Iceland/Ireland Cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse
5/10/16 to 5/22/16
Due to the length of the review, it is in 4 parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top of each page.
Page 1 - Embarkation from Southampton, England, Ship, Dining, Entertainment, Activities
Ports of Call: St. Peter Port, Channel Islands
Page 2 - Ports of Call: Cork, Ireland; Akureyri, Iceland
Page 3 - Ports of Call: Isafjordur, Iceland; Reykjavik, Iceland Day 1
Page 4 - Ports of Call: Reykjavik, Iceland Day 2; Belfast, Northern Ireland
For many years we have seen the beautiful photos of Iceland in various media. It looked like an incredible place to visit to experience nature’s wonders. While on a Panama Canal cruise in 2014, we saw that Celebrity had a cruise that spent four days in Iceland in three different ports. I couldn’t resist booking to visit a place that had been on my bucket list for many years. In addition, we would be able to return to Ireland, a country we had always wanted to revisit after our first trip there in 2004.
Pre-cruise in Yorkshire
In 2015, our friends Paul and Gail invited us to visit them in Leeds, England before the cruise. They wanted to show us all around Yorkshire. We were thrilled to be able return to Yorkshire. We had only been able to spend a couple days there in 2013, when we did a driving tour around England.
We have done a separate review of the wonderful five days we spent in Yorkshire with our dear friends Paul and Gail. They are the best tour guides ever. If you wish to see our adventures in Yorkshire, you can click on the link below:
We spent the night before boarding the Eclipse at the Premier Inn West Quay in Southampton. The hotel is modern and clean; plus, Premier Inns always have elevators and air conditioning. The location is very nice with the West Quay mall so close to it. Additionally, they are adding an addition with restaurants and stores right across the street from the hotel.
Even though you can see the ship right across from the hotel, you can’t easily walk to the port. However, the cab ride is less than $10.
We have found Southampton to be a very easy place to embark a ship. The luggage handling is very quick and efficient; as is the security and check-in. This time was no exception. We breezed right through and were on the ship around 11:00 AM.
For sailaway, there was a prearranged get together for those of us that had been communicating on www.cruisecritic.com prior to the cruise. We gathered at the Oceanview Bar at the back of deck 14. By meeting there, we could easily move into the Oceanview Buffet if the weather was bad. The weather was quite comfortable and we got to meet a lot of people we had communicated with for over a year. We also met some that we would be touring with during the cruise.
We were very lucky to be embarking on this particular day, because in addition to the Eclipse, Cunard’s three queens were also embarking from Southampton. The Queen Victoria was in front of the Eclipse.
The Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth were behind us. It is most unusual for all three to be in the same port together, so there were lots of people in port to see them. We had a very good view of them, especially as we passed by them as we were leaving the port.
As we were moving toward the ocean, we saw a large castle and a copper domed church.
I had hoped to be able to get a view of Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s summer home on the Isle of Wight. Unfortunately, as we got closer to the island a thick fog came moving across the water. I guess I will have to wait until our next cruise out of Southampton to see Osborne House.
I went back to our cabin to get ready for dinner. The cruise had started.
Since we did a complete review of the Eclipse public areas in 2013, I am not going to include it again for this review, since minimal changes have been made to the ship. If you want to see what the ship looks like, you can click HERE to go to the Baltic review page. I am making comments and including photos of changes below.
Quasar – The night club has been reduced in size to make room for a larger Future Cruise Office. It made a lot of sense to do this, since Quasar was too large for the number of people using it late at night. Plus, the smaller size makes the club seem fuller and more intimate; which is better for guest interaction.
Future Cruise Office – This was one change that I was really pleased about. The previous office was much too small for the activity level. I booked a future cruise there not long after we boarded. It turned out to be one of the few times that there wasn’t a line waiting to see a representative. It is a very popular place.
World Class Bar – This is just a name change to the former Molecular Bar. They do have different drinks than before; but it is still a bar with more expensive delicious exotic drinks.
Luminae Restaurant - This is the new restaurant that is only for suite guests. There are no set seatings in this dining room. It is located on the starboard side of deck 3 and was created by taking away space from the Moon Light Sonata Main Dining Room. It is a tastefully elegant room and felt quite comfortable to me. Below are photos I took of the Equinox Luminae Restaurant, since it is the same as the Eclipse.
