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Hotel secrets: What types of hotels are most likely to give out upgrades? Expert top tips

Hotel upgrades can prove the cherry on the top of a holiday if you manage to nab one. However, they can seem tricky to come by, with many Britons never experiencing the thrill of getting upgraded. Express.co.uk spoke to a travel expert to find out whether some hotels are more likely to dish out upgrades than others.

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Tim Hentschel, co-founder and CEO of HotelPlanner, shared his top tips.

He revealed that certain hotels are indeed more likely to upgrade you.

Hentschel explained that your chances are higher with “independent luxury four and five-star resorts.”

What’s more, he added: “Typically hotels that depend on word of mouth referrals will try to earn repeat customers and patronage from your friends and family.”

The hotel expert also pointed that it’s “never pointless” to ask for an upgrade.

However, he warned that it can be more difficult depending on the hotel.

“It’s harder if the hotel is full or it’s a one, two, or three-star limited service low rise hotel where all the rooms are the same, i.e. would you like the first or second-floor room with a view of the parking lot or the back of the building next door?”

There are various things to consider when you’re choosing a hotel that holidaymakers might not realise.

Hentschel advises looking into the last time the hotel was renovated.

“Was it a soft or hard renovation? Typically you want a hotel that has soft reinventions (linens, drapes, walls painted, carpet replaced) every five to eight years, and hard renovations (lobby and common areas reconstructed as well as guest rooms including bathrooms) every 15 to 20 years.”

In the light of the coronavirus pandemic, many people may be worried about what the crisis means for their hotel bookings.

Hentschel advised: “Hotels are letting customers change their reservations for free or get a full refund, since hotels are typically 20 percent to 30 percent more expensive over the summer travel season, they should look to see if their hotel is more expensive over the summer than what they already paid for it, if so, then they should just change their dates.

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  • Never make this mistake if you want a free hotel room upgrade

“If their hotel is less expensive over the summer then what they paid, they should cancel for the full refund and then re-book at the lower price.

“If they decide to cancel and rebook, they should rebook quickly because China has already recovered from the coronavirus with no new cases, so their hotel market is bouncing back, once this happens in Europe and The USA, hotel rates over the summer will start spiking quickly.”

Consumer rights advocate Which? has also shared advice for holiday accommodation.

“If you had just booked accommodation, and the hotel or B&B has now cancelled, you should also receive a refund,” said Which?

“Many hotel chains like Premier Inn and Hilton have said that they will offer full refunds. Airbnb is also offering customers full refunds until 14 April.

“But we’ve heard from a number of customers struggling to get refunds. One disappointed holidaymaker, James, told us he had a holiday cottage in Northumberland booked for during the lockdown period. But Cottages.com refused to refund his stay, offering him a 12-month deadline to rebook instead.

“James said the company ‘just couldn’t tell me what would happen if this all lasts more than a year, and said I might even have to pay more when I rebook. I feel very let down.’

“If you have trouble getting a refund, you can also try contacting your travel insurance company to see if you can make a claim.”

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Travel

Delta CEO: 'We still haven't seen the bottom'


Delta Air Lines expects revenue over the next three months to be down 90%, with no end of the industry’s troubles in sight.

a red and white plane sitting on top of a grass covered field: KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - APRIL 03: Planes belonging to Delta Air Lines sit idle at Kansas City International Airport on April 03, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. U.S. carriers reported an enormous drop in bookings amid the spread of the coronavirus and are waiting for a government bailout to fight the impact. Delta lost almost $2 billion in March and parked half of its fleet in order to save money. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

“Even as Delta is burning more than $60 million in cash every day, we know we still haven’t seen the bottom,” said CEO Ed Bastian warned employees on Friday. He said April’s schedule will be down “at least 80% smaller than originally planned, with 115,000 flights canceled.”

As an example of the drop in traffic he said that on March 28, Delta carried only 38,000 customers, versus its normal late-March Saturday of traffic of 600,000.

“I wish I could predict this would end soon, but the reality is we simply don’t know how long it will take before the virus is contained and customers are ready to fly again,” he said.

