Jinnie’s Story – Book Six, Chapter Twenty-Two

Christmas at Sea

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

Jinnie woke and looked at her travel clock. It was 07:15 and she could hear the twins happily chatting in their bedroom. She got out of bed and went to say Happy Christmas to them. They were sitting up in bed amid a pile of wrapping paper colouring in Paw Patrol pictures in new colouring books with new crayons which Father Christmas had brought them to tide them over until they got home. Jinnie kissed them good morning said, “Happy Christmas my darlings,” and Millie asked, “Is it time to get up? I hungry and I want my breakfast!” Jinnie replied, “You can’t be after that big dinner last night.” “Well, I’m hungry too,” said Willie.

Jinnie got the twins’ clothes out and as they dressed themselves the balcony door slid open and Izzy stepped in wearing a pair of flashing reindeer antlers, causing the twins to get the giggles. Izzy took getting the twins ready over from Jinnie, who retreated into her bedroom to dress. The party gathered by the lift and headed for the Epicurean for breakfast. On entering, the first thing Jinnie saw was that all the staff were wearing Santa hats. Today they were shown to an inside table, with the explanation that the wind across the open deck caused by the ship sailing into a six-knot breeze made it ‘uncomfortable’ on the terrace. The waiter brought menus and glasses of Bucks Fizz for the adults and orange juice in the same type of glasses for the twins.

Once again breakfast was perfect and the twins ate their regular breakfast of Rice Krispies and soft-boiled eggs and soldiers and the adults had their cooked breakfasts. Penny decided to try the ‘smoothie of the day’ with her breakfast and said it was “outstanding”. Towards the end of the meal both Willie and Millie became agitated. When Jinnie asked them what was wrong and Millie said, “We don’t want to miss seeing Father Christmas,” Jinnie looked at her watch and told them not to worry it was only just quarter past nine and Father Christmas was not going to be in the atrium until ten and then he would be there all morning. But Willie said, “What if he runs out of presents? There are loads of children in the reef.” Millie joined in saying, “And there are going to be games with prizes, Lilly, as Surfers told us. There is no club today, the Reef Rangers are all helping Father Christmas.”

The twins enthusiastically joined the queue to see Father Christmas in his hut in the atrium. All around the hut the Rangers were running games with little prizes for winners and just about everyone was a winner. The queue for Father Christmas moved quite quickly and within five minutes the twins were in with him. When Jinnie asked them what they had talked to him about Millie said, “He asked our names,” and Willie added, “And asked how old we were and were we good at school. We said yes.” Millie said, “And he gave us each a bear.” Millie’s bear had a pink waistcoat and Willie’s had a blue waistcoat. The twins were delighted and told Jinnie they were to be called Mr and Mrs Bear!

As there was no club on Christmas Day the family decamped to the lido deck where the high glass walls protected the two pools from the breeze. The twins were sent to fetch pool towels from the rack and staggered back loaded with the big blue fluffy towels. The twins were itching to get in the pool, but the rules said no unaccompanied children, so Paolo, Dan and Grandad joined them, and the twins were soon splashing and yelling in delight, while the ladies topped up their suntans.

Lunchtime arrived and Jinnie asked the twins where they wanted to eat. She suggested the buffet or maybe the main dining room, Grab & Go sandwiches, or the pizza out by the pool. But the twins had seen the hot dog and burger outlet in the corner behind Jinnie and wanted hot dogs and fries. Jinnie took them over and joined the short queue where they both got hot dogs with fried onions and a requested small portion of fries. Jinnie chose a cheeseburger and fries and helped the twins to get Heinz Ketchup from a huge pump dispenser for the fries. Once back at the sun loungers the twins tucked in and Jinnie called over a drinks waiter, fruit shoots for the twins and a Pepsi Max for her. The rest of the party ordered drinks and wandered off for food. Izzy was first back with a cheeseburger and fries followed by Paolo who also had a cheeseburger and fries but had added a slice of pizza and said that when he had seen it, being Italian, he couldn’t resist trying it.

