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Advice will pretty much be obsolete when we sail again


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I began to write a travel book this past winter about taking a cruise ship to explore parts of the Holy Land.  Good timing, right?  I, of course, have put it on hold but keep thinking about how much the wonderful advice here on Cruise Critic just won't be true/accurate anymore once we are all back out there. One thing, it is really difficult to research reviews because so many of them are written by folks affected by the Coronavirus problems. Also, so many of our favorite hotels, restaurants, tours, drivers, etc will be out of business. Two years and all the changes with COVID will turn us into the pioneers of cruise travel again.

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8 minutes ago, Markanddonna said:

I began to write a travel book this past winter about taking a cruise ship to explore parts of the Holy Land.  Good timing, right?  I, of course, have put it on hold but keep thinking about how much the wonderful advice here on Cruise Critic just won't be true/accurate anymore once we are all back out there. One thing, it is really difficult to research reviews because so many of them are written by folks affected by the Coronavirus problems. Also, so many of our favorite hotels, restaurants, tours, drivers, etc will be out of business. Two years and all the changes with COVID will turn us into the pioneers of cruise travel again.

Since you mention the Holy Land in your post, I thought I might respond.  I have family in Israel, have visit there 12+ times I have lost count, since 1983.  Every time I go things have changed.  We go stay in hotels, visit family and friends, shop like locals during our visit, so we notice the changes from that perspective.  The historic sites I doubt will change much but how visitors are allow to visit them may.  Right now no foreigners are allowed into Israel til further notice.  I am waiting for the country to open to visitors. 

 

Given our times, the internet is our ally.  I always research before any trip since I book my own air, hotels etc.   Cruise critic my be useful too as members who have developed contacts maybe able to share direct contact information so that others can check out if resources are still operating.   Would guess once things open up, things should settle down in about a year, especially if a vaccine is available.  Maybe then you can begin writing your guide again.  

 

By the way, over the years I have gone by ship to Israel on Cunard, Princess, Celebrity, NCL and Crystal.  Basically only two ports of call Haifa and Ashdod.    Local tour operators/taxis  are available at both ports if cruise lines allow folks to tour on their own.   Ships will always run tours.  So I don't see much change there.  

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8 hours ago, cb at sea said:

Advice on the PLACES you may want to go should still be valid......just the shipboard experience may be different.

 

Actually if they do enforce that the only way to get off the ship in a port is by their excursions, that may also change the experience in the ports.

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Independent land travel has somewhat eclipsed our desire to cruise since retirement.  This could easily move from eclipsed to eliminated depending on the post covid cruise environment.

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I think the OP makes a great point.  COVID will cause permanent changes to the entire travel/tourist/cruise world.  Think how 9/11 changed travel.  Well COVID will likely have a greater impact.  I no longer feel confident in dispensing cruise advice when folks ask me questions about cruise lines, ships, itineraries, etc.  Much that we know will be changed.  What we experience on future cruises will likely be so different that many of us will talk about the "good ole days" as something far in the past.  Many of us who have cruised for a long time (especially on longer cruises) have been aware of the increased health risks on cruises.  Not only did we need to be cognizant of Norovirus, but there were also plenty of problems with the flu and URIs (so-called cabin cough) plus the usual assortments of common colds.  DW and I got so fed-up with catching things on cruises (primarily URIs) that we started making our own mitigation adjustments over 5 years ago such as trying to avoid elevators in favor of using the steps, keeping our distance from folks that appeared to be ill (avoid coughers) etc.  We actually had a lot of success with our basic mitigation measures without sacrificing any of the pleasures of cruising.  But now, these kind of mitigation measures will likely become institutionalized.  I have no clue how cruise ships will deal with the elevator problems (an elevator is a closed chamber where any kind of distancing is impossible).   Even flying long distances has lost so much of its charm.  We have always enjoyed international business class but many of the perks of that kind of travel are now gone (we suspect much of that will eventually come back).