Airline fan Buffett dumping shares

In a separate filing Berkshire Hathaway, disclosed that it sold 18% of its stake in Delta earlier this week, dumping nearly 13 million shares for $314 million.

Berkshire also disclosed it had sold 2.3 million shares of Southwest Airlines for $74 million. That only represented 4% of Berkshire’s Southwest holdings though.

Berkshire and its chairman Warren Buffett have been major investors in a number of airlines in recent years. It previously held 11% of Delta’s shares, and 10.3% of Southwest before the recent sales, along with 10% of American and 9% of United.

Berkshire is among the three largest shareholders of all four airlines. Buffett typically does not sell shares simply due to a decline in price or difficult economic times.

Other airlines also see tough times ahead

Delta wasn’t the only airline issuing a grim outlook for business Friday evening. United and JetBlue did as well.

United said that its average revenue in March was $100 million a day less than a year ago. It also cut April capacity by 80%, and said that it still only expected to fill a small portion of the seats it flies – a percentage between the low teens and single digits. United filled 84% of its seats with paying customers throughout 2019. An airline typically needs to sell at least two-thirds of the available seats on a flight in order for it to be profitable.

United said because of the low traffic it expects to make even deeper cuts in the May schedule and it will continue to cut the schedule until it sees signs of a recovery in demand. But it’s not expecting any significant rebound soon. It said revenue for the last three months of this year is still expected to be down 30% from the final quarter of 2019.

JetBlue said that it expects to fly only 7,000 customers a day in April and possibly in May, compared to the normal 120,000 it would handle. It said it was taking in just $1 million a day in bookings and ancillary fees, down from $22 million during April last year. And it is issuing $11 million per day of travel bank credits for canceled bookings.

Airlines file for help

Bastian confirmed that Delta filed Friday for its share of $25 billion in federal grants for the airline industry approved by Congress last week. Most other airlines confirmed that they, too, filed or planned to file for such support. Airlines that did not file by Friday stood the risk that there would not be money available to them when they did.

There’s another $25 billion in loan support available as part of the package. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told his employees a week ago that American stood to get $12 billion of the $50 billion of help available because of it is the world’s largest airline.

United, Southwest, JetBlue and Hawaiian airlines disclosed their requests for help in statements or company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sun County, Spirit Airlines, Alaska and Allegiant Airlines told CNN on that they had filed.

The small regional airlines that operate as feeders for the major carriers also all filed for help, according to Faye Malarkey Black, the CEO of the Regional Airline Association. That does not include the two regional airlines that already announced plans to go out of business.


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    The cruise line industry has taken a major beating due to covid-19, still analysts say the number of bookings for 2021 cruises have increased since this time last year.

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    Coronavirus-hit cruise ships able to dock in Florida
    Two Holland America cruise ships with coronavirus patients aboard were finally allowed to dock at a port near Fort Lauderdale, resolving a days-long impasse that drew the attention of President Donald Trump. Jillian Kitchener has more.

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Campfire cook out recipes: Fabian Low’s one-wok noodles

Thomas Bywater asks guest chefs to prepare their best one-pot dishes that you can cook anywhere

It’s at this moment in time a backyard barbecue might seem an appealing way to add a little escapism to your meals.

But, faced with another weekend at home, your sausages might no longer cut the mustard.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=_dDQQin20lU%3Ffeature%3Doembed
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Zaandam: An oral history of an infected cruise ship

The cruise ship Zaandam is nine decks of escapism, stretching 781 feet bow to stern, with a casino and spa, a steakhouse and two swimming pools. Its walls are mounted with signed guitars from Iggy Pop and Eric Clapton. It was christened 20 years ago by Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, who wore matching nautical suits. On March 7, four days before the novel coronavirus was classified as a pandemic, the ship set sail from Buenos Aires for its routine trip around Cape Horn. It carried more than 1,000 passengers from around the world. They were hoping for an unforgettable journey. They had no idea.

Three weeks later, all of Zaandam’s passengers were quarantined in their cabins. Four people had died. Dozens were reporting symptoms consistent with covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Port after port had denied entry to the ship, which is operated by Holland America Line, a subsidiary of Carnival. There was nothing to do but float on a beautiful vessel that had become a beautiful prison – one beset by illness and the presence of a potentially deadly virus – and hope for deliverance.