Everyone seemed to come back with a slight variation on either a burger, a hot dog, or pizza, but it was Penny with a plain burger who alone had noticed the bowls of fresh salad. Jinnie wiped her mouth, crumpled up her napkin and dropped it on her empty plate which was the cue for the twins to ask for ice cream for their dessert from the counter in the corner next to the bar. Jinnie shook her head and said, “Not today kids, it is a big Christmas dinner tonight and it is a little bit earlier than usual.” Willie wanted to know if it was going to be turkey and Jinnie said she hadn’t seen the menu, but she would be very surprised if it wasn’t.


Jinnie’s phone pinged and she opened the message to find a picture of Larry wearing a Union Jack bow tie tucking into a bowl of slices of turkey breast and gravy and a message from Nigel wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and saying Father Christmas seemed to have made a mistake and left presents for the twins at his house. When the twins came back from yet another dip in the pool, Jinnie showed them the picture and read them their godfather’s message. Millie looked puzzled for a moment and said, “But he knew we were here, he gave us presents this morning.” Jinnie sighed and tried to explain time zones and how Father Christmas had been to Hadley Wood before he saw them this morning. Willie said, “I bet he saw Larry at Nigel’s house and thought we were there”. Jinnie thought, ‘I wish I had thought of that!’

Not only was it a special Christmas dinner but it was a formal night, and everyone wanted to shower and take longer to get dressed so the family left the lido deck a little earlier than usual that afternoon. Izzy was quickly ready and arrived to help Jinnie get the twins ready. Millie had a new dress and Willie had a white shirt, black bow tie and his first pair of long trousers. Izzy told them they looked lovely and took their photo standing on the balcony holding hands.

Dinner was 15 minutes early this evening and the family arrived at the restaurant seconds before the doors opened. Jinnie was delighted she had convinced her father to buy a dress suit as the few people in business suits stood out like sore thumbs. She looked around at the people waiting for the doors to open and thought, ‘This is wonderful, everyone looks good.’ Looking down to the twins they were holding hands and chatting in Italian and Jinnie thought, ‘I’m so glad we got them dressed up.’

They made their way to their table and Jinnie spotted little Christmas decorations on the table and there were crackers at every place setting. Their waiters, in their Christmas hats, were standing ready for them and rushed to get the twins seated on their cushions before helping the ladies. It was then that Jinnie noticed that there were champagne glasses on their table and the wine waiter was hovering behind Mr Walsh. He whispered in his ear and Mr Walsh nodded before the wine waiter opened a bottle of Champagne and poured a glass for each adult before pouring the twins glasses of sparkling apple juice. After the usual procedure with napkins, water, bread rolls and menus, the crackers were pulled, and paper hats donned. Then Mr Walsh made a little speech, saying how doubtful he had been about going away for Christmas, but now how delighted he was to be here with the family on what was looking to be the experience of a lifetime.

Jinnie kissed her father and said how much she was looking forward to the rest of the cruise with the family. Opening the menu Jinnie was overwhelmed with the selection in front of her. She initially intended to have a traditional Christmas dinner of turkey, roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, sprouts, parsnip, baby carrots and stuffing, but then her eye fell on halibut and prawns, then fillet steak, then spiced tenderloin of pork, they all sounded delicious, even the vegan option of wild mushroom pie. It was going to be the amuse-bouche followed by tiger prawn cocktail to start, then bubble and squeak soup which was new to her. She loved the sound of gin and tonic sorbet before the mains. In the end she decided to go with the traditional turkey.

She then turned her attention to the twins and decided a starter and soup would be too much for them and anyway, they wanted roasted tomato soup, so that was settled. They also wanted turkey “like Larry”, Jinnie asked the waiter how much gin was in the gin and tonic sorbet and was told none, it was only flavoured, so she was happy for the twins to have that as it was only small.