I thought that the fluted light fixtures added a nice touch.
Xcelerate Internet Service – With internet connectivity becoming more important to cruise passengers, Celebrity upgraded the previously very slow service to a faster service called Xcelerate. We were looking forward to seeing how much better it was; but were very disappointed. Most times it was very slow for us and similar to the old service. While in Iceland, I checked the speed and it was 1.25 mbps. This is much slower than what others had reported obtaining. I went to the Celebrity iLounge to ask about it. The attendant told me that we were on what is classified as an extreme cruise, due to the latitude we were traveling in. Apparently, the signal strength from the satellite deteriorates as we cruised further north. I checked it again between Ireland and Southampton and the speed had increased slightly to 1.88 mbps. Still not great; but it was consistent with what the attendant said. I am sure that the internet service was also being used by more people, thus reducing bandwidth; since the cool weather eliminated most outdoor actives. The service also went completely down for several hours.
We use T-Mobile for our mobile phones. Their packages include free international data in most countries. This is invaluable when in ports or along the coastlines. The only downside is that it is normally at the slower Edge speed. However, this service was faster than what we received while at sea on the Eclipse.
Martini Bar – I normally only have alcoholic drinks at parties and an occasional beer at home. The only time I go to bars is when on a cruise. Since I had a beverage package included with our booking, I would go to the Martini Bar each evening before dinner. I met some interesting people that would also go at the same time and we would chat away. There were two outstanding bartenders that really made my visits to the Martini Bar quite special, Senior Flair Bartender Edi from Bali and Flair Bartender Win from Indonesia. Edi, particularly, was a real character and constant source of entertainment.
One evening he put together two martini flights at one time. A flight is a menu item that includes six different types of martinis. It was quite an operation to stack the individual shakers with ice, so that they would be just the right distance apart. Then at the appointed time, another bartender poured the 13 martinis at one time. There was an extra one to balance out the stack of glasses. I took a video, since no words can do it justice.
Other – We found that the ship seemed to be constantly vibrating while under power. If the Eclipse had been a car, I would have thought that the tires needed to be balanced. We did get used to it, but it did make us worry that there was something not right about the ship. Since the ship performed fine during the cruise, it must be something that is normal.
One thing that we noticed was missing this cruise was the port brochures. We like to get the brochure each night that includes a map of the port we will be visiting, along with sightseeing attractions. It is possible that since this brochure is also used to promote Celebrity approved stores, there might not have been any in the ports we visited to justify its printing. I don’t know.
We booked cabin 8257, which is on the hump in the middle of the ship. Its location is perfect in that it is close to the midship elevators. This is important on the Solstice Class ships, since there is no aft elevator. Cabins near the back of the ship require much more walking to get to different areas of the ship. Cabin 8257 also has a balcony that is 3 times larger than the standard balcony. Since we had 8257 on the Eclipse and Silhouette in the past, we knew we would be very happy with it again.
The cabin is nicely arranged and relatively roomy for a non-suite cruise ship cabin. The air conditioning worked very well; although on this cruise, with its colder outside temperatures, it didn’t have to work too hard. We had plenty of storage space and the luggage fit nicely under the beds. There is a coffee / tea maker that takes up a lot of the space on top of the desk area. We knew that we would not be using it, so we asked our attendants to remove it, which they gladly did. The desk has two US plugs and one European two post plug.
By moving the chair out of the way, we were able to put Carol's TravelScoot under the desk. It worked out very well, since it didn't get in the way at all.
The bathroom is adequately sized and there is plenty of storage space.
With the cabin veranda being about 3 times the size of a standard veranda, it is normally a real benefit on a warm weather cruise. Not so much on a cruise to Iceland.
The view down to the water is pretty much unobstructed. The view to the front and back of the ship is also nice.
We had two very good cabin attendants, Luis from India and Nestor from the Philippines. I have to say that Luis was one of the friendliest and sweetest cabin attendants we have ever had. It was always such a pleasure to see him throughout the day in the hallways. He was always smiling and cheerful with something nice to say.
Dining (Link to Menus)
I have included copies of the bar menus and menus for the main dining room along with photos of some of the food items at the Menus link just above and at the top of each page of the review. Please note that the bar prices include the tip, so they are approximately 18% higher than US menus. Unlike most Celebrity cruises, those starting in England do not have a separate line for adding the tips on food or drink.
