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attran99

Spring Break Magic - April 2018

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After almost a year of planning, we set off for the longest trip we have ever taken and really played hard for 11 days. We had 3 families with kids of various ages (5-15). It was an exciting adventure from start to finish. Going to break the review down into a few different parts so that's it more easily manageable.

Carnival Magic - Western Caribbean (Cozumel, Belize City, Roatan, Costa Maya)

Pre-Cruise Happenings:

Our crew of 9 arrived in MCO early Friday morning, and were picked up by A Busy Traveler in the Baggage Claim area. We met our friends who had arrived a day prior staying at the Hilton Orlando-Lake Buena Vista. We all had breakfast at Earl of Sandwich over at Disney Springs a short walk away. Then our group split, one big team going to Gatorland Orlando via Uber and the other going to lazy the day away with pedicures at Nailinni's and then the hotel pool. The Gatorland crew had a great time. We had a group of 10 or more, and I had arranged for group pricing before we left. It was $20.99 adults and $16.99 for kids. Jo with Group Sales made sure that the tickets were at Will Call and assured us that if we needed extra tickets, we would be able to purchase them at the same price on-site.

Happy Hour Shuttle Service then picked us up for transport to the Port Canaveral/Cocoa Beach area. They were able to pick us up early, and got us safely to the Port area after a little Orlando traffic. Ron and Mel were great in communicating and setting everything up for our group. Some of us stayed at the Radisson, and the rest went to the La Quinta Inn & Suites Oceanfont. The La Quinta Inn & Suites Oceanfront was great. The staff was super nice, and we loved the location...heated pool, beach and pier access...we would totally come back and stay here, again.

My family had dinner across the street at Coasters Taphouse located in the Publix plaza. It was a great gastropub...kind of like some of the places we have in Los Angeles, but WAY cheaper. Drinks were sub-$10 and they were really good. Food was really reasonable, too. Our favorites from the menu were the grilled Cobia salad, the she-crab soup, the chicken wings, the grilled chicken sandwich with bacon, and the cocktails. The burgers were just okay. Service was great.

On the recommendation of someone at home, we checked out the Publix market for their key lime pie and their cinnamon rolls. For a grocery store bakery, both were pretty solid and super cheap.

Breakfast was provided by the hotel, and was serviceable. The hotel let us borrow their stapler to affix our cruise luggage tags, and made check-out super easy. E-mailed receipt. I want to commend Zarek and Shayna for making our stay there great.

We used Lyft to get us to the Carnival Cruise terminal because I had read some inconsistent reports on the shuttle companies. Lyft was perfect and was cheaper for us than those shuttle companies.

Embarking the Carnival Magic:

We had 11:30AM check in, arrived at 11:00AM...and were completely checked-in and were seated in the terminal by 11:37AM.

I had done all of our check-in online at home. Copies of everything were printed for reference. When we arrived, the cruise agents just had to verify passports and boarding passes. They didn't even need the printed questionnaire that printed with our cruise documents. I don't think we've ever had an easier or simpler check in. The agents at the terminal were super nice and helpful.

Our zone was called onto the ship at 11:45AM. Since we had beaten our friends to the terminal, we got an earlier zone and were called onto the ship first.

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Exploring the Carnival Magic:

This was the largest Carnival ship that my family has ever been on. We've only been on Fantasy (Imagination and Fascination) previously. We were pretty overwhelmed with all the new facilities we had available to us now. Exploring the ship and getting our bearings was pretty fun. We immediately took care of ancillary items (i.e. getting the kids' ship lanyards, getting extra room keys to access the kids' rooms, etc) and then headed to explore lunch on Lido. I actually lost half of my family, while I was hitting up the Tequila Bar. But I had my oldest with me and we got to have pizza and pasta together at Cucina del Capitan. He got pizza and I got a half-portion pasta with clam sauce, shrimp, and veggies with Caesar salads. There was literally no one having pasta with us while we were there. It was a nice way to check out the view, and the hustle from the basketball court directly above was no joke...I don't know how anyone can have a quiet meal with all the noises from the basketball hitting the floor). I'm actually glad that we didn't make dinner reservations. We found the rest of our travel crew afterwards in Lido.

We all explored the top decks of the ship together. The Serenity area looked really nice. The water park looked super cool, and we were real excited to try out the ropes course. The crew took a little while longer getting the cabins ready...probably due to sold-out Spring Break families, so it was more like 1:45PM when we headed down to check out our rooms.

Cabin Reviews (Vista Deck 9) #9477 and #9467:

We stuck our kids in an interior (#9467) two doors away from our AFT balcony (#9477). They didn't really make use of their oceanview last year, so we figured we save some cash to help offset the Spring Break premium we were paying for this trip. Did they notice a difference? No. Their cabin was a triple...two beds and a murphy from the ceiling with a ladder. It worked well for them.

Our AFT balcony was a winner. I was worried about noise from Tides Pool above, but outside of some minimal scraping from moving the chairs at night before bedtime and early in the morning, it was great! Quiet and peaceful enough for us to enjoy our fantastic view of the wake everyday. We will probably never get any other cabin. The balcony was large enough for 2 chaise lounges a small table and 2 chairs. It was perfect. I spent a fair amount of time in the chaise lounge just watching the sky and the ocean.

Both cabins were serviced by our great steward, Reynaldo from Manila, Philippines. We're pretty easy and simple people. We're okay with daily morning service (he did offer both). We just asked for ice and extra towels. He took care of both rooms with great ease and efficiency. Great service for the entire 7 days. We never had to ask for anything.

Luggage arrived in all our rooms by 2:30PM (even our traveling companions in other rooms) so we all were able to unpack before the Muster Drill.

Cruise Director...the Rev. Dr. E:

He was fan-freaking-tastic! Now I know what all the fuss is about. He made my entire family laugh and enjoy the Muster Drill (which is no easy feat). He was so engaging during our trip. I do not know where his boundless energy comes from. I am glad we got to experience a cruise with him before his move to a different ship. The only thing I wish was that his daily announcements were more easily heard in our rooms. We were in our rooms when most of his addresses went live, and had to open the door in order to get all the updates. And if we were on the balcony, forget it...it was all muffled.