When the orders were taken it was tiger prawn cocktails for all the adults and they were really good. Jinnie was surprised just how good the bubble and squeak soup was and as usual the twins enjoyed their tomato soup. The G&T sorbet was wonderful. When the mains arrived, the turkey was juicy and tender, but Paolo surprised her by having halibut and prawns and Dan didn’t surprise her by having fillet steak, which he declared the best fillet steak he had ever eaten.

Then the dessert menu arrived, and the twins got their ice cream, vanilla, mint chocolate chip and brownies and cream. Of course, nearly everyone one else went for Christmas pudding with brandy sauce, except for Grandpa Walsh and Paolo who had the cheese and biscuits. Mrs Walsh raved about the fabulous meal saying how much she had enjoyed it and how she could not have produced such a delicious menu. Jinnie reminded her they hadn’t finished yet and there was still coffee to come with mince pies with vanilla butter, stollen, dates and clementines; Mrs Walsh groaned.

The family walked the length of the ship and took the lift to the Crow’s Nest, dropping off Jinnie, Izzy and the twins on the way. Once again, the twins’ beds was ready for them and there was a little parcel for both Jinnie and Paolo marked ‘From the Captain and Crew of Britannia’. Jinnie decided to wait until she and Paolo were together so they could open their gifts together. But she opened the Christmas card from P&O. With the twins in bed and Izzy settled down with her Kindle and a gin and tonic, Jinnie made her way from up to the lido deck.

She walked through the Horizon Buffet and was astonished to see people sitting there eating their Christmas dinner dressed in Tee shirts and shorts. She wondered how anyone could choose a ‘serve themselves’ Christmas dinner when they could have enjoyed being served in the Main Dining Room. She walked past the pool where staff were preparing the stage between the pools for a band. Then down a corridor past all the single cabins, then past the library and finally she reached the Crow’s Nest. Her family had pulled two tables together and Polo had ordered her a G&T with ice and a slice, which was just what she wanted.

The bar filled up a little when the second sitting for dinner finished, but Jinnie was rapidly concluding that this was a lovely place to enjoy a quiet after-dinner drink with a view over the ship’s bow and a pianist playing show tunes. It was after eleven when they walked back through the Horizon Buffet and people were there eating. Jinnie looked at people with plates groaning with food. She wondered how after that huge Christmas meal could people be up for curry and rice in what was described in the daily paper as a midnight buffet and was served until three in the morning. The band was playing on the pool stage and people were dancing and sitting around in the warm night air enjoying a drink.

Back in the suite, the twins were sleeping peacefully, and Izzy slipped out and back to her cabin. Jinnie showed the little Christmas parcels to Paolo, and they opened them. Inside was a little bottle of Tidal Rum and a Fever Tree mixer together with a P&O Christmas tree ornament. A little leaflet explained that the rum was specially distilled on another P&O ship, and this was a sample to show people just how good it was. Jinnie was not a rum drinker and wondered whether to try it or not, but it would have to be another day as she was ready for bed.


Boxing Day was warm and sunny and as was becoming routine the family gathered in the Epicurean for breakfast. The receptionist was expecting them and the same tables as the previous days had been pushed together for them and as was becoming usual the waiters fussed over the twins who just loved the attention. The ship had docked as they made for the restaurant, and they discussed what they were going to do. Jinnie and Paolo had booked a half-day excursion on a catamaran to what was described as a ‘beautiful sandy beach with safe swimming’ and the twins were itching to go as they had never been on a sailing boat and were anxious to try it out. Naturally Izzy was going to accompany them. Penny and Dan had opted for a trip into the rain forest and a ride on an ariel tramway, while Granny and Grandpa Walsh had booked a morning’s sightseeing trip around the island by air-conditioned coach.

As they finished breakfast the captain came on the Tannoy and welcomed everybody to Castries, St Lucia and told them they were safely tied up and could go ashore. He reminded everyone that ‘all aboard’ time was 17:30, the currency on the island was the East Caribbean Dollar, but the US Dollar was widely accepted. He said the current air temperature was 23°C and as clear skies were forecast it was expected to get up to 28° or 29° later and the sea temperature was 27°. Millie asked how hot 28° was, and Paolo said it was hat and sun cream hot and the twins laughed.

