Royal Caribbean hopes to still be able to hold a “massive trade event” on new ship Odyssey of the Seas in Southampton next year, potentially tying the activity into a test cruise for the resumption of the sector.

Ben Bouldin, vice-president of Europe, the Middle East and Africa said the line was still aiming to hold events in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, adding “there’s nothing I want to do more.”

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Bouldin said: “We’re still working really hard to try and bring that to life. The plan is to hold events in Southampton and elsewhere in Europe. The ship’s obviously coming from Germany and the plan was to really showcase her on her way round to Rome.

“We have got tentative plans to do an event in Southampton, which would also be one of these test cruises that people are talking about, because the likelihood is, Odyssey could be one of the first ships for us that is operational.”

He added: “We’ve then got her starting her season in April and, again, we may have to do some test cruises around that. We also want to show Odyssey off in Barcelona.

“So we’ve got plans to kind of show off as we go around so there will be more than enough opportunities to really get the trade together and let them be part of one of our events that, typically speaking, they will thoroughly enjoy.”

Bouldin said the focus for the next few weeks was to make sure agents fully understand its 2022 programme.

“It’s difficult, because no one’s got a crystal ball and we’re trying to work out what the right thing to do here is,” he said.

“But we’re going to focus very much on ‘22 for a few weeks, get it launched, make sure the trade understand what the programmes are, make sure they also understand what our programmes are out of Amsterdam, out of Copenhagen, out of Ravenna, and also we’ve got a new port of embarkation – Tarragona in Spain.

“So we’ve got lots to educate the trade on for next summer and I’m looking forward to making sure we do that.”

Bouldin said his sales team was now “almost at full complement”, revealing that he had received 600 applications for one remaining vacancy.

“We’ve really taken the time when we’ve been a bit quieter through this year, to concentrate on our back-of-house to really amplify and set ourselves up and ensure that that not only the technology we apply on our ships, the technology we apply to our shoreside operations, is fit for purpose,” he said.

“So all of our teams are now equipped with a really fancy programme that enables them to bring our cruise vacation programme to life with the travel trade better than they’ve ever done.”

Bouldin said he was still assessing the right time to get his sales team back in the field.

“We’re ongoing and assessing. We’d love to get back on the road and face-to-face meetings but at the moment, we haven’t set a date for that. So everything we do at the moment is virtual,” he said.

He said the pandemic would change the way the business operates long-term.

“I don’t think the virtual world can ever replace the face-to-face experience in terms of collaboration,” he added.

“But equally video calling really is an ample substitute for some meetings and we’ve achieved an awful lot this year in this virtual world. You’ve had to. ‘m hopeful we get a nice blend of the two going forward.”