Stranded on the water, the cruise became a microcosm of what’s happening on land, with the pandemic upending daily life in an uneven way. Some people were living in a nightmare, sick and scared. Some people were living in odd inconvenience, doing jumping jacks on their balconies and watching movies. The crew, depleted by illness, had to work overtime – like other essential workers on the mainland. But all were in the same boat, so to speak: on an anxious voyage back to a changed world, unsure when they’d return to solid ground.

This is their story, as told by passengers of Zaandam through phone interviews, social media posts and email correspondence. Some quotes have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

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Britain at its best: The Isle of Lewis and Harris, Scotland

Britain at its best: Wrap yourself up in the glories of the Isle of Lewis and Harris – the ‘tweediest place on the planet’

  • The Daily Mail’s Harry Mount visited Lewis and Harris, Scotland’s biggest island
  • During the trip he meet one of the 150 Harris Tweed weavers on the island
  • He also visited the Callanish Stones, Scotland’s greatest set of standing stones

My hotel room in Stornoway, capital of the island of Lewis and Harris, was the tweediest place on the planet.

The chairs were upholstered in cream Harris Tweed. My blanket was in a heather-purple shade of Harris Tweed. I added to the effect by buying a sponge bag — in tartan Harris Tweed.

I bought my sponge bag (for £18) from one of the 150 Harris Tweed weavers on the island, Iain Martin. Do visit his croft in Airidh a’ Bhruaich, a half-hour drive from Stornoway.

Quiet interlude: A couple enjoy the view at Geodha Mhartainn on the Isle of Harris 

Martin, 52, has been working on the family croft since he was five, following in the footsteps of his father, grandparents and great-grandparents.

With his gentle, lilting, Outer Hebrides accent, Iain is an unequalled guide to Harris Tweed. Right in front of me, he wove a bright pink herringbone tweed on his 1926 Hattersley Domestic loom. How soft it felt — like butter straight from the creamery.

Iain has his own sheep and demonstrates the whole tweed-making process, from lamb to shop. He can show you everything from lambing to peat-cutting to sheep-shearing and sheepdog-handling.

Harris Tweed was created in 1846 by landowner, Lady Dunmore, who promoted the cloth to her pals, including one Queen Victoria.

After a decline in the Eighties, it now sells four times more than it did 15 years ago. Iain has customers as far afield as Texas.

In the picture-postcard town of Stornoway you can buy new men’s and women’s Harris Tweed jackets from two neighbouring shops — Harris Tweed Hebrides and Tweedtastic — which overlook the harbour.

For vintage jackets, starting from only £49, head round the corner to Lewis Revival.

Cameron’s Chip Shop down the street uses excellent local fish. For a sit-down dinner, the Harris & Lewis Smokehouse has some of the best smoked salmon in the world.

Just across the harbour is Lews Castle, a thwacking great Gothic pile, completed in 1851 for Sir James Matheson, the tycoon who owned the island.

You can stay there, or have a free look around the mammoth rooms with their views across the water. The cafe is good for lunch, next door to the museum, all spick and span thanks to a lottery grant.

Six of the famed Lewis chessmen — the cartoonish, 12th century, Nordic chess pieces found in a Lewis sandbank in 1831 — are on show here. The history of Lewis and Harris, Scotland’s biggest island, goes back a lot further. (Don’t be confused by the two names: it is one single island.)

A half-hour drive west of Stornoway are the Callanish Stones, Scotland’s greatest set of standing stones, erected around 2,750 BC. They’re laid out in a cross pattern on a hillock overlooking Loch Roag, with the island of Great Bernera as a backdrop.

The Daily Mail’s Harry Mound spotted Highland cattle during a visit to the Callanish Stones

Just as with Stonehenge, no one knows exactly what they were built for — which only adds to their intense, mysterious, spiritual feeling. Unlike Stonehenge, they aren’t besieged by tourists.

I had them to myself the whole time I was there. What’s more, there are other sets of standing stones on neighbouring spots overlooking the sea.

