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Paris Permenter & John Bigley's
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Friday, August 31, 2007

St. Lucia's Coconut Bay Resort Offers Winter Special

As vacationers know, not only is winter the very best time to go to the Caribbean, it's also the most expensive time.

But we've received word that St. Lucia's all-inclusive Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa is offering an Early Bird Paradise Special, providing guests who book their winter vacation before November 1, 2007 with a discount of up to 40 percent off regular room rates.

Package Dates:
The Early Bird Paradise Special is valid for travel between January 1, 2008 and March 31, 2008 on bookings made by November 1, 2007.

Travelers visiting between January 1, 2008 and January 31, 2008 receive a discount of 40 percent off regular room rates. Guests who book for travel between February 1, 2008 and March 31, 2008 will receive a 35 percent discount off rooms.

Price: During January, rates are $342 a night for a deluxe Gardenview room and $366 a night for a deluxe Oceanview room. Families can also save at Coconut Bay with the discount Family Suites at $594 a night. During February and March, rates begin at $370 a night for a deluxe Gardenview room, $396 a night for a deluxe Oceanview room and Family Suites are $643 a night.

Why It's Good for Families: The resort is located on 85 coconut palm-fringed acres along St. Lucia’s exotic south coast, just a short transfer from the Hewanorra International Airport. Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa offers 254 rooms, three swimming pools, a full-service spa, CocoLand Kidz Klub and the island’s largest water park. Families can stay in rooms close to all the action of the CocoLand Water Park and Kidz Klub (there's a separate wing for adults traveling without children).

Through the Adventure St. Lucia desk in the lobby, guests can book excursions to go on a zip-lining canopy tour, ride ATVs, mountain bike in the rainforest and hike the Piton Mountains. For those who want to take to the water, it’s also possible to arrange for off-site snorkeling, scuba diving, windsurfing and kite boarding.

For more information:
• visit http://www.cbayresort.com
• call 866-978-6226

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Special Holiday Family Plan Package from MSC Cruises

Holiday travel to the Caribbean is expensive--that's the peak of peak season--so it's good to see a Caribbean holiday package that's now being offered by MSC Cruises.

The Family Plan Package: MSC Cruises is offering a special Family Plan promotion on its December 28 New Year's sailing of MSC Lirica. Family Plan prices start at $499.50 per person, quad occupancy, for an inside stateroom (government fees and taxes are additional for all passengers). Oceanview staterooms begin at only $75 more per person ($574.50), quad occupancy.

On the 7-night December 28 Western Caribbean itinerary, MSC Lirica sails roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale and calls at Key West, Georgetown, Cozumel and Nassau, and includes two days at sea.

What It Includes:
Rates include onboard dining and international entertainment for the entire family. Onboard MSC Lirica, guests can enjoy the line's "Beautiful. Passionate. Italian." cruise experience, including the decor, authentic Italian cuisine, and European ambiance.

As an added bonus, North American residents who place a reservation need only place a $100 deposit per person, based on double occupancy. To qualify for the Family Plan, reservations must be made by September 30.

Rates quoted are USD, cruise only. Offers are capacity controlled; restrictions apply and subject to availability. Offers maybe withdrawn at anytime without notice.

For more information:
• visit http://www.msccruisesusa.com

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Reader Question: Which of Jamaica's Beaches Resorts is Closest to the Airport?

Dear CaribbeanFamilyTripper,

I'm looking at the Beaches resorts in Jamaica but can't figure out which is closest to the airport. I have a 10-year-old who won't mind the drive but a restless 3-year-old who will! Thanks, Christine B., Philadelphia


Dear Christine,

Thanks for your email. The Beaches resorts in Negril are a shorter drive from Montego Bay's Sangster International Airport than Beaches Boscobel, which is located east of Ocho Rios. We'd estimate just over two hours for the drive to Beaches Boscobel and about an hour and a half from the airport to Negril, which is home of both Beaches Negril (which is larger and has a waterpark) and Beaches Sandy Bay (where you can hop a free shuttle and use the facilities at the larger property).

In Jamaica, you can also hop a small plane to connect from Montego Bay to either Negril or Boscobel but these are charter flights. Time-wise it's worth it to Boscobel but, to be honest, by the time you get your bags and check back in for your charter flight, you might as well hop on the free shuttle and enjoy the drive to Negril. Happy travels!

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

DR's Barcelo Bavaro Palace Hotel Offering Premium Club Upgrades

This April we had the pleasure of staying at the Barcelo Bavaro Palace Hotel to attend the tourism convention for the Dominican Republic. It's a fun all-inclusive with a massive beach and easy access to the ajoining Bavaro resorts (the Barcelo Bavaro Beach, The Barcelo Bavaro Caribe, The Barcelo Bavaro Casino and The Barcelo Bavaro Golf, all connected by a free train).

