Monday, 27 June 2011

Cruise Fremantle - Queen Mary 2 New Zealand - Istanbul - Fort Lauderdale Cruise - Mount Annan -


CLASSIC International Cruises will next year offer its first-ever line voyage from Australia to Europe via South Africa instead of the Suez Canal, with the traditional liner, Athena making the journey over '40 days and 40 nights'.

The mid-sized, 600-passenger Athena will sail from Perth on April 14, 2012 for Portsmouth in the UK, with the 40-night voyage taking passengers to many destinations rarely visited by Australians, including Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic isles of St Helena, Ascension, the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands as well as Mauritius, South Africa, Morocco and Portugal.

Price starts from $6995 per person, twin-share, with fares for solo passengers in selected cabins just 30 per cent more than twin-fares instead of double.

Classic International Cruises is also offering the chance to sail the first half of the voyage from Fremantle to Cape Town – an 18-night cruise priced from $3575 per person, twin-share, with the solo traveller supplement as low as 30 per cent in selected cabins. The second half of the voyage from Cape Town to Portsmouth, a 22-night cruise, is available from $4220 per person, twin-share.

"A voyage aboard Athena is cruising as it was meant to be, with a sense of the ocean, adventure and nautical traditions, and that special personal touch often lacking in today's hectic age," said Classic International Cruises' Managing Director, Grant Hunter. "Attentive, old-fashioned service and first-class cuisine are the hallmarks of the Classic Cruising experience," Mr Hunter added.

"Up to half of all passengers on our cruises from Australia have sailed with us before; ninety-two per cent rate their Athena cruise as very good to excellent, with the onboard service, dining experience and entertainment singled out for the highest scores."

Originally a transatlantic liner, the 16,000-ton Athena features traditional wooden deck chairs, pool, fitness centre, five bars and lounges, casino, library, cinema and two restaurants. Athena has 276 spacious cabins and each boasts a bath – a luxury only found in suites on the latest superliners.

Bookings and fly/cruise packages are available via travel agents. For information, visit


QUEEN Mary 2 will make a circumnavigation of New Zealand in March 2013 as part of a 104-night world voyage.

The 12-night roundtrip voyage from Sydney will go on sale on July 13, priced from $3329pp twin-share, with the Cunard flagship visiting Auckland, Wellington and the Bay of Islands, sailing the Milford Sound and making a maiden call to Christchurch.

During her 104-night world voyage, the 151,400-tonne Queen Mary 2 will also visit Cairns, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Fremantle and Sydney. 

Announcing the NZ circumnavigation today, Cunard Line President and Managing Director Peter Shanks said the voyage followed already-strong bookings for Queen Mary 2's circumnavigation of Australia in February 2012.

"It's clear from the response to our Australian circumnavigation that Australians and New Zealanders are very keen to cruise on the legendary Queen Mary 2 in their own waters," Mr Shanks said. 

"After our circumnavigation of Australia in 2012, we thought we would try something a little different and sail around the North and South Islands of New Zealand in 2013.  New Zealand is renowned for its stunning scenery and interesting ports and we think Australians will love the chance to enjoy it all from the comfort of Queen Mary 2."

With interest in the New Zealand circumnavigation expected to be strong, limited bookings for the cruise will open at 8am on Wednesday July 13, with two options available: the 12-night roundtrip voyage from Sydney departing March 7, 2013 or 19-nights incorporating the New Zealand circumnavigation and then going on to Fremantle after returning to Sydney.

For more details call Cunard on 13 24 41 or visit  *Fares are per person twin share and are subject to availability; conditions apply.


PETER Sommer Travels has introduced a new tour of Istanbul, uncovering the ancient Turkish metropolis through the eyes of a prominent archaeologist.

The eight-day tour Exploring Istanbul is guided by Jim Crow, Professor of Classical Archaeology at Edinburgh University, who has spent the past 20 years delving into the layered history of one of the world's great ancient cities.

His tour, from September 10-17, 2011, will offer a chance to see such landmarks as the Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, as well as other ancient sites Professor Crow has himself been researching.