We selected fixed early seating that started at 6:15 PM. We had a table for six that we shared with two lovely British couples, Mike and June from the Isle of Mann and Keith and Carol from Birmingham, England. So there were two Mike’s and two Carol’s at the table. We lucked out with these great table mates. In addition to their being just lovely pleasant people, they were a wealth of information about the British Isles. We looked forward to dining with them each evening.
Mike & June Keith & Carol
As usual, we were quite pleased with the dining room food. So much so, that we didn’t go to any of the specialty restaurants on this cruise. With the cruise starting in Southampton, England, the food selections were slightly different than we are used to. The standard food items that are available every day, usually stays the same on most cruises. On this cruise, however, instead of the normal everyday entrée Sirloin Steak, it was replaced with Irish stew on some nights and grilled calves liver on others. Yorkshire pudding was an addition as one of the everyday side items.
We did notice some other changes to the food in the main dining room. It did appear that the protein portions were smaller than previous cruises and there were some new items. I like to order Osso Buco when it is available. On this cruise it looked more like beef wellington and there was no bone in it. It still tasted good; but it just wasn’t the same. There also seemed to be too many entrées that had green beans and carrots as the vegetables for the dish. We also found that other than the very good French onion soup, the other soups were watery. We also found the dessert selection weaker than usual. Most of our table ended up ordering apple pie ala mode or crème brulèe each evening. Even with the changes, the main dining room food was still most enjoyable.
On a positive note, each night along with the bread brought to the table, we were also served a cheese selection. I didn’t pay attention to see if this was being done at all the tables; but we sure enjoyed it.
Our waiter was Sonor from Turkey. His assistant was Bablu from India. They had good personalities and attended to all our needs.
On this cruise, we went to the buffet for every breakfast and lunch, other than one time when we went to the Elite continental breakfast in the Tuscan Grill. We could always count on finding something to eat, since there was always a good selection. The only issue on this cruise, due to the colder weather, was that it was always very crowded; which made it a challenge to find a seat. Passengers couldn’t go outside to eat, nor eat at the Pool Grill, which wasn’t open due to the weather. This was a problem all over the ship because with no one using the pool area or promenade deck, there weren’t enough places for people to sit. It was also a challenge to find a seat at the always full Café al Bacio.
Our Cruise Director was Damian De Lorenzis from Toronto. I really liked him. He had a pleasant personality and provided helpful information during the shows and other events he was involved in. Unlike some CD’s we have had, he didn’t throw in silly jokes that the passengers have heard many times over or make the shows about himself.
I was really pleased with the entertainment on this cruise. The individual performers were just outstanding and it was a very good mix of different talents. In addition to the performers shown below, some shows were done with production show singers performing as soloists. With the colder weather and people not being able to use the pool deck, Damian had matinees each sea day of some of the performers to provide activities for the passengers. This is the first cruise I have been on where almost every evening and matinee show was standing room only. I would get to the shows a half hour early to get a decent seat to take photos from and there was always a line at the door waiting for it to open.
British comedian Paul Eastwood was so funny. It is always so enjoyable to see a comedian with a different type of routine and totally new jokes. His interaction with the audience was also quite amusing. Unfortunately, he was only on the ship for one day and didn’t have a matinee. I would have enjoyed seeing more of him.
Singer Andrew Derbyshire was a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent. He made it through to the semi-finals. He got his start on the west end; but sang many types of music during the show.
The Queens of Rhythm were a tribute to Motown, soul and disco. The three girls gave an outstanding performance. In addition to their having great voices, I enjoyed their coordinated routines during the songs. They were very talented.
Violinist Craig Halliday was a real treat. He is an amazing musician who has performed before members of the British Royal Family including the Queen. He played a very nice selection of all types of music, which kept the audience most pleased. The only disappointment was when his performance was over. We wanted more.
British comedy magician Phil Hitchcock was a real talent. Some magicians do the same old tricks that I tire of. Granted, I don’t know how they do them; but they can get old. Phil, on the other hand, was more of a comedian who used the magic as a conduit for his humor. He did some amazing tricks; but the one I will remember the most was at the end of the show, his signature trick. He blew up a giant sized balloon. Then in some way he put his entire body inside of it by first pushing his head into the side of it. He then jumped around the stage inside the balloon before he popped it. It was most impressive.
