That was the message Thursday when Royal Caribbean Cruises reported a net loss of $3.6 million during the second quarter — a steep fall from the $93.5 million profit it reported a year earlier — and lowered earnings expectations for the full year.
The Miami-based cruise operator reported revenues of $1.82 billion, slightly higher than the $1.76 billion it took in a year earlier.
But net cruise costs also increased, from $993 million to $1.1 billion, due partly to fuel price increases and expenses from adding capacity in Asia. The world’s second-largest cruise ship company lowered its full-year earnings forecast to $1.70-$1.80 per share, lower than analyst estimates, and said net yields — or revenue generated per berth per day— would likely be flat or up a percent for the year.
In an otherwise glum earnings call, there were some bright spots: Yields in the Caribbean, Alaska and Asia were described by Royal Caribbean Cruises Chairman and CEO Richard Fain as anything from “holding up reasonably well” to “making us feel exceptionally good.”
But those solid showings were not enough to overcome the weak European market, where economic instability has forced cruise operators to slash prices in order to fill ships.
The lingering effect of the deadly January shipwreck of the Costa Concordia, owned by rival Carnival Corp., also proved a drag on the company’s second-quarter business. The disaster, which took place off the coast of Italy, has had the biggest impact in Europe.
“We all knew there were challenges there, but we had not anticipated either the severity of the financial crisis or the roller coaster ride that the politicians the and the media have precipitated,” Fain said. “And of course the Concordia impact there has been the greatest and the slowest to dissipate.”
Royal Caribbean Cruises, which includes the Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises brands, said the company believes the Concordia wreck is no longer having a major impact on future bookings.
“However, the timing of the incident left a big gap during our peak booking period and filling that gap is disrupting our normal booking patterns,” chief financial officer Brian Rice said in a statement.
In recent years, cruise companies have looked to Europe as a major growth market for the industry and shifted more ships to capitalize on a relatively untapped — but vacation-happy — population.
But Royal Caribbean said by next year, the company’s capacity in Europe will be down by 10 percent. And while the third quarter of 2012 is also expected to face difficulty in Europe, by the fourth quarter most ships will have sailed to more profitable waters.
Executives said they were optimistic about the future, with plans to increase prices by slowing the growth of the company’s fleet. No ships will be delivered in 2013; the company has one on order for 2014 and another for 2015.
But Fain hinted that a new order could be forthcoming, avoiding specifics but saying the company is “looking at the kinds of ships that are even in today’s world generating nice returns.”
Robin Farley, a leisure analyst with UBS Investment Research, said in a note to investors that she would not be surprised to see the company place an order for delivery in 2016 before the year is out.
The company’s stock closed Thursday at $24.62, up 1.32 percent from the previous day’s close. That’s far lower than the closing price on the day before the Concordia accident: $28.75.
“We can understand how investors might be frustrated by the company’s revised 2012 net yield outlook, which was supposed to capture a certain amount of European weakness; obviously, the European weakness was worse than prior forecasts,” wrote Barclays Capital analyst Felicia Hendrix in a note to investors. “Until there is more visibility on the likelihood of upward net yield revisions, we believe the cruise stocks will remain weak.”