Despite weaknesses in the economy, Carnival Corp. has a record quarter

Despite concerns about the impact of inflation on the financial health of consumers, Carnival Corp.’s revenue reached an all-time high in the company’s fiscal Q3 and booking volume continued to roll in at elevated levels in September.

During an earnings call on Friday, Carnival Corp. reported positive net income for the first time since the pandemic ($1.07 billion) and an elongation of the booking curve to “as far out as we’ve ever seen it,” said CEO Josh Weinstein.

“We appreciate there are heightened concerns around the state of the consumer as of late, but the fact is we just haven’t seen it in our bookings or our results and we believe consumers are continuing to prioritize spending on experiences over material gifts,” said Weinstein.

The cumulative advanced booked position for 2024 is well above the high end of historical ranges and at higher prices than 2023, he said. That booked position is 10 points ahead of the same time last year, with European brands back to 2019 levels and North American brands exceeding historical highs. 

Occupancy came in at 109% for the quarter and 100% for the first three quarters of the year, with executives predicting a return to full-year historical occupancy levels in 2024. Occupancy at Carnival Corp. has dragged behind Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings in previous quarters since the pandemic. Carnival reported 98% in Q2, compared to 105% for both Royal Caribbean and NCLH.  

Weinstein said the company has less inventory remaining for sale now than at the same time last year despite having 5% more capacity. As another sign of consumer strength, he pointed to onboard spending having remained strong throughout the year. 

“Literally, they’re spending the same today that they were three quarters ago, and we haven’t seen that slow down. So that’s very encouraging and that’s part of what gives us confidence when we say we’re feeling pretty good about our business in light of whatever is going on in the macro economy,” he said. 

The company outperformed its June guidance due to higher ticket prices and higher net per diems, said CFO David Bernstein. Net revenue was a record $6.9 billion. Meanwhile, the company reduced its debt balance by more than 10% over the last six months, he said. 

The recent spike in fuel prices is a concern, executives said. However, the company has reduced its fuel expenses to 16% below 2019 levels, said Weinstein. While the company does not plan to impose a fuel surcharge, he said “nothing is off the table.”

Analysts expressed concern about the company’s fuel costs, which came in well above analysts’ expectations, although several analysts said the main takeaway is Carnival Corp.’s Q3 results came in strong and 2024 looks encouraging.

“Pricing trends continue to sound strong across the cruise space and for Carnival in particular,” read a report from Cleveland Research Company. “Strength in onboard spend looks to be persisting, which should aid in net per diem growth into ’24.”

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