 

When the OP talks about writing a travel book/guide I think much of what was previously good is now going to be obsolete.  I have long recommended the Rick Steves guide books which has lots of terrific advice for we independent travelers.  But now, Mr Steves will likely need to modify all of his books with advice on crowd avoidance and other mitigation suggestions.   So, instead of going to Pompeii on a busy day one might be better advised to go to less crowded Herculanium.  or....When choosing an outdoor cafe in the Piazza Navona (a favorite hangout of ours) the recommendations might be guided by the cafes that have the most space between tables.  Argh!

 

Hank

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COVID may cause changes across the entire spectrum of our lives if we can't get a handle on it, and not just our travel activities.  

 

Corporate brick & mortar offices may be used only sporadically, if at all, making many downtown areas look blighted and neglected.  The daily commute, cars, interstates, passenger railways and the energy sector might suffer major hits.  The extended family units may morph into geographically closer areas rather than today's multi state spreads.  Team sports could become a memory.  Food and supply chains may need to be redesigned. Electronic and digital inventions may come to "rule" our lives.

Perhaps whoever designs the first wearable COVID detector will see their company become the next great IPO or takeover claim.

 

On the other side, maybe our air and water supplies could be cleaner, climate change stalled or reversed, and capitalism may become more equitable. Maybe the false claims about the virus, like it will disappear after the election will go away.  Let's hope that the optimism around the vaccines is warranted, and the severity of the virus' spread convince more people to use mitigation methods like masks and distancing.  Our future will be shaped by how we handle this challenge.

 

 

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On 11/11/2020 at 12:12 PM, Markanddonna said:

I began to write a travel book this past winter about taking a cruise ship to explore parts of the Holy Land.  Good timing, right?  I, of course, have put it on hold but keep thinking about how much the wonderful advice here on Cruise Critic just won't be true/accurate anymore once we are all back out there. One thing, it is really difficult to research reviews because so many of them are written by folks affected by the Coronavirus problems. Also, so many of our favorite hotels, restaurants, tours, drivers, etc will be out of business. Two years and all the changes with COVID will turn us into the pioneers of cruise travel again.

 

As someone who has toyed with travel writing, I would suggest that the readily available information on the internet, which can be instantly updated, makes the need for traditional-style travel guides somewhat obsolete.

 

Instead, if I were you, I would focus on those aspects of the travel that are less mutable. For example, providing people with background and history of the places to be visited, sources such as books that might give additional illumination, what to pack and any dress requirements at holy sites -- that kind of thing. Focus less on the logistics -- timing, types of tours, etc.

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4 minutes ago, cruisemom42 said:

As someone who has toyed with travel writing

 

You have been travel writing for some time here on CC.   And you are very good too as we have benefited from some of the advice you've posted, especially for Rome.  Thank You.

 

To your point, I enjoy the aspect of travel that teaches me about history and geography,  as well as seeing locations referenced in literature of all types.  (i.e.  seeing the Chateau d'lf for example)

 

I also agree that much of the advice will become flotsam or jetsam,   but recently we've benefited from using smartphone apps for travel and there is alot of upside here.

 

I probably rank in the lower 1% of global smartphone usage , but I have one,  and it has changed the way we explore ports and plan our visits.    

 

Its the end of the cruising and travel world as we knew it,  but I feel fine.

 

 

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1 hour ago, cruisemom42 said:

 

As someone who has toyed with travel writing, I would suggest that the readily available information on the internet, which can be instantly updated, makes the need for traditional-style travel guides somewhat obsolete.

 

Instead, if I were you, I would focus on those aspects of the travel that are less mutable. For example, providing people with background and history of the places to be visited, sources such as books that might give additional illumination, what to pack and any dress requirements at holy sites -- that kind of thing. Focus less on the logistics -- timing, types of tours, etc.

