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Around the Horn South American cruise on NCL Sun - pictorial review


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I'm trying my first pictorial review; I have only done a couple of reviews in the review section. I love reading others' reviews. Fewer people go on the South American cruise, so there are fewer reviews. Though I got a lot of great information here to prepare for the trip -- Thanks! Be patient with me; I work and have kids. I think we have figured out how to include pictures -- hopefully :).


My husband and I did this cruise. We have two kids, who had Spring Break while we were gone, but they still would have missed a full week and few days of school, so they stayed with their sitter, while in school, and with my parents, while on Spring Break. We were 40 and almost 40 during the cruise.


The cruise -- 15 night from Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina, around Cape Horn on the NCL Sun on March 9th, 2017. It was our 9th cruise, all on NCL.


Some background:

We booked the cruise about 13 months before. We originally planned for Nov 2016, but quickly determined that we could not compete with the Thanksgiving cruisers. I wanted port side, given our east-bound direction; I do not think this really mattered in the end -- we were either in the channel with land on both sides or too far from land. Also, since I heard crossing from one ocean to the other could be very rough, I wanted lower and mid-ship. We booked a port hole room, mid-ship on deck 4th -- 4030. We normally book around deck 8 so were a little concerned about being far from things. We did not mind the location.


We booked through a travel agent and got some outboard credit. We also got 4 speciality dining meals and pre-paid tips (it was nice not to see these added to the onboard account every day -- they add up fast!) from NCL's pick 2 free things. We were platinum for the first time, so go two additional speciality dining meals.


We used the phone app to track our onboard spending account -- Norwegian iConcierge. It only works on the ship and can access the ship's wi-fi free or without using your minutes. However, download it before you get on the ship because you cannot download it without using your internet minutes on the ship, so my husband did not have it and missed not having his own copy on his phone some. It showed some weird inaccuracy, most corrected themselves after a couple of days, others like charges tied to the wrong on ship vendor may have stayed wrong. It was very helpful to keep tabs on the onboard account.


We have one night on land before the cruise but did not stay longer after since we had kids to get home to. We had a direct flight to Santiago from DFW and a direct flight from Buenos Aires home.


Enough background -- on to the review.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017 - Flight day

Our flight was at 8:15 pm (moved one hour later by the airline at one point). Also at one point, they changed the aircraft from 2-aisle-5-aisle-2 to 3-aisle-4-aisle-3, so all of a sudden we were sitting by someone -- eek -- less than ideal on an overnight flight. Economy and was pricy for economy. So, we moved from a 2 to a 4 that was empty at the time. We did end up sitting by someone... On the way back, we had the back where the 3 reduced to 2 seat -- 2nd to last row -- to have the row portion to ourselves. We were in a AA 787 dreamliner. The dream part blue lighting at the top -- hum. We did have individual tvs with movies, games, and navigation. They provided free headphones to keep with ads (one was mastercard and one was avis). Food was provided but not great. Though they had some good cheese and crackers both way. I noticed if you don't eat your food on the cruise and even if you don't eat ALL your food, because one has to save room for dessert, they ask you if it was not good and if they can bring something else. On the airlines, they just take it and throw it away with no concern.

Today, I took half day off work -- half in the morning, for a kids dentist appt, and half in the afternoon for the flight. On youngest had a Disney song performance at school open house that night that we would miss :loudcry:; learned about it much after the trip was planned... After school was out, we went to pick them up, take them frozen yogurt before being away so long (the longest we have been away from them), and then back to the sitters for the Disney performance.

We went back home, grabbed luggage, and requested an Uber. More background -- we plan our trips in much detail (not spontaneous). I used to keep an xls file and try to print it before going...even though paragraphs of text do not do well in xls. It has been upgraded to a shared google doc that we can both edit and download the offline version to our phones. In it, I have tabs for the cruise itinerary, copied from myNCL.com; tab for each port; tab with flight details; a schedule page with each day; to-dos before we leave; packing list; ship tips from CC; and money needs planning.

