Travel Expressions Ltd.'s Blog

It was a fabled event in military history and has become etched into popular culture, the subject of movies, documentaries, novels and real stories shared by veterans returning to their homes.

2019 marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day. With every passing year, there are fewer and fewer veterans alive who landed on Canada's Juno Beach, Britain's Sword and Gold Beaches, and America's Omaha and Utah Beaches in the desperate effort to gain a foothold and begin liberating Occupied Europe. 

Their sacrifices and success have become legend, and we can still pay tribute to the power of people and nations banding together to achieve a noble goal. 


HELP THE LANDING BEACHES ACHIEVE UNESCO STATUS


The initiative to list Normandy’s D-Day Landing Beaches as a UNESCO World Heritage Site aims to preserve the Beaches and the stories of the people who fought for freedom and shared values of humanity.

You can join tens of thousands of people who have signed the petition at

normandiepourlapaix.fr/en/liberte-jinscris-ton-nom


The online form asks (in French) for you to add your
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Email
  • Country
  • Age
  • City
  • Check that ‘you’re not a robot’, then
  • Click the ‘Valider’ blue button
to register your support.

 

VISIT THE D-DAY LANDING BEACHES


For countless families across Canada and the United States whose fathers, brothers, grandfathers and uncles fought on D-Day or in any battle of World War 2, as well as students, new citizens, community groups and military and veterans' groups, the Landing Beaches in Normandy, France are an essential travel destination to honor, first-hand, the monumental task and tremendous sacrifices of D-Day, and walk in the very footsteps of the soldiers who landed there.

The Landing Beaches are easy to reach for any traveler to Northern Europe. Ask your travel advisor to help you find the perfect pilgrimage Here are some of the options that take you to American Landing Beaches and Canada's Juno Beach Centre.

Independent travelers can take rental car, private tour or train (especially if you get a rail pass) and public transportation from all major Northern European cities including Paris, London, Amsterdam and more.

Or you can join a land tour, shore excursion from a river cruise, or even from an ocean cruise calling in a northern French port.

  • Globus, Collette, Trafalgar and Insight Vacations land tours include the Landing Beaches as part of general-interest tours of France or Northern Europe, as well as war memorial or battlefields tours of the region;

  • Avalon Waterways, AmaWaterways and Uniworld Seine River cruises from Paris offer shore excursions to the Landing Beaches; and

  • Oceania Cruises and Princess Cruises calling in Le Havre offer shore excursions including American and Canadian Landing Beaches.

We often look for meaningful acts of Remembrance. Supporting the UNESCO listing of the D-Day Landing Beaches, and making a once-in-a-lifetime trip to our Landing Beaches in Normandy help keep the history of D-Day alive for us all.


Start your Trip!


 
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There’s a constellation of Michelin stars and celebrity chefs bringing their award-winning dishes, TV show hits and cookbook favorites to guests on cruise ships in all the seven seas. 

Dare we say it? Sometimes, the culinary experience afloat is even better than on land, where you may line up around the block or try to book a table in a decorated chef’s restaurant months in advance. And you might need those extra months to save up for the gastronomic indulgence. 

Cruise guests don’t just have easy access, with chef partnerships making their signature culinary stylings available to all the guests on board. The token fees charged for cruise line specialty restaurants by superstar chefs are a fraction of what you’d pay at any of their restaurants on land.

And in some very special cases, at the luxury level of cruising, whether a chef has consulted on an entire ship’s cuisine, or master-minded a single specialty restaurant, these stellar culinary experiences are included in your cruise!

Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host and Cruise Expert of BestTrip TV, shares her favorite, surcharge-free gastronomic experiences at sea. 

Thomas Keller on Seabourn Cruise Line

The American chef with the most Michelin stars and a string of renowned restaurants including Napa’s The French Laundry and NYC’s Per Se, created The Grill by Thomas Keller for ultra-luxury Seabourn ships. 

You’ll delight in elevated classic and mid-century steakhouse atmosphere and dishes, some you don’t see often any more, like Lobster Thermidor, and Caesar salad prepared tableside, accompanied by choice selections of wines and crafted cocktails. 