It visits Istanbul's extraordinary column-filled underground cistern – the  Yerebatan Sarayi – as well as the Hippodrome, the Archaeological Museum and the beautiful church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus.

It also takes a day trip into the country to visit two of Professor Crow's research projects, the great aqueduct of Constantinople, the longest in the ancient world, and the Anastasian Wall, part of the city's outer defences.

The tour also includes a private boat trip up the Bosphorus, as well as a chance to explore Istanbul's lively streets and market areas between the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar.

Peter Sommer is a British archaeologist and BBC documentary maker whose tours are led by experts including archaeologists, historians and travel writers.

The eight-day tour Exploring Istanbul starts September 10, 2011, and costs £1835 per person twin share (approx A$2830) including meals, accommodation, transport, excursions and entrance fees.

For full details and bookings contact Peter Sommer Travels on 0011 44 1600 888 220, email or visit

A WHOLE month of 5-star indulgence aboard Holland America Line's Rotterdam from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego via the empires of the ancient Incas, is selling through Cruiseco later this year from $6660pp twin-share, including return international airfare and taxes from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, (add $330 for Adelaide) (add $1,400 for Perth), a night pre-cruise in the Hilton Marina Fort Lauderdale and another post-cruise in the Hilton Resort and Spa San Diego.
And for those who can't take a month away, Cruiseco have the option of a 13-night cruise only from Fort Lauderdale to Callao (Lima) in Peru from just $1998pp twin-share with a night aboard ship in Callao (Lima), or 17-night cruise only Callao (Lima) to San Diego, from an even lower $1748pp twin-share, again with a night aboard ship in Callao (Lima).

Cruiseco can also arrange best-possible airfare and pre- or post-cruise hotel prices on these shorter sections.
The 1400-passenger Rotterdam will sail from Fort Lauderdale on November 21 this year, visiting seventeen ports in the Bahamas, Colombia, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico.
For details and the names of Cruiseco's 200 cruise-specialist travel agencies Australia-wide, visit; onboard gratuities are not included in prices on these sailings.  
Rotterdam will transit the Panama Canal, have three days in Callao (Lima), and during ten full days at sea guests will have the opportunity to enjoy Rotterdam's range of lounges and bars, theatre and culinary arts centre, casino, cinema, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis and basketball courts, video arcade, a health spa, beauty salon and a unique company-commissioned collection of paintings, sculptures, textiles and other art works.


MACARTHUR'S Quest Campbelltown motel has released new weekend deals to encourage people to visit the Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan, where entry is now free into Australia's largest native botanic garden.

New NSW Premier and Minister for Western Sydney, Barry O'Farrell, abolished the previous fees when he gained office, saying: "This decision will make it easier for families to access these parklands to enjoy, relax and learn about our natural and unique environment, and to do it more regularly."

Opened in 1988 as part of the Bicentenary, the Australian Botanic Garden has attracted an average 90,000 visitors a year, but this figure is expected to grow significantly with entry to the park now free.

With this in mind, Macarthur's newest accommodation, Quest Campbelltown, has released new weekend deals for their 4.5-star self-contained apartments:

It include accommodation in spacious 4.5-star apartments, a complimentary bottle of local Fussy Grape wine, DVD hire and popcorn on arrival plus use of the on-site gymnasium and BBQ terrace. The package is available from $159 per night for two guests in a studio room, $172 per night for two guests in a one-bedroom apartment, $250 per night for up to four guests in a two-bedroom apartment and $299 per night for up to six guests in a three-bedroom apartment. Conditions apply.

Call Quest Campbelltown on 02 4622 4900 or visit  For information on the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan, call 02 4634 7900 or visit

Anzac Gallipoli - Sydney Fish Market - Renault Eurodrive


John Crook 

It's a must

There's a brand new package available for the 2012 Anzac Day services scheduled for Gallipoli, with credit offers which can be used on any land based tour when booking a return economy Etihad flight by August 31 2011.   To obtain the details of the offers telephone 1300 558 987 or go visit      

Larrikins are welcome

I've known a few in my day, but right now I can share details about a little larrikins' morning tea at Melbourne's Langham Hotel. Fairy bread to ANZAC biscuits and pavlovas for the kids when accompanied by an adult, and available from Monday to Friday 10-00am to 1-00pm,  July 4 to July 15. It's $25 per child whilst the traditional Tiffin for adults is $39 per person.  To whet the appetite  call 1800 641 107 for bookings. 

