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Frequent Flyers enjoy big savings on cruise vacations.

As a frequent flyer myself, few things make me happier than using my free airline ticket to fly somewhere to embark on a luxury  cruise that I booked at a huge discount. Cruises that include air generally cost quite a bit more than "cruise only" bookings. These higher rates don't go to the travel agent, but are reflected in the price the cruise line charges for the trip. If you are willing to make your own flight arrangements, either by using your frequent flyer miles, or by finding a low fare through one of several net based travel sites, we can offer you big savings on your cruise. If you prefer we handle everything for you, we will be happy to do so, but it will cost more.

Visit with us, we have lots of money saving ideas and are constantly updating our site with the latest promotions offered by the cruise lines. We represent the best of the best - Silversea - Seabourn - Crystal - Cunard - Radisson - Princess - Celebrity - Holland America. We have the information you need, and the volume buying power to get you the prices you want.

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Customs Tips


If you don't break the law when you return from your Caribbean cruise by telling lies about the value of your purchases, then you won't be concerned about the introduction of APIS, the Advanced Passenger Information System, to U.S. cruiseports. APIS has already been in effect in U.S. airports in recent years, and is a computerized system of "flagging" likely culprits. Naturally, the U.S. Customs Service is pretty tight-lipped on what information gets fed into the computer base, although they have let on that managers of gift shops on cruise ships must submit a "big spender" list to the Customs Service before the cruise ship returns to a U.S. port.

Another thing that will get on you on the computer list is a previous Customs violation, even if you weren't charged.

The Customs Service says that the APIS system results in only about 0.02% of cruise passengers being subject to inspection, versus a much higher percentage when only random inspections were done.

Here are some helpful hints from U.S. Customs (but make sure you check the validity of these hints - don't blame me if any are wrong ):

Diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds are duty free;

The duty rate on goods in excess of $1,200 purchased in the U.S. Virgin Islands is only 5%;

No duty is payable on goods of any amount purchased in San Juan, Puerto Rico;

There is no duty on U.S. made products, but items such as U.S. cigarettes and U.S. liquor are subject to IRS excise taxes;

Many products made in Mexico are duty-free, while others are subject to a 6% duty (dropping to 5% in 1998);

Works of fine art, such as oil paintings, are not subject to duty;

Goods purchased in any of 26 Caribbean Basin countries are exempt up to $600, but only if your last port of call is one of those countries [does that make sense?]

The U.S. Customs Service says that one of the biggest misunderstandings of some cruise passengers is that they believe that when they buy articles that are "duty-free" in a foreign country, no duty is payable by the passenger when he or she returns to the U.S. The "duty-free" obviously applies in the country where you buy the product, not the country where it ends up <g>.

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Carry a Small Flashlight

A small pocket flashlight comes in handy for reading an address while riding in a taxi at night in an unfamiliar location. Also great for looking for that ring that you dropped under the bed while dressing. Maglite makes a great one with a lifetime guarantee, an adjustable lens to focus the light and a durable case. There are also lots of Maglite "clones" around if you can't find the original. Any small pocket "penlight" will do in a pinch.

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Use Flat Rate Taxi Fares in Miami

Miami is the main port of embarkation for many of the Caribbean - bound cruise ships. There are flat rate taxi fares established for trips from Miami International Airport and the Port of Miami and to destinations in Miami beach where we like to stay the night before. Some drivers will start the meter running if you don't ask about the flat rate in advance. The difference can be considerable.

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S.S. France Croissant Recipe

You might not want to try this one at home but it sounds delicious!

This recipe is for the feathery light (1 ounce) croissant served aboard the Atlantic passenger liner S.S. France before she was retired from service by the French. On a round-trip voyage of the ship, the author spent several memorable days with her boulangers and patisseries working and observing.

I have found that a combination of flours - 3 parts all-purpose flour and 1 part cake flour - makes a fine croissant. Mix the flours beforehand, of course.

ALLOW 18 to 22 HOURS TO MAKE THIS RECIPE!!!!!


