If you go on a cruise and enjoy the experience, what’s the first thing you’re going to do? If you’re like most people, you’re going to tell family and friends about your experience. You might also use social media to share the details. Therefore, not only are you likely to return for another cruise offered by the same cruise line, but you’re generating positive sentiment for that brand, which is likely to lead to new business for that particular cruise line. Of course, the same process holds true for cruise vacations that didn’t meet your expectations. That being the case, whether you’re looking to travel on, or invest in, Carnival (NYSE: CCL), Royal Caribbean (NYSE: RCL), or Norwegian Cruise Line (NASDAQ: NCLH), the following information should be of importance to you.
Below are the most popular Carnival cruise lines, followed by what percentage of customers stated that they loved their vacation on that cruise line at CruiseCritic.com. The number in parenthesis indicates how many people contributed to the vote. Below are the four most popular North American cruise lines for Carnival.
Carnival Cruise Lines: 74 percent (17,827). Best known for being fun and family-oriented. Ships are large. Prices are affordable compared to most cruises.
Holland America Line: 75 percent (5,173). A whopping $525 million was invested for fleet enhancement. Based on the pedestrian cruiser rating, this seems to be a necessary investment. Holland America Line offers Culinary Arts Centers for demonstrations and classes, and it owns a private island in San Salvador, Half Moon Cay.
Princess Cruises: 77 percent (5,173). Popular features include anytime-dining and movies under the stars. Princess Cruises are a good option for multi-generational groups. It also owns Princess Cays — a tourist resort at the southern end of the island of Eleuthera, Bahamas.
Seabourne: 84 percent (273). Seabourne isn’t nearly as popular as the cruise lines listed above, but notice the higher rating, which directly relates to service. Travelers have raved about the service on Seabourne cruises. The exotic itineraries are also popular. However, Seabourne cruises are expensive, and they’re most often frequented by experienced travelers.
Costa: 53 percent (1,065). Best known for an Italian ambiance and Samsara Spa. As you can see from the traveler approval rating, these features aren’t impressive enough. Ship refurbishments are planned.
Cunard: 70 percent (992). A good option for those seeking trans-Atlantic journeys and Golden Era luxury, including white-gloved afternoon tea service.
P&O Cruises: 68 percent (1,026). A family-oriented cruise line that caters to primarily British clientele.
Overall, these scores aren’t very impressive. Perhaps Royal Caribbean scores better.
Royal Caribbean International: 81 percent (14,653). It’s all about megaships. The highly anticipated Quantum of the Seas is set to sail in November 2014, and Anthem of the Seas is set to sail in Spring 2015. Royal Caribbean International also owns a private island (CocoCay in the Bahamas) and a port (Labadee on the northern coast of Haiti.)
Celebrity Cruises: 81 percent (7,068). Celebrity Cruises is spending millions to modernize its old ships. This could lead to the cruise line going from outperforming the majority of its peers to dominating the majority of its peers. Celebrity Cruises attracts a broad range of travelers, including Baby Boomers, LGBTQ cruisers, retirees, and honeymooners.
Azamara Club Cruises: 88 percent (656). Just like Carnival’s Seabourne, Azamara Club Cruises offers highly personalized service, which leads to higher traveler approval ratings. These are smaller ships, but they’re loved by most guests. They sail to Europe, Asia, South America, and the West Indies.
Travelers are more impressed with Royal Caribbean than Carnival, but what about Norwegian Cruise Line?
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line: 70 percent (11,242). Best known for no set dining times and a casual dress code, the Norwegian Cruise Line owns a private island (Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas.) Large suites and bright and colorful décor makes it an option to consider for families.
Let’s not leave out Disney (NYSE:DIS).
Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line: 80 percent (1,023). Family-oriented, but enjoyed by adults as well. Disney films, a watercoaster, and Castaway Cay (Disney’s 1,000-acre private island in the Bahamas) are key features.
If you’re looking to go on a cruise, then you might want to consider Royal Caribbean or Disney first. If you’re an investor, the same theory holds true. If travelers prefer one company’s cruise lines over another, then word of mouth will spread, and those cruise lines will win more future customers.
For this reason, Royal Caribbean is an OUTPERFORM. That said, since it’s not as large or as diversified as Disney, it won’t hold up as well during economic downturns and throughout bear market environments.
Disney owns ABC and ESPN, it has seen phenomenal success in Filmed Entertainment (Frozen being its most recent big hit), owns the most popular theme parks in the world, and its future merchandising opportunities with Star Wars Episode 7 should go a long way. Therefore, while Disney might not present as much growth opportunity and upside potential as Royal Caribbean, it offers more downside protection, and it’s also an OUTPERFORM.