus tip from the airport zone and $12 plus tip from the SE17th st zone. We usually have 2 larger bags, 4 rollers and 4 carryon/ lap bags and all this makes it into a standard 4 person cab, and a larger van cab can be called if needed. Look into it, if you do the math, unless you are just a solo, it is usually cheaper to take a cab for 2 or more people.

 

COMING UP: We get on board Allure...(see only 2 posts to get on board...that wasn't so bad, was it?:p)

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Day 1 April 14 Embarkation Day- A day on which I post a "live" boarding thread and have the good Karma of 1 in 6000

Thought I would start each day the Cruise Compass

 

(welcome aboard paperwork)

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(Compass)

 

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Here is what I have for the Teens- the daily one is for ages 15-17; but really it is not very different from the 12-14 yo activities, most events include both groups combined. I can't comment on the events because our girls straddle the age groups, they didn't participate. They also didn't do a great job of saving paperwork, (I'd insert a "roll eyes" smiley here, but I'm exceeding my my image limit) so we are missing day 1 and day 7...sorry!

 

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Yea! Another Allure review! and by one of my favorite CC contributors!!! ;)

 

I'll be taking my 14 yr old DD on Alllure next November, so looking forward to the "teen" portion of your review as well. While I don't expect mine to frequent the teen club, I'm certain there will be plenty to do to keep her occupied!

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A day on which I post a "live" boarding thread and have the good Karma of 1 in 6000

 

The next morning, we dithered about whether to arrive at port at our usual time (between 10:30 and 11:00 AM ) or go later at 12:30 PM as the email we received from Royal prior to sailing indicated. We decided to chance it, being that we have Diamond status and could board among the early folks ( though in reality, once the all clear was given all boarding of suites to newbies was completed within a half hour!) I actually posted a " live" thread with times of each boarding step here:

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1827310

 

We had breakfast, grabbed our bags and grabbed a cab at 10. We were told cabs would be busy and we could wait 1/2 hour for one, but one was at the curb. The shuttle was $8 per person and was leaving at 10, 11, 11:30 AM. You had to prepay for this and get a "dot" sticker to wear. The cab was a no brainer for us; it cost us $15 plus tip for 4 to get to port vs $32 to shuttle.

 

(DH in the cab, getting the first "peek" at Allure in port- this is an obvious example of one of my "bad" photos...not incredible composition here on my part, in which I obscure the ship with the SunPass. This one is obvious because DH is in it:rolleyes:, but from here on out just use your judgement!)

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After we checked in we sat in the chairs for a little while and I checked my emails and cruise critic to post the "live" embarkation thread.

(DD1 and I waiting to board- This one is DH's and not great- I made him use this one! But even still, notice the composition in which the "to the ship" sign is perfectly positioned so the photo tells a story?)

 

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09:50 Left the Fairfield

10 00 arrived at port security check in, where you show your license

10:03 arrived in the cab line at Allure Terminal

10:05 at the curb

10:08 Bags checked in- wait for a great story on that later!

10:10 Walked into security screening line

10:12 Arrived at check in counter; the wait was no different for C&A members vs new cruisers

10:15 Sea pass photos taken, and done at check in

10:18 rep handed us our sea passes

10:20 Welcome aboard Photos

10:24 We were sitting in our seats in the diamond waiting area greeted by the lovely Miki!

11:30 The back to back cruisers paraded through

11:32 Suites called

11:33 D + called

11:34 Diamond called

We weren't there to note the times for other boarding, but everyone waiting was boarded within 15-20 minutes!

 

Here's where the good karma started! While sitting in chairs, I saw a message from Randy on our roll call. Randy is a cruising newbie who organized a group of family and friends to cruise on Allure. He had lots of questions on the RC, and having cruised a lot and once on Oasis, I had lots of answers (some of them may even have been right!) Several other experienced cruisers were on our roll call along with other "new to Allure" cruisers and we had lively back and forths over all aspects of planning our trip. It was a fun and active roll call!

 

Randy had decided to charter High Pockets, a sail boat out of St Thomas and asked if anyone else on the RC wanted to share. Since the boat can hold 6; it was perfect for our 4 to join, but I gave Randy at least a half dozen "outs" -I wanted to be sure he didn't mind doing an excursion with my teens; after all, he was leaving his own at home and on a romantic trip with the lovely Amy! And he had a fairly large group- maybe some of them would want to join the excursion and then it would be full. Randy assured me it was a-ok with he and Amy to book, so we contacted each other on line via email revealing our last names and making arrangements with the captain of High Pockets.

 

Also, Randy had asked if I would share my schedule for the shows and dinners because he wanted to use a similar schedule and I happily shared it with him so he could organize his group more easily. I answered countless questions that I myself would have asked if I were cruising for the first time! And I was happy to do it, since I love planning- I just never expected I would get "paid back" big time for being helpful on Cruise Critic!

 

Well, after leaving 6 bags with the porter at the pier and tipping him over $1 per bag, we headed in to check in thinking we were covered. Then I saw a message from Randy on the RC. He had arrived with his party shortly after us, and unloaded their bags onto the sidewalk. As the porter was collecting them he asked Randy- "is this one yours?" and Randy could see it was not one of his party's bags. The port authorities were ready to turn it over as an "abandoned " bag, when Randy took a look at the tag.

