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A Tale of Two Cruises...

A Tale of Two Cruises...

Old Aug 22, 16, 8:55 pm
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A Tale of Two Cruises...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Wait, who am I kidding? This summer was the freaking best! I was able to pull off two luxury cruises! This trip report will cover both cruises.

First, a little background. Our two daughters go to a seven week, all girls sleepover camp. There is a visiting day on the third Saturday and then a nice opportunity for my wife and me to take a long vacation between visiting day and the end of camp. Luckily, we work for ourselves and it is a slower part of the year for us at work.

This is the sixth summer where both girls have been away. We have done the following trips:

2015 - Belgium, Vienna, Marbella
2014 - Bali, Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong
2013 - Silversea - London to London (British Isles and Iceland) for 18 days
2012 - Silversea - Barcelona to Venice
2011 - Silversea - Athens to Istanbul

About a year and half ago, my wife accidently found a cruise on Seabourn. What do I mean by accidently? Well, she thought she was looking for 2015, but she was actually looking for 2016. In any event, we were happy to try Seabourn and the cruise she found featured mostly all new ports. We have been to the beginning and end ports (Barcelona and Monte Carlo) and only one port in between (St. Tropez). All of the other ports were new and that was extremely appealing!

So we booked that cruise and were excited to hit the Med again after taking a break for a few summers.

We have used the same travel agent for all of these trips (and several others) and we've gotten pretty friendly with our agent Kenny. We chat a lot on gchat and he looks to me as his award flight guru. Thanks FT! I've learned a lot from you all!! I'm no guru, just more knowledgeable than he is

Anyway, several months ago, he messaged me, asking if I wanted to go on a cruise with him over the summer from Bareclona to Monte Carlo. Kenny was invited by Regent to go on their new ship “Regent Explorer” because he is one of the top TAs that specializes in luxury cruises.

But this was not just any cruise, it was a cruise prior to the maiden voyage! This would be a bit of a “shakedown cruise” to work out some of the kinks. His wife couldn't travel as she had to stay home with the 16 month old kid. Needless to say, she's not a happy camper. But, her loss was my gain

Obviously I was dying to go on this cruise, but I had to run it by the wife. Trying to be a gentlemen, since I got in on that Hyatt Diamond offer and my wife has a companion pass, I suggested that maybe we could go somewhere and utilize both and I'd skip the cruise with him. Wasn’t that nice of me to offer to miss a cruise to go somewhere with her? I have to get some kind of credit for that...right? But luckily, she knew I really wanted to go on this cruise, so she gave her blessing on me joining Kenny for the cruise. The insane thing is that we'll be doing a similar itinerary just about 10 days after my return.

Ok, so once it was established that I'd be going with my friend I had to get flights. Luckily, United had Economy available on the saver rate for the going (30k points transferred from UR) and I found space on Air France for the return for 25k (transferred from Citi). I got the Econ Plus for United and will suck it up on regular Econ for the return Air France flights from Nice to Paris to Washington. I couldn't justify using more points for business class if I was leaving my wife home

I even bought a new 26 inch Eagle Creek suitcase for the trip. My 28" was too big and the 22" carry on was too small. I love my Eagle Creek stuff. This new suitcase also transforms into a backpack for more flexibility.

I packed up the night before and loaded the car up in the morning. I wanted to get a half of a day's work in, but was home for a while waiting for Comcast to not show up and don't even get me started about the duct cleaning ganifs. I did get to work about for about 2 or 3 hours and then tried to go over to the Verizon Wireless store to confirm that my account was cancelled. I'm a proud owner of a new Nexus 6P and I'm on Project Fi! What a great thing for serious travelers.



The drive to Dulles is never too bad. There were no accidents and minimal construction delays, so I made it in a little more than one hour. I had booked a parking spot at the Fairfield near Dulles and found the hotel easily. I presented my voucher to the front desk, they told me where to park and it was just a short walk back to the hotel. The driver took me in the van right away. Very nice service and I highly recommend it. This hotel is next to the Cracker Barrel. That's one restaurant that creates a lot of conversation in our house. Every time we drive by one, I say how much I love Cracker Barrell and my wife exclaims exactly the opposite. In my prior life, I traveled a lot for my job. As in, I made Delta Platinum based on 100 flights in a year. I would have been all over the Fairfield in the olden days, as it would be in the travel budget and I could walk to dinner





I never did self check in before at an airport where I would put on my own luggage tag, so today was a first. I put my passport in and even though I thought I did it upside down, it read it just fine. I tapped the screen a few times and out came a tag. My phone rang and I ignored it. As it turns out, it was my elder daughter calling from camp. Oh well, I'll see her in about 10 days. She is not missing me and I'm sure she is having the best summer in her last year at camp.