Brett Cave is a very talented British pianist. He played all kinds of music. He would really get into it and stand up while playing to keep it even more interesting. The audience really got into what he was playing. It wasn’t your normal piano concert.
Ventriloquist Gareth Oliver got his big break on Britain’s Got Talent. It was quite funny how he would talk to members of the audience in the front row. Rather than hear what the person was saying, he would answer the questions for them as a ventriloquist with very funny responses. I am sure that it was most embarrassing for those he did it too; but it was most hilarious for the rest of us. He also did a routine with his wife, who was also a ventriloquist. They would talk for each other in their own voice. Rather different. Later in the show, he finally brought out a dummy, which was a cute monkey. It was quite funny. At the end of the show he did a routine that many ventriloquists are now doing where a fake mouth, that Gareth controlled, was put onto an audience member’s face. As many times as I have seen this type of act, it was still hilarious. Gareth was a funny guy.
Stand-up comedian David Copperfield is known for his role on a popular 1980’s British TV show he starred in with Tracey Ullman and Lenny Henry. He was quite a character. In addition to being funny, he also played the guitar and sang pretty well. At one point he sang an Andrea Bocelli song that many people thought was actually a recording. He had to prove that it was actually him by singing things that couldn’t have been recorded. He is a talented fellow.
I had seen Phil Collins tribute singer Rob Lewis on last year’s transatlantic cruise. I wasn’t that impressed with him then and just went to the show to see if the show had changed. Unfortunately, it was the exact same show. Just like last year, many in the audience left early into the show, just like I did. I have included photos I took from the first time I saw him.
Production Shows –
We had read that Celebrity had brand new production shows since we cruised on the Equinox last year. We were looking forward to seeing them, since we had seen the old shows many times before. The shows were quite different and for the most part very good.
The Chandelier – The show starts out with one of the singers, who is portrayed as a hotelier, telling a story about a magical chandelier in his hotel. The story goes on for way too long before the music begins. As the show progresses, the story gets more confusing; but more importantly to me, it becomes distracting. The singers and dancers were quite good; but it was our least favorite of the shows. As with all of the production shows, they had some talented acrobats and aerialists.
Rock City – This was a most entertaining show. It was in a rock concert format with a good variety of music. We enjoyed it much more than the first show.
Topper – The last show was the best in our opinion. When we entered the theater there was a large top hat in the middle of the stage. When the show began, the story was based around the hat, with performers coming out of and going into it. It was well done and the story did not get in the way of the main purpose for the show, the music. The music in this show was the most current of the three shows and really well done. The costumes were also the most colorful. Unlike the other shows that lasted 45 minutes, this one was a full hour, and we were glad it was longer; since it was so good.
Beyond the Podium Speakers
I always enjoy going to the lectures while on a cruise to learn about our upcoming ports and other subjects that are discussed. On this cruise, with only four sea days, there wasn’t much time for lectures. But the ones we had were enjoyable and educational.
Cathy Hurst – Cathy is a former US State Department employee who worked all over the world. She recently retired and is now lecturing about the countries she lived in. She lived in Belfast for many years and is uniquely aware of life in this country that at one time had serious internal conflicts. She had three lectures titled “Understanding the Troubles”, “Belfast – City of Walls, City of Murals” and “The Titanic – It was fine when it left Belfast”. The first lecture was held in the smaller Celebrity Central theater. It was way too small. Normally SRO stands for standing room only. In this case it meant sardine room only, since we were packed like sardines. It was really a shame that so many people had to be turned away that wanted to hear Cathy’s talk. This was corrected for next talks that were in the Eclipse Theater, which was also full each day for her talks.
I was surprised that there were no lectures about Iceland, since we would be visiting there for four days and there were three talks about Belfast, which was our last port of the cruise. After our visit to Belfast, I was most appreciative of the information and stories she shared over the three talks, since they brought to life the scenes we would see while we were there.
