Carnival Cruise to raise summer prices

(Reuters) - Carnival Corp & Plc's CCL.NCCL.L flagship unit Carnival Cruise Lines said it will increase its prices by up to 5 percent for all summer sailings, following strong wave-season bookings at the cruise operator.

The wave season, traditionally the busiest booking period for the cruise industry, runs from about mid-January through early spring.

“While pricing has not fully recovered to 2008 levels, we are increasing prices and will implement an across-the-board increase effective March 22,” Carnival Cruise Lines Chief Executive Gerry Cahill said in a statement.

Travel agents fear that they will run out of inventory to sell this wave season due to rise in bookings, analyst Janet Brashear at Bernstein Research wrote in a note to clients.

This was also consistent with the bullish outlook given by Carnival Corp rival Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd RCL.NRCL.OL, Brashear said.

Last month, Royal Caribbean posted a surprise fourth-quarter profit and said it sees encouraging 2010 bookings.

“Recent channel checks indicate bookings are also strong across the industry brand spectrum. We believe close-in bookings also remain strong, likely enhanced by unprecedented cold/snowy weather in the eastern United States,” Wells Fargo analyst Tim Conder said in a note.

For period from January 1 through February 21, Carnival Cruise Lines said bookings were at unprecedented levels for the line’s 22 ships.

Carnival’s announcement was worth another percentage point of net revenue yield, analyst Brashear said.

Analysts currently expect the Carnival Corp’s total revenue to grow 9.9 percent to $14.45 billion in 2010, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Shares of Miami-based Carnival Corp were up 5 percent at $35.35 in afternoon trade Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Vidya Lakshmi in Bangalore; Editing by Anthony Kurian and Unnikrishnan Nair