Royal Caribbean advance bookings rise with eyes on vaccinations

Cruise line group upbeat after disastrous year with ships in dock

Royal Caribbean Group said  it was seeing a rise in future bookings following a disastrous year. Photograph: Patrick Farrell/AP Photo/Miami Herald

Royal Caribbean Group said it was seeing a rise in future bookings following a disastrous year. Photograph: Patrick Farrell/AP Photo/Miami Herald

 

Royal Caribbean Group said on Monday it was seeing rise in future bookings, following a disastrous year for the cruise operator, as travel enthusiasts look to sail again at a time governments globally have started mass vaccinations.

The company’s shares, down 44 per cent last year, jumped over 11 per cent in morning trading as Royal Caribbean said it had recorded a 30 per cent increase in new bookings since the beginning of the year when compared to November and December.

The update came as Royal Caribbean Group lost $1 billion-plus in the fourth quarter as the coronavirus crisis kept its cruise ships ashore.

Analysts have tipped Royal Caribbean and its peers Carnival Corp and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd to resume voyages gradually in the back half of this year after the pandemic-triggered months-long halt.

“Now after 11 months of pandemic, I think we all know that Covid fatigue is real. People are clamouring for the opportunity to have experience outside their homes,” chief executive Richard Fain said on an earnings call.

Royal Caribbean said bookings for the first half of 2022 were within historical ranges and at higher prices, with some on Reddit and Twitter saying they were itching to go on cruises again.

However, the operator of Symphony of the Seas cruise posted a net attributable loss of $1.37 billion for the last three months of 2020, taking its full-year loss to $5.8 billion.

Cruise operators have been shoring up cash reserves by issuing new shares, selling assets or raising billions of dollars in debt over the last few months as the Covid-19 pandemic brought the industry to a virtual standstill.

With its ships not sailing, Royal Caribbean’s total revenue for the quarter plunged to $34.1 million from $2.52 billion last year. That compared with analysts’ estimates of $35.6 million.

On an adjusted basis the company lost $5.02 per share. Analysts had expected a loss of $5.20.

Miami-based Royal Caribbean forecast a net loss for its first quarter and the 2021 fiscal year.

As of December, Royal Caribbean had about $4.4 billion in liquidity, up from about $3.7 billion at the end of the third quarter, after it raised $1 billion in a stock offering during the fourth quarter. – Reuters