Jinnie’s Story – Book Six, Chapter Nineteen

A Christmas at Sea

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

Over a Sunday lunch of Mrs Walsh’s delicious roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, Jinnie and Penny told their parents of their Christmas and New Year cruise plan. Penny said they were only telling them now because the cruise line needed their details to complete the booking. Mrs Walsh wasn’t sure and made several excuses not to go but Mr Walsh said that it would be wonderful, being in the sun when it was cold and just think no cooking, washing or housekeeping for a fortnight. Mrs Walsh’s last attempt at putting an obstacle in the part was to say, “But what about Larry? He would hate a cattery.” Jinnie had already thought about that and explained that he was going to spend the fortnight with Nigel who was going to be home for the holiday. On Christmas Day Nigel was having his Christmas dinner with Emma and of course Larry was invited. He got on wonderfully with everyone, particularly Emma’s dog.

With her final objection dismissed Mrs Walsh threw herself into the holiday, reading everything she could to get her hands on about the islands they were visiting and the ship they were sailing on. She even joined the Facebook group for the cruise and was happy to find that there were many other first-time cruisers. Mr and Mrs Walsh had never flown and questioned their daughters about it. Under the Germans only the higher party members were allowed to fly. As citizens of good standing, they had been allowed to travel abroad and had been to France and Spain before the War of Liberation but had gone by train through the Channel Tunnel. Penny explained that this was a package holiday, where the flight and cruise were all included and that it was a charter flight from Gatwick to Bridgetown. Jinnie explained that none of them had ever been on a charter flight, only on scheduled services. But because they had booked suites on board the ship they had been able to upgrade their seats on the flight to Premium Class.

That started a host of more questions, what was a suite like, what was Premium Class, did you get fed on the flight, how long was it, how did you get from the airport to the ship? Penny was able to answer many of the questions, as she had been on a cruise ship before, and explained about the different cabin classes on a cruise starting with the cheapest inside, then outside with a window, a balcony and a suite which was like a balcony cabin but much bigger with a separate bedroom and lounge. Penny explained that every ship had cabin stewards who looked after several cabins, cleaning them, making the bed, supplying clean towels and the like.

But in a suite, it was a bit different, there were junior suites where a steward looked after you and supplied canapés and fresh fruit. But they were in full suites where there was a butler who did all the things that a cabin steward did but would unpack and pack for them, make their reservations for dinner and excursions and was on hand to serve them what ever they needed. Penny explained that the flight took off about 10 o’clock in the morning and that in Premium the seats were bigger, with more legroom and comfortable. Once seated would be served drinks and lunch. After lunch they could watch their personal TVs, read, chat, sleep just as they wanted and free drinks were served for the whole flight. A couple of hours before landing tea was served and this was nearly always sandwiches and scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Jinnie took over saying she had also been looking at the Facebook group for the cruise and people who had done it before said that when the plane landed at Bridgetown the Premium passengers deplaned first and went straight off the plane onto a coach that took them directly to the cruise terminal to check-in. But the bit she liked was that once you had checked in your luggage at Gatwick you didn’t see it again until it was delivered to your suite.


As Christmas drew nearer Mrs Walsh grew happier with the thought of flying and as the nights drew in and the weather got colder, she started to look forward to seeing things she had only heard her daughters and sons-in-law talk about. She was particularly looking forward to eating in the Continental Restaurant with her family and Belinda’s family. For Jinnie, she wanted to get out to Barbados and meet with Patricia, Monica, Trevor and Keith, and see progress at the three DKL sites. She saw regular reports from all of them and everything seemed OK with both businesses but there was nothing like seeing things with your own eyes.

At the beginning of December Keith reported that work on the DKL HQ and call centre was just about finished. Anderson had been over to check and was happy to move into his office once the IT people had finally got things set up and Keith was proposing that he and his office staff should also move in. He only had an accounts person, an assistant and a general dogsbody. Jinnie told him that it was pointless having the offices empty and they should move in as soon as possible.

