"Doctor Strange said not to touch anything!" - January 2018 solo MDAS/WDW (FINISHED Sept. 4)

Discussion in 'Disney Cruise Line Trip Reports' started by YawningDodo, Jan 29, 2018.

  1. YawningDodo

    YawningDodo DIS Veteran

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    Or: A first-timer goes solo on the Disney Magic
    January 21, 2018 sailing with Marvel Day at Sea
    Miami, Cozumel, and Castaway Cay
    (and a little bit of WDW to finish it off)


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    Hello and welcome!
    This is my first Dis trip report, which seems fitting because it was also my first-ever cruise. Ever. Anywhere. Any cruise line. Also my first time in Mexico, though I don't know if I'll count it.

    About me:
    I'm 30 years old and a longtime Disney fan and a somewhat more recent (but devoted -- maybe a little too devoted) Marvel fan. I live in Montana with one housemate and probably too many pets, and my big passion is analog gaming (think tabletop and live action roleplaying games, as well as board games). My favorite Marvel character is Doctor Strange, and his 2016 movie was what finally got me to start reading the comics as well (the current Doctor Strange run that started in 2015 is amazing, btw -- Blood in the Aether is my favorite arc so far). Also, I did the Disney College Program not once, but twice: spring 2006 (freshman year) and fall 2009 (senior year). As a result, I have been all over the WDW parks more times than I can count, and I'm pretty sure I could navigate them blindfolded. WDW is still my first Disney love, but that level of familiarity makes it a little less exciting than it could be these days, so in the last few years I've regeared my travel priorities and aim to visit all of the Disney parks in the world in the next decade or so in order to get fresher Disney experiences.

    Why this cruise?
    I had a vague idea for the last year or two that I wanted to eventually do a Disney cruise, based on knowing that DCL offered the kinds of theming and activities that were likely to appeal to me (I don't particularly care for casinos, don't dance much, and have zero interest in hooking up with anyone). I had it sorted out in my head: I was going to sail on the Wonder first, on one of her trips to Alaska, and it was going to happen sometime around 2019 or 2020. I certainly wasn't planning on another big trip less than a year out from my first visit to Disneyland this last fall with my housemate, not when I'm saving up toward (hopefully!) a fall 2018 Disneyland Paris trip.

    And then the magic of targeted advertising happened. Turns out when you put yourself in charge of a Disneyland trip, doing all the research and making all the bookings, Disney teams up with Google and Facebook and endlessly floods you with ads that are very Relevant To Your Interests. I'd been aware of MDAS and had resigned myself to missing it, but the ads got me curious and I did some more reading, and then more and more and -- well, I quite suddenly realized that, thanks to an unexpected windfall earlier this year, this whole thing was actually possible for me to fit into my budget and my schedule. I booked in November through Dreams Unlimited, maybe a week or two ahead of the 75 day window, so the timing actually worked out perfectly.

    Itinerary as planned: :laughing:
    January 20: Fly to Miami; overnight at Miami Int'l Airport Hotel
    January 21: Sleep in; embarkation
    January 22: Day at sea, including Mixology
    January 23: Cozumel with Beginners' SCUBA port adventure; Pirate Night
    January 24: Marvel Day at Sea!!​
    January 25: Castaway Cay
    January 26: Debarkation; drive to Walt Disney World; dinner at Boma
    January 27: Morning at Animal Kingdom; rest at resort; evening at MK with dessert party
    January 28: Fly home

    As you'll see along the way, not all of that happened quite as planned. I'll end this trip report with a summary of what went right, what went wrong, what I'd do again, and what I'd do differently...but for now, we'll just take it as it goes. ::yes::
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2018
  2. YawningDodo

    YawningDodo DIS Veteran

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    Last edited: Sep 4, 2018
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  4. SonyaShay

    SonyaShay Hufflepuff

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    joining in :teeth:
     
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  5. YawningDodo

    YawningDodo DIS Veteran

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    January 20, 2018
    Dawn of the First Day

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    My flight itinerary had me taking off for Denver around 3:00 in the afternoon on Saturday, then making a tight connection to fly on to Miami, where I would arrive close to midnight. I had a reservation at the Miami International Airport Hotel, chosen mostly so I wouldn't have to deal with any shuttles to other hotels that late at night -- I wanted to get in, grab my bag, and go straight to bed. I'd wanted to sleep in a bit, so of course my dog woke me up at 7:00.