Another great post :).  But are you right (at least for most folks)?  DW and I are very active independent travelers (been to over 130 countries and on more then 80 different cruise ships).  Since we seldom take tours we need to do our pre-trip homework and rely on information provided by others.  We are Internet savvy and do use a lot of online resources (including our phone when just walking around or driving much of the world).  But, we also read books and published travel articles.  I have a bookcase full of the dozens of old fashioned travel guides (Fodors,  Berlitz, Michelin, etc) but seldom look at those books these days.  I like that we no longer have to carry 20 pounds of travel books and maps when we travel :).  But, some books are still very useful and even more handy then the Internet.  That is why I am often promoting the Rick Steves books which I think are terrific for any independent traveler (and some not so independent) going to Europe.  His books are written and organized for the independent traveler and very handy.  My only negative comment about his books are that we suggest folks generally avoid his recommended eating venues :).  Why?  Once a venue is in his books the place will generally be ruined as it is overrun by Rick Steves fans.  We once went into a recommended cafe in Paris and noticed that nearly everyone had a Rick Steves book on their table.  The locals flee, the Chefs often flee, the quality quickly diminishes to that of a tourist restaurant and it is then a place we prefer to avoid.   The best source for eating venues are the locals (get friendly with a desk clerk and you get lots of interesting advice) and the Internet.  Unfortunately, the most commonly used web site (CC is part of the family) Tripadvisior has sold out in the name of revenue.  We used to love the Tripadvisor rankings of restaurants, but now they appear to be very corrupt or perhaps are using an algorithm that is terribly flawed.  For example, we have lived in Puerto Vallarta for 15 winters and dined out over 1000 times (in more then 150 venues) and know that food scene.  Tripadvisor used to be very reliable and many of their top 20 restaurants would have made my own top 20.  But now, their rankings are truly awful...completely off the mark and not reliable.  These days we suggest going through the top 50 and carefully reading the reviews of anything that looks interesting.  But do not trust the overall rankings.  Sorry to the CC mods if we have tread on sacred ground, but we are just telling it like it is :).

 

Hank 

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28 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

But, some books are still very useful and even more handy then the Internet.  That is why I am often promoting the Rick Steves books which I think are terrific for any independent traveler (and some not so independent) going to Europe.  His books are written and organized for the independent traveler and very handy. 

 

Rick Steves is a great example of what can work and what works less well. 

 

I also highly recommend, especially for first timers or those who are doing things on their own for the first time, at any rate. 

 

What Steves does really well are his walking itineraries for various sites and his "in a nutshell" histories, for those who don't want or need a lot of background. Also his positive encouragement and tips on how to arrange things on one's own.

 

What is less useful are things like opening and closing hours, ticket prices, etc. These change very frequently (and sometimes seasonally) and I would always advise looking up the official sites for those kinds of things.

 

As you say, I am also not overly fond of his restaurant suggestions (I think I am 1 for about 27 in terms of how many of those I've tried were actually good, and not overly touristy.). His hotel suggestions are slightly better but there are better ways to research hotels online.

 

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I agree with Cruisemom about hotels (the best place to research is online) and I always make a note of Cruisemom's own hotel recommendations (especially in Rome).

 

As a word to others, when it comes to hotels we think too many quickly opt for chain hotels they know well in their own country.  But often, these are far from ideal.  For those travelers planning to do many things on their own we would stress, "location location location!"   Consider a hotel, B&B or Inn's location in regard to public transportation, nearby restaurants, and also noisy neighborhoods (often to be avoided).  Also do not jump into a choice without doing some real research.  For example, when folks take their first trip to Paris they will often look for places near the Champs Elysees or perhaps the Eiffel Tower.  DW and I are not big fans of either of these locations.  Since we love smaller neighborhood cafes/restaurants that are also popular with locals, in Paris we will often opt to stay on the Left Bank in the 5th or 6th (Arrondissements).  If we do stay on the Right Bank we would generally look for a place in the Marais area (best part of Paris on Sunday and also full of many cute eating venues).  In Rome, our own preference is in the Piazza Navona or Campo dei Fiore area (these two areas are close to each other) although we can understand many folks not loving this area.  