A day or so later the next news was from Anderson who said that planning permission had come through for the Bridgetown site and he was proposing he should see Michael at Forde, Weekes and Watson to get them to draw up the contract with Keith’s Refurbishment. Jinnie reminded him that they were both working for the same company now and that there was no point in wasting money as a simple internal order would suffice. She asked about the second site at Speightstown and Anderson said the authorities had verbally approved the work, but it would be a week or so before the paperwork was done.

Finally, Patricia emailed to say she had found two sites for new branches of Aunty JoJo’s, one in Holetown and one in the departure lounge at Bridgetown Airport. The Holetown premises was not urgent and could wait until Jinnie came out at Christmas but there was competition for the airport site, and she would like to move quickly. Jinnie thought for a moment and then dialled Brooke’s mobile. “Hi boss,” Brooke answered, “What can I do you for?” Jinnie laughed and said, “Patricia has found two sites for new Aunty JoJo’s branches. One is at the airport, and she says she needs to make a decision quickly or lose out to competitors. How are you placed to fly out immediately and give a second opinion? If you think it’s good don’t mess about, put in a bid for the lease. Use Michael Watson.” “I’ve nothing on I can’t hand over to my assistant, but it will have to be tomorrow’s flight if I can get on it as today’s takes off in a few minutes,” said Brooke. “It’s peak season for travel,” said Jinnie, “So if you must book premium travel, I’ll authorise it, even First Class. Tell me when you have got it booked and I will tell Patricia, she can meet you at the airport and arrange accommodation.” “I’m on it,” replied Brooke and rang off.


The next Sunday was Jinnie’s turn to do the family Sunday lunch and while she was busy with the roast chicken and all the trimmings Mrs Walsh came into the kitchen to chat about Christmas arrangements. Larry was in his basket in the corner listening intently to the conversation and the more they talked the more worried he became that he was going to land up in a cattery over the holidays. Mrs Walsh said she had got all the formal night gear together, but her husband was still debating on whether he would wear a dark business suit or a dress suit. Jinnie replied, “Well Paolo will definitely be taking a dress suit, and he even has a Christmas bow tie to wear on Christmas Day and Penny says Dan will be in a dress suit as well, even the twins have special things to wear, so tell Dad he will be the odd one out on our table.”

Larry listened to them discussing how the website said there were going to be four formal nights in the two weeks they were to be away. Jinnie told her mother that when they booked with the travel agent, they had asked for a large table for all nine on first sitting so that the twins could eat with them. Larry did a quick calculation, Jinnie and Paolo; the Twins; Penny and Dan; Mr and Mrs Walsh and Izzy, that made the nine. Larry got even more worried, as he realised the whole family were going away. He remembered being locked in that cage in Battersea Cats and Dogs Home and shuddered.

Jinnie happened to glance at Larry and saw him shudder and realised he was listening. She picked him up and gently said to him, “Oh Larry, we wouldn’t abandon you. While we are away your old friend Nigel is going to look after you. You will be able to come and go as you please, just like now. He has said he is looking forward to you staying with him and he has got loads of Cat Treats for you. Then on Christmas Day you are both invited to dinner at Emma’s, and I know you like her and her dog. You’ll have a lovely time, and she is cooking turkey.” Larry thought about it, Nigel was, after Jinnie, the person he liked best. He liked Emma and it was true he had got on with her dog ever since they had met on his first day in the house. He would only be next door and he could still patrol both gardens and nip over the road and watch the trains from ‘his’ tree stump. He would miss Jinnie and watching the twins open their Christmas presents, but he rather liked the idea. He meowed and rubbed his head against Jinnie.


Brooke phoned Jinnie shortly after landing in Bridgetown saying, “Hi boss, I’m with Patricia right now. She met me as I came out of customs and after I dumped my bag in her car, we went straight to look at the airport site. In fact, we’re there now. It was an upmarket restaurant, but their lease expired, and they are not renewing. It was the wrong place, who wants a big, posh meal just before flying? Anyway, it’s huge, the kitchen is great, there are loads of tables and chairs. It would need a repaint in corporate colours, but little else. I’ll send you photos when we finish talking. The asking price for a five-year lease is about right and we would have a first option to renew.”