Okay...that's it for now. Going to review the dining and bar facilities we used on board next.

Edited by attran99

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Magic-al Dining:

Overall, we were pleased with all the dining options weused while on board. It truly amazes mehow the crew manage to keep meals and food so consistent for a group of 4,000+passengers. Kudos to the entireteam. We didn’t visit the Steakhousewhile on board, so no comment there. Wealso didn’t have a chance to try the lunchtime salad bars they have in OceanPlaza (Deck 5), and me missed Tandoor, too. Maybe next time or on a different ship.

Southern Lights (Early Dining) –

We were assigned here on Deck 4 and our service team wasMarcelo, Ahmad, and Rutchiel. Prior todeparture, I had sent an E-mail to the Maitre’d team asking for a table for ourentire crew. Four staterooms, differentnames, 13 people….we were celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, et. Al. I had asked for a table by the window…anddamn, did the Magic team blow us out of the water. We got a table with an AFT view of thewater. It was gorgeous. We got to see sunset every evening. I might never dine differently on a ship goingforward. The view alone was a realtreat.

The food was consistently good the entire journey. Our group of 13 always chose from the wide-assortmentand dinner was always good. The lobster,steak and shrimp being the highlights. Itreally impresses me that the food is well-cooked and well-executed. I don’t think anyone of us got over orunder-cooked dishes. It was super coolto experience the Bitter N’Blanc, baked Alaska and Grand Marinier soufflés fordessert. I was slightly disappointedthat when I asked for peanut butter to go with my Melting Cake, our server,Ahmad said that the peanut butter was already pre-mixed with the jelly forsandwiches. I saw plain peanut butter onLido in separate jars for breakfast. Itcould have been a communication issue…maybe Ahmad didn’t understand me.

One note that I would like to bring up. We were pretty happy with our service and themeals at dinner. The only thing we weren’tpleased with was the fact that we were usually the last family walking out afew minutes before 8PM every night. Wecould clearly see our dining team working hard and hustling, but every night,we were literally the last people walking out as they were trying to turn thetables for late service. I don’t knowwhat they could have done differently or what they could have changed to get usout sooner. I will also note that theydid a great job taking care of the kids at the table. Their meals were always delivered with ourappetizers so they never got antsy during dinner.

Guy’s Burgers –

Our crew hit this place up a lot. I will say that the fries at Guy’s are waybetter than the fries at the Deli. But Iwill have to say the burgers are just okay. I tried a few on board, and I felt they were over-cooked. I did enjoy the topping bar…grilled onions,grilled mushrooms, and bacon…those things can make anything taste better. Kudos to the Guy’s Burger staff for handlingthe crowds well. I never had to waitlonger than a few minutes for a burger.

Guys’ Pig & Anchor BBQ –

We made the mistake of trying this one on the last SeaDay for lunch. The line wasridiculous. I love the hand washingstations they have on either end of the BBQ line. The BBQ was okay. The pulled pork was probably the best of allthe options. But the sides, those weregood. The collard greens were reallygood, but there was also a LOT of smoked ham hocks in it. I didn’t think it needed quite thatmuch. The mac & cheese was good, butwould have been better if it was served hot. It wasn’t even lukewarm. Thepotato salad was delightful…my in-laws are from the south and Guy’s version wasa lot like theirs but made with better and creamier potatoes. The coleslaw and baked beans were just okay.

Blue Iguana Cantina –

I want to say that we LOVED the breakfast burritos fromthis place. We got breakfast burritos ondays where we needed to be off the ship early, and then found that we wouldrather have a breakfast burrito than go to the dining room breakfast instead. The salsas and topping bar was great, and theguys working here didn’t bat an eye when I asked for 5 burritos in the morning(my family was all asleep or struggling to get ready for the day’s adventure atport). But I made it easy on them andhad all 5 done the same way out courtesy to the folks in line behind me. I just grabbed extra condiments at the salsabar so my crew could customize their own burritos. I can understand how my cousin gained all hercruise weight from the breakfast burritos alone. I did try the arepas, and found them to notreally be arepas. They are more likesweetened corn tamale pancakes filled with melted cheese. Stick with the breakfast burritos.

Lido Buffet –

We hit the Lido buffet for breakfast and maybe for a coupleof ancillary meals after port days. Theoptions were quick and easy. Iparticularly like when the omelet station was open and the line was short…agreat grilled tomato for breakfast is never underrated…they were so good. I was also impressed with the fact that theeggs Benedict in Lido always had perfectly poached eggs. They went over on Fascination last year. It’s worth noting that the AFT part of Lidowas always less busy than the mid-ship part. Lines and everything was significantly shorter.

Deli –

The Cubano sandwiches were a bit hit in our family. The turkey on pretzel roll was less than…itwas dry and felt like it had been sitting out for too long. I also do not recommend the fries from theDeli. They are super greasy…like they’vebeen fried in not hot enough oil, so instead of cooking, they absorb oil. There’s even a truffle or regular version…theyboth taste the same. No truffle essence atall.

Pizza –

The pizza place has a special place for our family. A few of us are avid pizza addicts. Some of us regularly hit up pizza at midnightevery night as a tradition. The prosciuttoand arugula is my favorite, while the rest of my family go pepperoni. I could never figure out if they offer theCaesar salads at night. I usually getone slice and one salad. I didn’t seethe salad as an option at night on the Magic.

Cucina del Capitano –

For lunch, it’s totally worth it. I hopped up on embarkation day for lunch andhad the restaurant to myself most of the time I was there. Great Caesar salad to go with my half-portionof farfalle with clam sauce, garlic shrimp, and all the veggies on themenu. My son loved it. Glad I got to try it once. What’s offputting is the noise from theSportsSquare basketball court that is directly above the restaurant. With this noise, I would not want to pay theextra surcharge unless they close the basketball court during dinner hours…I donot know if they do so, but I highly doubt it.

Dining Room Breakfast & SeaDay Brunch –

We did the dining room breakfast twice on board andSeaDay Brunch once. The new breakfastmenu isn’t too different from before. I getmy eggs Benedict with Hollandaise on the side (so the sauce doesn’t congeal)and they were great. I also love that Ican get the smoked salmon bagel without the bagel (I try to cut carbs when Ican).