French Croissant

Recipe By : Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads
Serving Size : 24
Categories : Breads


Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
------ ------- --------------------------------

1 + cups butter or butter/margarine equally divided
softened at room temperature
3 Tbsp flour

DOUGH:
3 cups all-purpose flour -- approx.
1 cup cake flour -- approx.
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
2 pkgs dry yeast
1 2/3 cups hot milk (120-130 degrees F)
1/3 cup cream -- warmed
1 egg plus 1 yolk -- beaten


BAKING SHEETS
1 or more baking sheets or trays. Do not use a flat baking sheet or one with open corners unless you form a liner of aluminum foil with sides to retain butter should it run.


PREPARATION (2-3 Hours)
Sprinkle the 3 tablespoons flour over the butter and blend together on the work surface. On a length of foil fashion a 6" square of soft butter; fold over the sides of the foil to enclose. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 2 to 3 hours.


BY HAND OR MIXER (5 Minutes)
While the butter is chilling, prepare the dough. Both can be done several hours or even a day or two in advance of actually layering the two together. Combine the 2 flours. In a large mixing or mixer bowl blend 2 cups of the 2 flours with the dry ingredients. Add the hot milk and cream and stir with a wooden spoon or the mixer flat beater to thoroughly blend the batter-like
dough, about 2 minutes.


KNEADING (5 Minutes)
Stir in additional flour, 1/4 cup at a time, to make a soft dough. (It will stiffen considerably when chilled.) Knead by hand or under a dough hook for 5 minutes to form a solid mass. There is no lengthy kneading, which would toughen the otherwise tender dough.


BY PROCESSOR (4 Minutes)
Prepare the butter as above. Attach the steel blade. Place 2 cups of mixed flours in the work bowl and add the dry ingredients. Pulse to mix. Pour the hot milk and cream through the feed tube. Pulse once or twice to be certain that all the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the balance of the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, turning the machine on briefly after each addition. When the mixture forms a mass and begins to clean the sides of the bowl, stop the machine. The dough has been sufficiently mixed and kneaded. Don't over-knead!


REFRIGERATION (1 Hour or More)
This begins the process of cooling the dough and at the same time allowing it  to rise. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.


SHAPING (10 Minutes)
Determine that both the butter and dough are about the same temperature - 65 degrees is ideal. The block of butter should bend but not break (too cold) nor be oily (too warm) when bent slightly. This may mean taking the butter out of the refrigerator an hour or so early to reach workable temperature. Likewise for the dough. Place the dough on a floured work surface and with your hands press it into a 10" square. Unwrap the block of butter and lay the block diagonally on the dough. Bring each point of dough into the center, overlapping the edges at least 1". Press the dough into a neat package. With a heavy rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 8" by 18". This dimension is not critical. Caution: If the butter seems to be breaking into small pieces under the dough rather than remaining solid, allow the dough/butter to warm a few minutes. But if the butter softens, becomes sticky, and oozes while making the turns, put the dough back into the refrigerator for several minutes.
FIRST AND SECOND TURNS: Fold the length of dough into three, as for a letter. Turn so that the open ends are at 12 and 6 o'clock. Roll again into a rectangle. This time fold both ends into the middle and then close, as one would a book. The dough will now be in 4 layers. Wrap the package of dough in a cloth (an old tea towel is fine) that has been soaked in cold water and wrung dry.

REFRIGERATION (1-2 Hours)
Place the wrapped dough in the refrigerator to relax and chill for 1-2 hours.
THIRD TURN: Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on the floured work surface. Unwrap, roll out and fold in three, as for a letter. This is the final turn before it is rolled out and cut into croissants.


REFRIGERATION (6 to 8 hours or overnight)
Dampen the cloth again and wrap loosely around the dough. Place the package in a plastic bag so moisture will not be pulled out of the cloth. Leave in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.