WATCH VIDEO ABOVE FOR A TASTE OF THE GRILL BY THOMAS KELLER ON SEABOURN

Keller also presents popular, family-style set menus some evenings in the casual Colonnade. What’s more, there’s no additional cost for Keller cuisine on Seabourn. 

Nobu on Crystal Cruises

Japanese meets Peruvian cuisine in the kitchens of Japanese celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa, who has a host of acclaimed restaurants in major gastronomic cities around the world… and on the two exquisite Crystal ocean cruising ships. 

(Photo: Crystal Cruises)

Umi Uma & The Sushi Bar serve the only Nobu cuisine at sea, and they are included in your cruise fare once each for every week-long cruise. Delectable sushi and sashimi are offered, along with fusion dishes like Nobu-style Lobster with Truffle-Yuzu sauce, or a bento box of chocolate souffle cake with shiso syrup and sesame ice cream. 

Jacques Pépin on Oceania Cruises

He’s been with Oceania since its first ship sailed, and shaped the culinary signature of what Oceania bills as ‘the finest cuisine at sea’. The French Legion of Honor member, whose resume includes a long-running, beloved PBS TV series, cookbooks and time spent as the personal chef of multiple French presidents including Charles de Gaulle, brings his mastery of exhalted French cuisine to the Oceania fleet, where all dining, including specialty restaurants, is complimentary.  

(Photo: Oceania)

In addition, on the Marina and Riviera, the restaurant Jacques re-creates an authentic, relaxed Parisian bistro dinner experience. Decorated with heirloom antiques and art from the chef’s personal collection, it’s an escape to the streets of Paris, with rotisserie turning fragrant roasts and seafood is served in classic French style. 

Alain Ducasse on Ponant 

French luxury cruise line Ponant turned to another French culinary legend to ensure the excellence of the cuisine and a ‘French touch’ on its fleet of small jewels of ships. Alain Ducasse remains one of the most decorated chefs ever, with restaurants in Europe and the Americas making him the first chef to have 3 restaurants awarded 3 Michelin stars at the same time.


(Photo: Ponant)

On Ponant’s intimate ships, dining takes place in one or two restaurants (some Ponant ships have both a ‘Gastronomic’ restaurant and an casual, al fresco style Grill). Ducasse ensures the French focus on cuisine thrives on Ponant ships with refined dishes that speak to the shared French heritage, as well as dining inspired by local ports of call.

Jean-Pierre Vigato on Paul Gauguin


(Photo: Paul Gauguin)

The ship Paul Gauguin epitomizes French Polynesia, famous for sailing exclusively in the South Seas. The ship’s namesake French artist, the French Polynesian itineraries… and a French chef raised in the French countryside and rising to the level of having his own, Michelin-starred restaurant on Paris’ Champs-Elysees.  

(Photo: Paul Gauguin)

In addition to L’Etoile,the ship’s main, fine dining room,and Le Grill, alfresco casual dining, the Paul Gauguin has a third dining venue, and all are included in your cruise fare. La Veranda, the third venue, is transformed in the evenings into a gourmet restaurant serving Vigato’s gourmet cuisine. 

James Beard Foundation Chefs on Windstar Cruises


Rather than partnering with a single - or multiple individual chefs, Windstar has partnered with America's most beloved and prestigious culinary institution, the James Beard Foundation. Windstar has formalized its relationship as the Official Cruise Line of the foundation, whose annual awards are referred to as the Oscars of America's culinary scene.

(Photo: Windstar Cruises)

Together, they bring some of the country's most talented chefs and sommeliers on themed Windstar cruises, where they shape the onboard dining program. Imagine dining on dishes created by not just one celebrity chef, but a list of all-stars with the likes of Maxime Bilet (The Cooking Lab), Evan Hanzcor (Egg), and Jose Mendin (Pubbelly Noodle Bar, Habitat, Baja Bao). Windstar's themed cruises featuring James Beard Foundation chefs and beverage experts are a foodie’s dream, with chef demos, special beverage pairings, and market tours.

From classic or modern or destination-inspired French cuisine, to elegant Japanese and creative fusion, to elevated cuisine from across America.  

