Our 2023 Carnival Magic Cruise

Our 10-Day Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Carnival Magic left from Norfolk, Virginia on June 14, 2023. In this post I’ll cover each port and a recap with our opinion of the ship Carnival Magic and cruising out of Norfolk, Virginia.

We were part of the Elite Carnival Players Club, as my husband is a frequent Casino Player.  We had some fun perks and the cruise was very affordable.


Day 0 – Tuesday, Jun 13 Travel from Apex to Virginia Beach
Day 1 – Wednesday, Jun 14 Cruise Day – Norfolk, Virginia
Day 2 – Thursday, Jun 15 Sea Day
Day 3 – Friday, Jun 16 Sea Day
Day 4 – Saturday, Jun 17 Amber Cove, Dominican Republic
Day 5 – Sunday, Jun 18 San Juan, Puerto Rico
Day 6 – Monday, Jun 19 St. Maarten, Netherlands
Day 7 – Tuesday, Jun 20 St. Thomas, USVI
Day 8 – Wednesday, Jun 21 Grand Turk, Turk & Caicos Island
Day 9 – Thursday, Jun 22 Sea Day
Day 10 – Friday, Jun 23 Sea Day
Debarkation – Saturday, Jun 24 Norfolk, Virginia

Carnival Magic Itinerary Map June 14, 2023
Carnival Magic Itinerary Map June 14, 2023

Table of Contents


Benefits of the Elite Carnival Players Club

We were part of the Carnival Players Club, so there were many Casino Events and Perks! There were many drawings (we didn’t win any, although my name was called when I wasn’t present (had to be present to win).  Bummer, but this girl is an early to bed person and the drawings were at 11:00 pm.

Perks included:

  • Free Drinks
  • 3% service fee waived for any Sail & Sign transactions in the Casino (not used).
  • They would refund the standard 5.5% fee for any cash Advance Transactions made at the Casino Cashiers Desk during this cruise (not used).
  • On US Premium Package: Complimentary Drinks on all bars and restaurants on the ship for both of us.
  • Gift Items: Exclusive Carnival Players Cub Elite Casino per cabin. We received many gifts throughout the cruise. 
  • Free Social Wi Fi Package – which we upgraded, but it was still pretty bad connections.
  • Waived Room Service Fees – we did not use this service but wanted to…the room service menu QR code didn’t work. Probably we just needed to call, but didn’t try.
  • Platinum status for the duration of the cruise (which we had anyway).

Day 0 - Travel Day, Apex, NC to Virginia Beach, Virginia

We drove from Apex, NC to Virginia Beach, Virginia stopping at Cracker Barrel for a relaxing lunch on the way. We arrived at our hotel, The Hampton Inn Ocean Front North at about 3:30 pm. We had a drink at the hotel bar and then spent the afternoon walking along the Boardwalk.

We stopped at Tortuga’s Tiki Bar for a nice outdoor dinner.  There was a man playing the guitar close by for a wonderful relaxing dinner.

We walked over 11,000 steps while walking up and down the boardwalk.

Later in the evening, John met up with his old boss, Scott Winters, who lives in Virginia Beach. Scott rode his bike to the hotel and they enjoyed a nice visit.

Travel Day Photos

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Day 1 - CRUISE DAY Norfolk, Virginia

We got up early and had a quick continental breakfast at the hotel. We were packed and ready to go by 9:00 a.m. It was about a 30 minute drive from Virginia Beach to Norfolk.

Norfolk from Virginia Beach, Virginia Map
Norfolk from Virginia Beach, Virginia Map

We arrived at the Cedar Grove Parking lot at 9:30, but they weren’t ready so had to turn around and come back 10 minutes later. We were back in ten minutes and there was a long line waiting to get in.   It took about 20-30 minutes before we were able to park, not too bad. A young man met us at our car to take our ‘checked’ luggage.  We then took our carryons to wait in line for the next bus.  This took quite some time, because they had to offload the previous cruisers baggage before letting them off.  We were the last onto to the next bus and because people were carrying their carryon’s, some people used a seat for their luggage. This allowed less people on each bus, unfortunately.