We arrived at the airport without a problem. Since we were on an international flight, we were in a newer DFW terminal -- D. We checked luggage since we get to with an international flight and got through security quickly. We bought some Auntie Anne's cinnamon pretzels to share and sat down to wait. While waiting, one of the parents at the Disney song performance aired it on Facebook Live, so we got to watch!

Onboard for a long flight. We were not by a window, and we are not good at sleeping on planes.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - Santiago

We each had to fill out a separate customs form on the plane. I had read and researched Chile's strict food policy due to their big agriculture industry. They have a difficult, vague clause about "other plant products" being not allow. I stated worrying about my apple shampoo and conditions. I saw on CC about raisins being tossed. We wanted a few emergency snacks -- we brought four small packets of trail mix with no raisins. We also brought candy without concern. I wrote yes food and "trail mix" on my customs form. When going through customs, I showed them to the customs officers. I was talking no chance. He did not care and said to put them in the bag to go through the xray machine. That may have been in hand signals since I do not look like a Spanish speaker :). Being from Texas, we learned some Spanish in high school -- some words and phases, not full conversions. We used our Spanish on the trip.


With luggage, customs, and immigration due, we were off to look for an ATM and the bus to downtown. Both were difficult to find. The first ATM did not work, and a line was forming. So, we had to wait to try one that did give others cash. There was also a particular menu option you had to pick, or it would not work. Try another if you are having trouble. A couple that was successful and English speaking helped. After getting cash, we stopped to let me get a chocolate croissant at one of the shops at the airport since I did not eat my airline breakfast.

We found the Tur-Bus box office outside the airport. It is affordable. We went to Terminal Alameda. We knew from CC that there was a luggage store, look for custodia. This was much more expensive then we expected; I believe around 30,000 pesos. Since I noted cash needed from the ATM, this blew our Chilean pesos budget. Luggage drop off was easy; with pick up, they had trouble finding our luggage and describing in Spanish was not working well.

After dropping luggage, we got on the metro at Universida going to Cerro San Cristobal, the funicular, for a good view of the city and mountains surrounding. I like subways in big cities -- London tube, Berlin, Munich, DC, NYC, and St. Petersburg, but geez Santiago's super crowd the full time we were on! Next, we walked to the funicular. It required walking a street with cautions of the spilling mustard or something on you and the other person tries to help clean it while robbing you scam. We had taken our rings off and hid all valuables in a money belt and one that goes under your shirt and were cautious. We did not have any problems.

Continuing with pictures from the funicular tomorrow.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - Santiago to Valparaiso continued

We had heard there could be long lines to get on the funicular and even could see lines on the google maps satellite view. To buy a ticket, it was not bad at all; there was a small wait to get on a funicular.

Going up










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There is a stop halfway up to go to the Zoo.

At the top of the funicular; you can see some mountains through the haze.








Around Chile, you see stray dogs just hanging out. I read, before going, that they do not believe in neutering them because it is a mostly Catholic country. I don't know if that true or not; I did not know that this would extend to dogs. These were on top of the mountain. I guess they walked up; surely, they did not get a funicular ride -- hehe.



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I looked up Cerro San Cristobal or San Cristobal Hill in wikipedia. It is in northern Santiago and is the 2nd highest point in Santiago. It is 300 m above the city.

After returning to Santiago normal elevation, we returned to the Bellavista neighborhood for lunch. We had Charly Dogs -- hot dogs. The hot dog was not great quality. While eating, we determined (in Spanish) that we probably could have gotten a sausage instead that would have been better. The cool thing about the restaurant was there was tons of interesting toppings that you could include to top your dog. It also included a soda, sold by the mL, and with no ice (ice would eat into the mLs). While we ate, the watched a street performer spinning mixing bowl on wooden spoons. He had found a light with a really long stop and short green; he knew how long to perform and how much time to allow to collect money before it turned green.