I think that’s all I can manage for today. Bar reviews tomorrow with my Cheers! programpre-purchase.

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About 150 days from our cruise on Magic...loving the review so far.

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We were on this cruise as well, love the Magic and will be sad to see her go :(. Dr E (last trip on Magic for him too) was amazing and we had a blast the whole week, also had several families of friends onboard, DS had a blast with all his friends (we dinned alone with just our family at the table, YTD, went mostly at 5:45, had window table for 4, very nice and Adji and his crew (requested every time) were on point!

 

Everyone we went with on this trip is already booked on Breeze for next spring break as well, good times!!!!

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Magic-al Cocktails:

We usually pre-purchase Cheers! and Bottomless Bubbles,and this cruise was no different. With 2 cabins, we only got one Cheers package (because we both felt tired of drinking for 7 days straight last year) and two Bottomless Bubbles for the kids (one isn’t a big soda drinker). I think we all made good use of the packages. I do wish that Carnival had soda stations, though…I don’t think I’m a fan of kids walking up to the bar…especially super busy bars packed with adults. But I have to commend the bartenders here…they hustle like nobody’s business. They know it’s a sold-out vacation cruise, and they courteously manage the crowds while filling orders with ease. I know I couldn’t handle that. The kids liked the sodas and we enjoyed cocktails at various locations throughout the ship.

 

Alchemy Bar –

I will say that I did not come here as often as I should have. This bar is fantastic. They are truly mixologists. Carefully crafted cocktails…much like some of the bars I frequent at home. You should easily get a show and a tasty beverage…especially if you see some citrus peels being set afire. I usually sat down and asked to be surprised. Each drink was delicious. If you read the fine print,you could also get a virgin drink if you wish…never tried out that option,though.

 

Coffee Bar (Ocean Plaza Deck 5) –

If case you didn’t know, they also make some boozy coffee here. All day long. While my husband and I are not coffee fans,some of our traveling companions are. On occasion, we would surprise our friends with some boozy coffee. They loved it. I also loved that I could order a boozy coffee and grab a Powerade or a VitaminWater at the same time. You can actually do this at every bar that stocks them…and we stockpiled a collection in our fridge for port days or for days where we needed the extra hydration. Trust me, after 7 days of sun, drinking, and excitement, you will need some electrolytes in your life to feel human, again. Since we spent the most of our time the upper decks for the pools and the water slides, we didn’t find ourselves here too often.

 

Lido Deck Bars (Tides, Rum Bar, Tequila Bar) –

I’m going to group these guys together. I usually got the special of the day, margaritas, mojitos, or my husband’s favorite…the Miami Vice. Service was always good and the drinks were great. We did most of our drinking at these locations because they were closer to where we were hanging at the time. I will say that tacos and tequila were always a good idea. My only regret is that I didn’t pair my breakfast burrito with a morning tequila shot…you have to live a little while on vacation.

 

We did hit the casino bar and the atrium bar a handful of times, and like all the other bars on the ship, the drinks were solid and the service was great. We never got around to going to the RedFrog Pub on Deck 5. I feel that we made good use of the drink packages that we bought and would probably purchase them, again.

 

Magic-al Entertainment:

Admittedly, after 3 Carnival cruises, we have yet to make it to a Comedy show. It’s been on my list of things to do, and we never make it there. We were traveling with some extended family and friends with younger children, so we did the shows after dinner most nights with them.

Side note, one of my friends from college spent 6 months as part of the entertainment crew on a different Carnival ship and knowing what I know now. I have a newfound respect for the ship entertainers. They work every night in the theatre shows doing 2 shows a night and they supply entertainment during the day and night in various locations around the ship. It’s no easy job.

With that said, we all loved the Flick show the most. It was engaging and probably the most successful of all the shows because it suited the performers better. We found the music in the other shows to be a bit contrived and pitchy. But they were still good shows. Flick was just, by far, the best…and likely the one we identified with the most because we’re all movie fans.

I usually love going to the Piano Bar at night, and only found time to drop by on our last night of the ship for about 15 minutes. We had so much going on this cruise with our port days, so most nights I turned in early so I could be prepared to awaken my own troops each morning. But I did enjoy my time at the Piano Bar.

 

Magic-al Winning:

More like magical losing. While my cousins broke even in the casino, my husband and I did not. But it was a fun entertainment expense. I will say that the Magic casino is super SMOKY. None of us are smokers and even when we hit up Vegas, we tend to frequent places where the ventilation is really good so we don’t get inundated with smoke. I think we only spent a couple of nights in the casino and left after a little bit because we couldn’t handle the smoke. It’s hard to feel lucky when you’re overwhelmed with smoke.

 

Magic-al Sports:

The Magic kept our entire crew engaged. We hit up the water slides park with the kids. We did the ropes course as a group. We did an afternoon of basketball as the ship was setting sail. As you can tell, we’re a pretty active bunch.

The adults and the older kids loved the water slides…that Twister slide is a never-ending slide. I loved it and it was great, but every time I thought it was going to end, it kept going. On a hot sunny day, the deck is super hot…you may want to take your flip flops or some light type of footwear for the walk to the stairs. My bare feet felt like they were on fire. The subsequent times, I took my flip flops and just held them as I slid down.

The ropes course was super fun. I like how Carnival goes overboard with all the safety harnesses and stuff, but it’s a bit extreme. But I get it…it makes the weary kids and their parents feel safer. All 13 of our crew did the course together. One of the kids was so fast, he did the course 3 times in the time that it took the rest of us to complete it twice. The Carnival team managing the course was super nice and very efficient in getting people harnessed and unharnessed. The course is divided into easy and harder…with the easy course on the inside and the harder course on the outside. We all preferred the harder course.

My husband has wanted to be on a ship with a basketball court since seeing a Norwegian ship depart last year from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Good thing the Magic had one. A few of us went up and tried it out as the ship was leaving Port Canaveral. The court was pretty busy most of the cruise. They had it organized so that half could be used by younger kids and the other half could be used by adults. I think it was a cool experience for the folks who used it. It must have felt really good at night while we were sailing at full speed…a workout with built in air conditioning.

