CHICAGO — Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said Tuesday that the recession kept passengers from booking vacations on its cruise ships during the third quarter, cutting into profit and revenue.
The company, which has a call center in Wichita, also forecast a fourth-quarter loss because of the weak economy in Florida where many of its frequent winter travelers live.
Still, the news wasn't all grim. The cruise line owner also said reservations began picking up in mid-September, although many of those trips were booked by passengers who were lured aboard by deeply discounted fares.
"While the pricing environment is still not what we'd like it to be, we're pleased to see solid growth in our order book," Chief Financial Officer Brian J. Rice said in a statement.
The company that operates Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises says it earned $230.4 million, or $1.07 per share, in the quarter that ended Sept. 30. That's down 44 percent from a year ago.
Revenue tumbled 17 percent to $1.76 billion.
Net yields, an industry performance measure of revenue earned without certain fluctuating costs, fell 16.5 percent during the quarter.
Still, profit was better than expected. Wall Street analysts said Royal Caribbean, based in Miami, would earn $1 per share on revenue of $1.77 billion for the quarter.
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean offered a lower-than-expected profit forecast for the rest of the year, saying it would likely lose 5 cents per share in the fourth quarter, while earning 70 cents for the year.
Analysts had been expecting a profit of 4 cents per share in the fourth quarter and a full-year profit of 74 cents.
Royal Caribbean said it expects net yields to slid as much as 8 percent in the fourth quarter, and 14 percent for the full fiscal year. It expects the figure to continue to improve in the first quarter and through 2010.
"Like many other travel companies, we saw more strength than we expected during our peak season but have been experiencing more pricing pressure on some of our traditionally softer fall season sailings," Chairman and CEO Richard D. Fain said in a statement. "Overall though, the business environment is largely unchanged and stable."
Royal Caribbean shares fell $1.04, or 5 percent, to $19.63 in premarket trading Tuesday after closing at $20.67 in regular trading on Monday.