After lunch, we headed back to our luggage on the Metro. Tickets were sold in booths by people. You get a ticket and immediately feed it to the machine in the direction you are heading. They are sold by different prices by time of day. More transportation notes later. Super crowded again.

Walk (next building) from the Metro station to the Tur-Bus terminal. Picked up luggage and went outside to buy tickets to Valparaiso. I think we got the last two. We checked luggage before the bus, boarded, and picked random seats. Lesson learned -- there are assigned seats. At a stop part way through, some one wanted the seats. In Spanish, tried to ask where the seat numbers were labeled in the bus and on the ticket. Had trouble finding tickets. Just sat in the back because it was open and was able to later confirm they were our seats. The drive was very pretty and about 1 hour and 45 minutes. When we arrived, my husband only could find 2 out of 3 luggage claims. They wanted it. He thought to show the the luggage tag on the suitcase matched one that we could rightfully claimed. Most people had gotten their luggage by then, so they accepted this. Rough time keeping up with things -- no sleep was setting in.

We took a taxi to our hotel. We had reserved the Ibis, which got good feedback with one note that the check-in takes hours. This blew my mind, so I was excited when I found pre-check-in that I could do online a couple of days before our flight and check in. There was a line that was slow, but definitely not an hour. With our key, we went up after a long flight and day, and the door would not open. It turned green, and we could hear it click unlock but would not open. It seemed locked from the inside. I have had this before and watched the maintenance person body slam the door before giving us a different room. Back to the line...expecting a different room, while husband stayed with the luggage. The lady from the desk came up to try herself with no luck. She radioed maintenance. He immediately opened it by pulling up before pulling down after using the key. Hum...I have never seen this before. I will definitely try it if ever in the situation again.

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Transportation notes made before the trip; we did not update as we go. For later, but the only one that I remember costing much more than our research was the Valparaiso Metro card.



Bus from airport


There are airport buses running on two slightly different routes to the centre of town operated by CentroPuerto and TurBus. The Centopuerto bus is a single decker bus with limited luggage storage space and a very narrow door to enter through. The TurBus is a double-decker with lot more room for storage. Both of these buses can be caught between airport exit doors 4 & 5.

Both charge Ch$1700 one-way, with Centropuerto running every 10 minutes to Los Heroes metro station and TurBus every 30 minutes. However, both buses also stop at the Pajaritos Metro station en route, and due to the heavy traffic east of Pajaritos during peak hours it is a good idea to alight here and take the Metro line 1 towards Los Dominicos to the city centre (10-15 min).

Need cash for bus.



Santiago has a metro system with five lines and 94 stations, with many holding rotating art exhibitions. Trains run between roughly 6.00AM and 11.00PM, with each station posting the exact hours for the first and last trains. Buses run parallel to subway lines after hours. Tickets cost Ch$720 for peak periods (7.00AM to 9.00AM, 6.00 to 8.00PM), Ch$660 for shoulder periods (6.30AM to 7.00AM, 9.00AM to 6.00PM, 8.00PM to 8.45PM) and Ch$610 for low periods (before 6.30AM and after 8.45PM). Tickets are good for a single ride with unlimited transfers, and there is no time limit. During peak hours, the trains are usually very packed with passengers, so that new passengers have to wait for the next train or try getting on the train with a little more insistence. Travelling with a lot of luggage during peak hours on public transports is generally not recommended.


Wikitravel says that subway does not require Bip! Card, but Frommers site says it does. Recent posts on TripAdvisor say that it is not required for subway only.


Latest fares from metro site: $740, $660, $610


Not clear if credit card accepted for subway tickets.

Restroom at Cerro San Cristobal is a few hundred pesos.

Bus to Valparaiso


Turbus price to Valparaiso (Rodoviario Valpo) is $6900. Need cash. Takes 1 hr 45 m.



Hotel via taxi is probably easiest with luggage. $5-$10 USD ($3000-$6000 CLP).



Alternative is to go down ascension Cerro Alegre to near Bellavista station & take metro.

