Costa Ships in Shanghai

Carnival Corporation executives said on today’s earnings call that the first half of next year (2017) looks very strong with higher occupancy and higher prices.

Commenting on the company’s Q3 2016 results, Arnold Donald, CEO and present, said that it was the highest quarterly income the company has ever posted despite numerous headwinds. For the full year, he said he expects to double the earnings from 2013 and also double the return on investment from 2013.

The company has raised its full-year EPS guidance to $3.33 to $3.37 from $3.25 to $3.35.

David Bernstein, executive vice president and CFO, said that for the first half of 2017, occupancy for the North American brands in the Caribbean and Alaska was well ahead of this year at significantly higher prices.

For the European brands, European occupancy is also ahead at slightly higher prices, while their Caribbean occupancy is ahead at flat prices. For Asia, he said that occupancy was in line with increased capacity and at higher prices. For Australia, occupancy is ahead with pricing in line with last year.

In total, Carnival brands will see a 2.5 percent capacity increase in 2017, adjusted for 470 drydock days up from 380 days this year. According Bernstein, total drydock time will be an average of 450 to 475 days per year.

Regarding China, Donald said it is a profitable market for Carnival, although he expects yields to be down until the distribution system is better able to support capacity growth. Noting that China only represents 5 percent of the company’s total capacity, he said he expects that China will continue to be a growth market.

However, Donald dodged answering specifically why AIDA and the Carnival brands have postponed their market entries and when and if they will enter the Chinese market.

In 2016, he said that Carnival increased its China capacity by 66 percent, compare to an industry wide increase of 100 percent, and that Carnival will increase its cruise capacity in China by 26 percent in 2017, compared to an industry wide increase of 31 percent.

Over the next four years, he said that Carnival will be introducing three new ships in Asia (for Princess and Costa) and three ships per year in all of its established markets.

At the same time, the company will remove older and less efficient ships, which will be sold into secondary markets, he said, which will not compete directly with company brands.