Carnival cruise line said on Wednesday that there was a record level of bookings in the first quarter, an increase of about 90% from the fourth quarter.
Additionally, current bookings for 2022 are higher than pre-pandemic 2019, suggesting people are excited to travel again.
“Everyone wants to go away. And I’ll tell you the next best thing to actually go is planning a vacation. And that’s what a lot of people seem to be doing right now,” said David Bernstein, Carnival’s CFO. in a conference call on Wednesday.
The cruise company had previously announced that its quarterly net loss had increased to $ 1.97 billion from $ 781 million a year earlier, as cruises in the US remained suspended due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
But optimism over strong demand from customers longing to be at sea pushed Carnival stock back to a 52-week high of $ 30.63 on Wednesday. Although the stock gave up some of its earlier gains in afternoon trading, the stocks are still up 1.4%.
Cruises have been one of the hardest hit sectors in the travel industry since the pandemic halted sailing last year following the mass outbreaks of Covid-19.
Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said in a press release that booking trends “reflect both the significant pent-up demand and long-term potential for cruises.”
To stimulate future demand, the company plans to bring six new ships to market by the end of the year, almost one of each of its nine brands.
“They will generate even more excitement, excitement and demand for our recovery plans from both our brand loyalties and new employees,” Donald said on a conference call.
Nevertheless, the carnival faces numerous challenges. It ended the first quarter with $ 11.5 billion in cash and short-term investments and must hold its funds until business resumes. To do this, it must obtain approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which are currently banned from sailing.
Carnival expects all of its fleets to sail by 2022. This summer, the company is on the right track to resume cruise operations with a capacity of 30% to 50% on nine ships of its six brands: AIDA, Costa, P&O Cruises, Cunard, Princess Cruises and Seabour.
A clear priority for 2021 is to align business operations with the guidelines that are still in flux.
“2021 will clearly be a year of transition. We expect the environment to remain dynamic for the next 12 months if we roll out our fleet and continue to adapt to an ever-changing situation,” said Donald.
Carnival said it could relocate its home ports outside of the US if it is unable to adhere to CDC protocols. For example, the company said it was unable to meet the requirement that all passengers be vaccinated.
“We’d prefer to have these jobs and all of the staff to be here,” said Donald. “But if we can’t sail we’ll of course consider porting home elsewhere.”
The manning of ships is also a challenge for the company.
“Our biggest limitation right now is that we can work with the crew,” said Donald. “It will take us at least 60, up to 90 days to get a crew on board that is trained in new protocols and so on to be able to practice sailing.”