The Barcelo Bavaro Palace Hotel, which is the signature property within the Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort, is now offering guests an automatic upgrade to Barcelo's Signature Premium Club Service when they book a suite or master-suite accommodations.

Guests enjoying the new Premium Club Services will have access to:

-- Private guest registration upon arrival and personalized check-out upon departure.
-- Complimentary early check-in and late-check-out.
-- Use of the exclusive Premium Club Lounge -- located at the Convention Center and offering complimentary internet service, as well as premium brand complimentary cocktails and refreshments throughout the day and evening.
-- Priority seating and reservations at the resorts a la carte gourmet restaurants, as well as a private buffet breakfast at the Resort's gourmet restaurant 'Chez Palace.'
-- Children receive a special "Club Barcy" gift.
-- Express laundry service (same day return).
-- A 10% discount at the Resort's many shops and select activities.
-- Additional personal concierge services such as flight confirmations, additional reservations and special requests.
-- Turn down service and amenity upgrades in the guest suites.

The Barcelo Bavaro Palace is the third Barcelo resort to add Premium Club Services, joining the Barcelo Punta Cana Resort in the Dominican Republic and the all-suite Barcelo La Jolla de Mismaloya Hotel in Puerto Vallarta.

Why Families Like It: Almost all of the resort's guestrooms are located directly on the beach with the majority enjoying ocean views. Amenities at the resort include a casino, an 18-hole golf course, three theaters, disco, 14 restaurants, and pool and beach activities. Guests fly into the Punta Cana International Airport.

For more information:
• visit www.barcelo.com
• call 1-800-BARCELO

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Two for One Sale at Chukka Caribbean in Jamaica

We've received word that Chukka Caribbean Adventures, the top nature tour provider in Jamaica, has extended their Buy One Get One Free sale for their tours in Jamaica.

To qualify for this limited time offer, you'll need to make all bookings at http://www.chukkacaribbean.com now through September 30, 2007. Tours must be taken between September 1, 2007 and October 31, 2007.

Your free tour must be of equal or lesser value than the tour purchased and must be offered at the same location. This offer applies to tours in Jamaica that are booked online and does not include Polo Collection Tours.

Chukka Caribbean has a huge assortment of family-friendly tours in Jamaica ranging from canopy (zipline) tours, to horseback rides (that includes swimming with the horses in the sea), safari tours, kayak adventures, tubing down Jamaica's rivers and more. We've had the pleasure of taking Chukka Caribbean tours and can say firsthand they're an excellent outfitter.

For More Information:
• call 1-877-4-CHUKKA
• visit http://www.ChukkaCaribbean.com

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cancun Update from Palace Resorts

We've received good news from Mexico's Palace Resorts; the all-inclusive resorts sustained a little minor damage but they're all up and open for guests. Here's a rundown on the particular properties:

Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort
· Resort is open and currently accepting guests.
· All pools are open
· All indoor and outdoor restaurants and bars are open
· Moon Spa & Golf Club is open
· Paintball area is open
· Beach and beach lounge bar are being cleaned and will be ready in approximately 4 days or sooner

Cancun Palace
· Resort is open and currently accepting guests
· Rooms were unaffected
· Pools and resort bars are operating. The Beach Bar is being cleaned and is expected to reopen within a week to 2 weeks.
· All restaurants are open. Mercado Restaurant (International) is only operating indoors. The outdoor terrace is currently closed.
· Lobby, gym and kids club are open and operating
· The beach is expected to return naturally in a few days depending on weather conditions.
· The amphitheater will reopen by Monday, August 27th.
· The solarium area is expected to reopen by mid next week.

Sun Palace
· Resort is open and currently accepting guests
· There were no damages to the property and the resort is operating at 100%

Aventura Spa Palace
· Resort is open and currently accepting guests
· Rooms were unaffected
· All pools and restaurants are operating
· The beach coves are currently being cleaned and expect to reopen in phases.
· By the end of next week the south beach cove will reopen.
· The North wedding gazebo is currently being repaired; however, we have 2 additional gazebos for weddings.
· The outdoor spa cabins are currently being repaired, but there’s no estimated time as to when it would reopen.
· The spa cabins located in the main spa building suffered no damages and are currently operating.