I stood watching two crofters herd a flock of sheep — chubby, tweed-producing factories. A sight unchanged for hundreds, or thousands, of years. There are also Highland cattle.

For more recent history, take a short drive to the village of Tong. Donald Trump’s mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, was born in a croft house there in 1912, where she lived until she was 18, before emigrating.

There is no mention of Mrs Trump. One passer-by said to me: ‘I do know where she lives but I’m not going to tell you.’

A young man was happy to direct me to the house: a nice, double-fronted home with dormer windows and a big garden bordered by fir trees.

As he described it, it’s a ‘blueish house’ — easily distinguished from the White House. 

TRAVEL FACTS

EasyJet (easyjet.com) flies from London to Glasgow from £44 return. Loganair (loganair.co.uk) flies Glasgow to Stornoway from £171 return. Harry Mount stayed in the Caladh Inn, Stornoway. Doubles from £99, caladhinn.co.uk

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VIDEO: Stansted becomes aircraft parking lot to tackle Covid-19

London Stansted has released drone footage showing how it is finding parking spaces for almost 100 aircraft which have been grounded following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The reduced operation at what is usually the fourth busiest airport in the UK meant an Essex Police drone, based at Stansted, was able to safely launch and capture the bird’s-eye view of the airfield.

The footage shows almost all of the airport’s passenger stands occupied by aircraft which would usually be carrying passengers to around 200 destinations. 

It also shows aircraft parked on the north side of the airfield, which usually houses London Stansted’s busy private and charter aviation operation.

Despite most airlines suspending almost all passenger operations, there are still some flights operating in and out of London Stansted, with a handful of passenger flights a day and the airport’s cargo operations continuing to bring supplies into the UK.

London Stansted operations director, Nick Millar, said: “This is a challenging time for the whole country and the aviation sector is no different.

“We have been working hard with our airlines to find space for them to park their planes which would otherwise be flying around the world, given the majority of them have taken the decision to suspend most of their operations for the time being.

“Usually at this time of year we’d see more than 500 flights a day, but this unprecedented situation means we are faced with a different challenge of ensuring there is space for these aircraft on the ground and that airlines can continue to maintain them.

“This is alongside the cargo operation which continues to bring in essential items like food and pharmaceuticals from around the globe.”

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Nevada Extends Casino Closures Through April


Nevada has extended its closure of casinos and other nonessential businesses through April 30 in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

a sign in front of a palm tree with Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign in the background

“This directive builds on previous directives around school closures, social distancing, closure of nonessential businesses, and bans on public gatherings of 10 or more people by requiring you to stay at home unless leaving is absolutely necessary,” Gov. Steve Sisolak said via the Las Vegas Sun.

Sisolak originally ordered all nonessential businesses across the state to close for 30 days on March 17.

MGM Resorts International and other casino owners and operators suspended operations at the same time.

“While this will undoubtedly have a significant negative effect on our business in the near-term, we are well-positioned to emerge from the current crisis in light of our strong liquidity position and valuable asset portfolio,” said Bill Hornbuckle, Acting CEO and President of MGM Resorts in a statement last month. “We are currently making very difficult decisions, but believe these will be in the best interest of the Company long-term.”

Despite the challenges, many hotels and resorts continue to make their rooms available to healthcare workers and others impacted by COVID-19.

Related video: Man Documents ‘Eerie’ Journey from Chicago to Las Vegas Amidst Coronavirus Shutdown (Provided by Veuer)


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British Airways furloughs 36,000 staff in worst-ever crisis

Three months ago, British Airways and its staff were beginning what was expected to be their most successful-ever year.

Today BA, in common with the rest of the airline industry, is on life-support as scheduled flying reaches a near-standstill.

A combination of international flight bans, national lockdowns and passenger concerns about coronavirus have created the biggest crisis in modern aviation history. In response, British Airways is to suspend 36,000 employees.

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The move affects four out of five of BA’s ground staff, engineers, office workers and cabin crew. They will be switched to the government’s job-retention scheme, which covers 80 per cent of salary up to a maximum of £30,000 annually.

