Carnival Corporation & plc (NYSE:CCL) (NYSE:CUK) is picking up speed, once again growing at its fastest pace in years. The world's largest cruise ship operator posted its fiscal first-quarter results on Thursday morning. Revenue rose 11.6% to hit $4.232 billion for the three months ending on Feb. 28. You have to go back to the summer of 2011 to find the last time that Carnival was growing at a double-digit percentage. The latest report followed back-to-back quarters of 8.2% growth, which at the time also represented its heartiest growth spurts since fiscal 2011. 

Net income kept up with the double-digit growth, rising 11% to $391 million, or $0.54 a share. Back out unrealized gains and losses on fuel derivatives and other net charges -- a fair move in sizing up a company that makes big bets on fuel hedges that can result in big swings on the bottom line -- and adjusted earnings rose 34% to $375 million, or $0.52 a share. 

Carnival's Ocean medallion tethered to a Bluetooth phone.

Image source: Carnival.

Setting sail in the right direction

Currency swings helped fuel Carnival's strongest top-line growth in years, but the results are still impressive. Gross revenue yields, a popular measure for the industry -- essentially the revenue per available lower berth day -- rose a hearty 9.2%. The metric becomes a more mortal 3.9% in constant currency, but that's still considerably better than the 1.5% to 2.5% the company was targeting back in December

It's also important to frame costs accordingly. Gross cruise costs per available lower berth day rose 9%, but strip away fuel costs and the currency impact, and those same costs rose a manageable 1%. Carnival's guidance was calling for a 2% to 3% uptick on that front. Things all balanced out in the end, as Carnival estimates changes in fuel prices held earnings back by $0.04 a share, the same amount that favorable currency exchange rates added to the bottom-line results. 

Looking out to the rest of 2018, bookings are running on pace with where they were a year earlier for 2017 bookings, but passengers are willing to pay more to set sail on Carnival. Picky investors may realize that three months ago, bookings were running ahead of a year earlier -- and also at higher berth rates -- but it's hard to quibble with a report that offered more good news than bad overall. 

Carnival is still lifting its guidance for all of fiscal 2018. It now sees an adjusted profit of $4.20 to $4.40 a share, up from the $4 to $4.30 a share it was targeting in December and the $3.82 a share it earned in fiscal 2017. Armed with new tech -- like its wearable Ocean medallions that offer up custom-tailored experiences and convenience via Bluetooth -- and a push to add next-gen ships fueled by liquefied natural gas to its fleet, the world's largest cruise ship operator is doing more than just coasting along.

Rick Munarriz has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Carnival. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.