Carnival Corp. Carrying 50,000 Guests a Day, Sees Historical High in Bookings

Carnival Corporation — parent of Carnival Cruise Line — said today that it now sees around 50,000 guests each day on its ships, while it is also enjoying a historically high number of bookings into 2022. Its bookings are even ahead of lofty 2019 numbers from before the health crisis began.

Carnival ship whale tail

New High in Booked Position

The positive news comes despite some turbulence due to the rise of the Delta variant, where near-term bookings have been impacted. However, there seems to be little long-term impact

In a financial update, Carnival CEO Arnold Donald shared that long-term bookings are historically strong.

“Our booked position for the second half of 2022 is at a new historical high, including our seasonally strong third quarter with all our ships planned to be in operation, despite reduced marketing spending,” Donald said.

The company did say that in the third quarter of 2021 (encompassing June-August) customers booked cruises at a volume that was “not as robust” as the second quarter of 2021. 

Carnival said the dip in booking was “primarily as a result of lower booking volumes in August 2021” thanks to the “heightened uncertainty around the COVID-19 Delta variant.”

Even so, while it is impacting bookings departing soon, the future still looks promising.

“The impact in August of the Delta variant on bookings was really much more of a near term phenomenon in terms of call it, the next six months, maybe nine months of bookings,” said Chief Financial Officer David Bernstein. “The further out you go, it’s really hard to even spot or distinguish a Delta variant trend in the booking pattern. So the second half (of 2022) remained strong throughout the month of August.”

All told, the company says customer deposits now stand at $3.1 billion, an increase of $630 million over the previous quarter.

50,000 Guests Per Day

Carnival Corporation is also carrying an impressive amount of passengers as it continues to methodically return ships to service.

At the end of August, the company had eight of its nine cruise lines returning to service with at least some guest operations, measuring 35% of its total capacity. By the start of December, it anticipates having 50 ships — 61% of capacity — back in service. The full fleet is expected back operating by spring 2022.

“To date, we have carried over half a million guests this year already,” Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald said. “And on any given day, we are now successfully carrying around 50,000 guests and expect that number to continue to rise as we introduce more capacity and as we increase occupancy over the coming months.”

Even so, it will take time for ships to ramp up to full capacity. In the third quarter, its available lower berth days” (ALBD), which is a measure of capacity, was just 17% of its total fleetwide capacity. The fourth quarter is expected to see 47% of fleet capacity based on this measure.

Carnival Cruise Line appeared to be a standout, achieving occupancy of above 70% on its ships since returning, despite capacity limits.

And those passengers seem eager to spend when they do sail. During the investor call, executives mentioned strong spending multiple times. According to the company, Carnival Cruise Line saw 20% higher revenue per passenger cruise day than compared to 2019.

Reason for Optimism?

The generally upbeat report comes as there are signs the United States is recovering from the peak of the Delta variant wave. From an average high of roughly 165,000 cases per day, that figure has dropped around 25% in the past several weeks.

While cruising has shown it can operate in this new environment thanks to vaccine requirements and strict protocols, declining cases will lead to having guests be more comfortable in booking and traveling. In fact, Carnival said that the dip in bookings during August due to Delta had actually stabilized and there had been an uptick recently.

Cruising will no doubt feel the impact of the health crisis on its business for months to come. As companies like Carnival continue to navigate the choppiness right now as they return, lower cases in the future should mean smoother sailing ahead.

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