The bus ride wasn’t too long, maybe 10 minutes of so, but the drop off area was backed up and we had to sit in the bus to wait for our bus to get to the terminal for a while.   Once off the bus there were long lines getting into the terminal and into an elevator…we had too much luggage to take the stairs.  Even though we had priority boarding, the lines were long getting our carryon items scanned and through security. There was no wait to get checked in, but it was almost 11:30 am before we finally made it onto the ship.

We made our way to our room to drop off our carryon’s (a perk of being an Elite and Platinum member), went to our muster station and then got a bit of lunch.  In our room were two bottles of Jameson Whiskey, a six pack of Pepsi and a six pack of ginger ale. (We picked our drinks of choice when checking in). Since I don’t drink much, I got the Jameson for John to enjoy. We brought both bottles home with us.

We spent the rest of the afternoon, exploring the ship and just enjoying CRUISE DAY!

At some point we noticed that a magnet was placed above our room number.

At 4:00 we attended an ELITE Cocktail Party in the Spotlight Lounge. There were free drinks and hors oeuvres / appetizers.  And a great guitarist playing.

We had dinner in the MDR (Main Dining Room).

We spent some time in the Casino waiting for the Elite Welcome Draw, no winners here.

Cruise Day and Norfok, Virignia Photos

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Day 2 - Sea Day

On Thursday, we attended the Wave Morning Show and then the Fun Ashore Fun Aboard Show.  At noon we went to the Casino for the Fireball Raffle, no winners here.

When we returned to our room we discovered another Elite Gift: two beautiful insulated beverage tumblers with the Elite logo. One for each of us.

Guys Burger for John for dinner and a salad for Pat.  We attended the show 88 Keys and John went back and attended the 9:30 show, while I relaxed in our room and balcony. At 11:00pm we were at the Casino for the drawing, no winners here.

Seas were a bit choppy and you could feel it in the movement of the ship.  A bit of drunken sailor effect (even if not drunk, ha ha).

Sea Day Photos

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Day 3- Sea Day

On Friday, we relaxed, enjoyed our balcony, did some shopping and enjoyed the ship. John attended the Academy of Fun at 11:00 and at 12:30 went to the Casino for the drawing. No winners here.

At 1:15, John went to the Crew Connections: Maritime Q & A at the Showtime Theatre. He also attended the Academy of Fun, where he learned about the universe and our neighboring planets. He was given a Carnival Academy of Fun pin.

A large Fruit Basket with lots of goodies and a Bottle of Wine were delivered to our room and an Elite Magnet showed up above the number of our cabin.  Cool beans.

We had dinner in the MDR and attended the 7:30 show, Country Road.

We again attended the 11:00 pm drawing in the Casino, no winners here.  However, John was told that we had a free dinner at the Steak House scheduled for Sunday at 8:30 p.m.  Yay!

Sea Day Photos

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Day 4 - Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

Amber Cove is the Dominican Republic’s Newest Cruise Port, owned by Carnival Corporation, near Puerto Plata. Established in 2015. The Dominican Republic is on the east side of the Island of Hispaniola and shares the Island with the Republic of Haiti, which is on the west side of the island.

Dominican Republic Map. Purple balloon shows location of Amber Cove.
Island of Hispaniola Map. Dominican Republic is on the east side, Haiti on the west side. Purple balloon shows location of Amber Cove.
Amber Cove Map.
Amber Cove Map.

It’s about a 5-minute walk from the ship to the Amber Cove entrance. There are many bicycle carts where a person will take you down the pier to the entrance.  Due to the heat, we chose this option. It’s free, just the price of a tip.

The temperature was in the mid 80’s and quite humid, so heat index was much higher.

Amber Cove brims with bars, pools, lounging and shopping spots.

We chose not to take an excursion and just get off the ship to do a bit of shopping.