Brooke continued, “Really, it’s too big for an Aunty JoJo’s, but I have an idea. I have been talking to Patricia about using part of it for an Artisan sandwich shop. We had a stroll around and there are several places selling sandwiches, but they are all pre-made, what I call ‘supermarket sandwiches’ in cardboard packaging with cellophane windows. It’s all the tourists buying a sandwich and coffee. Well, the sandwiches are rubbish and so is the coffee. It’s crying out for something a bit better. I see a row of joints, like a Toby carvery, beef, turkey, gammon, pork, a big ham on the bone carved onto a choice of bread. Then pastrami, egg mayonnaise, cheeses, you name it and salad fillings. If you had a choice of pre-made plastic ham on factory white bread or crusty white bread smothered in butter and freshly carved ham and salad for a little bit more and a superior coffee I think I know what I would buy.”

“That sounds interesting,” replied Jinnie, “but I thought Patricia said Bajans didn’t buy sandwiches. What does she think.” “She’s here,” said Brooke, “I’ll put her on and you can ask her.” Patricia said, “Hello Jinnie, I have been following the conversation and I think it will work. There are thousands of British, American and Canadian tourists passing through the terminal every day, it’s the one place on the island an upmarket sandwich shop will work. The locals will go for the fried or jerk chicken and the tourists the sandwiches. I say go for it.” Jinnie said, “As you agree with Brooke then I think we go for it, make an offer quickly, don’t lose it. Email me the price and what it will cost to redecorate, I will push it through the board.”


Jinnie and Paolo had tossed a coin to see who drove to Gatwick for the Christmas holiday flight to Bridgetown. Jinnie won so they took her Lexus. She drove, Paolo took the front passenger seat, and Izzy sat between the excited twins in their booster seats in the back. Mr and Mrs Walsh drove themselves as did Penny and Dan. They travelled around the M25 and down the M3 in convoy and parked in the long-term car park. The first new experience for the twins was the bus from the car park to the terminal and they got chatting to an Italian couple sat just behind them. The couple were amazed to discover the twins were English as they spoke to them in their fluent Italian and switched to English and back to Italian.

In the terminal the party found the check-in for their flight and were directed to the shorter Premium Class queue. Penny, who had been checking on the internet, said there were 63 Premium seats and 283 Standard Class on their Boeing 787, adding that there was a second flight an hour later and planes from Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, then more flights tomorrow while they enjoyed the day in Bridgetown. Jinnie thought, ‘You might be enjoying the day; I’m going to be working.’

The party checked in, made their way through passport control and then security. The twins now knew the procedures inside out and were quite happy to walk one after the other through the magnetic arch before collecting their Paw Patrol backpack from the X-ray machine. They all followed the weaving path through the duty-free shops into the departure lounge where they found a block of seats reserved for families with young children.

Penny and Dan went off to get the party coffee from the Artisan Sandwiches outlet. Jinnie had opted not to get it as she wanted to find out what the service was like for a standard customer, not for a director. Penny reported the service had been excellent and Jinnie found the coffee well up to standard. While waiting for the flight’s gate to be called the twins got their tablet computers out of their Paw Patrol backpacks and fired up Mickey Mouse’s Wildlife Adventures which was this week’s favourite game.

As soon as the flight’s gate number was displayed on the departure board the twins packed their tablets away and led the family through the doorway displaying the number of their gate and probably 30 others. A ride on a series of travelators delivered them to the right gate and its holding lounge, where a ground stewardess was scanning the tickets of passengers and directed them into a roped-off corner, while the majority of passengers just went into the general lounge. The twins were excited to see the plane parked right outside the lounge and were itching to get on board.

