Strong Caribbean business fueling RCCL's 'solid' Wave season

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Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas started sailing from the U.S. last November.
Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas started sailing from the U.S. last November.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said its Wave season of bookings after the holidays has had a solid start, fueled in part by demand for Caribbean and Alaska itineraries.

“We’re happy to report it is proving to be a solid Wave,” said RCCL Chairman Richard Fain in a conference call about 2015 earnings.

Both bookings and prices are ahead of last year, said Fain. He attributed this year’s strength in part to nearly a year’s experience with the “price integrity policy” that eliminated last-minute deep discounting.

Fain said that RCCL recently tweaked the policy to make it clearer. Previously, the end of discounting could occur 10, 20 or 30 days prior to sailing, depending on the length of the cruise. Now, RCCL has a single 30-day time frame for cruises of any duration except for three- and four-day cruises, for which last minute discounts have always been allowed.

CFO Jason Liberty said Caribbean bookings for 2016 are ahead of last year in both load factor and rate. “We are seeing pricing strength from the North American consumer,” he said. Also, RCCL foresees a record year in Alaska.

While northern European itineraries are booking well, Liberty said load factors are slightly behind last year in Europe overall. He said there was a softening in North American demand for Europe after the Paris attacks in September. Demand has since returned, but pricing remains below last year for eastern Mediterranean sailings.

Asked about the fallout from Zika virus, RCCL said it has been a non-event so far. “To date we’ve seen no impact whatsoever,” Royal Caribbean International President Michael Bayley said.

In reporting results for full-year 2015, RCCL said revenue was $8.3 billion and net income using GAAP accounting was $665.8 million, compared with 2014 revenue of $8.1 billion and net income of $764.1 million.

RCCL said earnings adjusted for various non-GAAP factors were $1.07 billion and forecasted earnings in 2016 of between $1.3 billion and $1.35 billion.

That forecast apparently disappointed investors. Shortly after noon on Tuesday, RCCL shares traded at $71, down $13.51 a share or 16% from Monday’s close.

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