Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. beat its own and analysts' expectations and posted a $119.5 million profit -- still 37% lower than the year-ago period -- and shares of the cruise line jumped 5% in morning trading April 21.

RCCL reported first-quarter 2006 earnings at $119.5 million, or 55 cents per share, down from $189.6 million, or 64 cents per share, last year.

In a conference call with analysts, RCCL executives blamed fuel costs, ship refurbishments and the cost of doing business in Cozumel, Mexico, which was hit by Hurricane Wilma in October 2005, as factors affecting its bottom line.

Cruise costs increased 11.4% over 2005, driven mostly by fuel, the company said. Fuel averaged $418 per metric ton this year, up from $284 per metric ton in 2005. Net yields increased 1.9% over first-quarter 2005, buoyed by onboard revenues. Passenger ticket revenues were down 3.5%, while onboard revenue was up 3%.

Celebrity Cruises is outpacing Royal Caribbean International in growth, said Richard Fain, RCCL chairman and CEO, during the conference call.

Dan Hanrahan, Celebrity president, said that getting the brand name out there and doing a better job managing its itineraries had helped Celebrity's performance.

To contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].

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