“If we can have our assets for up to 40 years we will,” said one senior cruise line executive at a recent industry event.
Cruise ships have traditionally been built and designed with a 30-year service life for their first owner, before being sold into secondary or non-competing markets.
That service life is now extending with large-scale drydock projects making existing tonnage competitive, with over 100 ships set to drydock this year, according to the 2020 Drydocking and Refurbishment Report by Cruise Industry News.
Better yet, with some new ships paying for themselves in as little as five years or less, an extended service window continues the earnings potential.
Classic ships can also serve new or untapped markets, while new ships compete against other new ships in the big-market homeports in North America, Asia or Europe.
When Cuba opened temporarily for U.S. travellers, it was the older tonnage from the mainstream cruise lines that we’re able to serve Havana, where the port offers limited infrastructure and can’t handle modern mega-ships.
But it comes down to the bottom line, according to previous remarks made by Carnival Corporation President and CEO Arnold Donald on the company’s 2018 year-end and fourth-quarter earnings call.
“We’ll continue with the ship in the fleet if it’s relevant to the guests and its earning is key if it’s not then the ship will be gone,” he said.
Carnival Corporation provided adjusted earnings guidance for 2020 on today’s Q4 and year-end earnings call from $4.30 to $4.60 per share, compared to 2019 adjusted earnings of $4.40 per share.
Carnival President and CEO Arnold Donald said that he expects cruise revenues to be up approximately 5 per cent on capacity growth year-over-year of 6.6 per cent.
At this point, he said, the company is entering 2020 with a record booked occupancy position but at slightly lower prices.
Donald noted the headwinds Carnival has faced this year, some of which will continue into 2020, including the impact of Cuba being off-limits to cruise calls, events in the Arabian Gulf, Hurricane Dorian, unscheduled drydocks and ship delays, compounded by a decline in market demand in Continental Europe, particularly Germany, while Southern Europe is also challenging.
Noting these as “unusual events,” Donald said they had had a $0.23 negative impact on 2019 earnings.
In order to improve the market situation and accelerate demand growth in Southern Europe, Donald said that two older ships are being removed from the Costa fleet in 2020, following the recent introduction of the new Costa Smeralda. He said the new ship is much more efficient than the ships being removed.
In the UK, Carnival has been able to grow revenue yield despite Brexit, and Donald noted that P&O Cruises’ New Iona is looking at a significant premium over other ships on comparable itineraries.
In North America, the Caribbean is strong and so is Alaska. However, Alaska is seeing what he called an over-concentration of capacity and will need to absorb another industrywide capacity increase of 10 per cent in 2020, on top of a 15 per cent capacity increase in 2019.
As for China, Donald said Carnival will focus on its new joint venture cruise line. Meanwhile, he said, Costa had a good year in China in 2019 and looks forward to another good year in 2020, with more direct business, but is also happy with its charter model.
Carnival will essentially have six new ships in six different markets for the full year in 2020, starting with the Carnival Panorama, which just entered service on the West Coast, the Costa Smeralda in Southern Europe; P&O’s Iona in the UK; the Enchanted Princess in Europe and North America; the Mardi Gras in Florida; and the Costa Firenze in China.
According to Donald, Carnival is also accelerating marketing and media spend in all of its key markets to drive demand in 2020.
Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald, far right, was joined onstage during the CEO Conversation panel by John Chernesky-the-puppet of Princess Cruises. The session was moderated by editor in chief Arnie Weissmann, seated, left. Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada
FORT LAUDERDALE — Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald told an audience at CruiseWorld that being the largest cruise company in the world comes with two key advantages — stability and innovation — that help Carnival’s brands deliver industry-leading results.
The company has more than 100 ships, and it operates in every segment and several global source markets. “One of every two people who cruise go with one of our nine brands,” Donald said, which include Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Cunard Line, in addition to the namesake Carnival Cruise Line.
“Because we have such a large portfolio, it’s difficult for anyone thing happening somewhere in the world to take the company down,” Donald said.
Size matters in innovation too. “We have the scale and the capability to take on projects that others can’t,” he said.
A prime example of that is the costly OceanMedallion personalization technology that Carnival developed and rolled out initially on Princess Cruises.
“We invented it,” Donald said. “It’s not off-the-shelf apps.”
Donald ran down a list of developments at various Carnival brands, such as the roller coaster on next year’s Carnival Cruise Line newbuild, the Mardi Gras.
But when he forgot to mention Princess Cruises, a surprise guest made an appearance.
From behind the couch where Arnold was seated, up popped a Muppets-style character designed to look like Princess’ senior vice president of sales and trade marketing, John Chernesky. The puppet ribbed Donald and amused the crowd until the real John Chernesky bounded on stage to complain that the puppet has been impersonating him all over town.
The larger message to the puppet tomfoolery was to billboard the Jim Henson Creature Shop show, called “Inspired Silliness,” that will debut next month on the newest Princess ship, the Sky Princess.
When Donald finally regained the spotlight, he took some time to outline Carnival’s sustainability initiatives and defend the industry’s record.
He said that very little of the estimated 8 million tons of plastics in the ocean comes from ships, much less from cruise ships. “It comes from land; it comes through the rivers and gets into the ocean,” he said, adding, “Having said that, we don’t want anything going in the ocean. He said that Carnival has accelerated existing recycling efforts and processes to eliminate plastics from its waste stream.
Likewise, when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, a Carnival brand was the first to use liquified natural gas (LNG) to provide power in port, and Carnival Corp. will be the first to bring an LNG-powered ship to North America, with the Mardi Gras.
“Ultimately we want to get to zero-emission,” Donald said. But he said cruise emissions are a tiny fraction of the global equation. “The reality is if the cruise industry didn’t exist, you wouldn’t be able to measure the difference in emissions,” he said.