All the parties had slightly different departure times, with Jinnie’s group leaving first. The excursion group gathered on the quayside and walked a hundred yards to where the catamaran was tied up. Everyone had picked up blue pool towels, Izzy had made sure they had one each and a couple of extras. Jinnie loved being able to use the ship’s towel around the pool and on the beach excursion, all they had to do was dump used towels in big bins and grab a fresh one. The boat set off under engine power, much to the twins’ disappointment, but as soon as they were clear of the harbour the sails went up and they skimmed along at a fair old pace.

The beach they stopped at was idyllic, white sand gently sloping into the ocean, with loungers and umbrellas and a beach bar. The twins were soon in the warm water splashing and swimming. Jinnie was certain they were even better swimmers than back in the summer. Another catamaran arrived and unloaded more tourists and from the fact that they were speaking Italian she guessed another cruise ship had arrived in port. They had been told to be back at the little jetty to board the catamaran back to the ship at midday and amazingly everyone was back on time. Once again, the boat used its engine to manoeuvre out of the bay, before hoisting its sails and whizzing back to Castries. Another tour group was waiting to go onboard as soon as they were off and as they walked the short distance back to the ship the catamaran was loading up for an afternoon booze cruise with as much rum punch as people could drink. Jinnie said to Paolo, “I think I’m too old for that,” and when he agreed with her, she punched his arm.

It was a quick trip to the food outlets on the lido deck for lunch, and the twins were busy with margarita pizza slices when Granny and Grandpa joined them and then Penny and Dan. The twins were anxious to get to the Reef because ‘Shaun the Sheep’ was going to be there, but Izzy told them the afternoon club session didn’t start until 2:00 and they had plenty of time. With the twins in the safe hands of the Reef Rangers, the rest of the party settled down to an easy afternoon around the pool.

Izzy picked up the twins at five and at first pretended not to know them, as they were both wearing Shaun the Sheep masks. Delivered back to their parent’s suite they were full of how they had met Shaun and watched one of his films. It had been funny, and Lilly told them there were loads on the cabin TV and could they watch one while they got ready for dinner and the adults had their drinks and canapés? Jinnie said if there was time when they were ready, so the rushed off to shower.

After dinner the twins wanted to watch another episode of Shaun and Izzy got them into their PJ’s and in bed and let them watch one episode before turning the light out. The following morning it was more Shaun the Sheep before breakfast and Izzy said to Jinnie, “It looks like Paw Patrol have been booted into touch.” Jinnie sighed and replied, “I suppose when we get home we are going to have to look for new logo stuff and learn all the new characters, all I know at the moment is there are three naughty pigs, a farmer and a dog.”

And so, the pattern of the cruise was set. Excursions were taken at most islands, which were in general twins friendly, they were thrilled to go on a submarine and see the fish up close, they went on rafts down a river, they went on a train that had once collected sugar cane, they saw coffee growing and being roasted and they adored the beach at the end of a runway where the jet came to land so close over their heads they could almost touch then. They swam from numerous white sand beaches in warm clear water and bought some trinkets for their classmates and Miss Evans.

On sea days they went to the Reef, which Jinnie soon learned they adored. They loved the dressing up days especially the pirate one, they swam in the pool in the Reef and won races against older kids and they ate and ate and ate. Izzy said she was sure their school uniforms wouldn’t fit them when they got home, but Jinnie said that with all the exercise they were getting swimming and running around playing it wouldn’t be a problem. They still had a little tan from their summer in Barbados and quickly turned brown again despite having sunscreen liberally applied. Jinnie was quite jealous as she found she was slow to tan but Paolo tanned quickly saying it was his Italian skin and the twins had inherited it.

But all good things come to an end and when Jinnie told the twins their holiday was nearly over and the day after next they would be flying home, they were both sad and excited. Sad to be leaving the ship and the Reef, but excited to be going home to majority of their Christmas presents and to see their friend Larry who they had missed.

In Chapter 23 – Home again

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