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After a short rest at the hotel, we headed out to Ascensor Concepcion. It was closed for construction, so we walked up stairs instead. We read the Ascensors are an experience not be missed, but oh well. It is a city built in layers. There were more stray dogs and views of the Pacific. We got baked empanadas from a street vendor and ate by the water. We also stopped at the mall and got some groceries, particular bottled water. Our hotel was very close to the mall with grocery store and a metro station. Now, it was time to go back to the hotel, call the kids with hangouts over wi-fi, shower, and sleep -- yay!

Comandancia en Jefe de la Armada





This was crazy; does not see up to code.





Plaza Sotomayor




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Thursday, March 9, 2017 - Embarkation day


We set our alarm to be able to get. Today was embarkation day, but first we had a trip to Vina del Mar planned. I borrowed a plug adapter from the hotel for my curling iron. Ours were not the right one. They had in their room documentation that they loan them; though hard to request in English. We ate some of our trail mix for breakfast.

We got all packed up, and the hotel held our luggage for us. We went out to the port area, where we had eaten our empanada the previous day, to look for the cruise ship. No cruise ship in sight, and finally, we found it floating in the middle of the ocean in the distance. Hum, okay (more on that later). See it in the distance:



We then went to the mall to use the ATM and buy our subway pass. Our ATM card refunds ATM fees and did kindly refund the crazy fees in S. Amer. For the Metro pass, we determined how much we needed for two people to get to and from Vina del Mar and then to the port from the hotel after picking up luggage later. This is where the Metro card itself was more than expected from our research, or they cheated us...who knows. We planned for 2000 for one Metro card; we read we can scan in one person and pass it back for the second person to scan in. This worked fine. The cost of the ride is based on where you get on and get off and maybe also time of day like Santiago. And we planned that we needed 2526 total for rides. The exchange rate was 650 CLP (Chilean Pesos) to $1 when we went, so the total is big number that is hard to catch in Spanish. In several places, they typed the total on a calculator and showed it to us. This seemed low tech, but was affective.

This Metro was not very crowded and much more pleasant. It ran above ground (vs. Santiago's underground) along the coast. Ship from the Metro on the way to Vina del Mar:



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In one of my previews of the post, I lost the blue font on the header. However, I have received criticism from both my husband and 8 year old that in blue and underline, it looked like a link. So, I just left it black.

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Flower clock



We found a Metro station closer to where we had walked -- it was getting hot at this point -- and rode back. We looked for the path to the cruise terminal when we went past Baron Station, where we read to get off. We went back to the hotel to pick up our luggage; this worked well. I had asked on CC before going if we should leave it at the hotel or if we could drop it off at the cruise terminal before going to Vina del Mar. Leaving at the hotel was the right advice.

Now the train back to Baron Station. The train was still not crowded; this time we handled back the Metro card and handed over luggage. There was a couple from Germany also going to the ship. Walked through the path; it looks under construction but maybe it always looked this way. We starting walking toward the the direction of the terminal, which one could not see for the construction. A guard stopped us and directed us the other way. A group on the other side noted a bus coming in 10 mins. My husband decided 10 mins is code for they do not when the bus is coming. They were very accommodating offering chairs and space under their canopy for shade. They really did not have much room in the shade though. Lots of buses came through, and we were not convinced that we were in the right place. They seemed to be selling something too; though maybe they were representing some group travel looking for those that had signed up. It did take a long time for the bus to come. I took this picture of the Albatross in the bus waiting area:


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This embarkation was the worst that we have had. The bus arrives, and others had arrived and were waiting too. Our luggage went in the back, and off to the terminal we went. At the terminal, we did not see the porters to drop our luggage, so we went inside to look around. We were directed to the other side of the building to drop our luggage. Normally, I thought they put it on the crates that were lifted onto the ship later, but it was all lined up on the pavement (in the heat) by tag color. We went back inside to check in. We completed the health forms where there was a huddle and a bunch on a table. We hoped for a gold/platinum check in, we asked some people, no one knew of one. We got in the line with about 6 rows of turns and overflowing past that. I saw a person with a clipboard; we were not on the list. Someone else we talked to was platinum and had a suite, so we guessed it was suites and above only.