Playacar Palace
· All areas are 100% operational except the pool, which is currently being cleaned. The resort is expected to reopen on Friday, August 24th
· Guests scheduled to arrive on the 22nd or 23rd will be accommodated at Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort
· Playacar Spa & Golf Club is open

Xpu-Ha Palace
· The resort is expected to reopen Saturday, August 25th. The beach will be restored at a later date
· Guests scheduled to arrive between the 22nd & 24th will be accommodated at Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort

Cozumel Palace
· The resort is open with all areas operating at 100%.

Beach Palace
· No major damages. The resort is still on schedule to open on December 1, 2007

Isla Mujeres Palace
· No major damages. The resort is still on schedule to open in Fall 2007


Palace Resort has also informed us about some of the most popular area attractions. Tours of Chichen-Itza, Tulum, Ekbalam, Coba and Wet N’ Wild offered through the resort will resume operation as of Thursday, August 23rd. The status of all remaining tours is currently under advisement.

The Cancun International Airport is open and operating as normal. Guests are encouraged to check with their airline for updated information.

· Rescheduling: If guests wish to postpone their vacation and travel at a later date, Palace Resorts will protect the original rate for travel up to one year after original departure date. Guests will be allowed to travel from August 22, 2007 thru August 22, 2008 (except the dates from December 15, 2007 thru January 3, 2008).

All bookings must be rescheduled within 30 days after a hurricane strikes and are based on availability and blackout periods apply. Rate protection will only apply to the number of original nights and number of guests booked. (Additional nights or guests will be booked at current rate). No name changes allowed.

For more information:
• call (800) 635-1836
• visit www.palaceresorts.com

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Reader Question: Our Passports Aren't Back Yet!

We applied for US passports for the whole family this summer but our passports still aren't here! We are booked for a trip to Aruba next month. What should we do? --Gina B., Burmingham, AL

Dear Gina:

You're in luck; American travelers can travel to the Caribbean through September 30 by showing proof that they're waiting for a passport. Go to http://travel.state.gov/passport/get/status/status_2567.html to print out a form that shows you're waiting (and waiting...)

You can also check the status of your passport application online. Processing times are taking much longer than usual so your wait isn't unusual right now, unfortunately. Travelers who are traveling within the next two weeks should contact the passport agencies for help; if you're traveling within the next seven days, contact the National Passport Agency directly via phone or email.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Early Cancun Reports After Hurricane Dean

Just hours after Hurricane Dean roared through the Yucatan, we're already receiving updating on the condition of hotels. The family-friendly Blue Bay Club in Cancun is reporting no structural damage. The hotel is fully operations and open for arrivals.

We also received word that Oasis Hotels & Resorts, which operates 10 hotels throughout Cancun and the Riviera Maya, have weathered Hurricane Dean quite successfully according to preliminary reports. They report that there is no flooding or major damage at the resorts. Communications such as land lines and cell phones are operational, electric power is operational, and most importantly, so far no one is reported hurt in the destination.

Hopefully this is a good sign that at least the northern portions of the Yucatan escaped serious damage with this terrible storm.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Hurricane Dean Updates

We've been receiving word from Jamaica all day in the wake of Hurricane Dean, and we're happy to say the news has been good. The North Coast, where most of the resorts are located, received a fairly light blow from the storm and most damage on that side of the island was cosmetic. We've already heard from several of the family resorts: all the Sunset Resorts and Beaches Resorts are reporting that they're fine and, if not receiving guests right now, will within a day or so.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hurricane Season Picks Up

Well, what started as a fairly slow hurricane season has picked up steam and quickly! As we sit in our Texas offices writing this, the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin are blowing in and we watch the progress of Hurricane Dean as it grows and heads to the Caribbean.

In fact, Joe Bastardi, Chief Hurricane and Long-Range Forecaster at AccuWeather.com, plans to update his 2007 Hurricane Season Forecast on August 21 and will reiterate the pre-season forecast for five or six landfalling storms and an extremely disruptive and potentially destructive latter part of the hurricane season. “The pattern is pulsing just at the worst time of the season, when the Atlantic season, on average, becomes alive,” said Bastardi.

So what should you do in planning your fall Caribbean trips? Before booking, check into the resort's hurricane guarantee policy. A growing number of properties are offering these now to reimburse you for lost days when those named storms come rolling in.

If you've got a trip coming up this week or next, be sure to check the National Hurricane Center on the NOAA site for the latest hurricane updates and maps.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Reader Question: Is Malaria a Problem in the Caribbean?

Thanks for your question. In general, malaria isn't a widespread problem in the region. The Dominican Republic has had a problem for the last several years in the Punta Cana area. You'll find more information on the specific warning on the Dominican Republic Consular Information Sheet.

