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kelmac

Six Ships and 60 days in the Caribbean

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Hello fellow cruisers!

 

My wife and I are retired teachers, with no children or pets and we even gave away all our house plants.  No mortgage, no car payments, and most of our income could be classified as disposable.   We just lock the door and off we go!  This fall (Oct 26) we started our first of six back-to-back cruises and returned home last week (Dec 22).  Our cruises included RCL’s Serenade of the Seas, MSC’s Meraviglia, Crystal’s Symphony, Celebrity’s Edge, HAL’s Nieuw Statendam, and Celebrity’s Reflection. I wanted to write a brief review that compares these very different experiences  while it is still fresh in my mind.  This review is about the ships only and how they compare; no information about itineraries or shore excursions.

 

This review would have to be twice as long to really cover our experiences.  If you have any questions, feel free to let me know.  This year has been our “big year” of travel, since my wife retired a year and a half ago.  We’ve spent almost half the year on the road, with most of those days on cruise ships.  We are time rich and budget poor, but we really get our dollar’s worth in all our travel endeavors.  All ships left out of south Florida, except our first cruise, which was a repositioning cruise from Boston to Ft Lauderdale.

 

RCL Serenade of the Seas  Repositioning from Boston to FLL

 

GREAT:  fast check in at 1 pm, with cabins ready at 1 and an amazing stateroom attendant (Alfredo for room 8509), well-designed cabin, luggage arrived at 1:15, table 434 (for 2 in the DR) was quiet with great service from Jaqueline and Bhomraj, adjustable height shower head and fantastic water pressure, best streaming internet we’ve had on a ship

 

BAD:  swampy, gassy smell in many hallways, ship needs a bit of a make-over, buffet food is just average.  Our New Motto for RCL—We’re doing the best we can.

 

 

MSC MERAVIGLIA

 

 

GREAT:  We were in YC, so it’s not quite the same experience as staying on the rest of the ship.  The ship is beautiful, attentive service everywhere, lots of fresh fruit and great drinks in YC. The inside cabin is a bit small, but it’s well-designed.  Bathroom shower is HOT with great pressure, and the towels are SO FLUFFY. Easy YC disembarkation. Amazing staff members in YC—Kheyelle, Arthur, Marcos and Wayan.  Lots of shelves for the book exchange.  Some may feel that the menu options for lunch and dinner in YC are a bit limiting, but the food was always tasty.  We like scheduling our evening shows in advance.

BAD:  CHAOS at embarkation, with long lines and bad organization.  Too bad that some of the fellow passengers were real jerks to the staff members.  Very long lines at customer service until the 3rdday.  No shade in the YC pool area.  Canned music during the production shows. No live music in lounge / bars before dinner.  No live music in the YC.

 

CRYSTAL SYMPHONY

 

GREAT:We had been told that rooms were not open up 3 pm, so we arrived at 2pm, and we were able to board immediately.  Buffet is fantastic for breakfast and lunch, with options for all types of dietary needs.  Eldie was an amazing stateroom attendant, and Table 3’s team, Igor and Sandie, along with Jasper, really made our time in the dining room memorable.  The food was absolutely amazing, and they were able to easily accommodate dietary restrictions. Lots of deck space with fast, friendly waitstaff.  Promenade deck the way life on a ship was intended!  BONUS:  guest laundry room with soap and fabric softener.  

 

BAD:  Cruise Critic meeting was from 6:30-7:30pm.  

 

CELEBRITY EDGE

 

GREAT:  This ship is amazing!  Wonderful theater; great productions shows, along with Mirage in the Club, which provided an up-close, immersive circus experience.  Captain’s Club met in The Club (Ari makes the best drinks!), and Celebrity still has the best perks for loyalty members, with the 240 minutes of free internet and free laundry (which is vital when you’re traveling for 9 weeks).  The bed is fairly new, so it was still firm (unlike those saggy, droopy, sad mattresses on older ships).  We ate in the Cyprus, which was great (although the tables for 2 are very close together).  Jefferson and Romolo were fantastic and Wayan, our room steward was super-friendly.  The balcony room worked for us, as we really liked the ability to “expand” the room.  Charging stations, large bathroom, and overall great storage in the cabin.  Loved the design, the artwork, and open deck areas.  