 

Hank

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1 hour ago, jtwind said:

TripAdvisor will be the place to look for current reviews of businesses.

One thing i would like to add to that....... 

 is the first thing is how many reviews have they done....

 

Why..... you generally find the a lot of 1 star reviews are by people who have only written one review.....    

 

Also   look at if it is a balanced review.... or it is all about one issue......

 

T***A*******  is just another resource to use....  which  does have a wide demographic of users, which is a good thing....

 

Don

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On 11/14/2020 at 10:05 AM, Hlitner said:

I think the OP makes a great point.  COVID will cause permanent changes to the entire travel/tourist/cruise world.  Think how 9/11 changed travel.  Well COVID will likely have a greater impact.  I no longer feel confident in dispensing cruise advice when folks ask me questions about cruise lines, ships, itineraries, etc.  Much that we know will be changed.  What we experience on future cruises will likely be so different that many of us will talk about the "good ole days" as something far in the past.  Many of us who have cruised for a long time (especially on longer cruises) have been aware of the increased health risks on cruises.  Not only did we need to be cognizant of Norovirus, but there were also plenty of problems with the flu and URIs (so-called cabin cough) plus the usual assortments of common colds.  DW and I got so fed-up with catching things on cruises (primarily URIs) that we started making our own mitigation adjustments over 5 years ago such as trying to avoid elevators in favor of using the steps, keeping our distance from folks that appeared to be ill (avoid coughers) etc.  We actually had a lot of success with our basic mitigation measures without sacrificing any of the pleasures of cruising.  But now, these kind of mitigation measures will likely become institutionalized.  I have no clue how cruise ships will deal with the elevator problems (an elevator is a closed chamber where any kind of distancing is impossible).   Even flying long distances has lost so much of its charm.  We have always enjoyed international business class but many of the perks of that kind of travel are now gone (we suspect much of that will eventually come back).

 

When the OP talks about writing a travel book/guide I think much of what was previously good is now going to be obsolete.  I have long recommended the Rick Steves guide books which has lots of terrific advice for we independent travelers.  But now, Mr Steves will likely need to modify all of his books with advice on crowd avoidance and other mitigation suggestions.   So, instead of going to Pompeii on a busy day one might be better advised to go to less crowded Herculanium.  or....When choosing an outdoor cafe in the Piazza Navona (a favorite hangout of ours) the recommendations might be guided by the cafes that have the most space between tables.  Argh!

 

Hank

You have a point about avoiding crowds.  Actually I think independent travelers have been doing so for some time.    I recall visiting St Peter's in the late 1980s, we walked in no security, no lines it was like we had the place to ourselves.  Wonderful experience, returned a few times since, to find long lines and crowds, went the other way...found I enjoyed a small neighborhood churches just as much and looked for them instead of the the main tourist draws.  

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2 minutes ago, getting older slowly said:

T***A*******  is just another resource to use....  which  does have a wide demographic of users, which is a good thing....

 

I'm not a frequent, at all, user of that site. I'd rather google "XYZ hotel reviews" or the same with restaurants or really anything else. I want people who get outside the box. And some of those big site might as well be yelp. Don't give me a chain restaurant as #7 in a big city 🙂

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1 minute ago, pris993 said:

You have a point about avoiding crowds.  Actually I think independent travelers have been doing so for some time.    I recall visiting St Peter's in the late 1980s, we walked in no security, no lines it was like we had the place to ourselves.  Wonderful experience, returned a few times since, to find long lines and crowds, went the other way...found I enjoyed a small neighborhood churches just as much and looked for them instead of the the main tourist draws.  