I finally got the tag on and then took it to step two....the baggage drop. I got another luggage name tag to put on the bag. Can't be too careful right? In all my excitement, I forgot to lock my suitcase and verify that the tag said BCN. What a stupid rookie mistake. Ugh. Let's just pray that my bag ends up on the right plane.

Note the FT luggage tag on my backpack.




I ducked around the row of counters and walked down to the security area. The man nicely pointed out that since I had TSA-Precheck, I could just go down a little bit and go in the quick line. After many years of taking shoes off etc., getting TSA Pre-Check is really nice. I kept my shoes on, didn't worry about my stuff and made it through quickly.



Once through I took the moon bus over to terminal D. There were some nice planes, including a huge A380. The plane spotting at Dulles is far greater than that of my home airport (BWI).













I looked at the board and saw that we were "On Time". Hooray!


Getting off the bus I made my way to the United Lounge. They wouldn't let me in using my pass from the United Credit Card. The lounge lady said something about capacity control. However, I was able to call Kenny and have him come to the desk to guest me in. He had tried to go to one of the other United lounges at the airport and that confused their system a bit, but it worked out in the end. They also thought that he had guested in other people, but he said maybe there were other people with the same last name that looked the same. He does have a very common last name and he's Asian.

Once we got past the lounge dragon, er the representative, we made our way to his seat in the lounge. Nothing spectacular here. It was fine and I was able to get some juice and sodas and we each got some noodles etc. No Brownie Brittle like my visit from last year, but I did manage to snag a few cookies.















We chit chatted for a while and then I said we better set an alarm on the phone so we don't chat and miss our flight. I'm sure that has happened to people, especially if they don't call flights out in the lounge. No way was anyone in that lounge getting called personally from the airline to make their flight. We did see John Rhys Davies in the lounge getting some food. If I had spotted him later in the lounge, I would have chatted with him. He's been in some amazing movies and he is also from Salisbury, England I believe. I did a great day trip from London in 1990 to Salisbury and loved it.

A few minutes before boarding we made our way to the gate area. Walking down I stopped at Dunkin Donuts to get a sandwich and chips. My plan was to eat as soon as possible and then try to go to sleep. I thought if I didn't wait for their meal service I would get more sleep. After purchasing my food and and while Kenny went for a smoke, I found a seat and spoke to my wife for a few minutes and caught up on some emails.







If you smoke, you go to the penalty box in the back of the photo


I boarded a little earlier than I was entitled, walking up with Kenny. He splurged for business class, as he got a airfare allowance from Regent. When I scanned my mobile boarding pass, there was a weird beep, but I just kept walking. I was able to get some good snaps of a mostly empty cabin. As soon as I sat down I took two tylenol PMs, as I had forgotten to do so in the lounge.

The Economy Plus seat is pretty good. The legroom is totally fine. The seat was reasonably comfortable. I ate just as soon as they started the drink service. I asked for my usual ginger ale and two cups of ice. After scarfing down my sandwich, I put my sleeping mask on and tried to sleep. I think I got a few hours in, waking up pretty thirsty. I couldn't go back to sleep unfortunately. The seat is pretty good for sitting, but in the end, trying to sleep mostly sitting up is hard. You can doze off, but I found it hard to get good sleep.













What a clever way to divide coach from biz



I started to watch Deadpool, but then realized that it was edited for content. Thanks, but I'll catch the real version when it hits HBO or whatever. I don't watch movies edited for content. Going through the choices was ok, and I settled on Empire. Not that silly show about some nightclub, but rather Empire Strikes Back. I hadn't seen that in forever. Needless to say, I saw some, dozed some, rewound, watched some more, dozed some more. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. My only complaint about the seat was that the headphone jack was right under the video screen. It just seemed that every two minutes I was knocking the headphone out of the socket. I must have done that 25 times. I think I would have preferred it to be located on the arm of the seat.

Finally it was time for breakfast service. We got the croissant, yogurt and jelly meal. No eggs, no cold cereal, no nothing. Bubkus. Not even a banana. Hopefully I'll get a better breakfast when we arrive on the Regent Explorer.





We landed and then got off the plane via the stairs and caught a bus to the terminal. There’s the Avid Cruiser coming down the steps.






We collected our bags easily and then I went to the bathroom to put some shorts on, to put my contacts in and freshen up in general.