However, the following tours were offered through Carnival:

  • All-inclusive Coconut Cove Beach Break
  • Deluxe Catamaran Sail and Snorkel with lunch and drinks
  • Dolphin Swim and Ocean World Day Pass
  • Mega Truck Country Ride and Culture with Lunch
  • Waterfalls of Damajagua – Adrenaline Adventure
  • Adrenaline Zipline & Horseback Riding
  • ATV Adventure & Beach
  • Cayo Arena Catamaran and Fricolandia
  • Damajagua Nature Walk & Swim for families
  • Damajagua Waterfalls &k Monkeyland
  • Eco Adrenaline Zipline Adventure
  • Lock Rentals – Waterfalls of Damajagua
  • And many more…

After returning to the ship, we just enjoyed relaxing, lunch on the Lido and dinner in the MDR.

We attended the 7:30 Show Viva Variety! Shaun Brown. Another good show.

Another late night in the Casino for the drawing…no winners here.

Amber Cove Photos

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Day 5 - San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan is the capital city of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States. Five centuries ago, San Juan was an impenetrable fortified City.

Island of Puerto Rico. Purple balloon shows location of San Juan.
Island of Puerto Rico. Purple balloon shows location of San Juan.
Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico
Port of San Juan, Puerto Rico

The ship docks in what is called old San Juan. It is a bit hilly but easy to walk throughout the town with the cobbled stone streets and colorful historic buildings.

We did not take an excursion, but instead walked many blocks up and down the streets, circling old town and stopping for a local beer, coke and French fries at a quaint little place called Carthage Express, where they had a bar circling around into the kitchen. The food was then delivered by the train for the folks at the bar.  We enjoyed San Juan. Although a bit of rain when we first got off the ship, the weather wasn’t too hot and we were able to walk on the shady side of the streets.

Carnival did offer many Excursions including:

  • Explore San Juan & Pristine Beach
  • Fortesses of Old San Juan
  • Old San Juan Walk, Mojito & Mofongo Experience
  • Rum Mixology & Salsa Class
  • Snorkeling Adventure at Excambron Marine Park
  • History Behind the Walls
  • San Juan Walking Tour
  • Surf Lessons


After returning to the ship, we took a short nap and relaxed enjoying the ship.

We attended the 7:30 Deal or No Deal Game, always fun to watch.

That night we were given a free dinner at the Prime Steakhouse with another free bottle of wine. An excellent meal. Service was great, as usual.

Again, we attended the Casino drawing, no winner here.

San Juan Photos

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Day 6 - St. Maaren, Kingdom of the Netherlands

So, we docked in Sint Maarten, Kingdom of the Netherlands on Saint Martin Island. French: Saint Martin, Dutch: Sint Maarten.   This island is 13 square miles and is divided roughly 60:40 between the French Republic (20 sq mil) and the Kingdom of the Netherlands (13 sq mil). The northern French part comprises the Collectivity of Saint Martin and is an overseas collectivity of the French Republic.

Island of Saint Martin
Island of Saint Martin. The purple balloon is where our ship docked.

On September 6 & 7, 2017, the island was hit by Category 5 Hurricane Irma, which caused widespread and significant damage to buildings and infrastructure, evidence we saw throughout the island.

We docked on the Dutch side of the island and took a 2 ½ hour “St. Maarten Island Tour” by bus. This was a good tour and the bus was comfortably cool. I was disappointed in the condition of the island. It is clear they have not fully recovered from the 2017 Category 5 Hurricane Irma. 

Apparently, climate change is impacting the sea grass beds which are important for anchoring the sand in place as well as hurricane protection, resulting in the loss of beaches or sand accumulates in one area, which also impacts marine life.

We had two stops on our excursion. One where John got off and climbed the steep hill to get photos. Brave boy, given how hot and humid it was. Also it was gravel and dirt so difficult to get up and down.  It was too hot for this girl to brave the elements. Another stop was at an outdoor market. Again, I stayed on the bus and John braved the elements to explore the market.

After getting off the bus, we did a bit of shopping before returning to the ship. 

St Maartin is also where the Airplane watching is popular at Sunset Beach, where the planes fly quite low over the beach to land.  Although we did not visit this beach, it was offered as an excursion option.