A few years ago I posted what I thought to be a humorous post about how I am "queue adverse."  And it is true that I work at avoiding lines and have a fair amount of amusing anecdotal stories about folks who seem to seek out being crammed in lines.  Just consider a ship that still has a fixed dining MDR (such as most Princess ships) and you will often find a queue 15-20 minutes before the doors open for the first dinner sitting.  These folks all have assigned tables, nobody gets served until all have arrived at the table, but these folks still like to wait in lines.  I used to take pictures of places where there were multiple service counters and many folks would automatically get in the longest line often ignoring another much shorter (or even no) line.  It is the same with crowds.  Some folks love being part of a group (the larger the better) but some of us prefer more privacy.  Now, during COVID, if I go out to dinner or lunch with my wife we can easily social distance and wear a mask whenever we deal with the waiter.  But if I were to go to lunch with 20 friends it would be a different story (so no lunches with 20 friends).

 

There are similar strategies to avoiding crowds just like we prefer to avoid lines.  Consider 10 healthy people cramming into an elevator to go down one or two floors.  or on a cruise ship there will usually be a big crowd at the buffet the first half hour after it opens for lunch.  Go later and you likely can walk in, have no lines, no crowds at the buffet area, etc.  The shows on cruises for the early diners are generally packed (with a long queue waiting to get in for the best seats).  But if you go to the show for the late diners there are usually much smaller crowds and no queues.  Go on a cruise line excursion and you will generally be in a group of 40-60 and told to stick together.  But when I go to places with DW there are just the two of us....no groups,,, no queues.  Perhaps we go with another couple but then we are only 4.  When I am in a large tour group I feel like a cow in the herd following he leader who has a sign rather then a bell around his/her neck.  Now they are telling us we are better off in those kind of groups?  Pardon me if I am somewhat skeptical.

 

Hank

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2 hours ago, Hlitner said:

A few years ago I posted what I thought to be a humorous post about how I am "queue adverse."  And it is true that I work at avoiding lines and have a fair amount of amusing anecdotal stories about folks who seem to seek out being crammed in lines.  Just consider a ship that still has a fixed dining MDR (such as most Princess ships) and you will often find a queue 15-20 minutes before the doors open for the first dinner sitting.  These folks all have assigned tables, nobody gets served until all have arrived at the table, but these folks still like to wait in lines.  I used to take pictures of places where there were multiple service counters and many folks would automatically get in the longest line often ignoring another much shorter (or even no) line.  It is the same with crowds.  Some folks love being part of a group (the larger the better) but some of us prefer more privacy.  Now, during COVID, if I go out to dinner or lunch with my wife we can easily social distance and wear a mask whenever we deal with the waiter.  But if I were to go to lunch with 20 friends it would be a different story (so no lunches with 20 friends).

 

There are similar strategies to avoiding crowds just like we prefer to avoid lines.  Consider 10 healthy people cramming into an elevator to go down one or two floors.  or on a cruise ship there will usually be a big crowd at the buffet the first half hour after it opens for lunch.  Go later and you likely can walk in, have no lines, no crowds at the buffet area, etc.  The shows on cruises for the early diners are generally packed (with a long queue waiting to get in for the best seats).  But if you go to the show for the late diners there are usually much smaller crowds and no queues.  Go on a cruise line excursion and you will generally be in a group of 40-60 and told to stick together.  But when I go to places with DW there are just the two of us....no groups,,, no queues.  Perhaps we go with another couple but then we are only 4.  When I am in a large tour group I feel like a cow in the herd following he leader who has a sign rather then a bell around his/her neck.  Now they are telling us we are better off in those kind of groups?  Pardon me if I am somewhat skeptical.

 

Hank

Agree with you fully.  I do cruise Princess, don't get in any lines, if I can avoid it.  We don't go to the MDR anymore, prefer the Crown Grill, do buffet at odd times and generally order Room Service for breakfast.  Like you we generally did touring on our own.  I will stay on the ship vs join a ship tour, if we are not free to leave the ship independently.   

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34 minutes ago, pris993 said:

 I will stay on the ship vs join a ship tour, if we are not free to leave the ship independently.   