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    The face of a monster.


    But okay, this is fine. It's just a longish day before a good, long sleep. I had a nice brunch with my housemate before coming back to the house and packing all my things, and she dropped me off at the airport promptly at 1:30, which was the point at which I learned that my flight had been two hours delayed. This of course meant that there wasn't even the slightest chance of making my original connection. I elected to fly on to Denver that night anyway, as I was worried a new set of flights in the morning wouldn't get me there in time for embarkation. The United ticketing agent initially offered to give me a hotel voucher to use in Denver before flying out again in the morning through Houston and getting to Miami around 1:00 in the afternoon, but when I explained that I was going on a cruise and desperately did not want to miss the boat, he managed to get me a transfer onto a redeye with American Airlines instead.

    So! New plan: Fly from Montana later in the evening, take a 3 hour layover in Denver, fly to Miami at midnight for a 6:00 AM arrival. Sleep is for the weak!!

    With my first departure time uncertain, I opted to just hang out at the airport instead of going home again for the hour or so I could have managed. After calling the MIA Hotel and cancelling my room (which was quick, painless, and free), I entertained myself for those four hours (the hour of leeway I'd given myself, plus three hours' delay rather than two) talking on the phone with my parents and snagging dinner at the airport's lone deli counter. Montana airports are tiny; ours has something like four or six gates in total. I must have done something like twenty or thirty laps of the entire concourse while I was waiting.

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    A meh sandwich and an okay muffin.


    It was around the time I was boarding the plane that I discovered I had packed the wrong phone charger, and of course I'd run down the battery while waiting around the airport. Well...dang. I just had to hope I could find one in Denver when I arrived (and that the shops wouldn't all be closed!). Still, at least I was on the plane, my passage was all booked, my layover was more than long enough that I couldn't possibly miss the next plane, and everything was set up to go as smoothly as overnight travel can go. Right? Right????


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    Montana gets tiny airliners to match our tiny airports - you're seeing right; that's two seats on one side and one on the other.

    I was actually feeling pretty good when I got to Denver, especially because finding a new phone charger turned out not to be a problem at all. I had a couple of United Club passes, but I resisted the call of Fancyland for the moment to make the trek over to Concourse A, where I could check in for my American Airlines flight. I'd never been given a boarding pass, but I had a confirmation number and all I had to do was get checked in. Right? Right????

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    It's all so big!!

    I was directed to use one of the kiosks to check in with my confirmation number annnd...nada. I went back to the lone gate agent I could find (American's gates were all but deserted at that hour) and she tried to check me in annnnnd...nada. After a bit of digging, she discovered that United had never properly released my ticket to American's computer system, so it had been automatically voided. Then, in the intervening time, the flight had sold out.

    [​IMG]

    A visit to United's guest services desk (back in Concourse B, because nothing can be quick or easy) confirmed that the earliest they could get me to Miami was at 1:00 the next afternoon...and that was if the morning flight went out on time. See, the other thing I discovered, that was all over the TV screens around the airport? Big winter storm, heading right for Denver. More major flight delays expected. I began to consider the logistics of making a trip insurance claim, and whether that would mean trying to rebook on a later cruise or using the money to just go hang out in Orlando for the week, since my flights weren't covered by the insurance I had on the cruise itself. I was able to confirm that the ticket had finally been released to American, along with my checked luggage. I opted to try standby on the midnight American flight, knowing that if I didn't get on it I'd be spending a looong night in the airport before trying again in the morning.