 

Magic-al Photography:

It’s worth noting that we pre-purchased the $250 prints and digital photo package before we left. Last year, we spent about $110 or so on 4-5 prints. I thought spending the extra to get all of our prints and the digital images, too, was a slam dunk. I mainly wanted to use the package for formal/elegant nights. With as much as we were spending on this trip, I wanted to make sure I had nice family photos to design our annual Christmas card with. If we got any other photos along the way, then it would be a bonus.

After buying the package online, once you are on the cruise ship, head over to Pixels to activate your package. They’ll ask for the voucher that will be delivered to your stateroom on the first day. We never got ours, and it was no problem. They just give you a waiver to read and sign so you understand the rules and what you’ll receive. You also make note of all the members of your immediate family and all the cabin numbers so you get all the shots.

The ship photographers will ask for you cabin numberbefore taking photos, and that’s how they keep track of your photos. We just mention our cabin number and by theend of the trip, you have a portfolio of 8”x10”s. We primarily used it for formal/elegantnights because my husband hates photos…but at the end of the trip, he said weshould have stopped and used every Carnival photographer to maximize ourpackage.

We were in the pick-up line the night before disembarking, and we saw some photo packages reaching into the 400s. One lady told me she had her family jump in front of every ship photographer. We ended our cruise with 65 prints and the digital images…at $250 that’s a steal compared to last year’s $110 for 4-5 prints. I think it was totally worth it.

Some warnings for folks who may be interested in thesepackages:

1. You need to activate it when you get on to the ship.

2. The pick-up lines the night before disembarking will be LONG. They literally have 2-3 people working lines that are at least 30-40 long, and each transaction takes at least 5-15 minutes. Thank goodness the strings trio was playing in the atrium when we were in line. It helped make it more pleasant.

3. It’s possible that your order could be wrong or incomplete the night before disembarking. Ours was. We were missing prints and the flash/thumb drive with the digital images. We were told to come back at 7AM the next morning so they could have time to correct it. The line may be worse in the morning as they only have 1 person working.

4. It’s possible that your flash/thumb drive may not be loaded with your digital images. One lady in line told us to have the staff plug it into the iPhones to verify because her drive didn’t have anything loaded. Make sure you double-check before you sign that you received it. Ours were loaded just fine.

We would happily buy the package, again, on our next trip. It was a great purchase.

 

I think that’s about as much as I can handle for today. Tomorrow, I’ll knock out the port stops. Anyone with questions? Feel free, I’ll tackle them along the way.

Edited by attran99

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I am following along with your review and really enjoying it so far. I love how positive it is! Sounds like you boarded the ship with a great attitude and didn't let the long lines or crowded bars get to you!! There is a thread about pixels on the carnival board and your review would answer a lot of their questions about the package!! Looking forward to the rest of your review as we count down the days until our Magic Cruise!

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I am following along with your review and really enjoying it so far. I love how positive it is! Sounds like you boarded the ship with a great attitude and didn't let the long lines or crowded bars get to you!! There is a thread about pixels on the carnival board and your review would answer a lot of their questions about the package!! Looking forward to the rest of your review as we count down the days until our Magic Cruise!

 

Thanks for the kind words! For me, it's hard to not have a good attitude while on vacation...especially when you know you're going peak season with everyone else. We had a great time as a family and with our extended group totaling 13. I was actually prepared for lines, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it really wasn't that bad. The longest line I found all trip was the pizza line after midnight. Those guys try their hardest to sling out pies, but the demand is always too great.

I've actually put some of my notes on the Photo Package thread...albeit, the notes I have on this review are probably more detailed. I wasn't really thinking of it at the time I posted in the other thread. But it does work differently on each ship. I believe some ships still print and display all of their photos. Magic is on the iPad/HUB system where it's all online.

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Excellent start, thanks!

 

Thanks for the review! Can't wait to read the rest!

 

Thanks for your kind words!

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About 150 days from our cruise on Magic...loving the review so far.

 

Great review. Looking forward to reading more!

 

Thanks for the note!

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Following! I am staying in 9477 on April 28th, I am so happy to hear that you loved the cabin. We had our first aft last year on the Vista. I was worried about noise, but feel much better now :) Sounds like you had a wonderful family vacation.

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Following. I’m booked on the Magic for my 50th Anniversary cruise in 2020. I booked an inside cabin on deck 8, felling that since it’s between 2 cabin only floors, it should be quiet. I’m sailing on the Breeze in 2019, and I believe it is similar to the Magic, so I will get some idea of how the Magic will be. Hopefully my children and grandchildren will be joining us in 2020, so there could be 25+ if all do book.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums

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Following! I am staying in 9477 on April 28th, I am so happy to hear that you loved the cabin. We had our first aft last year on the Vista. I was worried about noise, but feel much better now :) Sounds like you had a wonderful family vacation.

 

We did have a great time...on and off board.

With regards to the cabin, the noise is really immaterial. You hear some scraping noises after midnight every night as the crew is trying to clean up for the night. Then you'll hear it at about 7 or 8AM as folks are trying to set up for the day...or maybe not at all if you're dead asleep to the world. The noises last less than 5-10 seconds at a time. You may hear it a bit more on the balcony, but it's still not a lot. We loved this balcony and introduced our cousins to it during our trip. They were in complete awe and came to visit us a few times during our trip...I think their next balcony may be an AFT. We actually fell asleep a couple of times while sitting on the chaise lounges.

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We were on this cruise as well, love the Magic and will be sad to see her go :(. Dr E (last trip on Magic for him too) was amazing and we had a blast the whole week, also had several families of friends onboard, DS had a blast with all his friends (we dinned alone with just our family at the table, YTD, went mostly at 5:45, had window table for 4, very nice and Adji and his crew (requested every time) were on point!

 

Everyone we went with on this trip is already booked on Breeze for next spring break as well, good times!!!!

 

So glad to hear your group had an amazing time, too! We haven't decided what we're doing next Spring Break...we may break from our cruise tradition since we've got some other travel plans during May.