I don't know if I asked someone on this thread or another but curious if you cruise to places like the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico. I can't imagine cruising around Europe and staying on a ship. If that becomes the case then I'll do land trips.

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1 hour ago, clo said:

I don't know if I asked someone on this thread or another but curious if you cruise to places like the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico. I can't imagine cruising around Europe and staying on a ship. If that becomes the case then I'll do land trips.

 

 

At this stage of my life, I am very satisfied to simply take a round trip cruise from San Francisco to Mexico... my dh is 88; I am 74.  We have done the Mediterranean so many time, lucky we started in our late 30s, when we were physically fit and could walk for hours.  My DH is from Paris, we have family there and in Israel so traveled to visit family and would often do open jaw trips, cruising out of one port and end in another, then fly to see family before returning to USA.  We have been to Mexico about 10+ times ever since Princess home ported a ship in San Francisco... so cruise down there for weather and change of pace only.  We did many land trips as well to Europe and middle east on our own, no tours.  

 

We have done a fair number of TAs, if you like being at sea, for days at a time, but doubt I would cruise without getting off the ship in Europe.   
 

I want to make one last trip to Israel, waiting for the country to open and virus vaccine to be available to make that happen.   Hopefully by September 2021, so we don't lose our credit on United.  We were booked last May had to cancel with virus. 

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8 hours ago, clo said:

I don't know if I asked someone on this thread or another but curious if you cruise to places like the Caribbean, Alaska, Mexico. I can't imagine cruising around Europe and staying on a ship. If that becomes the case then I'll do land trips.

Like the other poster we tend to stay on the ship in many ports but only in the Caribbean.  On one of our Celebrity cruises we skipped getting off the ship at the first 9 ports and only got off for a few minutes at St Maarten to buy some liquor.  It was one of our favorite voyages :).  In Europe we will sometimes stay on the ship if we are at a port that we know and getting off makes little sense.  This can happen because of awful weather or sometimes if we have a turn around day in Civitavecchia (not enough time to trek into Rome and we may not feel like doing anything in the nearby region).  

 

Folks have asked us why we cruise the Caribbean if we generally stay on the ship (we used to ask others why they do it)?  Our answer is that we know the ports too well, don't feel like a beach day, and the main reason we cruise in the Caribbean is for the ship...not the ports.   If we want to spend time in St Maarten or Aruba (two of our favorite islands) we will simply vacation at those places (we usually rent a Condo).

 

Hank

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Holy Land...reminded me of our 2016 cruise, Vision of the Seas...true story.

 

We just came back from our day in Jerusalem, and was walking past Guest Services.

One lady was speaking loudly and angry...loud enough for us to hear what she was complaining about.

She said "I want our money back! (apparently from their ship's tour to Jerusalem.)...bleep, bleep, bleep...we only got to see 4 of the Stations of the Cross!!!

 

Note: We've heard of many complaints onboard, but this one tops it for us...true story. 😇😆😉

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3 hours ago, bonsai3s said:

Holy Land...reminded me of our 2016 cruise, Vision of the Seas...true story.

 

We just came back from our day in Jerusalem, and was walking past Guest Services.

One lady was speaking loudly and angry...loud enough for us to hear what she was complaining about.

She said "I want our money back! (apparently from their ship's tour to Jerusalem.)...bleep, bleep, bleep...we only got to see 4 of the Stations of the Cross!!!

 

Note: We've heard of many complaints onboard, but this one tops it for us...true story. 😇😆😉

That is why Cruise Critic is so great!  We assembled a lovely group Cruise Critics who arranged some pretty fantastic tours.  I was the organizer and ran a tight ship as far as group dynamics (we all looked out for one another so no one strayed, we met at a lounge onboard and existed together, we stayed in close contact for updates, etc.) It was an exemplary group and the tour guide was able to take us on a few special side trips since we saved him the usual hassle time.  

 

 

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