    With things not really settled but nothing more I could do until boarding time, I headed up to the United Club to get a snack and some of the light beer that's included with entry (why does light beer even exist, though?). I'd been hankering for a real dinner when I got off the plane, but by this point I'd lost my appetite and couldn't really enjoy pretending to be the kind of fancypants person who just casually hangs out in airline club lounges.

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    Good couscous, though.


    I'd been told 10:30 was when they'd have people at the gate I could talk to about the American midnight flight, so shortly before then I headed back to Concourse A.

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    I saw a lot of this train.

    I came up to the desk and started to explain the situation to the new agent I found there...only to find out that I was booked on the flight!! Shortly afterward I found out that the agent I'd talked to earlier (Dusty, for whom I need to leave the biggest, happiest comment on American's feedback form today) had re-checked the flight on her lunch break, discovered that a seat had come open, and booked me in!!

    :thanks::thanks::thanks::thanks::thanks:
    Hyper as heck from the good news, from the buzz of the beer, and from sleep deprivation, I got a little silly and ran off to the Tattered Cover shop nearby and bought Murder on the Orient Express. Why? I don't even know. It seemed really important at the time.

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    At the time I also found it unreasonably funny that its cover is tattered.

    I boarded the plane with no further troubles, and discovered, to my surprise and delight, that I was seated in an exit row! I would become less delighted as the night wore on and I completely failed to be able to sleep on this plane, as I would have rather had a TV screen than all this extra legroom if I was going to be awake all night anyway. But you know, beggars can't be choosers, and I was overjoyed that I'd made it onto the plane at all.


    [​IMG]
    Later, I wished I'd gotten out of my seat and just curled up on all this open floor space.

    I'll leave off here, since I've hit the limits for how many photos I can upload to a single post -- I'll have to decide whether to host the rest of my images offsite or just keep these entries short.


    Next up: Sleep Is but a Distant Memory
     

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    Last edited: Feb 3, 2018
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  6. SonyaShay

    SonyaShay Hufflepuff

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    oh my gosh at the travel issues. I would have been a basket case. You DEF held it together better than I would have.

    Now is the point where I BEG you to keep the pictures here with short posts and not put them offsite. See, where I work has blocks on those type sites and I can not see any photos. And playing on DIS is what I do when work is slow but they force me to stay here :rolleyes1
     
  7. cadien

    cadien DIS Veteran

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    We're in North Dakota, so I can totally relate to all of both your local and Denver airport experiences. Our Marvel cruise is in April so fingers crossed there won't be storms, but they happen even then.
     
  8. Lesley Wake

    Lesley Wake May the force be with you!

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    Following along.

    Oh boy, I would have been in tears at all those travel issues. I mean, yeah, you could have done Disney, but still, missing the cruise! And it totally sucks about your battery and phone charger!

    OMG, that is just amazing! What a great agent!
     
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  9. YawningDodo

    YawningDodo DIS Veteran

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    Ah, but I left out the part where I ran into an acquaintance from home (also stranded overnight thanks to airline shenanigans) and kvetched with him for half an hour, and the part where the United Club bartender got to hear allll about it as well. Most of my screaming was internal, though, I will stand by that much.

    (and can do!)

    The kicker is that the weather here was beautiful, and since it was a sunny afternoon they didn't even have to de-ice the plane when it finally got here and turned around to leave again. I've learned my lesson, though; no more afternoon flights. It would have been better to spend a whole day at DIA than deal with this.

    There may have been teary eyes, by which I mean there definitely were. I was fortunate, though; everyone I met along the way seemed to be doing their best to help.
     
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  10. TCB in FLA

    TCB in FLA DIS Veteran

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    My heart rate went up just reading about your departure day! Hoping you are getting all the trip headaches out of the way early.
     
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  11. jedijill

    jedijill Chiefs fan living in Bronco country

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    Crazy flight shenanigans! Glad it worked out for you. At least Denver has a nice airport!

    Jill in CO
     
  12. Alura21

    Alura21 Earning My Ears

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    Solo travelers unite! I'm super excited about reading your trip report. I'm doing my own solo cruise with Disney in May. Also holy crap that travel difficulty. That agent earns alll the kudos.
     