Leading chefs

The July-October program of cooking classes have been released. The courses have been running for years,  and now it's your chance to be one of the 'graduates' of the Sydney Fish Market's experience.  Courses range from basic to classy dinner parties.  To get the facts ring (02) 9004 1111.  The school features some of the nation's top chefs.  Certainly worth a phone call. 

Book and pay by July 29

There is still time to book through Renault Eurodrive for a holiday starting in Europe any time up to December 31 this year.   Just check out the various packages and particularly the week's extras driving for free on select compacts, mid and family size, luxury sedans and estates and even people movers.

Renault has been offering these great services for holidaymakers in Europe since 1955.  Get the conditions by calling 1300 55 11 60. 

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages  and prices are subject to change and availability.  This information is provided as a guide only.  Check with your travel agency.   Block out periods may apply.   

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Monday, 20 June 2011

Monaco Grand Prix Cruise - Round Cape Horn - Canada and Alaska - Greek Islands - Renault Eurodrive


John Crook 

Monaco cruising discounts

During the Grand Prix party season is offering discounts of $2700 on a nine-night package and that includes a five-night  cruise on board Azamara Quest, also with a bonus two-night stay in Monaco  at the time of the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix in May.  The package also comes with a two-night stopover in Dubai at the Raffles Hotel and a traditional belly dancing show with camel rides and a starlight BBQ dinner.  The deal also includes economy airfares from Sydney, Melbourne. Brisbane and Perth. Add to that, two nights at the Fairmont, Mont Carlo and five-nights cruise accommodation with full board, including wine at lunch and dinner, transfers and sightseeing.   WOW, and how do I access this package ?    Simply telephone 1300 369 848 or all the details and bookings.  Or go visit  

Rounding Cape Horn

Check this out !  A 21-night fly, cruise and stay package happening in December 2011.  On this  cruise, you sail out of  Uruguay's Punta Del Este heading to Buenos Aires.  Celebrate the new year, stay in luxury, inclusive of return air fare from Buenos Aires.  The deal also includes economy international airfares  ex Sydney to Santiago on December 16 and back from Buenos Aires, airport, hotel and ship transfers, port charges and shipboard gratuities.   Prices start from $7,750 per person, twin share with a saving of $500 per person  if booked with deposit paid before June 30 this year.   For this deal and for more details go visit 

Canada-Alaska holidays

Fly free deals with guaranteed inclusions, exclusive experiences, new cruises and Alaskan Wilderness lodges feature heavily in APT's latest brochure release.   The 104 page brochure carries 12 Rockies and Alaskan  cruise holidays, two winter touring holidays, three Alaskan journeys and five eastern Canada  holidays.  Check out the launch deals which range from free return flights to Canada, worth great savings per couple.  Do yourself a favour and go visit  

Greece ?

There's a saving of 10% on four independent Greek island hopping itineraries with departures in September and October. Check on the 10-day Mykonos and Santorini tours which explore the most popular of the Greek islands. Priced from $880 per person, twin share.  There are plenty more options, each with their very own spectacular offerings.  Get the latest information on Greece and her holiday options by ringing 1300 558 987 or pay a visit to   

Book and pay Renault

Checking through the Renault news releases I note that there is still plenty of time to do a deal with Renault Eurodrive. For instance, book and pay by July 29 for a minimum 21-day lease of a Renault or Dacia and you get full factory warranty, 24 hour roadside assistance, unlimited kilometres, full insurance with no excess in 42 countries, minimum age for drivers 18 years and no upper age limit nor additional driver charges.  That's only [part of the story.  Best advice I can give you is to pay a visit to   My mates tell me this is the way to go when in Europe ! 

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages  and prices are subject to change and availability. This information is provided as a guide only.  Check with your travel agency.   Block out periods may apply.   