 

Now, it's important to note that only 1 person on this cruise with 6000 people knew my last name, and sure enough the bag bearing my last name was sitting there in front of the only guy who knew who I was and that I was leaving on this cruise. I still can't believe the chances that this could happen- a 1 in 6000 chance!

 

Lucky for us, Randy insisted to port authorities that I was on this cruise and they placed the bag in the rack. I'm still astounded at the odds of this happening; but chocked it up to karma...all my months of answering questions and giving advice, paid off!

 

What didn't pay off was tipping the porter; something we never really did before and in 20 years of cruising have never missed a bag. From now on, I will be placing my own bags with the RCL rep right at the cart, and forgoing the porters entirely. Much as we might like to; we can't cruise with Randy and Amy every time to assure our bags make it!

 

After learning about the bag debacle DD 2 had a panic attack worrying it was her bag and it would not make it on board - so I strolled around the sitting area to look for where Randy and Amy were sitting. I had seen Randy's photo in his avatar, so I wandered till I found a guy who I thought looked like him and introduced myself; luckily, I had the right guy and not someone else who would just look at me like I was nuts! Randy assured me it was a black bag (which means one of mine or DH's and not DD's colorful bags) We had fingers crossed it would show up at our cabin!

 

(photos of bags)

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(ok, ok, I know I promised we'd be ON Allure and here's another post and we are still not "on" Allure...it's coming I promise;))

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So onto Allure (and finally we are bungee jumping over a gorge!)

Well, not really, but there will be some zip lining, rock climbing, flow rider and maybe a little Segway)

 

We booked this cruise for DD1 and DD2 after sailing Oasis on our own with my cousin and her husband, because it is not possible to sail this class with out thinking "I MUST take my children (or grandkids) on this ship"; every review with adults only inevitably includes this conclusion...and only the meanest parents in the world do not leave the ship without this thought in their head and begin thinking of ways to cut the grocery bill in order to afford it!

 

So you can imagine we were looking forward to their reaction upon entering the Royal Promenade. Our girls have sailed Princess, Disney and Jewel, all lovely ships, but nothing like this, not even a Royal ship with the a promenade before, so we knew it would blow them away! And it did...they were quivering like tots when they saw the ship. I immediately started orienting them like some kind of crazed flight attendant. Double fingers gesturing..."You have the Boardwalk to the aft and above us is Central Park (with my arms overhead pointing out the emergency exit to Central Park via the Rising Tide Bar), please note that your nearest emergency late night cafe may be behind you and count the number of steps to the nearest Cupcake Cupboard". At this point they roll eyes and flat out told me to can it..."we will find our own way around, Ma" . Well, OK:mad:!

 

(panoramas of the Royal Promenade)

 

 

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We were on board by 11:30 AM, so we spent some time wandering around checking out the various neighborhoods. We wanted to show the girls the Boardwalk, point out their cabin and we rode the carousel.

 

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(panoramas of Boardwalk)

This one is mine...see how the exposure is bad, you can barely see the Aquatheater

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This one is DH's, see the exposure?? Much better, you can see the actual ocean here!

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(Photo of carousel)

 

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So I think we need to discuss DD2's arm in this photo...don't worry! She's ok!

But you will see this in a few photos. It's normal (for her...in reality, nothing about our family is "normal" for most other people, as you will soon learn) But she has this ability to make her limbs look like they can't possibly be attached to her body, and lets just say it comes in handy at Quest, ...but I'm getting ahead of myself!

I needed to point it out so you don't think that DH did a terrible photoshop job, or that something terrible has happened to my child about which I am completely unaware because I'm so busy riding a frog...whee, and not paying any attention to my children's well being. I may never be mother of the year, but I'm not so bad that I would miss it if one of my kids arms was hanging off her body at an abnormal angle due to injury

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Can't wait - I'm looking forward to this one! :)

Aww, Thanks! I LOVE your reviews, I'm still crying laughing over the museum alarm:p

 

Yea! Another Allure review! and by one of my favorite CC contributors!!! ;)

 

I'll be taking my 14 yr old DD on Alllure next November, so looking forward to the "teen" portion of your review as well. While I don't expect mine to frequent the teen club, I'm certain there will be plenty to do to keep her occupied!

Thanks, so kind!! I think Nik will love it...the younger kids do spend some time doing activities and they looked like they were having a ball! I've got lots more teen stuff coming including a contract for teens I modified!

 

Michael....thanks!! I do like to try to use humor...but mostly you will probably get sick of my attempts eventually:rolleyes:

 

So we are on board, Yeah! But I must get out for a bike ride now...it's a gorgeous sunny day and the road is calling...I will post more after lunch! I have most of the review already written because I like to get the whole thing posted within a few days (just 'cause I hate waiting once a review starts, so I don't want to make anyone wait) Be back soon!

Edited by Familygoboston

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Call me crazy but I booked the Allure for DH and I for Apr. 2015. I am following your review with great interest! We have never sailed the Allure or Oasis before so this will be a great learning experience. I love the spreadsheet idea as I know shows should be pre-booked. Looking forward to reading the rest!

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I love your review so far! Thanks for sharing!!! I cant wait to read more....but I have a question, does the Fairfield Inn Cruiseport provide shuttle service to the Allure? I noticed you all took a cab...

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I was excited to see your newest review this morning. I enjoyed your review of the Jewel as well. Can't wait for the next installment of this trip. You provide good information for new cruisers like me and make it entertaining as well. Thanks!

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