Other Carnival Excursions included:

  • Golden Eagle Catamaran Saiil & Snorkel w/Open Bar
  • Sea Trek Helmet Diving & Snorkeling
  • Sweet St. Maarten Tour
  • The Big 3: Zip, Slide & Fly
  • Ultimate Rockland Adventure
  • Historical Philipsburg by Bicycle
  • Scenic Coastal Hike
  • Sky Explorer & Flying Dutchman (incl. worlds steepest Zipline)
  • Ultimate Adrenaline Combo & Airplane Watching.
  • Downtown Segway & Beach Experience
  • Maarten Best Views, Highlights & Beach
  • And many more…

When we returned to our cabin, we found that we were gifted two bags of really awesome cookies today. 

We had dinner in the MDR before attending the 7:30 show “Flick”, a great show featuring songs from popular movies.

John attended the 11:00 pm Casino Drawing.  I decided to return to our room and crash early, so skipped the Casino drawing. No winners here.

St Maartin Photos

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St. Thomas, U S Virgin Islands

St. Thomas is one of the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea, one of the three largest of the United States Virginia Island (USVI), an unincorporated territory of the United States. Together with Saint John, if forms one of the districts of the USVI. The territorial capital. And port of charlotte Amalie is located on the island. The island has a land area of 32 square miles.

St. Thomas, USVI. Purple balloon is where the Carnival Magic docked.

We did not take an excursion on this stop, but just got off the ship to do a bit of shopping in the port area. However, Carnival did offer a variety of excursions, including:

  • Kayak, Hike & Snorkel
  • Magen’s Bay Beach & Skyride to Paradise Point
  • Secret Sands Beach & Skyline Drive
  • John Champaign Catamaran Sail away
  • Turtle Cove Sail & Snorkel with Open Bar
  • Fantastic Race – Mystery, Adventure & Fun
  • Flyboarding & Beach Adventure
  • Honeymoon Beach Party Cycleboat w/ Open Bar
  • Magen’s Bay Beach Getaway
  • Sapphire Beach Snorkel & Panoramic Views
  • John Trunk Bay Beach Getaway
  • And many more…


After returning to the ship, we relaxed and just enjoyed the ship and our balcony. We hada good lunch at La Cacina Noodle Bar.

After dinner in the MDR, we attended the 7:30 show: Crew Connections: “50’s Show”.

Again, I chose to retire early and only John went to the 11:00 drawing…and of course, my name was drawn, but you had to be there to win, so again, no winners here.  The lady that got the win, won $300. Oh well!

St. Thomas Photos

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Day. 8 - Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands

Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Island.
Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Island. The purple balloon is where the Carnival Magic docked.

The Grand Turk Island is an island in the Turks and Caicos Islands, a British Overseas Territory, tropical islands in the Atlantic Ocean.

A U.S. Naval Facility (NAVFAC), was established on Grand Tur in 1954 as one of three additional Atlantic systems installed that year. The facility was active until decommissioned March 31, 1980. The actual undersea surveillance mission of the system and shore facility remained classified through decommissioning. The NAVFAC was located near the Grand Turk Lighthouse.

In 1962, John Glenn’s Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft landed in the vicinity of Grand Turk Island off the southeast shoreline. A replica of the Friendship 7 is on display in Grand Tur at the entrance to the Grand Turk Island airport.

We took a 2 hour Carnival Excursion: “Island Exploration by Hummer” which we thoroughly enjoyed. “We explored the island in their savvy HXT Electric Hummer, a fun, cool and eco-friendly way to tour the entire island. The first stop was at the “Grand Turk” sign, where we got some good photos.  We had to pull over for a few minutes while quite a rainstorm passed by. We then journeyed on and made a 20-minute stop at a private turquoise beach with powdery white sands where we heard about the mysterious 7200 ft. drop off point. We then drove through Front Street to see Old Colonial Buildings of the 1800s. We stopped downtown next to the old jetty. Then made our way to “Circle of Life” to see and touch unique sea creatures such as conch, urchins, star fish, jelly fish and sea cucumbers. Although hot and muggy, they had benches set up in the shade and cold drinks available for purchase. Then onwards to the Salt Ponds to learn about the rich cultural history of the island. You’ll see many of these ponds in the photos.  We then continued on and drove by the replica of the famous John Glenn’s Space Capsule before returning to the Port.