We went to the area to wait for the bus and ran into The Avid Cruiser. I introduced myself and Ralph was a great guy. The three of us hung out for a little by baggage claim and once everything was ready, we made our way to the bus. Prior to boarding I made sure my bag was actually making its way on the bus and then we grabbed our seat.






The very nice lady then said she had a great surprise for us! We would get a free tour of the city! Woo hoo! Oh no! Ralph was the first to say "I've been here 20 times". Kenny and I were like "No way, we want to get on board and eat some breakfast or lunch!" The bus folks paid for our cab and the three of us made our way to the cruise port. We had to convince them to take our luggage on the bus as we were going to try and check in and then go to Las Ramblas to buy something for Kenny's wife.

Some scenery on the way to the cruise port from our cab window. One hotel that looks awful and the other is the W. Plus, we finally spot our ship!







We got to the cruise port, but we were unable to board the ship. Kenny commented that in all the cruises he's done, they've never not let him board early. Not that we wanted to board to get our cabin (or suite as they say here on Regent), but that we wanted to be able to go and eat! So we sat for about 1.5 hours in the empty cruise ship terminal and waited. Ralph watched our stuff while we went and got a drink and we watched his stuff when he went away from his seat for a moment or two.

The three of us wanted to go to Las Ramblas by Uber, but would you believe Uber wasn’t in Barcelona? I mean, Barcelona has over 1.5 million people and no Uber? Must be a very strong taxi mafia. I kept trying to use the app on my phone. I could set my location, but could never figure out where to put the destination. I thought maybe my app was broken and therefore I uninstalled and reinstalled the app. No dice. It wasn’t until someone said “maybe there is no Uber here” that I googled it and found it to be true. So we scrapped Las Ramblas.

Finally, the cruise terminal filled up a bit and they said it was time to board. We got boarding zone 2 or whatever they called it. How we ended up with 2 when we were the first there is a slight mystery. Perhaps they didn't get to our side of the terminal until they ran out of zone 1 cards. They actually wouldn't let people board out of order.







More tomorrow on the ship and our itinerary. I’ll give a little hint...the ship was fantastic looking. It made other cruise ships look like a Holiday Inn.
farbster is offline  
Old Aug 23, 16, 5:43 am
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Being among the first to sail on a brand new cruise ship must have been quite an experience! I guess it had that fresh 'new' smell too.

Looking forward to seeing some more of the maiden voyage.
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Old Aug 23, 16, 11:37 am
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Really looking forward to the cruise section. I've been on 14 Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruises but can't stretch my finances to book Silversea, so looking forward to seeing what I can't afford
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Old Aug 23, 16, 12:53 pm
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Looking forward to your review. DH and I really like Regent - just did a Silversea and didn't like it as much. We are looking at a December Caribbean on the Explorer.
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Old Aug 23, 16, 7:41 pm
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Love that rope so that economy folks cannot just wander up and use the business or first bathroom.

Look forward to the rest of the report.
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Old Aug 24, 16, 7:32 am
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Great report so far! Really looking forward to the rest. I've tried to convince a few Flyertalkers about the merits of cruising over the past couple of years, but no deal.
I'm on Celebrity Reflection on Monday round the Greek Islands and Turkey, can't wait - never managed to do a luxury one yet, but I will I hope. Enjoy the trip!
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Old Aug 24, 16, 6:34 pm
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Lots of pics to go through...I'm really going to try and pare them down. Will work on after I get daughter back from driver's ed in a little bit...

Thanks for reading
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Old Aug 25, 16, 10:26 pm
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The food of Regent Explorer

So we got on board and immediately headed to "La Veranda" for lunch. La Veranda is aft and provides lots of outdoor seating. If I could, I'd eat lots of meals there. One of the best things about cruising is the lunch outside.

We grabbed a beautiful table outside and got some grub. The food was pretty good, with the lamb chops being excellent and the shrimp just meh. I will vouch for the cookies however.







I did manage to get a few shots of the buffet. Please let me apologize in advance about the pics. I grabbed some when I could, but I didn't want to spend my whole time waiting for a moment in time when the shot was clear and I also didn't want to haul my camera around every minute of every day on the ship. Some pics are from my phone and some I just didn't get...Also, sorry about the size of the pictures. I know this is not a trip report that really warrants these huge pics, but I did try to reduce the size and truthfully, when I saw they were too big I really didn't care that much to resize. Just being honest.