Another area of concern is Kingston, Jamaica. The outbreak there is waning but it is a concern. Most family travelers never get anywhere close to Kingston, however, but fly in and out of the Montego Bay area where there is no warning. You'll find current information on the Kingston outbreak on the CDC site.

Two good resources for current malaria warnings are:

• the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
US State Department

The state department site includes information on specifics about any other health concerns on each island.

All in all, malaria and other mosquito diseases aren't a big concern in the Caribbean but it's always a good idea to carry bug sprays and lotions (and far cheaper to bring them from home than to buy them on the road!)

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Beaches Turks & Caicos Hosting Learning Program


This fall, Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort & Spa will host a five-day exclusive “Learning is Everywhere” program presented by Jeanette Bentacourt Ed. D., vice president for outreach and educational practices at Sesame Workshop.

Dates:
Guests arriving between September 27, 2007 – October 1, 2007 will receive information on the week’s ‘Learning is Everywhere’ theme, as well as information on scheduled activities and a tip sheet on everyday learning opportunities that can be used during their stay at Beaches Resorts and while back at home.

The Week's Activities: Guests staying at Beaches Turks & Caicos during this week will be invited to sit in on an intimate, 45-minute session with Dr. Betancourt, where she will discuss the importance of taking advantage of the every day learning moments that exist within our daily routines – morning, noon and night. As parents listen in on these great tips, children will gather around in a separate area for a bedtime story read by their favorite Sesame Street characters.

Parents will have the opportunity to submit questions to Dr. Betancourt, who will address all questions following her DVD presentation. The entire session ends with parents and children receiving handouts containing age-appropriate tips and activities to encourage learning at home and on the go.

“The ‘Learning is Everywhere’ program is one of many ways in which Beaches Resorts continues to foster and leverage its very close relationship with Sesame Workshop,” said Adam Stewart, CEO of Beaches Resorts. “It is our collective goal to provide guests with programs and activities that are not only entertaining but also meaningful as well as useful tips that they can implement in their everyday lives.”

Also, during this special week, Sesame Street-themed boxes and posters will be placed throughout the resort, containing different everyday “learning missions,” such as a box containing shells and rocks for a sink versus float experiment in the pool. Other activity boxes will encourage families to go on a hunt for native island flowers or close their eyes and listen to the unique sounds of the ocean.

For more information:

• call 1-800-BEACHES
• visit www.beaches.com

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Puerto Rico's Rio Mar To Offer Family Breakfast Package

You may have heard that the former Westin Rio Mar Resort in Puerto Rico is now (since May) the Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa-A Wyndham Grand Resort, The resort is undergoing a huge renovation and has had its doors closed since the May chance but will reopen in October with a refreshed look. A multimillion-dollar redevelopment will include an upgrade of the two 18-hole golf courses, hotel lobby, and guest rooms. The resort is also is home to a casino and the Mandara Spa, a Balinese-inspired retreat that offers over 25 therapies ranging from Caribbean coffee body scrubs to soothing coconut and milk wraps.

Like many of the other Wyndham resorts, the Rio Mar will be offering the Family Breakfast Package when it reopens. It includes:

• Overnight accommodations for two adults and two children

• a full breakfast for two adults and two children (age 13 years and under)

• Children of Wyndham ByRequest members also receive a free KidsByRequest welcome pack which includes:

* A cool beach bag
* Groovy luggage tag
* Granola bar
* And either a disposable camera with keepsake photo frame or Uno® cards

For More Information:
• visit the Wyndham breakfast package page

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Carnival Revamps Pools, Adds Aqua Parks

Long a favorite with cruising famillies, Carnival Cruise Lines is unveiling details for new resort-style pool areas and "Carnival WaterWorks" aqua parks on its eight Fantasy-class ships, part of the line's $250 million "Evolutions of Fun" enhancement program.

The new resort-style main pool areas, located mid-ship on Lido Deck, will feature umbrellas providing shaded seating at pool's edge along the tiled "beach" bordering the circumference of the pool. A thatched roof will cover one of the two whirlpools at either end of the swimming pool, providing guests the option of shaded or sunny relaxation in the bubbling water. Towering faux palm trees, along with more thatched roofing over new, centrally positioned staircases further enhance the tropical resort-style ambiance.

New "Carnival WaterWorks" aqua parks will be introduced on Verandah Deck aft on Fantasy-class ships and will feature a four-deck-high, 300-foot-long spiraling tube water slide, the biggest, longest and most elaborate in cruising. A separate 82-foot-long triple-lane waterslide will be featured, as well, while much of this deck area will be occupied by an expansive spray park that will offer multiple and varied water spray apparatus, creating cool and exhilarating fun for kids and adults, alike.