 

BAD:  NO LIBRARY!!!  My wife, a retired teacher, found the small book exchange cart in Eden, but we always enjoy finding little gems among the shelves.  Maybe the area between the expensive jewelry store and the entrance to Eden (before the cool dark room with stalagmites and stalactites) could be a library.

 

HAL  NIEUW STATENDAM

 

GREAT:  We were among the first 10 people to embark, since we just walked off the EDGE and went straight to the HAL pier.  We waited for about 90 minutes outside the terminal, and we were on board around 11:30 am.  At noon, the rooms were available, and we happened to spy our luggage by the elevator at 12:15.  Lots of great storage is HAL ships.  Fabulous service from Paul and Made in 7025.  Cabin had a great shower with adjustable height shower head. The A/C worked perfectly (we’ve had problems on other ships).  Lovely artwork throughout the ship.  Lots of variety at the buffet.  Doug Funk was the best performer we’ve seen—improv comedy! Quick laundry service.  

BAD:  Tried to go to the Ocean Bar for Happy Hour, but it was absolutely packed. Some people go there two hours before HH starts, just to get a table.  Public areas were a bit warm.   As always, HAL serves beef that is tender but not flavorful. Canned music for performances. 

 

CELEBRITY REFLECTION

 

GREAT:  Arrived at 1 pm and were quickly check in and on board.  Room 1160 is huge for an interior room, with great shower, and Joywil was a fantastic stateroom attendant. Live music for production shows and the large theater was never full for any of the shows, so no need to show up 30-45 minutes early like on other ships.  Great Happy Hour in Sky Lounge for Captain’s Club with service from Hotensia, Made, and others. 

BAD:  We had booked to late to get early seating, so we tried anytime dining. First two nights went well, since we got to the DR at 5:30, but on the third night we arrived at 6:30 and were handed a pager.   Chatted with a couple who had been waiting 45 minutes, and when they were finally called, it was after 7:15.  We returned the pager and headed to the buffet.  Decided to just eat in the buffet for the rest of the cruise (we were getting a bit tired of food after 8 weeks at sea anyway). 

WISHES:  Include the artist, the name of the piece, and some information when displaying art on the ship.  We love live music, live bands during performances, etc.  

 

SUMMARY

 

One of the nice things about six back to back cruises on different ships is that it gives the ability to truly compare experiences.  In 79 cruises we’ve never had a bad cruise, but different lines have their own personality and culture.  We are a “glass half full” kind of couple and try to focus on the fact that all lines have dedicated workers who, day after day, give it their all to provide their customers with an outstanding cruise experience.  

Below is a quick look rating at different categories: (the Mac-O-Meter is on)             10 points is perfect.

 

RCL Serenade of the Seas (not all inclusive)

 

Ship condition --  7.8  (older ship)

MDR Food – 7.0 (basic)

Buffet Food – 6.5 (weak selection)

Entertainment – 8.3 (pretty good overall and good show times)

Cabin – 8.0 (inside; small, but well-designed; bed with the dreaded “crack”)

Service – 9.0 (excellent throughout the ship)

Frequent cruiser perks – 9.1 (free happy hour for Diamond and above)

Cost – 9.3 ($68.96 per person, per day; $200 OBC; a real bargain)

 

MSC Meraviglia (Yacht Club) (all inclusive)

 

Ship condition – 9.4 (beautiful brand new ship)

Yacht Club Food – 8.8 (great for the most part; some weak dishes)

Yacht Club Buffet – 8.0 (limited and basic options)

