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Carnival sees ticket prices, profits rise

Strong summer for Alaska's biggest cruise line

Posted: September 20, 2011 - 11:03pm

Carnival Cruise Lines, Alaska’s most important cruise ship company, announced stellar results from this summer’s cruise season, the first of the big cruise companies to announce how they did this summer.

Carnival, owner of Holland America Lines and Princess Cruises, as well as Carnival ships, reported revenue of just more than $5 billion, compared to $4.4 billion last summer.

Higher fuel costs limited per share profits, but they still came in better than expected. Carnival stock jumped 5 percent on the news Tuesday.

Carnival’s smaller competitors had earlier reported similar results, but they’d only covered the very early months of summer.

Carnival doesn’t provide specific financial data on Alaska, but in an interview with industry analysts Tuesday Chairman and CEO Micky Arison said that not only was Alaska business strong, he expects it to be so next year as well.

“Alaska was very, very good in 2011, and I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be as good in ’12,” Arison said.

Carnival Chief Financial Officer David Bernstein said the previously announced decision to add another Princess ship to the Alaska market will increase Carnival’s capacity in Alaska by 11 percent next summer.

Carnival’s business is getting back to pre-recession levels, and company officials said that was largely due to improving ticket prices in places such as Alaska, the Caribbean and the Mexican Riviera.

Cruise ships typically always travel fully booked, even if the companies have to discount prices close to the sailing dates. That’s not been needed this year, the Carnival executives said.

Ticket prices have been strong, they said, even though declining consumer confidence may be delaying travel decisions, they said.

One troubling item in Tuesday’s earnings announcement was that Carnival was seeing less spending onboard ships and on tours, even as travelers were spending more on tickets.

While ticket revenue rose more than 12 percent during the summer, spending on cruises booked on ships went up only six percent, barely more than the increase in ship capacity.

That may mean that local merchants and tour companies have yet to fully share in the increased cruise spending by passengers.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com

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