It has been a little over a year since cruise ships were docked world-wide as the coronavirus took over. Cruise stocks were battered as a result, and prices have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.
But now may be the time to buy. That’s according to JPMorgan analyst Brandt Montour, who said in a note this week that there are three stocks in the cruise arena that will lead in “the industry’s pending recovery.”
Cruise ships are still expected to be docked in the U.S. until this summer, but Montour says there will “be a very strong U.S. consumer spending environment” when they are allowed to sail again, with “sizable pent-up leisure travel demand… already inflecting cruise bookings.”
Montour raised his price targets on three names in the sector, boosting his target on Carnival (NYSE: CCL) shares from $23 to $33, Royal Caribbean Group (NYSE: RCL) to $110, and Norwegian Cruise Line (NYSE: NCLH) from $33 to $36, with Overweight ratings on both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, and a Neutral rating on Carnival.
One thing that should boost cruise stocks: ticket pricing.
“We are gaining conviction that the most likely direction for ticket pricing is higher from here, driven by pent-up demand against curtailed and phased-in capacity, limited occupancy later in 2021 and into early 2022, and extraordinarily long booking windows,” Montour wrote, adding that he expects “ticket pricing next year will be down only modestly versus 2019.”
UBS also issued an upgrade for Carnival shares this week, raising the stock from Neutral to Buy.
Analyst Robin Farley wrote in a note, “While the near-term outlook has gotten worse, with continued delays in restart, the longer-term outlook has improved as vaccines become more widespread than what we originally factored into our estimates last year.”
While Farley’s estimates for 2021 and 2022 remain lowered, she added that “our 2023 estimates are higher.”
One plus Farley noted for Carnival is that given that it is the largest cruise operator, it operates brands that draw customers from countries like Italy, Germany, and the U.K.
“Those countries are likely to allow cruising to restart before the U.S., [and] we are bumping up CCL estimates to include more relative recovery than previously,” Farley wrote.
As for when the U.S. could give the ok to resume cruises, Montour said that it remains to be seen when the CDC will allow cruise ships to restart sailings in and out of U.S. ports, but added that “the key factor is that guidelines include a definitive green light to start sailing in the U.S. by this summer.”