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Monday, 13 June 2011

Helen Wong China - Russian Palaces - Torres del Paine - Beijing Cruise - Lion Attack


HELEN Wong's Tours has slashed $300 a couple off the price of its 17-day Jewels of China itinerary, with packages now starting at $5120 per person, twin share, including return airfare from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth.

The discounted price applies to a September 8, 2011 departure and is on sale until July 4.

Those who book and pay by August 1 for an October 6 departure will also be rewarded with a $300-a-couple discount, with the price of this package starting at $5325pp, twin share.
The Jewels of China tours begin with flights to Beijing followed by visits to Xian, famous for its Terracotta Army, and scenic Jiuzhaigou, renowned for its alpine forests, waterfalls and series of beautiful crystalline lakes.

Chengdu, home of the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, and Hangzhou, famous for its "heavenly beauty", are also visited before the tour ends in vibrant Shanghai.

Prices include domestic economy class air fares as well as the international flights, stays in 4-5 star hotels, daily breakfast and lunch, six dinners and six evening cultural shows, specified transfers, sightseeing and entrance fees and the assistance of English-speaking guides.

As a bonus, a travel kit comprising a 424-page Odyssey China book and cabin bag is also included along with departure taxes, security charges and fuel surcharges (subject to change).

The cost of an arranged China visa is also included for Australian passports holders.

Details: Helen Wong's Tours, phone1300 788328,


FAR Horizons has an extraordinary 18-day tour next March that embraces St Petersburg, Murmansk's celebrations marking the end of 40-days of total winter-darkness, Finland's Santa Claus Village, a cruise on an ice-breaker, and the chance to stay in a Snow Castle Hotel that's built a-fresh each year...

This extraordinary adventure departs Australia on March 20 2012 for 3-days in St Petersburg visiting the Peter and Paul Fortress, Peter the Great's Winter Palace, the Hermitage Art Gallery and the Palace of St Catherine at Pushkin.

Three days in Murmansk for the end-of-winter Festival of the North includes the start of a cross-country ski marathon, parachute jumping and reindeer racing, an ostrich farm – and a visit to the world's first nuclear-powered ice-breaker that's now a museum.

Guests are then driven through to Finland's Arctic Lapland for a walk on a frozen river, stay in a log cabin or an optional glass igloo, view the Northern Lights, visit Santa Claus Village Post Office that handles thousands of letters sent each year to "Santa Claus, North Pole," a snow-mobile safari, a husky farm, and a Gulf of Bosnia ice-breaker "cruise" through metre-thick ice…

Finally try a stay in a Snow Castle that's built out of fresh snow every November at Kemi rather than a traditional hotel, and end with three days sightseeing in Helsinki; prices start from $19,750pp twin-share ex-Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane (from $19,650pp ex-Perth,) including return air and taxes, all meals, daily excursions, entry fees, guides and gratuities.

Phone 1800 083 141 or visit; Business Class air is available as an optional extra.


MOUNTAINS, glaciers, parks and rivers inhabited by mostly native fauna and flora are a key part of a tour of Patagonia – home to Torres del Paine National Park – with eco-adventure operator explora .

Situated right at the most southern tip of the world, the park covers 242,242 hectares and is home to 500 species of animals, 400 birds, 60 mammals and numerous amphibians, fish and reptiles.

There are thousands of plant species in the park, many of which are endemic. Declared a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1978, its geography has been shaped by successive waves of geological and glaciological phenomena which occurred millions of years ago.

The package includes staying at one of Chile's most luxurious hotels, the Salto Chico is the only lodge situated in the centre of the park and is on the shore of Lake Pehoe facing a breath-taking panoramic view of the Paine Massif.

Packages ranging in length from four to eight nights are available at prices ranging from around $2780 per person twin share and include daily explorations with bilingual guides in groups no larger than eight people.

