Carnival cruises to higher profit, forecasts future pricing

Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise company, posted an almost 30% gain in net income over last year this week, signaling smooth sailing ahead for the operator of 98 ships spanning 11 different cruise lines. During an earnings call this week, the cruise giant shed some light on a number of topics and inadvertently gave some advice for those getting ready to buy a cruise.

Last month’s would-be PR nightmare, a fire aboard nearly-new Carnival Splendor turned out OK for the line with Chairman and CEO Mickey Arison noting “We didn’t see any impact at all” on bookings after the event. Quickly moving to do right by affected guests probably helped that potential PR disaster pass. Earlier this week, a U.S.Coast Guard safety alert acknowledged it was swift action by the ship’s quick response team firefighters that extinguished the fire.

Recent booking volumes were strong and prices were higher than a year earlier. But looking ahead to next year, prices right now are higher but occupancies are lower. Carnival has high hopes for upcoming “wave season” that begins in January, a time when a whole lot of people book cruises.

Should that not happen at the rate they anticipate, should bookings not pick up pace, look for prices to drop, a sure-fire way cruise lines fill ships.

Advice? If buying a Carnival cruise, ask your travel agent about their popular Early Saver fare, guaranteed to be the lowest by the line…no matter what happens to pricing in the future.