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Thank you for sharing...9 more days till i Board the Magic!

 

I hope you have a fantastic trip! And I hope that I can offer you some insights before you depart.

 

Following. I’m booked on the Magic for my 50th Anniversary cruise in 2020. I booked an inside cabin on deck 8, felling that since it’s between 2 cabin only floors, it should be quiet. I’m sailing on the Breeze in 2019, and I believe it is similar to the Magic, so I will get some idea of how the Magic will be. Hopefully my children and grandchildren will be joining us in 2020, so there could be 25+ if all do book.

 

Congratulations! 50 years is an amazing feat!

Our entire group had cabins on Deck 9 (all on the odd side). None of us had any issues with noise even though Lido was right above us. And you're right, the Magic is a lot like the Breeze. Our cousins, who also joined us on this trip, said Magic was very similar. I felt it was pretty easy to navigate your way around once you had an idea of where things were. My immediate family is pretty active...we did stairs pretty much most of the journey (even on formal nights in heels). We dislike waiting for elevators when we can just keep moving on our own. It was way faster to go the route. Our cousins and friends had younger kids so we did elevators when we were hanging out with them.

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Magic-al Things Forgotten Along The Way:

Carnival Seaside Theatre –

We really enjoyed Dive-In movies on the ship. Whether as a family or as individuals, the ship offered a good assortment of movies during our cruise. I was thrilled to be able to catch The Greatest Showman because I had missed it in the theatres at home. My husband and sons caught Justice League, and then Thor: Ragnarok was on right after. I was sad to have missed The Darkest Hour, but there never seems to ever be enough time when you’re on vacation. It was cool to catch Coco on the ship with our traveling crew. One note of warning, the fresh popcorn served at the Rum Bar is deceiving…it smells fantastic, but was neither buttered nor salted…so if you think you’re going to get movie theatre popcorn, think again. Head over to the buffet area for movie snacks…you’ll be much happier. I did love that soft, fuzzy blankets were offered during cool nights…it made the experience seem cozier.

Deck 5 Lanai –

It was super cool to be able to walk around the entire ship on Deck 5. We would usually go for a walk after dinner to help work off some of the yum. Some evenings (especially if the Magic was going full speed), it could be super windy at the FWD of the ship. Walking by some of the stateroom windows, I didn’t realize that some of the crew/officers were housed on Deck 5. We saw a few of them getting ready to head out in their uniforms during our walks.

Magic Photo Ops –

I felt that most of the photo stations on board were located on Deck 5. If your plan is to use the photographers, start on Deck 5 and then make your way to the stations on Deck 4 and then Deck 3. I think Deck 3 only has them in the Atrium Lobby, but those photo stations get super busy. We tried a couple of times on elegant/formal night and gave up because we didn’t want to wait that long.

On the second elegant/formal night, one family of our traveling crew got kidnapped for a DREAMS photo session. They ended up being half an hour late to dinner (but we started without them because we were starving). They did a black & white session, and they were so pleased that they ended up buying the photobook. It turned out gorgeous (fancy black velvet box opens to reveal a black cloth-wrapped, black velvet book with super thick pages), but if it cost what I think it cost…this is not something that my family would have purchased. I’m glad they have a nice memento of their vacation.

It’s a busy day…but I promise I will try to take our port days next.

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Magic-al Itinerary:

We had done the Southern Caribbean last year on the Fascination, so when we booked this trip, I was looking to hit different ports. After we booked, part of me was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy the Western Caribbean stops as much ast he Southern Caribbean (San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, USVI; Barbados; St.Lucia; St. Kitts; St. Maarten). I had LOVED the Southern Caribbean. But it turns out, I really enjoyed the Western Caribbean. In the Southern Caribbean, I got to relax ande njoy the beaches. In the Western Caribbean, I was going to enjoy adventure and excitement. The beaches were still beautiful and we had a great time as a family and with our traveling crew.

 

Cozumel (Paradise Beach) –

We were off the ship at 9AMand on Paradise Beach by 10AM.

If you’re interested in a passport stamp, get it in the morning because it closes in the afternoon.

Taxi rides were $20 for 4, $25 for 5, and $30 for 8. We tried getting a van to transport the 12 of us together, but we couldn’t find a better deal so we just used the taxi service. Once arriving at Paradise, it was a $3 admission for some of us and the $18 additional upcharge for the inflatable fun…my husband and our boys did this. I’m not a good swimmer so I watched/filmed them from waist-deep water.

It was a super crowded day at Paradise, there were 2 other Carnival ships in port with us (Triumph and Freedom)…I don’t know if there was more. We were about 5 rows from the shoreline, and a short walk to theParadise beach pool and the bar. The beach club itself was nice. Clean bathrooms, nice facilities. We had Fernando assigned as our waiter for the day, and he was always close by if we needed anything. From our seats, we had a great view of all the water toys and an even better view of the launching pad…there’s this inflatable where one person can lay while another jumps off to launch the first person in the air. Every time someone was air-bound, it seemed as if the entire beach was watching to cheer them on. My family had the greatest time on the inflatables. When it wasn’t too busy, I hopped on one of the float decks to catch some sun, watch my family,and play with the nephews and nieces that came along with us on this trip. This place was really fun!

We ordered an assortment of nachos, burritos, fries and chicken tenders from the kitchen. Everything came out hot and good. I loved the chicken nachos and the guacamole from Paradise Beach was super good. Our boys loved their burritos. We ordered margaritas and some other tropical drinks, and they were all solid, too. Some of the kids got virgin margaritas and they enjoyed them. Food and drinks were good here. I liked that Fernando was never pushy about getting our group to buy anything. He just let us come and go as we pleased. I think our group spent at least $200 while we were there…not bad for 12 people (5 adults, 2 teens, and 5 kids).

After spending much of the morning and afternoon at the beach, we decided to spend our last hour in the pool. The pool was great. I especially loved the chaise lounges that were in the pool, where you can lay comfortably and get cool from the pool’s water. We had brought along a football and the kids enjoyed playing some catch with the adults.

