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Cruise Industry Idea Proposal (CCL, RCL, NCLH)

Dec 14 2018 Services, Travel & Leisure
Cruise Industry Idea Proposal (CCL, RCL, NCLH)
 

Will the cruise industry’s 2019 bookings continue to be ahead of 2018’s pace?

Report Available: January 16, 2019

 

Blueshift’s ongoing research showed booking strength for cruise lines as advance bookings for 2019 are ahead of this year’s pace, rates are higher, and the booking window is further out. Innovation including smart technology, apps for onboard conveniences, and activities and excursions are leading passengers to see cruises as an all-encompassing travel experience. Falling oil prices are also helping the cruise industry which will benefit from lower fuel costs or better hedging positions for future contracts. This is leading to higher expectations for cruise companies as wave season gets underway.

 

Observations

  1. NCLH beat Q3 earnings and revenue expectations with a 12.7% jump in revenue and sees a robust booking environment. Passenger ticket revenue climbed 12% year to year and onboard revenue increased 14%, while the company saw a record number of returning passengers. NCLH raised guidance above the top end of its previous range, estimating earnings per share will grow 22.5% higher than the previous year.
  2. RCL beat earnings expectations slightly but fell short on revenue, which grew 8.2% year to year. The company set Q4 and full year profit guidance below expectations. Looking ahead to 2019, RCL said bookings and rates are higher than a year ago and the booking window continues to lengthen. Onboard spending continues to grow and RCL noted a reduction in employee turnover, reversing an industry trend.
  3. In CLIA’s just-released 2019 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook report, cruise travel is expected to maintain its growth in the new year. More than eight of ten travel agents expect cruise sales to climb in the next 12 months. The industry projects 30 million passengers in 2019, a 6% increase from 28.2 million in 2018. Cruise companies are using innovation to deliver the travel experience passengers are seeking. Social media, Instagram in particular, is bringing greater interest in cruise traveling as passengers post pictures and videos of their vacations. Onboard connectivity and smart technology play an important role here, too.
  4. For wave season, RCL will have 55% of its capacity in the Caribbean, 18% in Asia-Pacific, and 12% in Europe. Capacity for 2019 is expected to increase 8.6% with Caribbean capacity increasing 10% with the addition of several new ships and expansion of shorter cruises. NCLH’s 2019 bookings are ahead of this year’s pace as advance ticket sales are up 24% on an 8% increase in capacity.
  5. As part of bringing an enhanced cruising experience to passengers, cruise lines are ramping up the use of technology. RCL’s Excalibur guest app, for instance, allows for accelerated customer check-in, a daily planner for the guest experience, onboard accounts, and direct booking of on-shore excursions, restaurant reservations, and other onboard activities. The various functionalities of the app go through a test phase (crawl), a quiet rollout (walk), then a push to get as many users as possible (run). More bells and whistles are planned such as facial recognition and a digital room key.
  6. Blueshift’s Jan. 10 report showed wave season bookings ahead of last year’s pace with expectations that it will continue at a higher rate throughout 2018. U.S. travel agents said bookings were 15% to 35% higher than a year ago, with more advanced bookings and travel to more expensive locations like Alaska, Hawaii, and Europe than in previous years. Prices were up slightly while incentives and bundled packages, including beverages, excursions and even gratuities, are increasingly popular. Onboard revenue opportunities are growing as cruises add more restaurants and dining options, bring in celebrity chefs, provide luxury shops and spa choices, and super-size entertainment packages. Bookings in China continued to be challenged. Several sources highlighted NCLH, including a supplier who said NCLH has the best nightlife as well as a travel agent who said her bookings with the company were up significantly. The same agent said her business with CCL had declined precipitously.

 

How do booking trends compare to a year ago? How do pricing trends compare with a year ago? Will booking in 2019 exceed 2018? By how much? How is onboard spending compared to a year ago? What are the newest trends in passenger experiences that are resonating with cruise travelers and getting them to spend more money? What is the latest development with technology/apps/wearables on cruise lines? How far along are cruises in deploying their latest innovations?  To answer these and other questions, Blueshift will gather data and issue a market research report from independent sources in the following areas: Travel agents in the U.S., Suppliers to cruise ships in the U.S., Port city businesses in the U.S., Travel agents in China, and Industry specialists.

 

 

Companies: Carnival Corp./plc (CCL/CUK), Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Inc. (NCLH), Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL), Walt Disney Co. (DIS)

 

Research Begins: December 17, 2018

 

 

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