Forecasting results for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL) will be tricky next year because of all the moving parts, CFO Jason Liberty said in a conference call to discuss RCCL's third-quarter results.

Liberty pointed to the impending arrival of the Celebrity Edge in November, the delivery next year of the Spectrum of the Seas and the Celebrity Flora, the Royal Amplified modernization program, the opening of a showcase terminal in Miami next month, the debut of Perfect Day at CocoCay next year and the continuing integration of Silversea Cruises into the company as factors.

"It definitely seems that we have more going on in 2019 than in any year in recent history," Liberty said.

In the third quarter, RCCL said, net income rose by 7.6%, to $810.3 million from $752.8 million a year earlier. Revenue rose 7.7%, to $2.8 billion.

Liberty said stronger close-in demand, higher onboard revenue and improved results from joint-venture partners such as TUI Cruises were the main drivers of higher earnings.

Royal expects 2018 results to fall in the range of $1.83 billion to $1.85 billion, when adjusted for special items such as gains on fuel and currency hedges. In 2017, Royal's net income was $1.63 billion.

In a first look at 2019, Liberty said that so far, bookings are up in both volume and price when compared with a year earlier.

"We continue to see strong booking trends for 2019," Liberty said. "While each of our larger product groups is in a better booked position, we're particularly pleased with how the Caribbean is shaping up, as it is a region that will absorb the most capacity for our company next year.

"These insights certainly point to another year of robust yield and net-income growth," Liberty said.

Turning to specific regions, Royal Caribbean International president Michael Bayley said that he's been pleased with China this year and that trade tensions have not been an obstacle so far. The gyrations in China's stock market have made consumer demand volatile, he said, but the fundamentals are OK.

Interest in the Eastern Mediterranean has picked up, but RCCL continues to monitor the area and hasn't made changes, Liberty said.


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