Dinner times were pre-assigned for this cruise as they wanted everyone to try each of the restaurants. It saved us the trouble of having to make reservations and made sense for this kind of cruise. They did have us in the main dining room too many times and not at all in the Asian restaurant. We pulled some strings and ended up with dinner at the following: Main Dining Room, Italian, Steak, Asian, and pool deck for BBQ/Deck Party.

Unfortunately, our dinner reservation the first night was for 6:30pm, the same time that Kenny was invited to a cocktail party. We ended up going to the cocktail party first and then went very late for our dinner. While at the party, we met the President of Regent, a pretty young guy named Jason Montague. We chatted for a few minutes and then went to our dinner.

Dinner tonight was at Sette Mari. They turn La Veranda into a fancier restaurant for dinner. As with all of the public spaces (that'll be the next installment), this restaurant was really nice looking. I know you can't eat the decor, so it's a good thing that the restaurant was very good Somehow I missed the picture of the outside part during our lunch. Here is just a shot of part of it in the inside. I think it was from one half of the restaurant. They only use one half for dinner. If I remember correctly, I probably took these pictures on the way back from the restroom.






They brought us some appetizers (fixed) and then we ordered off the menu some soup, pasta and our main course. There was a buffet available for anti-pasta, salad etc. We skipped that part of the meal.

The tour de force of the meal was the veal chop. I think they had smashed it down a bit and then fried it and made it into a veal parmesan. It was really great. Seeing as we had already ate a ton, I left about half on my plate. You've gotta leave room for dessert right? That would be the tiramasu.












Here are some pictures of what we skipped. If I had to pick, I'd take dessert over appetizers all day long.





The restaurant had a bit of an open kitchen.






Let's discuss some of the other meals. Breakfast is the only meal that I'll eat in my room. When we had an early excursion, we ordered room service. The food was fine. The only problem was the service. They were friendly and prompt, but I think twice they forgot to actually put the table cloth down. They brought it with them, but never put it out. Hmmm...







I think there was one morning when I took my breakfast and ate on the veranda. That's the way to eat on a cruise. Take in some fresh air with your fresh squeezed OJ.



Dinner in the MDR was very nice. We were at table hosted by one of the salespeople for Regent. Kenny knew her well and we shared the table with another travel agent and husband. The restaurant had amazing light fixtures. My understanding was that they wanted to get Chihuly, but he couldn't do the stuff in time. What they got was beautiful. The entire restaurant was gorgeous.

This light fixture is even bigger...the picture doesn't show the entire length.




I ordered surf and turf and they had a little problem with it. In addition to the steak and lobster I also ordered something else, like scallops maybe? Those came much later as they forgot. I would have preferred to have them put the steak and lobster on the same plate, but because it was a made up S&T, they sorta had to order each individually and bring two plates. It was silly, but perhaps they weren't set up yet for any deviation. The first course was a caviar profiterole.















We had another dinner in their steak house. They served up some legit pieces of meat. Again, this restaurant was aft and we got a table all the way aft next to the window. I present to the viewers a variety of pictures of steak and other stuff...













Look! Attention! A little vegetable made it on my plate! I think i even ate some









Following are some pictures from the breakfast in the MDR (I think that's where we ate, but I wouldn't swear on it. It could have been at La Veranda also).



















Eating by the window is second best to eating outside. I think we forgot about the outside and just grabbed one of the first tables we saw. Total rookie mistake LOL. Now that I think about it, we must have been at La Veranda...



Caviar for breakfast! Why thank you






Lunches on the ship were pretty decent, but not as great as the dinners. We ate by the pool at their cafe. Following are some pictures from various lunches. I sorta forgot to film it all







Can you find the lobster in the Lobster Nachos? We had a difficult time...




The best meal by far was at the Asian restaurant. I'm so glad that Kenny got us in. Originally they didn't have a reservation for us there and we were either in the MDR or the French place. Holy cow was this good. We ate with a travel agent and her friend. I think that if we ate this quality and quantity at a restaurant in a big city, the meal would have been $1000 without booze. And it would have been worth it. We even dragged the chef out and visited with him.

The food was fantastic. The very best lamb chops I've ever had. We had to wave a waitress down to put in an order for more. She said "you know, it'll take another 15 minutes or so..." I told her that we would patiently wait...Really, the food was that good. And the restaurant was beautiful as well. They art they had in the lobby was stunning.


























Really, there was not one bad bite of food. So much more to eat! We basically ordered the entire menu







I believe the following dish was brought over from Oceania. The Miso glazed cod was amazing. OMG, I want more now please!












We ate and ate and ate. We shut the place down! We brought out the chef so we could personally bow at his feet.