Of the countless reasons to treat yourself to a luxury cruise, one of the best must be the gastronomic delights by some of the world’s most acclaimed chefs - that are already included features of your cruise.

Start your Trip!



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3 New Cruise Line Private Islands
It used to be that private islands were the playgrounds of the ridiculously rich and fabulously famous. Then cruise lines got into the game. Now, cruise lines are competing with each other to build exclusive tropical enclaves in the Caribbean for their guests to experience not just a day on the beach, but create travel memories they can't get anywhere else.

Most of the actual private cruise line islands are small, uninhabited islands ('cays', pronounced 'keys') among the hundreds of islands in the Bahamas, like the very first cruise line private island in the Caribbean, Norwegian's Great Stirrup Cay, Holland America's Half Moon Cay (WATCH VIDEO OF HALF MOON CAY HERE), and Disney's Castaway Cay.



Harvest Caye is a private island off coast of Belize. It's for guests of sister cruise lines Norwegian, Oceania and Regent.


But the term 'private islands' has also expanded to include private cruise line day resorts developed on larger, inhabited islands, like Labadee on Haiti for guests of Royal Caribbean, and Princess Cay on Eleuthera in the Bahamas.

And cruise lines continue to acquire real estate to up the ante on the ultimate resort experience for a day ashore on the beach.

Whether you've never stepped foot on a cruise line private island, or you've got a favorite you cruise to over and over again… check out these new private island destinations you can only reach by cruise ship.

They're all in the Bahamas, but designed by three very different cruise lines, and offer three very different private island experiences. Find your cruise line private island match!


 
The Cruise Line: Virgin Voyages
The Destination: The Beach Club at Bimini, the Bahamas
The Experience: High-Style Island Beach Club/ Music Festival on the Beach

As Sir Richard Branson launches his new, adults-only cruise line, Virgin Voyages, and its first flagship, the Scarlet Lady, he also launches a private island destination just for Virgin Voyages guests.


No, not HIS private island. But The Beach Club on the Bahamian island of Bimini takes its cues from Sir Richard's famously high-living, party-loving, music industry persona. Along with exquisite beach and turquoise water, The Beach Club provides an atmosphere like beach party destinations Ibiza and St. Tropez.


A detox/retox formula starts with beach yoga and meditation to the sounds of the sea earlier in the day, chilling in hammock groves and cabanas, snacking on complimentary, locally-sourced island cuisine and sipping cocktails from 6 bars, playing on the beach and taking part in watersports, leading up to in-demand DJ-led pool and flotilla parties in the evening, and finally winding down late at night with a beach bonfire and acoustic music before a very late night ship departure.

The Cruise Line: MSC Cruises
The Destination: Ocean Cay Marine Reserve, the Bahamas
The Experience: Soft Adventure Meets Nature on the Beach


Only 65 miles off Miami, MSC will also be able to offer late night departures from its new private island (pictured, top).

7 beaches, each with its own atmosphere and experiences, ranging from shallow paddling for small children to water sports. Dining includes food trucks that incorporate local flavors, and multiple bars including one inspired by Hemmingway's famous taste for rum cocktails overlooking the ocean. MSC's Aurea Spa treatments are available on shore at Ocean Cay. And shopping includes vendors of local arts and crafts as well as branded items.


In addition to the usual beach-side water sports, Ocean Cay offers eco-friendly soft adventure experiences like kayak tours and snorkel safaris highlighting the natural beauty of the island and its seas.

Ocean Cay is surrounded by dozens of square miles of protected seas, and that's the point. The development protects the local wildlife and ecosystem, and there are plans for a coral nursery to actively contribute to the region's environment.
 
The Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
The Destination: Cococay, the Bahamas
The Experience: 'The Perfect Day at CocoCay' / Over-the-top Theme Park on a Beach

Royal Caribbean ships are whirlwind experiences of ice skating rinks, climbing walls, theme park type rides, restaurants and shopping… more than you could hope to ever do in a single week of cruising. Its new concept, 'Perfect Day', is a collection of private islands around the world that take 'thrill and chill' to a new level, beginning in the Bahamas with 'The Perfect Day at CocoCay'.