Huw James - Huw only had one talk and it was titled “Night Sky”. He tried to do it the first sea day; but they couldn’t get his program to work on the projector, so it was moved to the second sea day. Since the talk used a program that showed the sky with the constellations, it was obvious why he couldn’t do the talk without it. The program was similar to a star gazing app I have on my iPhone. He was quite knowledgeable and provided a lot of history and information about the constellations. Because he was moving the sky around on the screen quite a bit, it did make it a bit uncomfortable to watch; kind of like playing a fast action video game.
Cruise Critic Celebrity Connections Party – We have been on the website www.cruisecritic.com for 15 years. It has provided us with so much valuable information that has helped us so much. By joining what is called a roll call on Cruise Critic, we can meet other people that will be cruising on the same cruise as us. This is very helpful in setting up private tours with other people; plus, it allows us to meet people before the cruise that we will become friends with during and after the cruise. Celebrity sets up what is called a Connections Party, where those that have signed up for the party are able to meet others from the roll call. We had a very large group on this cruise. The party was held at 10:15 on our first sea day in Cellar Masters. They are normally held in the larger Sky Lounge with groups of this size. It was crowded; but it worked out fine.
Cruise Director Damian hosted the event. Most of the officers and other important people on the ship attended, including the captain.
Ports of Call
St. Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands
I always like to wake up early to see the ship entering a port. I was especially interested in this port, since we had never been to Guernsey and had no idea of what to expect. This is a port that has not been frequently visited by cruise ships in the past, which made it even more interesting.
When I got outside on the upper deck, I found that the fog that had rolled in while leaving Southampton had also visited Guernsey. Fortunately, it wasn’t as thick; but it was still disappointing. The weather forecast also was not good. I guess that our weather luck had run out.
Our Cruise Critic friends, Don and Liz, had arranged a walking tour for the morning with a well-known guide, Annette Henry (http://annettehenrytours.gg). Since this was a tender port, it made it challenging for our group of 19 to be able to meet and leave the ship at the same time. Several of us had Elite or greater status with Celebrity, that allowed us priority tender tickets; but most didn’t. With Celebrity, the tender tickets are normally handed out in the theater. The first people there get the earliest tender ticket numbers. This can take a while if there are several early ship tours; since they tie up the first tenders. With Guernsey, there weren’t any early tours. In fact, they didn’t even hand out any tender tickets until 8:30; so anyone that wanted to get on a tender after we anchored at 8:00, could just go down to deck 2 and board a tender. Once everyone had arrived, we all headed down and were able to get seats on the first tender. The tender took around ten minutes to get to the dock. The ride in was quite nice and the port looked most interesting, with lighthouses and fortified walls. The fog had also cleared and the sun was shining brightly. We would find out later, that it was a good thing we were on the early tenders.
Since we had gotten into port so early, Annette hadn’t yet arrived. The tour wasn’t supposed to start until around 9:00 and we were 40 minutes early, so we were able to look around the dock area. It looked like this would be a great town to explore and the marina area was quite attractive.
As any good tour guide should do, Annette did arrive earlier than her designated time, so we were able to start the tour 20 minutes earlier than planned. As soon as we met Annette, we knew that we had chosen a great tour guide. She was full of energy, enthusiasm and a sense of humor. She also knew everything about Guernsey and its history. We would find that she had a most unusual and entertaining way of teaching us about it.
She pointed out a marker at the dock memorializing the day that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited Guernsey in 1846. We would see all sorts of structures commemorating the visit; when in fact it only happened due to a bad fog that required they dock somewhere. Plus, they were only there for a few hours and left as soon as they could.
We started our walk by going up behind the Guernsey Town Church.
We then walked over to a statue of two donkeys. The national animals of Guernsey are the donkey and Guernsey cows. Guernsey residents are traditionally nicknamed donkeys and their fellow Channel Islanders from Jersey are nicknamed toads. The traditional explanation for the nickname is because they needed donkeys to transport goods due to the steepness of the hills. Although the residents prefer that the nickname regards their stubbornness.
The architecture is varied since the island is much closer distance wise to France than England and has been in possession of both. It did make the walk more interesting.
We then stopped at an open area where criminals were publicly punished. Annette used members of our group, along with some props she brought along, to demonstrate several of the tortures. Below are some examples of how criminals were punished with knives and whipping. She got her point across.