The final meal was the last night of the cruise. I'm not sure if this is offered on regular cruises, but they had a poolside BBQ/buffet dinner party.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present without comment the last food pics for tonight! I was so hungry and thirsty posting all of these pics, I had to go downstairs and get a drink...



































And that's a wrap for tonight. Please accept my apology if this post either bored you or caused you to go to your fridge and chow down.

The dinners on the ship were really exceptional, especially the Asian and steak meals. OMG, the lamb chops in the Asian place were worth swimming to Asia for!

The next post will be of the ship and the cabin. I'll preview the post by saying that the ship was fantastic looking.
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Old Aug 25, 16, 10:33 pm
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Thanks for reading DanielW. I love your reports, so it's gratifying to know that you've read one of mine.

New smell is no joke...they hadn't hung all of the artwork yet. That included the Picassos in the huge suite.

Originally Posted by DanielW View Post
Being among the first to sail on a brand new cruise ship must have been quite an experience! I guess it had that fresh 'new' smell too.

Looking forward to seeing some more of the maiden voyage.

Mike&co - we realize we're fortunate to be able to do a luxury cruise. Though I wonder how far off it is from a cruise "one step down" if on that other ship you get a very large suite, drink a lot and go to specialty dining.


Originally Posted by mike&co View Post
Really looking forward to the cruise section. I've been on 14 Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruises but can't stretch my finances to book Silversea, so looking forward to seeing what I can't afford
Linda VH - my problem is that I like all of the cruises...I have come to the conclusion that no cruise line or ship is perfect and as long as you pick from a certain few, pick the one that has the best itinerary.

Originally Posted by Linda VH View Post
Looking forward to your review. DH and I really like Regent - just did a Silversea and didn't like it as much. We are looking at a December Caribbean on the Explorer.
Annalisa12 - That rope is great!
Originally Posted by Annalisa12 View Post
Love that rope so that economy folks cannot just wander up and use the business or first bathroom.

Look forward to the rest of the report.

JamieABZ -- Cruising is great. I wouldn't do it exclusively, but I really like it. Sea days are the best.

Originally Posted by JamieABZ View Post
Great report so far! Really looking forward to the rest. I've tried to convince a few Flyertalkers about the merits of cruising over the past couple of years, but no deal.
I'm on Celebrity Reflection on Monday round the Greek Islands and Turkey, can't wait - never managed to do a luxury one yet, but I will I hope. Enjoy the trip!
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Old Aug 26, 16, 12:02 am
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Enjoyed the commentary and pics! We have cruised on Crystal and are not ready to try another luxury line. The Asian restaurant may be the tipping factor: great food pics!

When cruising with family, we scale back our $$ and expectations to Princess where I have 'Elite' status.
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Old Aug 26, 16, 4:24 am
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Great trip report and wow at the choice of foods on the cruise! :O
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Old Aug 26, 16, 4:52 am
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The food looks evil! While I wouldn´t touch the meat there is still enough to eat, that I would have to buy a lot of new clothes after the trip.
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Old Aug 26, 16, 7:51 am
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8dimsum - I've heard good things about Crystal. I'd say pick what you like and go for the itinerary you like the best. We've not taken our kids on a luxury cruise, only Disney and NCL. The Haven in NCL helps bump up the service and amenities over a standard cabin. Kenny got us a great deal on 3 cabins for our cruise December 2015.

Originally Posted by 8dimsum View Post
Enjoyed the commentary and pics! We have cruised on Crystal and are not ready to try another luxury line. The Asian restaurant may be the tipping factor: great food pics!

When cruising with family, we scale back our $$ and expectations to Princess where I have 'Elite' status.

Nequine - Thanks for the kind words. The food was really excellent.

Originally Posted by nequine View Post
Great trip report and wow at the choice of foods on the cruise! :O

Offerendum - Thanks for reading. I could almost give up meat if the alternative was that Miso Cod. Beyond words. I won't lie; I brought my stretchy khakis on the cruise

Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
The food looks evil! While I wouldn´t touch
the meat there is still enough to eat, that I would have to buy a lot of new clothes after the trip.
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Old Aug 26, 16, 9:12 am
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Now I'm changing my mind re the Asian restaurant. Looks yummy - if we get a chance to go in December I'll definitely make a res. Thanks!
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Old Aug 26, 16, 11:42 am
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thanks for the review. We haven't done Regent in years but did have a good experience. I'll be interested to see your thoughts on Seabourn- I thought that the food and expereince was a step ahead of Regent...

FDW
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