Despite achieving record bookings and revenue, Carnival Corporation reported a net loss in the first quarter of 2024. The company’s financial performance for the first three months of the year is a mix of challenges and positives. With a strong booking season that surpasses the record numbers seen in 2023, Carnival is steadily working towards profitability.

Investors still have a healthy amount of confidence in Carnival, as stocks were up nearly 3% just hours after the markets opened. With new ships on the horizon and innovative guest offerings like Celebration Key, the world’s largest cruise operator might be trailing the competition, but is certainly working hard on its comeback.

Carnival Corporation announced a promising start to 2024 as it revealed record first-quarter revenues of $5.4 billion on March 27, surpassing the record numbers from the cruise operator in 2023.

This growth was driven by unprecedented booking volumes during wave season, combined with higher cruise prices. Carnival continues to show strong demand across its brands; however, the company still reported a net loss of $180 million. 

While posting a loss would normally be a point of concern, Carnival’s results for the first quarter of 2024 are a significant improvement over last year. The numbers surpassed last year’s results by nearly $500 million.

Photo Credit: JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock

Josh Weinstein, CEO of Carnival Corporation: “This has been a fantastic start to the year. We delivered another strong quarter that outperformed guidance on every measure, while concluding a monumental wave season that achieved all-time high booking volumes at considerably higher prices.”

The surge in demand, especially for 2025 sailings and beyond, shows the continued desire from consumers to sail onboard Carnival’s ships. The number of guests booked onboard the cruise operator’s ships for the remainder of the year is the best on record, with pricing and occupancy levels exceeding those of 2023.

“We are enjoying a phenomenal wave season with strength across all major deployments and brands. Even with less inventory available for the remainder of the year, booking volumes hit an all-time high, driven by demand for 2025 sailings and beyond.” 

Our brands have demonstrated continued success creating demand that outstrips available capacity translating into higher prices (in constant currency) and a further elongation in the booking curve,” Weinstein said.

Carnival cruise ships in port (Photo Credit: pablopicasso)

The record booking figures even account for the impact of the cancellation of multiple cruises in the Red Sea and the estimated $130 million effect this has had on Carnival Corporation.

While Carnival had been particularly bullish on the expansion of its fleet last year, this year has seen a shift towards growth. The company announced orders for the tenth and eleventh cruise ships in its LNG-powered Excel class, set for delivery in 2027 and 2028, marking its first new-build ships in five years. 

In the wake of the significant success of Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration, and Carnival Jubilee, the new vessels cater to the increased demand the Excel-class ships have generated.

Carnival Jubilee in Galveston, Texas

Carnival is also making sure the new ships will have places to go to as the company announced the addition of a pier extension for Celebration Key, which will double the number of cruise ship arrivals at the new and exclusive destination on Grand Bahama Island, set to open in the summer of 2025.

While the news is mostly positive from Carnival Corporation, the company continues to be affected by events worldwide. With the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, both Carnival Legend and Carnival Pride will be redirected to different ports, which is estimated to have a potential $10 million impact on Carnival’s financial results. 

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