Along the side of the road, we saw many donkeys.  The donkeys were brought over during the time of the Salt mining to haul the salt to the ports for export.  After the salt industry ended the donkeys were no longer needed and now they are wild on the island. The main commerce on the island is now tourists. 

We passed the Grand Turk Jags McCarney International Airport (GDT). This is the only airport on the island and has a single runway and terminal. It was named after James Alexander George Smith McCartney, who died in a plane crash in New Jersey, on May 8, 1980.

We loved this excursion and highly recommend it. There were two people per hummer and there were about 10 hummers in our group. The tour guide was in the lead car and he communicated to us through a speaker system in the hummer. Another guide at the back was in in a white 4 wheeler. to lookout for traffic and keeping us all together.  Overall Well Done and an easy excursion!!! Although very hot and muggy, the hummer had canvas tops that protected us from the sun. The open windows provided a nice breeze.

Other Carnival Excursions Offered:

  • All Inclusive Family Private Beach
  • Catamaran Sail, Snorkel & Private Beach & Drinks
  • Island Vibes Bus Tour and Beach Getaway
  • Junkanoo Party Bus, Rum Mixology & Beach
  • Snorkelin & Stingray Adventure
  • Duck Boat Adventure
  • Dune Buggy Island Adventure
  • Guided Island Tour by Trikes 3 Wheelscooter
  • Jeep Advedntre, Beach & Picnic
  • Baharibeach Break
  • Bajari Beach Cabana For the Day
  • Home sweetr Home! Your Adult Only Caribbean Retreat
  • Grand Turk Flavors, Sightseeing & Lunch
  • Rainbow Calypso Island Tram
  • And more…

After dinner in the MDR we attended the show Showtime: America Rocks.

John attended the 11:00 pm drawing, but I again retired early. No winners here.


Day 9 - Sea Day

Today was called “Throwback Fun Day At Sea” Commemorating what it was like to cruise in 1987.

We spent the day again just enjoying the ship and relaxing. We had shade on our side in the morning, so spent as much time as possible on our balcony before the sun hit.  We attended the Casino drawings throughout the day (no winners here) and John attended the Academy of Fun at 11:00 am.

When we returned to our room, we found an invitation to the VIFP Diamond and Platinum Gathering at 4:30 the next day.  We also received our priority debarkation tags (#3) for our luggage with instructions to meet in the theatre at 8:30 for priority debarkation.

We skipped the evening show and many of the events today,  but they included Bingo, Ballroom Dance Class, Trivia: 80s Challenge, Military Appreciation Gathering, 80s Dance Glass and Trivia: Guess What Year and more.

We did attend the daytime drawings in the Casino. No winners here.  The rest of the day was spent just relaxing and enjoying this sea day! Dinner in the MDR.

Day 10 - Sea Day

Wow, how fast the days have gone.  Our last day, we just enjoyed the ship and relaxed.

We went to the Debarkation Presentation. When we returned to our room, the last day towel “heart” was displayed with another gift! A waterproof speaker (which we gifted to our granddaughter Mia. 

We also attended the Casino drawings, no winners here, however John had a nice win at video poker.  We spent the afternoon and evening packing. 

After dinner in the MDR, we attended the The World Works Here Open Door show in the showroom. The kids from the two groups were included in the show with song. All the flags representing where the staff was from as well as all areas of the ship were represented.  The music and the show was excellent.

We finished packing and placed our luggage out for pick up and retired early.

Sea Days Photos

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Debarkation - Norfolk, Virginia

We got up early to watch the ship come into Norfolk, got dressed and had an early relaxing breakfast in the MDR. We then finished packing up our carryons and went to the showroom to wait for debarkation.

Shortly after 8:30 we got in line to leave the ship.  The line moved slowly but steadily and we found our luggage and went through customs (oddly there was no customs check).  We then got in line for the bus to the parking lot.  This took a bit but the wait was in the shade and wasn’t too bad.

