Carnival Corporation was the first company to report Q3 earnings, with its fiscal quarter ending Aug. 31, 2012. Thus, a cruise company comparison can only be made later in the fall as the other companies report their results.

Meanwhile, Carnival posted a solid profit with an impressive 28.3 percent net margin, however, that was nevertheless 0.5 percent less than last year’s third quarter, but higher on a per share basis with fewer shares outstanding this year over last year.

Carnival maintained its earnings despite lower ticket revenues, which were offset by lower costs.

Net: According to a Cruise Industry News analysis, based on Carnival’s Q3 report, net revenue per passenger day was down 8.1 percent at $182.46, compared to $198.59 last year. Net ticket revenue per passenger day was down 10.1 percent at $142.94 this year vs. $159.12 last year; net onboard revenue per passenger day was $39.52 this year, up a tick from $39.47 last year.

Net cruise costs were down nearly 5 percent on a passenger day basis, at $104.25 this year vs. $109.57 last year. Excluding fuel, net cruise costs were $78.01 per passenger day this year, compared to $82.85 last year.

Carnival also posted non-operating income of $41 million with an unrealized gain on fuel derivatives and lower interest expenses, compared to a non-operating expense of $91 million last year.

Net income per passenger day was down 2.3 percent over last year at $64.49, compared to $66.05, $69.49 in 2010, and a record high of $97.66 in 1999.

Gross: Gross revenue per passenger day was down 9.1 percent-year-over year, with gross ticket revenue per day down 10.5 percent, offset partially by an increase of 1.2 percent per day in gross onboard spending.

Operating income per passenger day dropped 11.3 percent per passenger day year-over-year.

The drop in operating income was partially offset by a 9.4 percent drop in operating expenses and an 8.2 percent drop in total costs and expenses per passenger day.

Payroll and food costs were also down year-over-year, even though Carnival maintained its fleet-size of 100 ships from last year and carried more passengers.

This year’s third quarter was impacted by the Costa Concordia incident, as well as the struggling economies of Europe, particularly Southern Europe, and higher trans-Atlantic airfares for the North American market. Last year was impacted by the Arab Spring and resulting itinerary changes, especially for Costa, and 2010 was recovering from the 2008/2009 recession.