Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Earnings Call Insights: Insurance Cost Increase and Reducing European Itineraries

Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. (NYSE:RCL) recently reported its fourth quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Insurance Cost Increase

Felicia Hendrix – Barclays Capital: Brian, you talked a little bit about some of the drivers of the cost increases. Just wondering if we could go a little deeper. Regarding the insurance cost increase, you did say that it had gone up. But how much of the increase that you’re seeing now is incremental to what you were expecting before? And then I was wondering if you could just discuss the investment spending in more detail that you also highlighted as a driver for the higher costs?

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Brian J. Rice – EVP and CFO: Sure, Felicia. Our interest costs in total are up about $20 million year-over-year. So that’s a little more than half a percentage points, about 60 basis points.

Felicia Hendrix – Barclays Capital: That’s insurance.

Brian J. Rice – EVP and CFO: That’s insurance. Most of that is, I mentioned in my comments is related to P&I, which is we’re just now in the renewal period, we were actually talking to the clubs last week. We had anticipated some increases we had, I believe, that was about a 10% increase in hull and machinery which we had anticipated, but the P&L was much larger in the allocation of the recovery of those costs to the cruise lines was more substantial than we had anticipated. We are in the midst – I’m going to let Adam talk about some of the marketing investments that we’re making, but we also both on capital and on the P&L, we’re doing a lot of investment in IT right now. We’re working lot with our websites, our core reservation system, our ability to do much more intuitive presentation to our customers as well as to be able to do a lot more revenue management at a more granular level. Those are benefits that have begun to start coming in, but they will also snowball over the next couple of years. So, we’ve included some benefit this year in our revenue, but I think it’s going to be 2014, 2015 that we really hope to get the biggest gains out of that.

Adam M. Goldstein – President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International: Felicia, this is Adam. When we talk about our technology investments and marketing investments, we’re often talking about essentially two sides of the same coin. We clearly want to invest in the new available WAVE of doing target marketing of reaching people on a one-to-one basis and engaging with them in conversations that weren’t possibly even 5 or 10 years ago to take advantage of the interest that people have in cruising in general and in our brand specifically. Second, the distribution of our industry continues to evolve. It’s a very competitive space and we need to continue to invest in ways of reaching travel agents and motivating them to sell our products first and foremost. And then the third aspect which will not surprise you based on all of the previous conversations is we need to invest in our global marketing capabilities. As we begin to be an active marketer in virtually every significant market in the world whether that’s China, Australia, Brazil, the United States, the U.K. or what have you, we find that we need to continue to invest in new marketing capabilities and new systems capabilities to support that.

Felicia Hendrix – Barclays Capital: Also, I guess, Adam, this is probably for you, last question. You mentioned you all as a whole, mentioned that you could achieve record yields in the Caribbean and in Alaska this year. Just wondering if you all have any insight into the Mediterranean sailing season yet or if it’s too early?

Adam M. Goldstein – President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International: I had you on mute there for a second. It’s a little bit early and we have said that because with all the different things that have transpired in Europe over the last 24 months, besides the fact that we’re a little less booked there percentage-wise, we’re a little bit less confident in how the market will react to the different techniques that we typically use. So, we really need a little bit more time, I would say, in 2013 as we approach the summer season to see how it will go.

Reducing European Itineraries

Robin Farley – UBS: You talked about reducing European itineraries and European passengers sourcing this year, and I think you quantified the itinerary changes, I wonder if you could give a little bit more of that kind of color on the European passenger sourcing, just what you’re targeting for the year and how that had changed from maybe what you were targeting a few months ago.

Adam M. Goldstein – President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International: There haven’t been, Robin, dramatic changes. But at the margins, we’re probably looking for a little bit more business from the United States. Typically, in recent years, when we’ve been talking about this on these calls, we’ve had the percentage from the U.S. at or maybe a little bit below a quarter of our business. We’re probably looking for a little bit above a quarter of our business this year. But again, as I was just saying, we really need to see how the next few months develop. It is nice to know that there does seem to be a fairly robust level of interest from the United States to cruise in Europe this summer, a little bit more than we’ve seen in the past few years at this point in time. And so we have the ability to leverage that to the extent that we need.

Robin Farley – UBS: And so you’re just talking about that 25% and just the percent of your European itineraries that are North American sourced?

Adam M. Goldstein – President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International: Correct.

Robin Farley – UBS: Okay. And then can you sort of just ballpark what your North American yields? Obviously, given the guidance for the company overall and the weakness or the uncertainty in Europe, what your North American yields would look like, just looking at North American sourced?

Brian J. Rice – EVP and CFO: Robin, we don’t get that granular and it’s a mix of itineraries. I think we certainly try to indicate that we’re being, I think, the most bullish on U.S. sourced business right now when we compare to other markets. The U.K. — I’m sorry, go ahead.

Robin Farley – UBS: I know you can get down normally I guess, I am just trying to get a sense of whether your guidance leaves room for European sourced business for those yields to actually be down this year, would you say there is enough room in your guidance for that to some end of range?

Brian J. Rice – EVP and CFO: I think we read a lot about what people expect us to come out with guidance. We try to be as transparent as possible and actually try to offer a little more granularity on what we’re seeing right now. Clearly, we’re expecting the yields to be down in Spain this year. The U.K. our volumes are off, but our pricing is up a bit. The other markets are actually holding up okay, but we try to give some variability. We believe the largest swing factor will be Europe and we’ve tried to accommodate that for a little more deterioration and a little more upside within our guidance.

A Closer Look: Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Earnings Cheat Sheet>>