Entertainment – 8.2 (well-produced, but all canned music)

Cabin – 8.1 (inside, new, small, nice firm bed)

Service 9.8 (pampered in so many ways; escorted on and off the ship by butler)

Frequent cruiser perks  8.1 (Black Card onboard, status expired onboard)

Cost – 8.8 ($207 per person, per day;  includes all inclusive – onboard gratuities)

 

Crystal Symphony (all inclusive including onboard gratuities)

 

Ship condition -- 8.3 (very old ship, but well maintained)

MDR Food – 9.8 (best cruise food we’ve experienced; custom orders available)

Buffet Food – 9.6 (small, high quality dishes; upscale and nice variety)

Entertainment – 9.0 (surprisingly excellent shows; great mix of acts)

Cabin – 8.7 (obstructed OV; old, nice size, traditional, great shape)

Service – 9.8 (luxury line for sure; super service all over the ship)

Frequent cruiser perks  -- N/A (our first with Crystal, but not a factor)

Cost – 8.0 ($255 per person, per day; splurge for us; is it worth it ???)

 

Celebrity Edge  (not-all inclusive; no booking perks)

 

Ship condition – 9.5 (new and spectacular; our new favorite ship)

MDR Food – 8.7 (great dishes; slow kitchen; in Cyprus restaurant)

Buffet Food – 8.6 (excellent variety; unique stations)

Entertainment – 8.4 (standard Celebrity stuff; one weak comedian)

Cabin – 9.6 (Infinite balcony; love this concept; large cabin)

Service – 9.5 (consistent, professional, and cordial)

Frequent cruiser perks 9.3 (free happy hour drinks, laundry, and internet)

Cost – 8.9 ($160 per person, per day; bargain for a new ship)

 

Holland America Nieuw Statendam (not all inclusive; no booking perks)

 

Ship condition – 9.4 (new ship, but still in the HAL tradition)

MDR Food – 8.3 (traditional options, good quality, nice selection)

Buffet Food – 8.1 (nice selection; long lines; traditional items)

Entertainment – 8.3 (standard stuff; nice variety of acts)

Cabin – 9.0 (inside, nice A/C; good storage; firm bed)

Service – 9.6 (superior service all over the ship; nice note from the laundry team)

Frequent cruiser perks – 6.5 (HAL’s big weakness; 3 Star and nothing to show for it)

Cost – 9.3 ($88 per person, per day; great deal)

 

Celebrity Reflection (not all inclusive; no booking perks)

 

Ship condition – 8.5 (love the S-class ships; well maintained; nice size)

MDR Food – 8.4 (only ate two meals in MDR; don’t like anytime dining)

Buffet Food – 8.3 (loads of choices; good quality; great breakfast choices)

Entertainment – 8.2 (pretty standard stuff; good variety)

Cabin – 8.9 (inside, large cabin; good storage; firm bed)

Service – 9.4 (great through out the ship; Capt’s Club Sky lounge excellent)

Frequent cruiser perks – 9.3 (Celebrity is the best in this category)

Cost – 9.2 ($75 per person, per day; best deal of the six cruises)

 

 

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What a GREAT post.  So much good information!  Thank you.😀

 

A question.  Under Mera you wrote "Black Card onboard, status expired onboard." I don't understand what this means.

 

I'm trying to decide between Meraviglia YC vs. Edge Sky Suite.  Thoughts?  We've been in YC before and love it.  Haven't been in a suite on Celebrity before, but are Elite with them.  Also our overall favorite line, but DH is getting tired of S-class.  I know we'll be in YC proper on Mera. while we have to walk to the Retreat and Luminae on Edge.  We like tables for two in DR, with adequate room between them.  In YC that's not been a problem, but judging from pictures of Edge's Luminae, we might be closer than we prefer.  Let me know what you think.

 

 

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2 hours ago, mafig said:

What a GREAT post.  So much good information!  Thank you.😀

 

A question.  Under Mera you wrote "Black Card onboard, status expired onboard." I don't understand what this means.