They do take your passports as others have warned. All was fine with them. That is the first time that we have had our passports taken. Compared to the customs experience and wait in Russia, this may have been the better approach. After check in, she handed us boarding number 8 with no indication of where to go or when we might board, so I asked where to go and if they had platinum priority boarding. She motioned in the general direction of nothing. We left and found two empty chairs and found an empty spot to put them and wait. Finally later, they announced that the ship did not have berth; a container ship was in the berth. They had tendered some previous guests off. Maybe another hour before it had the berth. We heard later it was a port strike, so there was no one to complete the container ship work and move it. All seemed operational the night before when we ate dinner there; we saw semis taking away big spools that were craned off the container ship.

When it was able to dock, they had to get the other 1500 guests off. Then we were in the way of guests trying to find their luggage. It was warm in terminal with an occasional breeze and sometimes smokey breeze from the open doors. When they started boarding us, they called group 1 and 2. After much silence, there was another announcement, only in Spanish this time, that we heard "uno". Wait...uno has already been called...did you mean tres??? No more announcements; my husband started walking around to ask people that looked like they might know. No one did. Others were being told that they were boarding group 6 and walking over to the boarding. The boarding area was a huge huddle of people; I don't know why they did not ask those not in the called group number or the group number that they thought they were currently boarding to go sit down.

We got to the terminal about noon. We had not had lunch; we had some snacks from the grocery store while in Vina del Mar. We have a tradition of have lunch in the MDR right after boarding. We did not get on timely this time and in our previous cruise in Alaska departure, was scheduled so late that they did not open the MDR for lunch. This tradition is taking quite a hit :(!

We had not gone through security yet; from our experience, this is at the terminal to entrance. So, it seems like this portion could have been completed already. We finally just went to the huddle to try to find out what was happening. We started talking to someone; her husband had gone to ask someone. He learned that they got through group 7 and now just letting everyone board. Oh fun, a free for all... We were now in a pack... After security, waited for bus and rode to the ship. It is a crazy port; traffic jams driving around stacked containers, forklifts, and semis moving containers. Finally onboard at 5:30 pm.

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Our room was ready since we boarded so late. From the bus, it looked like our luggage was still sitting there. However, it did not take too long to get our luggage--we had it after dinner, so it must have been another wave after us. We were starving, so we went up to the buffet for a small snack to hold us over and enjoy on the deck at the Great Outdoors. I had the Moderno (Brazilian steakhouse) reserved for dinner at 6:30 pm. My thinking was that we would not be full yet from too much cruise food everywhere and would be hungry. We were hungry. We went to check the reservation since we were not sure how the delayed schedule with muster drill needed would impact it. They noted that we were reserved and did not seem concerned about the muster drill. My husband planned to wear what he was wearing, and I had my dress in my carry on. We went to our dinner reservation and were the only ones there the full time, which is a little odd for a Brazilian steakhouse since they normally walk around with meat on a stick and use the "go" and "stop" bringing more signs. They just brought us two of every to our table. We read about the cod in the banana leaf; my husband requested one. After we tried everything, our waitress, who spotted us and said hi several other times during the cruise, asked what our favorite was, and she brought us each our favorite. My favorite was the garlic beef. Filet is normally my favorite but not here. I was not a big fan of the rib, both pork and beef. My husband like the beef ribs. He had the papaya dessert. I skipped dessert after eating so much meat. It was good. We finished just in time for the muster drill announcements. Our waitress was pulled away before we left for the drill.

Muster drill was in four languages, which made it longer. Other than that it was fine. One of dancers was running our station and kept it light and amusing.

After the drill, we unpacked and then walked the promenade. At about 10:30 pm, they still had lots of crates to load on the ship -- onions, sodas, mattresses, etc. We went to bed about 11:15, and we had not left yet. Someone mentioned 11:30, so not much after.