After about a fifteen-minute wait the Tannoy announced that, “Thomson’s, in conjunction with P&O are delighted to announce that their Boeing 787 flight to Bridgetown, Barbados is now ready for boarding. The flight will be boarding by row number and will families seated in rows one to nine with babies and young children please come forward now and have their boarding cards and passports ready for checking.” All nine of the party made their way to where the passports and boarding cards were to be checked only to find they were the only group with children in the Premium cabin. As they strolled down the airbridge to the aircraft Jinnie heard the Tannoy announcing, “Will all the remaining passengers seated in rows one to nine please come forward now.”

Of course, the excited twins reached the aircraft door first and were happily chatting to the stewardesses when Paolo arrived with the boarding passes. They were all quickly directed to their seats and were belted in when the other Premium Class passengers started to arrive. The seats were arranged in rows of 2-3-2 down the plane. Millie and Paolo were in 3A and B with Izzy in 3C and Mr and Mrs Walsh in 3D & E. Willie and Jinnie were in 4A & B, while Penny and Dan were in 4C and D. The Premium cabin rapidly filled and passengers there were presented with a pre-takeoff bucks fizz, all except the twins who were quite happy with their glasses of orange juice.

Glancing over her shoulder Jinnie could see the Economy cabin with its rows of seating arranged 3-4-3 and passengers there weren’t getting a pre-flight drink. Already she was happy the family had paid a little extra for the wider seats with more legroom. Boarding Economy took some time and while it was taking place their empty glasses were collected. As the plane pushed back from the stand the cabin manager invited everyone to watch the safety video that was playing on the seat back screen in front of everyone. Jinnie felt her sister touch her arm across the aisle and say, “It’s not quite First Class, but this is a vast improvement on being back there in Economy.”

As soon as the plane was in the air and the stewardesses and one very gay steward were released, they drew a curtain separating the two cabins. The cabin manager then announced that a free drink service would be around shortly and about two hours into the flight dinner would be served with a wine service. A second drink service would be made later, and a tea service would be made about two hours before landing. A separate announcement was then made to the Premium passengers that if anyone required additional drinks at any time they only had to ask. The drinks trolley appeared, and Paolo asked for a G&T and was surprised to receive two miniatures and two cans of tonic, the smiling stewardess said, “Well it saves you having to ask a second time and it’s all courtesy of P&O.” Even the twins got two bottles of juice. As Jinnie tackled her first Cuba libre of the holiday, she said to Paolo, “Thank goodness I won’t be driving for two weeks.”

When lunchtime arrived the twins’ meals of chicken nuggets, fried potatoes and beans were served before anyone else, and they dived straight in. The adults had a prawn cocktail starter followed by a choice of beef or chicken, but it came on a plate with a proper knife and fork and was not in a moulded plastic tray with plastic cutlery as the Economy passengers got. They also had a choice of English, French or Italian white or red wine and once again they got two bottles each and a proper glass not a plastic one. The dessert was warm fruit crumble and cream and came separately, once the main course was cleared coffee was served. Jinnie could hardly believe that this was a charter flight, her only disappointment was the coffee, it really was not too good.

While the twins watched videos and played games on their interactive seat back screens, Jinnie decided it was time for a nap. She was nudged awake by Willie who needed to get past her for the toilet, and checking her watch she realised she had been asleep for over two hours. It was then that the second drinks round arrived, but this time Jinnie settled for a Pepsi Max and refused a second can! When tea arrived, it was the usual airline fare of finger sandwiches, a fruit scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam, but included a slab of fruit cake. To the twins this was heavenly fare. Having had coffee after lunch Jinnie decided to try the tea this time and concluded that it was much better. Shortly after the remains of tea were cleared away the captain announced that they had started the descent into Bridgetown and he would soon be switching on the seat belts sign. He added that their routing should take them over the cruise terminal and for those on the port side of the aircraft their cruise ship should be visible.

The plane had dropped quite low and seemed to be following the west coast of Barbados before making a slight turn to port and revealing the ship below them glinting in the afternoon sunshine. The twins both squealed with excitement, they remembered their short spell in the childrens’ club on the Italian ship and were looking forward to meeting Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, who Izzy had told them were on this ship. The plane was now low over the land and gently dropped onto the runway, before the thrust reversers were deployed, the engines roared, and the plane slowed down to taxiing speed.