  13. YawningDodo

    YawningDodo DIS Veteran

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    My apologies for the delay -- I've been beset by post-travel crud this week, which relates directly to a couple of things that are going in the "things I would do differently" category later in this trip report.

    By far the worst part of the trip, though a few more things would surprise me along the way.

    If it hadn't been for that winter storm, I would have been totally fine with overnighting in Denver...ah, well. Colorado is my birth state and even after I moved away I've tended to end up routed through Denver, so it's a very familiar airport to me. It could be a lot worse. It could be LAX.

    Woot WOOT! You're going to have such a great time! Even as a repeat solo traveler, I was surprised how easy it was to jump right in on this cruise.
     
  14. YawningDodo

    YawningDodo DIS Veteran

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    January 21, 2018
    Sleep Is but a Distant Memory

    We left off having boarded a plane in Denver close to midnight. Knowing the flight would take three and a half or four hours, and knowing I had a long day ahead of me, I of course wanted to sleep...but between the uncomfortable seat and the two cappuccinos I'd had in the United Club (I never claimed to be wise), I was out of luck. I managed to nap for twenty or thirty minutes once or twice, but finally gave up and played Goat Simulator on my newly recharged phone.

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    Goat Simulator is the funniest thing in the world at 2:00 AM.

    Aaaand then my phone battery ran down and after two failed attempts to get my external battery and the correct cord out of my carry-on in the overhead bin, I felt too self conscious to wake my seatmates up a third time. Luckily, my phone had enough juice to get through an episode of My Brother, My Brother and Me, which is an excellent advice podcast that does not at all ever devolve into rambling arguments about Jimmy Buffett. Nope. Totally serious business. In this episode, a listener had written in asking what to do with several dozen plastic crawdads he'd bought on Amazon while drunk. Quality content, people.

    At last we touched down in Miami and I dragged my weary carcass off the plane and into the glaring flourescent lighting of the concourse, so tired that all I wanted in that moment was to find somewhere dark and sleep for the next day or two. Instead I turned my feet toward the terminal...


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    Oh. That's...fine....

    ...and made the long trek to the baggage claim. Though I'd had assurances that American Airlines had control of my bag as of Denver, I was still nervous that it might have been misrouted in all the back and forth about which plane I was supposed to be on. I'd put my pajamas, all my documents, and one change of clothes in my carry-on, so if my checked bag missed the boat I'd survive, but it would have meant no costumes, no door decorations, and a whole lot of laundry. After what felt like an eternity of waiting, though, my bag emerged onto the conveyor belt and I was finally back on plan. Sort of. Next stop: breakfast.

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    LOL Jimmy Buffett

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    Actually not bad for breakfast at an airport bar.

    After lingering over several more cups of coffee, I changed clothes and washed my face in a bathroom, which was awkward and tiresome but absolutely worth it in terms of how much better it made me feel. Between that and the walk from the concourse I was feeling nearly human by this point! After a little more faffing around to kill time, I made my way back to the baggage claims to sit and wait another hour or so before the expected opening of the DCL shuttle desk at 9:00.

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    Huzzah!

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    Fresh clothes, not so fresh face.

    Then, at last, I saw a woman dressed in a smart suit and a pair of Minnie ears and I thought...yes. I am here. I am ready for this. It turned out I was waiting by the wrong baggage claim (DCL doesn't seem to have a permanent desk/station at the Miami airport and the location had been changed from what it said on the reservation, so she was actually over by the escalators directing people to the right place), but I was soon sorted out and checked in and on my way to the bus!


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    My people!

    I'd been a good traveler and prepacked my smaller ship carry-on separately from my airline carry-on, as I knew I'd need different things in each, so while I waited I'd dug my little carry-on for the ship out of my checked bag, transferred all my documents into it, and tagged my airline carry-on to be handled by the porters along with my large bag. It was such a relief to switch to carrying a smaller, lighter bag at that point.