Since this was our 4th time on the NCL Sun, I did not take many ship pictures. If you have questions, I can try to answer them or may be able to find a previous picture, if you want to see something in particular.

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Thanks so much for this boarding info. We will be doing the same in Feb. 2018 for Valpo to Miami on NCL Sun, so this is very helpful!


Great! Hopefully port strikes are rare, and you will have better luck. If not rare, bring snacks and water! There was a place in the terminal selling food; the cruise line was not providing snacks, like I have seen in the past. Talking to someone else, they had received an email or text that there was a delay and to come later. We did not know until after we were checked in and heard the first announcement.

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March 10, 2017 - Sea Day


We woke up to a rocking ship. I quickly took my Meclizine. We went to breakfast at the MDR. After we ordered, I started feeling seasick. Our food came; later our waiter, Rommel, came back to ask if my food was not good. I mentioned not feeling well. He offered to bring me green apples or ginger ale. I accepted the ginger ale. I had eggs over easy, hash browns, and bagel. With the ginger ale and medicine, I was able to eat some. He was my vacation hero (NCL crew member recognition program) since he kept me from getting sick on vacation :).


Next up, we had the CC M&G. It was in Las Rambles. Our organizer created a trivia game based on the posts in our role call; it was fun. The Officers introduced themselves, there were snacks out, and we went around the room to introduce ourselves. Then we had time to meet the people we had planned tours with on the roll call and plan meeting points. Our itinerary had 9 ports, counting both embarkation and disembarkation ports. I'm used to 3 or 4. So, a lot more research was needed, and planning with CC roll call members was great.


I did not take good notes on the afternoon. We like to play trivia and met people playing. We also did some cruise director staff crafts. Today, my husband did martini tasting, and we met new people that we got to hang out with several more times during the cruise.

Tonight was formal night; I wore a new dress that I got for Christmas especially for cruising. We went to the MDR. These were the only pictures that we took that day.

With the rocky seas, the Captain was trying to catch up after we left so late the day before, so sailing fast and I heard without the stabilizer bar. We had slowed down by dinner time. My husband had clam linguini, and I had the Caesar salad, N.Y. strip steak, and the volcano cake. The Caesar salad now has chicken. I'm not normally a fan of cold chicken on salad, but it grew on me. It also has both crotons and a slice of crusty bread -- very good. The volcano cake is also my favorite and was on the menu each night! When it was on the menu on the past, it did not come with ice cream, so I would request it added. Now, it comes with "Stracciatella" ice cream, which I was going to google when I got home but have not. It had chocolate flakes and was very good. I requested no strawberry syrup each time; I'm bad and don't each my fruits and vegs. It was the best!


Us at dinner



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Nice pictures! Hope you continue to feel better!


Thanks! We only had one more rough sea day. That time the Captain warned us, and I was prepared and did not have an issue. After that, we had great seas and good weather.

Since I mentioned the Captain, I noticed that I only saw him on the second to last night at the crew introduction session at the goodbye show in the Stardust even though this cruise was twice as long as my normal. I expected to see him at the silver/gold/platinum party and around the ship. He may have been at the q&a with the officers; we did not go to that. I don't know if the route was that much more difficult that he cannot leave the helm as much, maybe he just prefers not to be out and about, or maybe others saw him :). It does not matter either way -- he safely got us to all ports -- just an observation.

Starting the Puerto Montt review tonight.

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We did your cruise in reverse (from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso) in March, 2016 on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas. It was one of our best cruises ever. That's why we decided to book the NCL Sun cruise next February boarding in Valparaiso, going through the Panama Canal, and ending in Miami to sort of "complete" our South America cruise experience.


Therefore, it occurs to me that I might have information that would be helpful to you. Although we did not take any excursions (either from the ship or private), we had an absolutely wonderful time, and thought it was one of our best cruises ever.


If you think of any questions, please ask! I am really enjoying your review and wishing you an amazing cruise. Glad to hear you now have smooth sailing.



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