The cabin manager welcomed everyone to Bridgetown, Barbados where the time was 14:15. She then said, “I would just like to remind you to stay seated until the aircraft comes to a complete halt and the doors are opened. Coaches will be waiting for you at the foot of the steps down from the plane. You will be transported directly to your cruise ship and will check in at the cruise terminal. Your hold luggage will be transported separately and will be delivered to your cabins. We shall be deplaning the Premium cabin first this afternoon. We wish you a happy holiday and thank you for flying Thomson Airways.”

Being in rows three and four the party where not amongst the first off the plane, but once on the ground the twins dragged the family to the row of coaches. By the time they reached them, the first coach was full but they were the first to board the second coach. The smiling driver told the twins they could sit in the front seats and that way they could see where they were going. As soon as all the Premium passengers were on board the two coaches, they set off for the cruise terminal, slipping out of the airport by a back gate and onto the main road into Bridgetown. The driver, who told the twins he was called ‘Winston’, wasn’t happy that the bus in front was going too slowly for him. He suddenly turned left off the main road and said to the twins, “I used to live round here and know these roads like the back of my hand, I bet we can beat all the other buses.”

The bus shot through tiny hamlets past corrugated tin houses and then through posh estates and past swanky villas with Christmas decorations and lights before coming out again onto the main road. Winston said to the Twins, “I reckon we will beat Anderson’s bus easy.” On reaching the harbour the coach stopped at the barrier and Winston asked the security guard if he had beaten Anderson and the guard replied, “As always,” and raised the barrier. The bus drove to the same side of the harbour where the Italian cruise ship had been docked and stopped at the back of a large warehouse that was now the cruise terminal. As they stepped off the bus a steel band struck up playing “Mary’s Boy Child” and it suddenly struck Jinnie it was nearly Christmas.

Being at the front of the bus the family were first into the wiggly queue and to the check-in desks, where they presented their embarkation passes, that they had printed out back in the U.K., and their passports. The passes were stamped ‘OK to board’ and they made their way through metal detectors and had their hand luggage X-rayed before stepping out of the terminal onto the dockside beside the most enormous ship the twins had ever seen. A ship’s officer in his immaculate white uniform directed them up the gangway and onboard. They were greeted by another officer who checked and scanned their stamped passes and then allocated a guide to take them first to their muster station in the ship’s theatre where their passes were again scanned to prove they knew where their muster station was. They were then led to their cabins where their keycard were waiting for them.

The cards served as a door key, an onboard spending card and a pass to get on and off the ship. No sooner had Jinnie, Paolo and the twins entered the suite than there was a knock on the door. Paolo opened the door and an Indian man introduced himself as Ajay their butler who would be servicing the suite morning and evening and would be available for anything they needed including booking specialist restaurants and shows. He then asked if they would like a fruit bowl in the cabin, what sort of pre-dinner canapés they would like delivered daily and were there any specific drinks they would like in the fridge. He then explained where the life jackets were, how the TV and air conditioning worked, which switches controlled which lights and then disappeared to go through the whole palaver again in the rest of the party’s cabins.

The four of them now had a good look around the accommodation and found it was much bigger than they had expected with a large living room with a TV (at night the room converted into the twins’ bedroom), a separate bedroom, a bathroom and any amount of wardrobe space. Both the living room and the bedroom had sliding glass doors that opened onto a wraparound balcony. With the connecting doors between the balconies open, the family had four balconies across the rear of the ship and around either side. Jinnie realised that wherever the sun was they would be able to sit in it. The twins thought it was wonderful as they could run between their cabin, Izzy’s cabin, Granny and Grandpa’s cabin and Auntie Penny and Uncle Dan’s cabin without going out into the passageway.

In Chapter 20 – Dinner at the Continental

© WorthingGooner 2024