Perfect Day at CocoCay is a shopping list of record-breaking builds, adrenaline-charged activities, and unexpected firsts: The tallest waterslide in North America. The largest wave pool in the Caribbean. The first overwater cabanas in the Bahamas. The Up, Up and Away helium balloon ride that takes you 450 feet up to the highest viewpoint in the Bahamas. A soaking by 30 water cannons on a shipwrecked galleon, and an 82-foot geyser. A 1,600-foot zip line – ending with the only splash water landing in the region. A freshwater infinity edge pool and bar, spanning a whopping 2,600-plus feet. And a whole host of other dining, drinking, and shopping activities to pack a full day even fuller.




Royal Caribbean believes Perfect Day at CocoCay will live up to its name – and set the scene for more Perfect Day Island Collection destinations in the Caribbean as well as Asia and Australia.
 
These 3 wildly diverse new cruise line private islands prove: there's a perfect new cruise – and a new cruise line private island - just waiting for you to discover.

Start your Trip!


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Maybe you've had the fun of a zip line adventure before.  But have you ever taken a zip line over the ocean? 

When Norwegian developed Harvest Caye, its private island beach resort port of call for cruises in the Norwegian family: Norwegian Cruise Lines, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania, it took the concept of a zip line adventure to another level (pardon the pun.)

Standing tall on the island is the 'Flighthouse'.  A tower that looks, no surprise, like a lighthouse.  It's the focal point of the island's air-borne adventures.  Guests depart from the Flighthouse onto ropes courses over the beach and lagoon, and this is where you can take flight on a zip line that sets you sailing over the crescent-shaped beach, then right over the water to a safe landing back on shore.  It was a highlight of our BestTrip.TV visit to the island, and we're sure it will be yours, too.

Start your Trip!

 

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This is a cruise line private island experience we haven't seen before.  Our Caribbean cruise on Regent Seven Seas Cruises included a day at Harvest Caye, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable days of our cruise. And when you watch the video you'll see why.

Harvest Caye is an island a mile offshore mainland Belize.  Like other cruise line private islands, Harvest Caye was developed as a beach port of call in the Caribbean for its guests by parent company Norwegian for its Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Oceania guests.

It's a spectacular, resort-style experience. There's a 7-acre pristine beach. You can relax in clamshell tents or even better, in one of the luxury beach villas with porches over the water, hammocks, dining and beverage options and dedicated concierge service.

Or head to the pool.  This extravagant 15,000 square foot oasis has a swim-up bar and tables in the water, elegant lounges and canopy pool cabanas with beverage service.

A 130 foot tall 'Flighthouse' looks a lot like a lighthouse, but gets its name as the island's point of departure for adventure:  an over water zipline or ropes course. There are also eco/ water sports like kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing in the lagoon alongside the wildlife.

Authentic and Sustainable

The Shopping Village, with its outdoor art festival, local musicians and dancers, high-quality local retailers of locally made chocolates, spirits and artwork including local woodwork, features street-style Belizean cuisine for that truly authentic local flavor.

The development preserves and improves the local eco system, uses indigenous, responsible hardwoods in the buildings, and is creating 500 direct and 1500 indirect jobs for the local economy.

All those things you might expect from a well-planned cruise line private island that also wants to support and authentically reflect its host community, Belize.

But Harvest Caye takes that responsible approach one step further with a Wildlife and Conservation program.

Wildlife and Conservation:

The development of Harvest Caye has boosted local environmental conservation. More than 15,000 new mangroves have been planted to increase the natural estuary habitat for birds, fish and other marine species.

Conservation programs and education efforts have been developed by award winning author and wildlife expert Tony Garel, Harvest Caye's Chief Naturalist, who supervised a wildlife interaction program so you can actually meet and learn about local wildlife.  Tony is on the island daily to lead tours of the wildlife experience. 

Tony's love for and commitment to Belize's plant and animal life were the highlight of our visit, and meeting Tony will be the highlight of your visit to Harvest Caye, too.  (And his friends, Belize's National bird, the toucans.) 

Start your Trip!

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Cruise to Cuba? Yes You Can!

10 ways you can cruise to Cuba this year.