It’s worth noting that as we were leaving at the end of the day, Paradise Beach was having some technical difficulty. The facility had lost their water service. No water in the bathrooms,no water for their rinse-off showers. I’m just glad I had plenty of hand sanitizer and Wipe-Off hand sanitizing wipes. WiFi was spotty, too. I had some issues trying to upload a video of my husband launching one of our sons from the launching pad in the water.

When we were ready to go back to port, taxis were readily accessible at the exit.

Overall, we had a great day. We were super happy with Paradise Beach and would come back if we find ourselves in Cozumel, again.

 

Belize (cavetubing.bz) –

I was super excited for Belize. I had read Mitsugirly’s great reviews about Cavetubing.Bz and had caught other positive Cruise Critic response about this company. I knew I wanted cave tubing and zip lining. Myfamily would love it. I contacted Vitalino via E-mail and had us booked within days of booking our cruise. Vitalino made everything super easy. When the rest of our traveling crew wanted to join us, our booking turned into a private tour so pricing was discounted as the group leader, my price was discounted by half ($35 for tubing and ziplining). The price included drinks for the day (water, soda and rum punch) and lunch.

Everyone knows that Belize is a tender port. Tendering would be a new thing for us. But we followed the instructions left with us the night before in our cabins, and promptly arrived in the Northern Lights Dining Room (Deck 4) at around 7:30AM. All 13 of us got our tender stickers, and we sat and waited. The ship was supposed to be cleared at 8AM, but something happened and we continued to wait. The Carnival staff managing the room tried to keep as informed as the delay continued, but even they only had so much information. At almost 9AM, they announced that we were good to go, and we would be led out to the tender boats as one of the first to leave the ship.

It was a 20-25 minute ride to land, where as we got off the tender, we headed to the right to find Terminal One. Along the way, we found Cavetubing.Bz staff in their yellow shirts directing us to the kiosk to check in. Once we were checked in, we were walked outside of the terminal and along the beach to the Cavetubing.Bz vans. They double-checked our groups as assigned us to vans and off we went.

Our crew of 13 shared our van with 2 other families. Our driver for the day was Manuel and our guide for the day was Edgar. As we drove out of Belize City, Edgar told us about the history of Belize and about the ecological preservation that the country was advocating. We got to drive by a couple of different ecosystems and he explained the difference between them. He gave us highlights of the sights along the 45 minute ride to the Cavetubing.Bz office where we would take care of finances before starting our adventure.

Yes, by this point, all the parties were aware that the tender delay had put us all behind schedule. The tour company was well-aware and so were its passengers. We were pushing 11AM when we were finally on our way toward the caves. Good thing the office is only about 10 minutes away from the tubing site.

While our guides got changed for the adventure, we had time to apply sunscreen and bug spray. We were all aware that we’d be walking through the jungle. I know that I am especially tasty to the mosquitos at home, so I was super careful to make sure that my sunscreen dried before applying a heavy coating of OFF! With DEET and letting that dry. I still managed to get about 6 bites on my feet during our adventure. I consider myself lucky.

We did about a mile hike into the Belizean jungle. We did not have to carry any equipment except for the lifejackets and helmets we had been outfitted with prior to the hike. A good pair of water shoes is solid enough for the hike. The company calls it a hike…my family thinks it’s a walk in the woods. You do get to cross the river at very shallow points, so it was super cool. Edgar would stop and explain certain plants and insects we saw along the way. There were some groups stopping to eat termites. I think had we had more time, Edgar and Manuel would have procured a tarantula for the kids, but we were short on time. I want to note here, that while we all knew we were short on time, the tour or our experience never felt rushed. My traveling crew all thought that our guides provided a great adventure for us, and it was even more than what I had imagined it would be.

At the tubing site, we divided into groups of 8 or 9. My family ended up with Edgar. The rest of our traveling crew went with Manuel. It was really like a ride down a lazy river. Edgar gave us facts and pointed out interesting things along the way and allowed us opportunity to ask questions. The rock formations inside the caves were just tremendous. None of us had ever seen anything like it before. It was a real treat. Many props to Edgar because, at times, he had to swim against the current to lead our group of connected tubes along the trail.

Our traveling crew beat us back to the van and had enough time to change for zip lining. There wasn’t enough time for us to change,but I just threw on my swimsuit cover-up and my husband and the boys threw on shirts and charged ahead. We hopped into the van where we’d be taken to the zip lines. Our guides said that they would go back to the office to pick up our lunches so we could eat in the car on the ride back to Belize City.

When we arrived at the ziplines (just 5-10 minutes away from the tubing site), the guides were ready to harness us all up and provided safety instructions. Within 20 minutes, we were all off on another adventure.

The hike/stairway up to the first line is no joke. I’m in pretty decent shape and the trek up had me winded. It’s worth noting that I made it to the top third…behind my hiking husband and my club soccer teenaged son. Our other two sons quickly followed us and then trailed in our zip line guides and the rest of our traveling crew.

It’s worth noting that while my family has zip lined before, the rest of our traveling crew were newbies. Like never had done it before,and for some, probably would have never done it had they not gone on this trip with us. They all handled it like champions. We all had such a great time. The guides were fantastic. They were great with the little kids, and they made the kids’ parents feel secure. Even with the time crunch, again, we never felt rushed. We felt like we got the full experience as if time wasn’t an issue. I will say that the longest line was amazing…over 1,000 feet over the jungle and I was so entranced with the jungle, I forgot to look down to notice the river that we had just tubed on. There was even a great suspension bridge at the end with an amazing view of the Belizean vista. This was truly an adventure.

Edgar and Manuel were in the parking lot and ready to pick us up for the return to port. We made a brief stop at the office to pick up lunch, and we started our journey back to the port. Lunch was a great spread of tender braised chicken in tomatoes and spices, a refreshing coleslaw, and likely the best rice and beans many of us have ever eaten. In Belize, the cook the rice and beans together and often add coconut water (and sometimes, fresh coconut!). It was delicious and a great way to get fortified after a fantastic adventure. They even packed some rum punch for us, but after all the physical activity of the day, I was going to lay off the booze and just have water. It looked really good, though.