The deal includes luxurious accommodation with all meals, soft and alcoholic beverages, transfers from the local airport and equipment including all-terrain vehicles and horses, as required for the range of exploration.

explora offers more than 30 explorations and activities  ranging from a couple of hours to a full day. Activities are rated in easy, moderate and difficult levels and include treks, horseback rides accompanied by a gaucho, the emblematic figure of the Patagonian pampas, bird watching explorations and in the spring and summer time Quincho barbeques to experience the local cuisine.

For more information email , visit or see your local travel agent


CRUISE Express is offering exclusive fares on an exotic 16-night cruise through Asia this October, with 12 courses of fine cuisine a day, spectacular stage shows each night, and deluxe 'megaliner' accommodation – all from $156pp a day.

The 2600-passenger Diamond Princess sails from Beijing on October 10, 2011, and will take passengers to Singapore via seven ports – Busan in South Korea, Nagasaki in Japan, Shanghai and Hong Kong in China, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Bangkok in Thailand.

Prices start from $2500 per person, twin-share (or $156 a day) in an inside cabin, with a special rate of $3900 for single passengers instead of double the twin-share rate. Balcony cabins are available from $3400 per person, twin-share, or $5400 for single passengers. These fares are exclusive to Cruise Express and include all onboard meals and entertainment.

Special air fares are available through Cruise Express and there is also a fully-escorted fly/cruise package available including daily shore excursions. For details phone 1300 766 537, email or visit


ONLINE travel insurer, Travel Insurance Direct says a lion attack on an American tourist near Victoria Falls last month provides a timely reminder of the dangers of African wildlife.

"Now that the dream of an African safari has become more commonplace, we're hearing occasional reports that travellers aren't always paying full attention to their safety," said TID General Manager, Ian Jackson. "A safari is generally a very safe and rewarding experience, but it's vital that travellers take precautions and follow the instructions of their guides."

Here are his key tips when taking safari expeditions in Africa:

. Always stay in the vehicle  - unless directed by a guide, never stray from the safety of your van, truck or four-wheel-drive.

. Never turn your back – watch and listen at all times. Always remember the adage that the only thing in Africa that turns and runs is prey.

. Listen to your guide. If a guide says to move on, or to back away, do so.

. Keep your voice down – animals scare easily and are less predictable when startled.

. Only travel with a licensed safari guide and ensure you have adequate travel insurance.

Mr Jackson said the best game-viewing in many African countries was between June and October, and while animal attacks on tourists were extremely rare, the growing popularity of African tourism meant increasing contact between animals and humans in some areas.

"Safari travellers are covered by most travel insurers as long as they travel with a licensed guide and do not behave recklessly or under the influence of alcohol or drugs," Mr Jackson said, and adding: "No photograph is ever worth the risk of an animal attack."

For more information see

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Jasper Hotel Melbourne - Unlimited Golf - Werribee Zoo - Spicers Peak Lodge


John Crook 

Bed and Breakfast at Jasper

This package is for the Jasper Hotel located at 489 Elizabeth Street in Melbourne.  Not your usual inner-city hotel, but rather a full boutique hotel with its very own Jasper Art Gallery.  Exhibitions rotate each three months, so every visit should be a new experience.  The hotel is currently offering a package, at $169,  featuring accommodation, with breakfast for two in the Jasper Kitchen.  For bookings telephone 1800 468 359, subject to availability. The Jasper Hotel is close handy to the colourful Queen Victoria Market and that's an experience in itself. Go visit  

Unlimited golf

If golf is your thing, how's this for a deal?

It's a winter golf package from Hyatt Regency Coolum, priced from $340 per night and that includes accommodation for two  staying in a  king or twin room. The deal includes daily continental breakfast, adult entry to the spa. Tennis court hire, weekday golf clinics, motorised cart and bucket of driving range balls, per person, per night.  Get onto this one by visiting   You will need to quote offer code CLM006.    Subject to availability, conditions and two night minimum stay applies.  Offer valid until August 31, 2011  

It's that time again

Wild nights return with a vengeance at Werribee Open Range Zoo during the winter school holidays.    It  was a big event last year, so much so, that the powers that be are right behind a return for this year.  The zoo comes alive with fire dancing, African drumming and so much more.  The winter series is scheduled July 2 to 16 July. 