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    An overcast day, but the temperature was in the low 70's. Perfect!

    I missed taking a photo of my first glimpse of the Magic from the bus windows because I was too distracted by the cartoons they were playing. As we pulled in to the port itself, though, I got another glimpse.

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    So...beautiful...

    There was a bit of sitting around and I ended up charging my way up to the front of the bus and demanding to get off and get at my bags when I realized I'd left my passport in one of the bags I'd tagged for check-in. :oops: Turns out I didn't plan that carry-on switcheroo as well as I'd thought...really, I should have had a checklist of things to shift from one bag to another, but in my defense I'd been expecting to do it at bedtime the night before, or after a full night's sleep, not in the middle of the baggage claim with a half-functioning, sleep-deprived brain. Anyway, I got myself sorted out and then it was time to go --

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    Not pictured: the security line before this.

    -- and wait in several lines. Port security hadn't actually opened when I got there on what was literally the first shuttle of the day, so there was a bit of standing around in the queue until they opened up the checkpoint and started moving people through, and then waiting again upstairs to actually get checked in, and so on and so forth. The family behind me in line was already arguing among themselves, which was...hoo boy. Good luck with that, I guess? I managed to split off into a different line than them, and it was worth waiting a little longer to not have to listen to it. :sad2: Hopefully things eased up for them when they got on board.

    The agent at the desk snapped my photo and gave me my Key to the World, and off I went!

    (continued below)
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2018
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  15. YawningDodo

    YawningDodo DIS Veteran

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    January 21, 2018
    Sleep Is but a Distant Memory (continued)

    ...to the...next waiting area. :bored:

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    At least it was less hectic than the airport.

    I'd read up on what to expect with a DCL ground transfer, so I wasn't terribly surprised that I ended up in group 10 despite being among the first to arrive at the port. Honestly, I don't think it made that big of a difference. There was a pretty good chunk of waiting before they started calling any groups at all (again, expected; I hadn't meant to be at the port this early but figured it was sit there or sit at the airport), but once they started boarding the ship they went through the groups at a pretty good clip. In the meantime, I made a couple phone calls to let friends and family know I'd made it and that I'd be out of contact as soon as I boarded, and I had a good time watching a couple of forklifts loading supplies onto the ship. I didn't really feel up to dealing with the scrum of children waiting to meet Mickey and whomever else they'd sent out for meet and greets, so I just settled in by a window and stayed there.

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    Neat! I counted five pallets of milk cartons being loaded onto the ship, btw.

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    Hey, I can see one of my bags!

    At last -- at last! -- my number was called. I showed my ticket and passport, made my way up the escalator and along the hall....

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    We're doing this! It's happening!



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    Hang in there, Goofy.

    ...skipped the boarding photo, and up the gangway to deck 4 I went!

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    The little ramp onto this thing made me so nervous you don't even know.

    And at last -- I'd made it!

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    Home away from home.

    Next up: Food, Party Time, and More Food
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018
  16. tinkerbellmagic

    tinkerbellmagic don't hate me because I loved the castle cake

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    I'm loving your trip report! Your writing style is so entertaining! It's so much fun to cruise along. You have definitely captured the "joys" of travel and with such good humor. :)
     
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  17. dcassetta

    dcassetta DIS Veteran

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    I remember you posting about your plans for this cruise, so now I'm really happy to read your TR. i've sailed on Disney with friends and family, but several of my favorite trips have been solos!
     
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  18. mmmears

    mmmears DIS Veteran

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    Great start! I'm following along. :goodvibes
     
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  19. SonyaShay

    SonyaShay Hufflepuff

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    YAY!!! I know that was the exact moment that you finally felt at ease with all the travel issues.
     
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  20. Kkb0517

    Kkb0517 Mouseketeer

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    Great read so far looking forward to the rest!
     
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  21. Lesley Wake

    Lesley Wake May the force be with you!

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    Love your shirt and necklace though!

    You know, I always find that so cool! To see how they deliver and take care of everything!
     
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