After arriving at the parking lot we were instructed to stay on the bus while they unloaded the luggage. We then got off the bus, found our luggage and then found our car.  We were then on the road home. 

The drive home was a bit long as I-95 was stop and go.  We got home right about 2:00 pm.

Debarkation Day Photos

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Carnival Magic Pros and Cons

We spent 43 days on the Carnival Pride last year and found ourselves doing some comparing.  One of the important things to note is that the Carnival Pride had less than 2000 people on board and its a bit smaller ship.  Because it was a European Cruise, there were not very many kids on board. So, the comparison may not be completely fair.

Another thing to note is that this cruise was fully booked in the summertime with a capacity of 3690 for double capacity, max capacity 4724. There were 4500 people on board and 600 kids. This created long waits at elevators and crowds on the Lido.  

Here is a list of things we liked about the ship and cruise:

  • There was a non-smoking Casino, which was awesome.  Also the main Casino had a non-smoking section, which was also nice.  (John says that almost all of the craps players wished the Craps table was located in the non-smoking section. During the time he played there were no Craps players that smokked and they all agreed they’d prefer it to be located in the non-smoking casino).
  • All of the evening shows we attended were great. Lots of great music, choreography and lighting. We  never had a problem finding a good place to sit, but then we did tend to arrive early.
  • There were lots of activities aboard the ship. Bingo, Lets Make a Deal. Love and Marriage Show, and Comedy shows. There was lots of music and trivia games throughout the day.  Lots to do.
  • The service, as always, was great. Standard great service by the Carnival staff.
  • The process for getting a table in the Main Dining Room (MDR) worked well. The only day we had a long wait was on the first day, when folks were figuring out the HUB app system. 
  • We thought Louis the Cruise Director did a great job! 
  • I liked that they began delivering the daily Fun Times the night before again.  
  • We are not water people so we had no feedback regarding the pool areas.


Here are things that we feel could be improved upon:

  • The WIFI service was bad, even though we upgraded, it was not reliable.
  • Although we marked not to sit at a shared table, we were almost always placed at a shared table with a tight fit, too. [On the Pride, we were never placed with others when we marked the app]. We did meet lots of nice people, though.
  • Butter…an odd thing to compare, but the butter was just a small slab and always hard. On the Pride the butter was whipped and almost always soft enough to spread.
  • Elevators were not synced well. This could be due to the number of people on the ship, but frequently they were all on the same floor. Odd.
  • The placement of the Aft Elevators caused issues with the people waiting to get into the Aft dining room and the people waiting to get onto the elevators. We missed getting on an elevator more than once because we couldn’t get through the crowd waiting to dine.
  • The placement of the Lido Buffet was awkward, causing bad flow. Compared to the Pride, where the sections were more separated, which we thought worked much better. For example, the salad bar was just before the hot food, which caused long lines, people had to wait for the salad bar folks even if they didn’t want a salad.  And if you just wanted a salad, you were waiting in line with the people wanting the hot food. (weird). Also the Deli was right in the middle, causing long lines for people to have to walk through, instead of to the side, like on the Pride.
  • There was very little sitting area and hardly any shaded places to sit in the Serenity deck. This was a favorite place for us on the Pride that had tables set up in a shaded area by the bar.
  • Maybe a nit, but the third floor where the theatre (aft) and the MDR (fwd) did not go all the way through. You had to get from one end of the ship to the other from the forth or fifth floor and then go down from there.  
  • Norfolk Terminal is difficult to get to. We experienced delays at the Cedar Grove Parking with early check in time.  (2 hours from parking to the time we got on the ship).   Note that next year they are closing the terminal to fix this problem and folks we talked to who got there in the afternoon had no problems.


Would we go on another cruise on the Carnival Magic?  Absolutely.  Many of our cons are just nits and overall we had a great experience.


The family Information was retrieved from a variety of family trees, webgens and family stories. I will note citations as appropriate and hope the information assists you in your research, but please do not use this as proven evidence. Feedback is welcome!

Pat Burns. Copyright © 2024. All Rights Reserved.

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