 

I'm trying to decide between Meraviglia YC vs. Edge Sky Suite.  Thoughts?  We've been in YC before and love it.  Haven't been in a suite on Celebrity before, but are Elite with them.  Also our overall favorite line, but DH is getting tired of S-class.  I know we'll be in YC proper on Mera. while we have to walk to the Retreat and Luminae on Edge.  We like tables for two in DR, with adequate room between them.  In YC that's not been a problem, but judging from pictures of Edge's Luminae, we might be closer than we prefer.  Let me know what you think.

 

 

Sorry, I didn't really make that clear.  We used our Elite Plus status on Celebrity to gain Black Card status.  We did this back in 2017 when we booked our first MSC cruise on the Seaside.  That was our first YC experience and enjoyed it so much we booked the YC on the Meraviglia.  Well, apparently this matching status will expire at some point.  We tried to book a third cruise with MSC onboard, and that's when we found out our status had expired.

 

Never booked a suite on Celebrity, so I have no insight there.  YC inside cabins are some what inexpensive compared to suites on Celebrity, but maybe some day?

 

Enjoy!

Kel

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I love comparison reviews like this, especially when the cruises are so close together and fresh in your memory!  

 

Like you I love trying out different cruise lines and different ships (130 cruises so far!).  Variety is the spice of life.  I've sailed on most of the ships in your review (or their sister ship).  It's so much fun experiencing the way different cruise lines operate and the uniqueness of different ships.  I enjoy them all and have found that all cruise lines excel in something, and almost all are lacking in certain areas as well (even luxury lines).  I have my preferences for ships and cruise lines but I'm not loyal to any.  

 

Thanks again for the review and keep on cruising all those different lines!    

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29 minutes ago, kelmac said:

We tried to book a third cruise with MSC onboard, and that's when we found out our status had expired.

 

Enjoy!

Kel

 

Every time you cruise MSC your expiry is adjusted to three years from disembarkation, the status match should not expire as long as you sail.

If you log into your MSC account you should find you have 3 years, I just got off MSC Fantasia and I made sure to check my expiry had been extended when I got home.

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15 minutes ago, ziggyuk said:

 

Every time you cruise MSC your expiry is adjusted to three years from disembarkation, the status match should not expire as long as you sail.

If you log into your MSC account you should find you have 3 years, I just got off MSC Fantasia and I made sure to check my expiry had been extended when I got home.

Hey Zig,

Thanks, I'll check it out!

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TY for this

How would you compare MSC YC food compared to X's BLU? Murano?

TY for your helpful thread

 

 

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MSC YC food unfortunately needs to improve and would compare to Celebrity MDR.  Taste and flavour badly lacking, sauces non existent and they serve gravy with Fillet, yuck !   Murano is incomparable to anything MSC can offer even their Specialty Restaurants can’t compare.

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3 hours ago, Fogfog said:

TY for this

How would you compare MSC YC food compared to X's BLU? Murano?

TY for your helpful thread

 

 

I would agree with Micky here.  The YC food is pretty good, but there a few duds mixed in.  Murano is head and shoulders above MSC, even compared to their alternatives. Blu food is so different it's hard to compare.  The Yacht Club is a wonderful experience, but their cuisine does yet not match the over-all ambience of this product.  

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15 hours ago, mickey89 said:

MSC YC food unfortunately needs to improve and would compare to Celebrity MDR.  Taste and flavour badly lacking, sauces non existent and they serve gravy with Fillet, yuck !   Murano is incomparable to anything MSC can offer even their Specialty Restaurants can’t compare.

 

 

I agree 100%.  Food is probably the #1 area where MSC can improve.  Not that anyone will starve, but it's certainly not anywhere near Celebrity.  This being said, I actually enjoyed the cuisine better in the MDR on MERAVIGLIA earlier this month than I did in the YC on SEASIDE last year.  Perhaps that indicates some improvement?  