General admission prices apply.  A hint, - bring your own torch.   For more information go visit 

Staying in Oz super style

Queensland's scenic rim is one heck of a place to stay. Spicers Peak Lodge offers  special winter deals until 30 June 2011, with savings of up to $200 per couple for two night stays and up to $400 for three night stays.  Two night stays are priced from $2180 inclusive  of all indulgences and meals.  One night stays are available, but please check the conditions.  Also included coffee and tea, a gourmet continental and a la carte breakfast, evening cocktails and canap├ęs, plus, plus and plus.  Guests will be treated to a seven-course degustation dinner each evening, a choice of al fresco style lunch or gourmet picnic hamper, 24-hour beverage serviced including cocktails, wines, champers and spirits.  Get all the facts and inclusions, along with terms and conditions, by calling 1300 253 103.

This just has to be one of Australia's most exciting and romantic stays, luxury style.  

No apologies

Before rushing overseas, just do a check on what's available here in Oz.  I have selected just a few options for your consideration. 

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages  and prices are subject to change and availability.  This information is provided as a guide only.  Check with your travel agency.   Block out periods may apply.    

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Monday, 6 June 2011

Seniors Cruise - Lion Attack - Egypt Tour - China Tour


John Crook 

Seniors special

I've just come across a deal which should be of interest to 'we seniors'. has just released a special seniors' fare from $979.  It's a 12-night cruise on board the Century Celebrity, sailing from Auckland to Sydney. Make a booking prior to August 30 to capitalise on this deal.  Sail out of Auckland on December 12 and visit the Bay of Islands, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and then Melbourne before arriving n Sydney.  The discounted fare applies only if one or more passengers are over the age of 55.  For conditions and bookings telephone 1300 369 848 or go visit    Special airfares to Auckland can also be booked.   Check the birth certificate and then go for it. 

Business class to Manila et al

Some really decent business class airfares are on offer with Philippine Airlines.  Try these for size.
  • To Manila ex Sydney $1688, ex Melbourne $1668.
  • To Hong Kong ex Melbourne $1858, ex Sydney $1878.
  • To Shanghai ex Melbourne  $1651, ex Sydney $1671.
  • To Tokyo ex Melbourne $1869, ex Sydney $1888.
Under the deal, return business class fares are priced per person when booked with a companion fare.  The prices are per person including taxes and must be booked in pairs.  The fares are on sale until June 30, 2011 and valid for travel until September 30 2011.  To get all the facts and conditions telephone the airline direct on 1300 888 725 or see your travel agent.

A Lion attack

Nothing to do with the Brisbane Lions, but rather a warning to those lucky enough to be able to take a safari tour in Africa.  Travel into wildlife parks is more commonplace these days and that, at times, may see a lack of care being shown by visitors.  To assist, first up make sure you have adequate insurance.  Stay in the vehicle if game watching.  Listen to your guide, always!  Keep your voice down and never turn your back.  Special care needs o be taken if on a walking tour.    Regarding the insurance, only travel with a licensed safari guide and ensure you have adequate travel insurance.  For more information go visit  

Classic sites await

Check out the savings on  a seven-day Taste of Egypt tour which includes a cruise on the iconic Nile, three nights in Cairo, transfers in Cairo,, Luxor and Aswan.  Priced from $1117 per person, twin share. To check on all the goodies, telephone 1300 558 987, or go visit  Terms and conditions apply.  Book for two people before June 30 and receive 40% off the second fare and a free hotel upgrade. 

What a picture!!

A 15-day Timeless China escorted small group journey opens the door to China, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, a full day tour of the Great Wall, the summer palace. And, the  Terracotta warriors !  A real highlight just has to be the giant Panda breeding research base in Chengdu.  Then, there's the Jade Buddha Temple, the Tiger Leaping Gorge, and the world's largest Buddha statue.  Priced from $4078 per person twin share.  In my opinion, worth every cent.  Get the terms and conditions and a full itinerary by calling 1300 836 764. 

* Please note conditions may apply to these packages  and prices are subject to change and availability.  The information is provided as a guide only.  Check with your travel agent. 

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