One of the biggest travel stories of the past year has to be the renewing of relations between Cuba and the US and the rise of Cuba as a destination for American travelers. Cuba has long been a favorite sun and culture destination for Canadians and Europeans. Only US citizens were prevented from traveling to the Caribbean's largest island.

Now American cruise ships are permitted to sail to Cuba, and late in 2016, Cuba approved a number of US cruise lines' applications to make port calls.  A few international cruise lines could always go, and they have increased sailings and itineraries.  So cruising to Cuba is one of the biggest travel stories this year.

Canadians and Europeans now have a lot more choices to cruise to Cuba, and Americans now have that cruise option, although they still need a visa. US cruise lines now sailing to Cuba generally facilitate a 'people-to-people' visa for American guests.

BestTrip.TV's cruise expert Lynn Elmhirst rounds up 10 ways you can cruise to Cuba this year.

From single days in port in Havana, to a week or more exploring the island, cruises to Cuba allow you to get a taste or immerse yourself in Cuba's culture, history, and natural wonders.

ALL-CUBA CRUISES

Celestyal Crystal

This Greek line claims to offer the only true circumnavigation of Cuba on 7-day, all-inclusive cruises departing every Monday from Havana, and every Friday from Montego Bay, Jamaica.  

Formerly known as Cuba Cruise, this cruise began sailing 3 years ago, and now sails year-round in Cuba on a 1200 passenger ship that was renovated in 2016. They offer the p2p program visa for American citizens.

Itineraries include two days in Havana and various calls including Maria La Gorda, known for its impeccable beachfront and underwater marine life, the perfect destination for scuba divers, snorkeling enthusiasts and beach lovers, Punta Frances on the Isle of Youth, Cienfuegos, an 18th-century fortress, and historic Santiago de Cuba, 16th century capital of the Spanish colony of Cuba.

Ports and shore excursions provide city tours, history, adventure, cultural walking tours, hiking, beach days and snorkeling to passengers of all ages and tastes.  This cruise is family-friendly, with a supervised children's program for 4-12 year olds.

National Geographic - Lindblad Expeditions

Lindblad Expedition cruises' partnership with National Geographic means these cruises are for travelers serious about in-depth expertise: photographers, naturalists and cultural specialists join guests on the 11-day trips. These land and sea tours are an extension of Nat Geo's existing land tour programs, and they fulfill the p2p visa requirements for Americans.

Trips begin with a flight from Miami, and include several days in Havana, as well as stops in Trinidad, Cienfuegos, the historic Bay of Pigs, Isle of Youth, and Cayo Largo.

Fewer than 50 guests are on board the Panorama II, a small expedition ship, as it makes ports of call that highlight Cuba's marine and natural wonders and culture, highlighting music, history, and interacting with locals like artists, mechanics who inventively keep those classic US cars running, members of Cuba's renowned medical community, and naturalists protecting endangered species.

Natural highlights include searching for the smallest bird in the world, the bee hummingbird, a visit to a sea turtle breeding center, diving, and lots of wildlife and scenic photography.

G Adventures

Canadian tour operator G Adventures provides a less intense/ serious, and more youthful and affordable version of a Cuba expedition cruise on its 8-day 'marine tour' of Cuba's Canarreos archipelago in a catamaran with only 14 people on the tour. This cruise option is one of several types of trips to Cuba the company offers.  Americans are welcome, but need to arrange their own visas.

Cruises start and finish in Havana, and spend 5 low-key, soft-adventure days exploring off-the-beaten-path islands and island communities, with relaxed days of snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, easy exploring, visiting lighthouses, enjoying seafood dinners, and lazing on deck or on the beach. 

Pearl Mist

Pearl Seas Cruises (a sister company to American Cruise Lines), offers 10-night 'Cuban Cultural Voyages' that fulfill the American p2p visa requirements.  On the 200-passenger Pearl Mist, guests enjoy luxury elements including all private balconies on its 100 staterooms and high-end culinary offerings, but the company also makes sure to point out that there is elevator access to all decks and on board medical for its senior guests. 