Both the mid-ship pool areas and "Carnival WaterWorks" parks will be accented by comfortable lounge chairs and teak decking.

The first two ships to begin receiving these features, as well as "Serenity" adults-only deck areas, are the Carnival Imagination and Carnival Inspiration later this year, with implementation on the balance of the line's Fantasy-class fleet expected to be completed by the end of 2009.

"Evolutions of Fun" is a $250 million product enhancement initiative that began in 2005 and includes renovations to virtually every guest area on the line's eight Fantasy-class ships, the Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Sensation, Carnival Fascination, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Elation and Carnival Paradise.

Many aspects of the "Evolutions of Fun" program have already been implemented on several ships, including fully remodeled staterooms, suites, and bathrooms, flat-screen televisions in staterooms and select public areas, atrium lobby bars, updated sound and lighting systems in various lounges and clubs, coffee bars, nine-hole miniature golf courses, new art and photo galleries, New York-style delis in the Lido restaurants, and purpose-built conference facilities.

The program also includes makeovers of the ships' 12,000-square-foot spa facilities, custom-designed clubs for the 12-14 year old age group under the line's top-rated "Camp Carnival" children's program, inter-connecting staterooms on some ships, and elaborate new sound and lighting systems in the ships' main show lounges.

Digital renderings of the resort-style pools and "Carnival WaterWorks," along with additional information on the "Evolutions of Fun" initiative, can be viewed at www.evolutionsoffun.com.

For more information:
• call 1-800-CARNIVAL
• visit www.carnival.com

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Cancun Hosting Family-Friendly Party

If you're headed to Cancun later this week, don't miss the second annual Cancun Beach Party. Sponsored by the Mexican Caribbean Public Relations Association, the August 10 - 12 event will take place along the beaches of Cancun's hotel zone and will bring together local people, tourists and the destination's leading travel and entertainment companies.

This year's festival will feature a 100% family-oriented program of events, including beachfront tennis and soccer tournaments, culinary displays and exhibits, kite flying contests, a nighttime boat parade and an exclusive concert by singer Julieta Venegas.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

September, October Sale at Beaches Resorts

While most families don’t want to think about the end of summer, right now is the best time to scoop up exclusive fall travel deals to the Caribbean.

For families traveling this fall, Beaches Resorts in Jamaica and Turks & Caicos is offering travelers up to 45% off regular rack rates. Rates begin at $159.50 per person, per night with a minimum three-night stay. Non-stop fun awaits family members of all ages at Beaches’ Pirate’s Island Waterparks, exclusive Crayola Art Camps, Caribbean Adventure with Sesame Street, Sesame Street Stage Shows and more!

Parents will particularly enjoy Beaches’ exclusive Red Lane® Spa or the “Parents Night Out” bundle which includes a 50-minute Couples Massage for Mom & Dad, sundown champagne and a chocolate-dipped tropical fruit treat on the beach, a private four-course candlelight dinner, complete with private white-glove service, personalized menus, champagne and 5x7 resort photo. Of course, this deal wouldn’t be complete without three hours of private nanny services with activities for kids 1 – 12 years old.

For More Information:
• visit www.beaches.com

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Monday, August 06, 2007

The Tuscany on Grace Bay Offering Summer Special

The Turks and Caicos--with their easy going style, close proximity to the US and incredible waters--make a great family getaway. Now your family has another good reason to visit: a summer package in the three-bedroom condo-hotel suites at The Tuscany on Grace Bay.

Each one of The Tuscany's thirty, three-bedroom, oceanfront suites faces the world-famous Grace Bay Beach. Two generous guest bedrooms each with adjoining bath, a master bedroom with luxurious platform contoured soaking tub, separate over-sized shower and double vanity sinks, ultra modern gourmet kitchen, and a spacious living room/dining area plus an enclosed patio overlooking the beach create an upscale atmosphere with an emphasis on leisure.

Outside, The Tuscany offers an Olympic-size European swimming pool, Jacuzzi and lounge areas within the Italian-inspired courtyard. There is a lighted tennis court, gym, and a helpful concierge service in the entrance foyer to book a variety of off-site recreation options.

Just steps from the beach, guests at The Tuscany can swim in the ocean or walk the length of Grace Bay marveling at what Conde Nast Traveler deemed the "Best Beach in the Caribbean."

Price: Regular off-season rates for the three bedroom suites would normally run $975 per night however, from August 1st through October 31, 2007, families booking 7 nights at the discounted rate of $675 per night, plus tax, only pay for 5 nights! For shorter visits, those booking 3 nights get the 4th night free.

For more information:
• visit www.TheTuscanyResort.com

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