Carnival Corporation reports strong Q1 profits

By Hollie-Rae Merrick

Carnival Corporation reports strong Q1 profits Carnival Corporation has reporter stronger-than-expected earnings for the first quarter of 2015.

The cruise company made a net profit of $49 million, or $0.06 diluted earnings per share in the last quarter, compared to a net loss of $20 million in the last year period.

It attributed its strong earnings to a rise in onboard revenues which were up 8% compared to 2014. Onboard spending rose to $889 million from $850 million, although revenue from ticket prices dropped around 3.5%.

Net revenue yields increased 2% in the first quarter of 2015, better than the company’s December guidance of up to 1%. However, gross revenue yields dropped 3.1% due to changes in currency exchange rates.

Looking ahead to 2015, Carnival Corporation said advance bookings were ahead of 2014 and at higher prices.

Chief executive and president Arnold Donald said: “The year is off to a strong start achieving significantly higher earnings than the prior year and our previous guidance.

“Our onboard revenue initiatives drove particularly strong improvement in the first quarter with onboard yields more than 8% higher than prior year (constant dollar).

“We are experiencing an ongoing improvement in underlying fundamentals based on our successful initiatives to drive demand. Our efforts to further elevate our guest experience are clearly resonating with consumers and, notably, improving the frequency and retention of our loyal guests.”

Donald said he believed results had improved off the back of “ongoing public relations efforts and creative marketing campaigns” designed to attract new customers. He referenced the success of the company’s Super Bowl advertising campaign which generated five billion impressions online before the ad had even run on TV.

He added: “Consistent with many global companies, the strengthening of the US dollar has hampered our full-year earnings expectations, masking the 3% to 4% (constant currency) yield increase our collective brands are expecting to achieve.

“Our successful initiatives to drive both ticket and onboard revenue yields have improved our financial performance and we remain on track toward our goal of achieving double-digit return on invested capital in the next three to four years.”

Folllowing a strong start to the year with bookings, Carnival said it expects full-year 2015 net revenue yields to increase 3% or 4% compared to 2014 and one point better than previous guidance for the year ahead.

However, changes in currency exchange rates means full-year 2015 earning expectations have been reduced by $219 million. Carnival said this was offset by an improvement in the company’s operating performance.

Getaway looks like older sister, with a different personality

By Arnie Weissmann

ABOARD THE NORWEGIAN GETAWAY — As agents, packagers and media filed aboard the Norwegian Getaway on Monday for its introductory sailing, Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan sat in an unmarked conference room and summed up the differences between the ship and its structurally identical older sister, the Breakaway.

“The Breakaway was a very immersive experience, a very New York experience. This is Miami,” he said in an interview with Travel Weekly.

Sheehan cited the ways that each ship rNorwegian Getaway hulleflects its home port. The bows were painted by different native artists (Peter Max for the Breakaway vs. David “Lebo” Le Batard for the Getaway).

Shaker’s Champagne Bar has been replaced by the Sugarcane Mojito Bar, the Uptown Bar and Grill has given way to the Flamingo Bar & Grill, Maltings Whiskey Bar is now the Key West/Hemingway inspired Sunset Bar, the bluesy Fat Cats morphed into the Grammy Experience and, most symbolically, the Manhattan Room has been transformed to the Tropicana Room.

The Burn the Floor dance show remains, but it’s now ballroom dance to a distinctly Latin beat.

The other entertainment offerings don’t carry the Northeast vs. Southeast theme, with Broadway show “Legally Blond” replacing Broadway show “Rock of Ages” in the main theater, and the magic/special effects Illusionarium standing in for the Cirque Dreams in the dinner theater.

That leaves 23 dining options and 18 bars and lounges identical to the Breakaway’s older sibling.

One aspect that certainly will not be changed — and which Sheehan predicts will be widely copied by other cruise lines — is the Waterfront, which provides outdoor seating for many restaurants.

Sheehan said that the some changes were made in the décor and color schemes of the staterooms and suites, but that aside from fixing some “nits and nats,” they are identical to the rooms on the Breakaway.

Pressed for what those nits and nats were, Sheehan, after taking a long pause to think, couldn’t come up with any.NorwegianGetwaway-GrammyExperience-AW

He credits extraordinary attention to detail in the planning and execution of the Breakaway in making the building of the Getaway relatively painless.

“We were literally done [with the Getaway] well before delivery,” he said. “We had said we wanted it completed in mid-December to give us a month of wiggle room, and we didn’t need it. We were in such good shape that the night before there was nothing to do, so we had a cocktail party.”

Sheehan also said that an inclusive, team approach ensures a better product.

“The more people involved, the smarter the ship will be designed, and the better the flow for the whole guest experience,” he said. “These ships are designed to make guests into brand ambassadors. When they get off, they’ll talk about their great experiences.”

Forward bookings are doing well, he said, but admitted they “always could be better.”

“We’re in an environment that has changed since the incidents that affected the industry,” Sheehan said, in a reference to the sinking of the Costa Concordia and fires that disabled Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships. “It might mean an extra promotion or marketing activity, but at the end of the day, you get where you want to be and get the right customers who will fill the ships and receive the right value.”

Getaway introduced in New York, but thoughts drift to warm Miami

By Arnie Weissmann

Getaway-SpongeBobABOARD THE NORWEGIAN GETAWAY — The frigid January weather in New York has kept most industry guests and media away from the Norwegian Getaway’s distinctive outdoor attractions during the ship’s inaugural sailing.

Few took advantage of the open-air dining on Waterfront, let alone the ropes course, water park with slides or other top-decks attractions.

The ship is a structural clone of its older sister, the Breakaway, which debuted last year, and having the passengers stay largely indoors kept them focused on the shifting of emphasis from themes of New York, where Breakaway homeports, to Miami, where the Getaway will be based.

“I like the subtle touches of Miami,” said Karen Giantomasi, client services supervisor for the online travel agency Cruise Direct International Voyager. “The mojitos in place of Champagne, Cuban food at the buffet.”

But many travel counselors said the shift in geographic emphasis inside really just supports the biggest change of all — that this ship will soon have a southern point of departure.

Although Wendi Randal of Liberty Travel in Pittsburgh doesn’t have clients in either homeport, the cold weather emphasized to her the importance of having a warm gateway. “You want [clients] to be able to try everything that’s outside, and you don’t want the weather to hinder that.”

One discerning couple didn’t mind at all that, other than the tweaking of restaurant and bar themes, the interiors were virtually identical. Sitting quietly and unnoticed at a side table at Sugarcane Mojito Bar off the atrium was Craig Cannonier, premier of Bermuda, and his wife Antoinette. Getaway-Cannoniers

He had been aboard during the inauguration of the Breakaway (which sails to Bermuda), and on this sailing was again in a suite in the Haven, the private area atop the ship which caters to upscale travelers.

“We’ve broken away, we’ve gotten away, next we’ll stay away — stay away from land,” he said. (He said he wasn’t worried about competition for Bermuda from cruising, and believes that port visits ultimately lead to subsequent longer land stays.)

As for the lack of differences — he did notice that “here, you have a mermaid painted on the outside” — he was sanguine. “They took a model that worked and built another. Why do something else? It’s not the same itinerary, so why not build a replica that works and take it to another destination?”

“We’ll bring our family aboard [the Breakaway] on our next vacation, down to our 3-year-old grandchild,” added Antoinette. “They do a good job.”