These cruises run January through April, 2017, and start up again in November.  There's a packed program of stops on the island beginning with 2 days in Havana, and other ports include Isla de la Juventud, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, El Cobre, Santiago de Cuba and Parque Baconao.

Guests engage first hand with local tradespeople, artists, musicians and historians at museums, national parks, art studios, architecturally significant homes and UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Photos courtesy MSC Cruises

CRUISES THAT OVERNIGHT IN HAVANA

MSC Opera and MSC Armonia

MSC Cruises, a European company, was one of the first major cruise lines to feature Cuba in its itineraries for its European and Canadian guests. The cruises have been so popular, MSC has homeported 2, 2000-passenger ships, the Armonia and the Opera, in Havana.

Guests spend about 2 days in Havana on MSC itineraries. MSC does not design its Cuba itineraries to meet American citizens' requirements for p2p visas, so guests have more flexible options that include not only historic and cultural attractions, but also beach days in Cuba as part of cruises that also include other Caribbean destinations.

Azamara Quest

Royal Caribbean's smaller-ship, sister brand Azamara has just one Cuba port of call this season: it's added an overnight in Havana to one 12- night Caribbean cruise on the Azamara Quest departing March 21st from Miami with stops in Key West, Tampa, New Orleans, and Cozumel, Mexico as well as Havana.

The cruise line says it's planning to introduce more dates and more Cuban ports, but it already offers an impressive line up of 6 of its signature 'Land Discoveries' immersive destination programs, including Hemingway's Havana and Havana by Classic American Car.   The programs fulfill visa requirements for Americans, so this cruise is a destination-focused opportunity for the Azamara Quest's 700 guests to get a taste of Cuba.

Seven Seas Mariner

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is the only North American classic luxury cruise line to sail to Cuba – yet. 

It has added Havana to two Caribbean cruises aboard the 700-guest Seven Seas Mariner on April 11th and 18th.   The itineraries are identical, with an overnight in Havana as part of week-long cruises that also call on Harvest Cay, parent-company Norwegian Cruise Holding's upscale resort destination in Belize.

Regent Seven Seas cruises are all-inclusive, with fares that include airfare, unlimited shore excursions, alcoholic beverages, WiFi, gratuities and more.  Its Cuba tours fulfill US p2p visa requirements and provide guests with authentic Cuban experiences that explore the people, music, art, history and culture of the island.

Norwegian Sky

Norwegian Sky, with 2000 guests, is the largest US vessel sailing to Cuba in 2017.  NCL has scheduled 5, 4-day roundtrip cruises from Miami to Cuba on May 8, 15, 22 and 29th. 

The cruises overnight in Havana, and also spend a day at Norwegian's private island resort in the Bahamas, Great Stirrup Cay. Norwegian Sky's cruises to Cuba, like some of its others in the Caribbean, include an open bar, so overall, these short cruises will have mostly a party atmosphere.

However, guests will be able to go ashore to visit sites in Cuba's capital, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Havana, and experience the local art and music scene; engaging with local artists (and fulfilling US p2p visa requirements).

CRUISES WITH ONE PORT DAY IN HAVANA

Marina

Oceania's Marina is the first of the Norwegian family of cruise lines to sail to Cuba. The 1250-guest, upscale ship begins one day or overnight calls in Havana in March, with programming that meets visa requirements for Americans.  These 10 day or two week Caribbean cruises depart from Miami in multiple itineraries that also include NCL's new private island resort Harvest Caye in Belize.

Empress of the Seas

Royal Caribbean recently updated and renovated the 1600-guest Empress of the Seas for its Cuba itineraries. Beginning in April, 4, 5, and 7-night cruises depart from both Miami and Tampa on Western Caribbean itineraries with one day in port in Havana.  Royal Caribbean's Cuba shore programming allows Americans to meet visa requirements while enjoying Royal Caribbean ship experiences like rock climbing, multiple pools, restaurants, nightlife, and even the Cuban-inspired dance club Bolero.

Cuba is a brand-new destination for Americans, and cruising to Cuba is novel even for Canadians.  A travel advisor can help you choose the right ship and itinerary, and navigate the details to ensure your cruise to one of the world's newest cruise destinations is all you dreamed.

 

Start your Trip!

 

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