SHAPING (40 Minutes)
Have read a knife or pastry cutter and a wooden yardstick if you wish the pieces to be cut precisely - otherwise plan to cut them freehand. You may have or be able to borrow a French-made croissant cutter that cuts the dough into triangles. Sprinkle the work surface with flour. Roll the dough until it is a generous 10" by 38" rectangle and, most importantly, about 1/8" thick. This is a crucial dimension since it determines the size and texture of the croissants. Trim irregularities to make the rectangle uniform in width. Cut the rectangle lengthwise to make two 5" strips. Mark each strip into triangles, 5" wide on the bottom. Using a hard stick as a guide, cut through the dough with a pastry or pizza cutter or knife. Separate the triangles, place them on a baking sheet and chill for 15 to 20 minutes. Any time the butter softens and sticks, place the triangles in the refrigerator until they are chilled again. Place the first triangle on the work surface, point away. Pull the point gently out about 3/4". Roll the triangle from the bottom to the point, slightly stretching the dough sideways with your fingers as you roll. Place the croissant on the baking sheet. Touch the tip of the point to the pan but do not place underneath the body of the croissant. Bend into a crescent or half-moon shape. Repeat until the sheet is filled. Cover lightly with wax paper or a sheet of non-stick Teflon. If there are more croissants to bake than there are pans or oven space, cover the triangles before shaping and reserve in the refrigerator.

RISING (1-2 Hours)
The covered croissants will double in volume at room temperature in 1 to 2 hours. (If prepared with a new fast-rising yeast and at the recommended higher temperatures, reduce the rising time by approximately half.) When the croissants are two-thirds raised, remove the wax paper and brush with the egg wash. Leave uncovered for the remaining rising time.


PREHEAT
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees 15 minutes before baking.


BAKING (425 for 22-25 minutes)
Place the sheet on the bottom shelf. After 10 minutes move to the middle or top shelf for an additional 12 to 15 minutes. (Parisians like their croissants a deep brown, almost burned. Or you may wish to take the croissants out early if you plan to freeze, reheat and brown additionally later.) Croissants at the edge of the pan will brown quicker than those inside, so remove them early from the oven and shuffle those remaining.
Return to the oven for a few additional minutes. (If using a convection oven, reduce heat 50 degrees and bake as above.)


FINAL STEP
Place the croissants on a rack to cool. Admire - and then take the first delicious flaky bite. Delicious departure: slice an older croissant horizontally and toast.

Note: While cold butter can be worked into a pliable mass with a metal dough blade or spatula, it is much easier to leave butter at room temperature for 1 or 2 hours to soften and shape. Not necessary with margarine alone. If not done in advance, make butter pliable by beating and pressing it with a rolling pin until it can be worked into a square.

-----------------------------------------

Bernard Clayton's Notes:

Kneading: To assure tender dough, should be less than for a loaf of bread. It will have been kneaded sufficiently when all of the ingredients are blended and the dough is smooth, usually about 5 minutes.

Butter for layering produces the best croissant ... finer, softer and with greater keeping ability than one made with margarine. However, a croissant made with margarine is usually more flaky. There is a mid-path: half butter and half margarine, which will give excellent results. Margarine alone becomes soft and oily when layered into the dough.

Both the dough and the butter (and/or margarine) should be chilled to between 60 and 65 degrees F. If it is too cold, the butter will break into rough pieces and tear the dough. If the butter is warm and oily, it will be absorbed into the dough instead of remaining intact in layers. A small dial thermometer is handy to check the temperatures of both the butter and dough.

If, during the rolling process, the butter oozes out from between the layers, chill the dough again.

"The cold will correct many mistakes," a boulanger aboard the S.S. France explained. "Cold," he said, "is indispensable for the making of a quality croissant."

Place a moist cloth over the dough during rests both in and out of the refrigerator so it will not crust. Wrap it in a damp towel before placing it in the refrigerator overnight after the third and final turn.

After the dough is cut into triangles, shape them with care so that the layers are not broken down and forced together.

When the rolled dough is bent into the shape of a horseshoe, the tip of the triangle or "tongue" is placed low on the side of the croissant, not completely under.

Steam is not necessary if the croissants are glazed with egg yolks or a mixture of milk and egg. Croissants brushed only with water should also have a broiler pan of water in the oven for additional moisture.

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Thank You.
Abigail

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Revised: September 26, 2009