Manuel had us back at the port 15 minutes before the last scheduled tender…that’s right folks, we made it back at 4PM. It was a safe drive that also happened to be speedy. These guys are professional. I trusted that they would get us back with plenty of time to spare. We were also warned that while we would be on one of the first tenders to port, we may be on one of the last tenders back to ship.

I am so happy that I booked this tour. We had a fabulous time. I would probably do it all over, again, if we ever find ourselves in Belize. The sights we saw. The thrill. There’s nothing like it. It was Un-BELIZE-able!

 

Roatan (Little French Key) –

If we were going to Roatan, I knew that my family would be going to Little French Key. A private island with an animal sanctuary, kayaks, paddle boarding, horses…that’s wild! Then our traveling crew wanted to come with us, too. Groups of more than 10, get a 10% discount. Just make sure you reach out to them to verify what the pricing would be specifically. I had calculated at home and prepared envelopes with cash and found that the check-in desk would charge a bit more. I am not going to complain because we had a terrific day.

We left the ship at 9AM and made our walk through the Mahogany Bay port area. I had checked out 2 YouTube videos on the walk to find the Little French Key drivers located outside the port area. I was prepared. We walked up the stairs to the left to the Mahogany Bay taxi area, and really, it was a short walk. I easily found Dave in his neon green Frenchy’s 44/Little French Key shirt. Once I had my reservation confirmation with me so our group of 13 was immediately led to a van and shuttled off to the Frenchy’s 44 restaurant about 15-20 minutes away from Mahogany Bay.

We were some of the first to arrive at Frenchy’s 44, where we paid our admission fees for Little French Key(LFK). I am so glad we got off the ship and made our walk quickly because the crowds and the line that formed after we were escorted to the LFK ferry was no joke. We left that line behind as we made the quick 5 minute journey across the way to LFK.

Upon arrival to LFK, Keilin was to be our server for the day and she led us on a quick 5 minute tour or the island. We went to the wild animal sanctuary first where all of our kids (and some adults) went gaga over the lions, tigers,monkeys, and tropical birds. While they were entranced by the animals, I was more entranced with the vistas. White sand beaches, crystal clear Caribbean waters, palapas in the water, hammocks in the water, chaise lounges that had shade and sun…damn, it was beautiful. We walked by showers, restrooms, gift shops, massage services, bars…it was fast because the island is super small. But this island offers paradise for a day.

It is truly gorgeous. Lots of places for glorious beach photo shoots. If Sports Illustrated does not come here for their swimsuit edition, they would be stupid. My entire traveling crew could not believe their eyes, and I was patting myself on the back for doing my research.

We parked ourselves in a corner under some trees on the shallow end close to the kitchen, bar, and the gift shop. We also took the large palapa high-top so we could have a dining area. We could see the deck and the rope swing where some folks could dive or jump from. The water here was super salty so floating was a less than effortless. They had some wooden platforms anchored to the palapas in the water so people could catch some sun or dive from. From where we were, we had direct view of Big French Key (which is owned and operated by Carnival and costs twice as much).

Everyone went their way after we parked and let sunscreen dry. The little kids hit the water, and the big kids (including the adults) went up tothe second story deck for a jump. Our kids are older so I felt completely safe to let mine roam the island and explore. I found later that ours did a photo tour of the animal sanctuary, so they saw all the animals.

I really liked that Keilin let us do our own thing, and only checked to see if we needed anything. It was super comfortable. We ordered some Monkey La Las (which tasted more like chocolate milkshakes instead of a boozy concoction) and they were super yummy. When we did order lunch,there was an assortment of food for everyone. Burgers, pizza, fried fish and chicken tenders and fries. We ordered cocktails from the bar and some of the kids got virgin drinks. We did order the LFK Plate with beef, chicken and shrimp with rice and beans and veggies. It was all pretty good. I think our tab was about $200 (including tax and tip) for the day.

Four of us decided to partake of the massage services at LFK. The ladies who work here are good. It’s $60 for an hour and $30 for half an hour. Our cousins did the half hour and my husband and I went in for the full hour. Services are rendered in the third story of the 3-story hut. There are stalls, but the stalls are missing the wall facing the water. The view is spectacular. I wish I had gotten a photo from there before we left. I was thoroughly relaxed.

We took a lot of photos on the island. There are hand chairs in the water. There are swings in the water. There are hammocks in the water. There are statues of Posideon and other things in the water. This place is super picturesque without being super touristy or garish. We took a lot of video of all the daredevil dives off the platform. Some of us when snorkeling and found squid and lobsters.

I almost feel as if we didn’t have enough time on LFK. I was really sad that our day was over, and it was time to head back to the ship. The kids walked through the sanctuary to say goodbye to the animals, and we hopped on the ferry to take us back to shore. Dave organized us and we got our own van back to Mahogany Bay.

While in the port area, we did some shopping and I had our passports stamped for Honduras.

But how wonderful it was to be able to spend the day at Little French Key!

Costa Maya (Blue Kay BeachClub) –

I would have loved to go to Maya Chan in Costa Maya, but it was a shortened day for us as we had to be back on board by 1:30PM. So I decided Blue Kay was going to be our spot for the day.

We were off the ship at 8AM,and walking through the maze that is Costa Maya port. I felt like that mall was never going to end and we never going to find the taxi stand. You can take the trolleys, but the trolleys don’t stop at Blue Kay directly. I wasn’t down for a scenic trip. I just wanted to go to my destination since we didn’t have much time.

There would only be 10 of our traveling crew today. We lost 1 to a Carnival SCUBA excursion (which he enjoyed) and the other 2 we lost to Club O2/Circle C/24 hour pizza and ice cream. Taxi was exactly $2 per person not including tip to Blue Kay. It was a nice 10-15 minute drive down to the Majahual.

We arrived at Blue Kay to find them still setting up and opening for the day. Ivan met us and said it would be $15 per adult that would include 2 drink tickets and chair mats for everyone in our party. In all my research on Cruise Critic, I had read that it was $7 per person and then pay as you go. While it took some unanticipated haggling and mentioning Mitsugirly and Cruise Critic, the owner finally agreed to the $7 per person. This deal was more efficient for us because we were paying $21-28 per family instead of $30. Two of the adults with us are not drinkers at all, so drink tickets are of no consequence to them…they also brought water from the ship.