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2 hours ago, eroller said:

 

 

I agree 100%.  Food is probably the #1 area where MSC can improve.  Not that anyone will starve, but it's certainly not anywhere near Celebrity.  This being said, I actually enjoyed the cuisine better in the MDR on MERAVIGLIA earlier this month than I did in the YC on SEASIDE last year.  Perhaps that indicates some improvement?  


This is my biggest concern. The YC menus are very unappealing to us. I totally understand that we are cruising in the Mediterranean on a European cruise line so I get it. More than likely we will be in specialty dining most evenings.😊

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We liked YC food on seaside four weeks ago, not as good as celebrity suite restaurant luminae but much better than rccl suite restaurant CK. 

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1 hour ago, cruisingator2 said:


This is my biggest concern. The YC menus are very unappealing to us. I totally understand that we are cruising in the Mediterranean on a European cruise line so I get it. More than likely we will be in specialty dining most evenings.😊

 

See how it goes.  You might just be surprised.  Also there are not that many speciality restaurants like on Royal or even Celebrity.  They could monotonous but at least it will give you some variety.  On the Oasis Class I don't even dine in the MDR.   It's a different speciality restaurant every night and I absolutely love it.  Not sure I could do that on MSC.  

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22 hours ago, ziggyuk said:

 

Every time you cruise MSC your expiry is adjusted to three years from disembarkation, the status match should not expire as long as you sail.

If you log into your MSC account you should find you have 3 years, I just got off MSC Fantasia and I made sure to check my expiry had been extended when I got home.

Hey Zig,

I went online, and yes it shows we are still Black Card status.  Strange, that when I tried to book another cruise onboard, they told me my status expired.  I just sent them an email to get clarification.

Thanks again for the info!

Kel

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29 minutes ago, kelmac said:

Hey Zig,

I went online, and yes it shows we are still Black Card status.  Strange, that when I tried to book another cruise onboard, they told me my status expired.  I just sent them an email to get clarification.

Thanks again for the info!

Kel

 

No problem, I thought it sounded odd, don't know why they had the wrong info on board ship, glad its ok though.

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8 hours ago, cruisingator2 said:


This is my biggest concern. The YC menus are very unappealing to us. I totally understand that we are cruising in the Mediterranean on a European cruise line so I get it. More than likely we will be in specialty dining most evenings.😊

Hi cg2,

I think MSC could really improve their North American market share by hiring a big named chef to come in and clean up their menus.  I like European food, but some of their options are a miss for North American palates. In addition, you would think there would be more pasta options given MSC's Italian roots.  

Enjoy!

Kel

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, kelmac said:

Hi cg2,

I think MSC could really improve their North American market share by hiring a big named chef to come in and clean up their menus.  I like European food, but some of their options are a miss for North American palates. In addition, you would think there would be more pasta options given MSC's Italian roots.  

Enjoy!

Kel

Hi

MSC has taken on Jacques Van Staden from Celebrity where he was Head Chef in Charge , he has moved to MSC in June I think. Things have improved since our April cruise  but I am hoping for further improvement in February, its logical to think they have to order foods way before time so changes can't happen overnight but we are expecting great improvement . His position at MSC 

was announced in May

 https://www.travelpulse.com/news/people/jacques-van-staden-to-serve-as-vice-president-food-beverage-for-msc.html

Edited by emmas gran
addition

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6 hours ago, emmas gran said:

Hi

MSC has taken on Jacques Van Staden from Celebrity where he was Head Chef in Charge , he has moved to MSC in June I think. Things have improved since our April cruise  but I am hoping for further improvement in February, its logical to think they have to order foods way before time so changes can't happen overnight but we are expecting great improvement . His position at MSC 

was announced in May

 https://www.travelpulse.com/news/people/jacques-van-staden-to-serve-as-vice-president-food-beverage-for-msc.html

Thanks eg,

That's great news and I hope we see the menus and quality evolve over the next year!  

