Carnival offers a boatload of fun. The company is the world's #1 cruise operator, boasting about a dozen cruise lines and about 100 ships with a total passenger capacity of more than 190,000. Carnival operates in North America primarily through its Princess Cruise Line, Holland America, and Seabourn luxury cruise brand, as well as its flagship Carnival Cruise Lines unit. Brands such as AIDA, P&O Cruises, and Costa Cruises offer services to passengers in Europe, and the Cunard Line runs luxury trans-Atlantic liners. Carnival operates as a dual-listed company with UK-based Carnival plc, forming a single enterprise under a unified executive team.
Carnival maintains its top position in the industry by leveraging its cruise lines to penetrate a number of different markets. Carnival Cruises, a leading brand in the US, and Princess both target families, retirees, and other upper middle class customers with competitively priced cruise packages. Its popular destinations include the Caribbean, the Mexican Riviera, and Alaska. P&O Cruises chases after a similar target customer in the UK with trips to the Mediterranean and Scandinavia. (P&O also operates out of Australia and New Zealand.) Holland America is known for its scenic getaways in New England, Canada, and along the Pacific coast. The company offers trips within the Asian market through its Costa Cruises. The line serves cruise-goers with Chinese-style food, mah-jongg tables in its casino, and luxury brands in its retail shops.
While Carnival has been known as the Fun Ship, the cruiser also attracts those looking for a fine ship. Carnival's Seabourn brand operates luxury cruises to upscale travelers and caters to them with fine food, personalized service, and exotic destinations worldwide. Similarly, its Swan Hellenic premium brand sails throughout Europe and Asia. Of course, luxury is the name of the game for Cunard, which provides a variety of cruises in addition to its liner services.
On the heels of the global recession, Carnival has enjoyed a gradual bump in revenues over the last three years. Total sales increased 9% from 2010 to 2011, mostly through an almost 10% uptick in passenger revenue. Passenger revenue typically represents about 77% of its revenue each year. Onboard and other cruise revenues jumped 8% and accounted for the remaining 23% in total sales for 2011.
North America is the most important region for Carnival, representing half its total sales each year and increasing by 5% in 2011. European brands accounted for 38% of the company's total sales and increased by 7%.
Carnival's profits, however, decreased by 3% in 2011 as a result of higher fuel prices, which cost the company an additional $535 million.
Another factor sure to affect the company's balance sheet is the tragic incident of the Costa Concordia grounding off the coast of Italy that occurred in January 2012. The ship remains grounded and partially submerged off the coast. Carnival estimated it suffered a first quarter 2012 loss of $139 million in conjunction with the accident.
Fueled by optimism for the future, Carnival has orders in place for 10 additional cruise ships, which it will integrate into its fleet between 2012 and March 2016. The new additions are expected to result in a 32,000 lower berth increase and a 16% increase in passenger capacity.
To fill its expanding inventory of passenger berths, Carnival continues to spend heavily on marketing its cruises, especially to consumers who have never taken to the high seas. While it relies on the traditional mediums, such as television and magazines, Carnival has been shifting its efforts from print media to online and social media, utilizing Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, and Podcasts. Its goal is to engage in two-way conversations with consumers and create brand fans. Also, the company has expanded its number of homeports to put cruising possibilities closer to customers. Effective 2011, Carnival operates from 15 North American homeports.
The cruise firm is counting on Europe, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and South America, for future growth, as it believes these markets are relatively untapped.
CEO Micky Arison and his family own about 30% of Carnival Corporation and control a 23% voting stake in the combined entity that consists of Carnival Corporation and Carnival plc. Arison, one of the wealthiest people in Miami, also owns the Miami Heat basketball team.