Once we were set up in our shoreside seats for the day, service was much more relaxed. Ivan came to check on us rarely. We actually had to go up to the bar to make our orders. They would deliver to our seats, and on one occasion, the virgin margarita we ordered actually had tequila in it. By lunchtime, things were back in order, and everything was fine. The nachos at Blue Kay are meh, but the garlic shrimp and the shrimp tacos were a delight. They were the best shrimp tacos we had ever eaten. We probably should have ordered another portion, but some of us disappeared to use the massage services at in the canopy a few feet away. We spent about $100 in food and drinks here (including tax and tip).

Massage services were $45 for an hour or $25 for half an hour. While these ladies weren’t as impressive as the LFK service, once you ask for “mas suerte” (more pressure), it became okay. Massage services actually become cheaper as you walk down the Majahual, but we weren’t willing to do that.

The Blue Kay beach area is lovely. You can actually see the ported ships from the beach. The waters are super clear and calm out to the breakers. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the water is waist-deep out to the breakers. The sands are powdery white soft, but if you walk out to the water, be careful…there are some rocks on the ocean floor and some can be on the sharp side. The kids spent most of their time building sandcastles and fortresses on the beach while the adults enjoyed the water.

After the excitement andadventure of the past few days, it was nice to slow down a lot and just enjoy asimple and beautiful beach.

We came back into the port area to find it full of people. The Norwegian Getaway had docked right next to us and Costa Maya was in full swing. We didn’t have much time before having to be back on board, so I was able to find some chocolate for folks back home, and some churros for us. I think we had forgotten about churros in Cozumel, but we were not going to leave Costa Maya without eating some fresh hot churros. There’s a bakery in the port (Pan Dulce), they have bags of 2 hot and fresh churros for $2. I bought 4 bags and distributed to our traveling crew as I walked through the port. They were piping hot (which was great), but I wish they were spiced with more cinnamon.

Blue Kay was cool, but factor in the stress from the haggling and the inconsistent pricing, I am not sure that I would come back. There seem to be plenty of beach clubs along the Majahual…or there’s always Maya Chan if I’m in port for the full day. It was still a nice day.

Edited by attran99

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Additional notes:

Magic WiFi –

We had pre-purchased Social WiFi before we left. It had been pretty good on Fascination last year. This year on the Magic, it was super spotty. I’m sure it was bandwidth problems with so many folks using it, but still…loading short videos of some of our adventures onto Instagram or FaceBook was no joke. It would work better early in the morning,and then be spotty for the rest of the day. Single photos seemed up upload quickly, but grouped photos and video literally took forever. We would occasionally get text messages while we were onboard, but when with iMessages,it was hard to send one out. I had to use the DM function in IG to keep in contact with my housesitter. I would probably pre-purchase again only because I need a means to be able to keep in contact with my housesitter.

 

Magic-al Disembarkment:

We’re checked luggage disembarkment people. I had scheduled our departure shuttle to pick us up at around 10AM because I wasn’t sure how long it would take for us to get off the ship. Last year’s Fascination trip had us off at around 10AM, so I was planning for the same thing.

On the final SeaDay, the Magic staff had a disembarkment station in Ocean Plaza on Deck 5 right next to the Pixels station and the Coffee Bar. All the moms from the traveling crew met up before breakfast to pick up our luggage tags. We wanted enough time to have breakfast in the dining room and not feel the need to rush off the ship so we selected Late Disembarkment tags. We picked Zone 21. It was really a self-service station. You walk up, you see your options, you pick your Zone and grab as many tags as you need.

We packed and made sure that our kids had packed all of their stuff immediately after dinner. No one would be released to go to kids’ club until we had swept their cabin and cleared them by placing their luggage in the hallways with the Zone tags. All of our family’s checked luggage was in the hallway and picked up by 10:30PM.

The next morning, I was awakened by the Magic parking itself back at Port Canaveral. I woke up, got dressed and went to Pixels (Deck 4) to pick up our photo package a little after 7AM. By the time I was back in our room, I had enough time to pack up the rest of our stuff before going to pick up our kids for the walk to breakfast in Southern Lights (Deck 3). Our traveling crew was already in the dining room when we arrived. We all enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before parking ourselves in the Piano Bar on Deck 5 (AFT)to wait for our Zone to be called.

It was a little after 9AM when they called our Zone number, and we headed down to the Atrium lobby to depart the Magic one last time. It was a walk down the gangway and down to the luggage zone. Some people say using the Porters is faster. I’m not so sure. That Porter line was long. We found our luggage in our Zone, grabbed it and then it was a short line for Customs. For those used to the customs forms, you no longer need it if you didn’t make any purchases of consequence. So like if I had been able to purchase the vanilla beans I was looking for in Mexico, then I would have needed a form to declare it. Buying some souvenirs like a couple of T-shirts, Christmas ornaments, and chocolate…you don’t need a form to declare it. After a quick check of our passports, we were walking out to the shuttle parking lot across the street from the terminal.

I had booked Happy Hour Shuttle Service to pick us up at 10AM on disembarkment day. They were super on the ball, and was already trying to reach me at 8:30AM. I let them know that we had late disembarkment and they asked that I call them when our luggage Zone was called. I did exactly that and they were right outside across the street (on the right hand side)when we walked out of the terminal. This was much better than the poor folks waiting in line for the mass transit shuttles like Cocoa Beach and Go Port Canaveral. Many of these people were standing in the sun and it was shaping up to be a warm Florida day. We loaded our luggage and made our way to our hotel in Orlando (it was actually cheaper for us to fly home the next evening even with hotel, food, and dayroom costs than to fly home direct).

For folks interested in our post-cruise happenings, that will be in a separate post. I’ll try to keep the cruise stuff together for ease of review.

 

Final Notes:

We really had a great time. The cruise and the Carnival Magic was a fantastic adventure for us all. It was a great home away from home for 7 days. We felt treated well by the crew on board. We had a fantastic time at each of the port stops. It was fan-FREAKING-tastic. As we were walking off, we were already thinking of where we could cruise to next…I think Cuba might be a cool place to check out.

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