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Van Staden was the brains behind Qsine on Celebrity Cruises. IMHO it was a disaster, Celebrity have now replaced all the restaurants with another whimsical affair called Le Petit Chef.  That also, is unlikely to last very long.

 

I am not that enthused that MSC will improve their culinary skills in the medium term.  I will be in YC in a few weeks and hoping that I will see significant improvements as prices have now exceeded their Value Point.

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4 minutes ago, mickey89 said:

Van Staden was the brains behind Qsine on Celebrity Cruises. IMHO it was a disaster, Celebrity have now replaced all the restaurants with another whimsical affair called Le Petit Chef.  That also, is unlikely to last very long.

 

I am not that enthused that MSC will improve their culinary skills in the medium term.  I will be in YC in a few weeks and hoping that I will see significant improvements as prices have now exceeded their Value Point.

Mickey we have “talked” about this before as we were in YC on Preziosa just before you. Our Splendida in April left a lot to be desired, however Meraviglia Oct/Nov was improved, ships provisioning takes 4 to 6 months planning and therefore is a work in progress. 
With regard to Qsine and Le Petit Chef I would rather eat in Murano or Tuscan

 

Kelmac sorry to hijack the thread  

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11 minutes ago, mickey89 said:

Van Staden was the brains behind Qsine on Celebrity Cruises. IMHO it was a disaster, Celebrity have now replaced all the restaurants with another whimsical affair called Le Petit Chef.  That also, is unlikely to last very long.

 

I am not that enthused that MSC will improve their culinary skills in the medium term.  I will be in YC in a few weeks and hoping that I will see significant improvements as prices have now exceeded their Value Point.

Good point mick!

If it weren't for their inside YC cabins, we would not even consider MSC.  

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Kel.......I was surprised that you rated HAL slightly better than Reflection.  We were 4 star Mariners, but the smokers kills it for me so defaulted to Celebrity, now Elite+.   Tried MSC Feb 2019 first time, my wife loved it, I not so much - the food and lack of shade was the biggest stumbling blocks for me.  We booked our imminent MSC YC cruise before we took the first, brave or stupid I don't know.  Have cancel Seaside YC recently as the itinerary was uninspiring in favour of Refection later this year

Tried Oceania in the Med once, food wonderful but prices are ridiculously expensive then tried P&O Britannia in it's first year of sailings, although I can say we've never had a bad cruise, P&O was the pits, never to be repeated.

 

I don't believe I could do 8 weeks on the trot as you have, I like a breather - holidays can be hard work at our age - maybe we will give HAL another go, really enjoyed the Pinnacle Grill...........enjoyed your reviews.

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Posted (edited)

I think the menus of YC offer fine variety: a vegetarian, fish, meat or poultry... it is about execution when proteins are overcooked.

Really prefer a European line to have a European bent..not more of the same that can be had on RCCL, Celebrity, NCL etc

On Celebrity We prefer BLU and Murano over MDR  and avoid MDR .

Le Bistro on NCL is excellent. 

Wish the menus on YC were not altered from the Med to Carib -- we find that disappointing they try to appeal to "american" tastes... sounds like a step down, not better.

 

Celebrity's Qsine food was good-- but the venue/concept is better for groups because to try a variety--you order a lot of food and much is wasted. Our last time in Qsine we cancelled the last 2 courses as we had thoroughly enjoyed all of the indian and mid east little plates and had no room for more

LPC doesn't appeal at all-- though I suspect we'd try it if we were with friends. The menus are fine--yet as a couple, we would prefer Murano. On a recent sailing we ate in Murano 6 of 10 nights and in Tuscan for two others..only doing MDR for "formal nights". 

 

Enjoyed the OPs reviews. 

 

@kelmac

What is the avg age of the pax on each of your sailings?

Edited by Fogfog

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