Carnival Looks for Brighter Things

Carnival Cruise Line (NYSE:CCL) said Wednesday that it has seen a record level of bookings during the first quarter, up about 90% from fourth-quarter levels.

In addition, current bookings for 2022 are higher than those made in 2019, before the pandemic, suggesting that people are excited to travel again.

"Everybody wants to go away. And I will tell you, the next best thing to actually going away is planning a vacation. And that’s what a lot of people seem to be doing right now," said David Bernstein, Carnival’s chief financial officer, in a conference call on Wednesday.

Earlier, the cruise operator said its quarterly net loss widened to $1.97 billion from a loss of $781 million a year ago, as cruises remained suspended in the U.S. due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But optimism about strong demand from customers yearning be on the sea again pushed Carnival shares to a 52-week high of $30.63 in trading Wednesday.

Cruises have been one of the hardest hit sectors in the travel industry since the pandemic shut down sailing last year after mass Covid-19 outbreaks.

To boost demand in the future, the company plans to roll out six new ships by the end of the year, almost one from each of its nine brands.

CCL shares dived 70 cents, or 2.4%, to $28.30 early Thursday.