A deal with the Unite union is about to be concluded, with no redundancies involved at this stage. The official British Airways statement consists of just two words: “Talks continue.”

Cabin crew comprise the largest group of workers affected by the furlough, with 16,500 employed by BA. Part of their pay is made up of allowances from flying, so many will lose more than 20 per cent of their income.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) had previously negotiated a temporary pay cut and unpaid leave on behalf of BA’s 4,000 pilots. Their earnings, which are typically much more than £30,000 a year, will approximately halve.

Much of the British Airways fleet is grounded, and the airport bases at Gatwick and London City have shut down completely.

But unlike the UK’s other giant carrier, easyJet, BA is continuing to fly, with ​a skeleton service running to and from Heathrow airport.

On Thursday, short-haul flights are running to and from Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Belfast, Berlin, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Geneva, Glasgow, Gothenburg, Manchester, Munich, Oslo, Sofia and Stockholm.

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

1/20

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

Intercontinental services are departing from Heathrow to Boston, Dallas, Hong Kong, Mexico City, New York, Santiago, Seattle, Seoul, Sydney, Tokyo and Washington DC.

The critical question for all airline staff is: how many of them will be needed when passengers start flying again in significant numbers?

Earlier, Greg Foran, chief executive of Air New Zealand, said: “We expect in a year’s time, we will be at least 30 percent smaller than we are today.”

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Coronavirus flights: How to claim money back if refund isn’t issued for cancelled holidays

Holidays have been cancelled for the near future with Britons ordered to stay at home due to coronavirus. Many people are concerned they will lose money as a result of axed flights and trips away. Holidaymakers are furious that trade firms are offering vouchers rather than providing refunds.

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This week, easyJet announced it was grounding all of its flights and Ryanair revealed less than 10 percent of its services were still operating.

It also emerged that easyJet and British Airways have removed the option online to apply for a refund.

Customers are being encouraged to accept vouchers instead.

So how can you get your money back if a refund isn’t issued? What’s the latest travel advice?

Aman Johal, Director and Lawyer for Your Lawyer, shared his expert advice with Express.co.uk.

He explained there are alternative ways to claim.

“In the wake of the coronavirus crisis and its disastrous impact on the travel industry, we’ve seen many airlines offer customer credit vouchers, rather than refunds,” said Johal.

“Consumers need to know that they don’t have to accept this, especially where there are alternative options available.

“In reality, this can come down to what is agreed in the terms and conditions of the insurance.”

One way to claim back your money, if you bought the holiday on a credit card, is to make the most of the Consumer Credit Act.

Johal explained: “As a potential alternative, if you paid for the whole of your holiday using a credit card, or paid for part of it by more than £100, you could be entitled to claim the full cost back under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

“You could make a claim via the provider which sends your bank statements i.e. Barclays or HSBC, rather than Mastercard.

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  • Coronavirus holidays: Experts warn of ‘lengthy delays’ for refunds

“This does, however, depend on the original terms and conditions also.”

There is also another option if you didn’t purchase the holiday on a credit card.

This is going down the legal route – although there are downsides to this process.

“You could also pursue a legal case to get your money back, but this would likely involve having to instruct a solicitor to initiate a claim in contract,” said Johal.

“Taking this route could be costly.

“It’s important to weigh up the amount of money needed to pursue the case against the original cost of the holiday.

“In other words, if you paid thousands of pounds for a dream holiday then it may be worth it, but it might be a waste of time and money if you only spent a couple of hundred pounds on a weekend away.”

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Covid 19 coronavirus: Balcony bingo keeps residents entertained in Ireland, Spain

First, it was the Italians singing across their balconies. Now, residents in Spain and Ireland have found a new way to pass the time during lockdown – by playing bingo out their windows.

Videos are doing the rounds on social media of residents in apartment blocks hanging out their windows for a community game of bingo.

In one part of Madrid, balcony bingo is a regular fixture each evening Monday to Friday, starting with music at 6pm to signal residents to get ready for the game.

A woman who organises the bingo games in her building, Cristina Pruenza, told CN Traveler it helps keep them entertained at night.

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