She walked us through a very narrow walkway to an area where she discussed the plague and issues with rats. Fortunately, the rat used in her explanation was made of rubber.
We then continued our walk along the narrow flower lined streets with all kinds of cute shops to explore after the tour if we wanted to.
Annette showed us pictures of what we would be seeing if we had been standing where we were in the early years of Guernsey.
We stopped in front of the Island Police station, which was a hospital in the 18th century. She pointed out the bird with young chicks at the top of the wall. She said that the bird was a sign of piety.
We then walked up another hill to see the Candie Gardens http://museums.gov.gg/candiegardens . In addition to the Victorian gardens, there is also a museum to visit if interested. There weren’t a lot of plants blooming in the first part of our walk; but the azaleas were definitely showing off their colors.
When we got to a viewing area, we could look down and see the Eclipse shrouded in fog. We were surprised, since it had been sunny the whole time we were on the island. We found out later that our table mates, Carol and Keith, had been stuck on a tender for over an hour just after 9:00 waiting for the fog to clear before being able to come into port. That would not be a pleasant experience. We had been most fortunate that we came in before the fog rolled in. By the time I took the below photo, it was an hour after the bad fog had covered the ship.
We then moved to a different section of the gardens that was quite pretty. I could also see a statue of Victor Hugo in the distance. He had spent 15 years in exile in Guernsey and wrote Les Miserables while living there.
I walked up closer to the Victor Hugo statue to get more photos. The museum entrance was close by up the steps. But we obviously didn’t have time to check it out while on the tour.
We then walked past a statue of Queen Victoria. It was quite a nice statue and one of many things referencing the queen.
Our last major destination for the tour was the Queen Victoria Tower, that was erected in 1848, commemorating Victoria and Albert’s short visit two years earlier. The 100-foot tall tower is quite attractive. Annette told us that the view of the island from the top was exceptional and we had time to climb up if we wished. I can’t pass up a photo opp like that.
The interior rooms that we passed through while climbing up the circular staircase were small and provided a short rest if one needed it.
When we arrived at the viewing platform, we were glad that there weren’t a lot of people climbing up with us, since there wasn’t a lot of room on the narrow walkways.
As expected the views were very nice; but with the skies clouding up and some fog in the distance, it didn’t make for the best photo conditions. The Eclipse was still sitting in the fog; but it was a bit better.
We could look down and see the massive Castle Cornet, that we had passed by on the tender in the morning. It is actually on an island 600 yards off the coast of Guernsey. The original fortified castle was built in the 13th century.
After taking all the photos I wanted, I headed back down the very narrow staircase. When descending it was easier to get a photo of what the staircase is like in case you should ever visit Guernsey.
When we got out of the tower, Annette told us another story about how criminals were dealt with in Guernsey in the good old days. It was quite realistic as you can tell from the photo. She really had a way to keep everyone’s interest in the stories she told. I was so happy that I had been able to take the tour; but disappointed that Carol couldn’t have gone too. She was wise not to, since there was a lot of walking and her scooter would have been challenged by some of the grades.
On the way down from the tower, we saw an antique classic car. I don’t know what kind it was; but it was a looker.
Walking back to the dock, we had to go up and down the lovely streets. I got a kick out of the lion statues with the British flag hats on their heads.
When I got back to the dock area, I was able to get photos of the Prince Albert statue. It must have been a memorable few hours when they visited.
One of the things that Carol and I had planned to do during our visit was to take the public bus around the island. It is quite popular with tourists, since it only costs £1 per person to see the whole island. The original plan was that I would go back to the ship to pick up Carol and then return for the bus ride. With the sun hidden by the clouds, the temperature getting colder and the fog looking more threatening, we decided that it probably wouldn’t have been that enjoyable of a ride at that time. The bus stop was just behind Prince Albert’s statue and there were a lot of people lined up to get on it.
On the way back I rode on the top of the tender to be able to get photos of the dock area. It was a bit cold, but worth it. I was quite surprised to see small motor boats that were being used as pilots for each tender. I had never seen anything like that before. Perhaps they were needed because of the possible fog rolling in unexpectedly.
I was able to get some nice shots of Castle Cornet. It might be worth a visit should we ever return to Guernsey. I was pleased that the weather had been so nice during the tour, which allowed me to enjoy the lovely island.
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