This has been a good month for Carnival (NYSE:CCL) (NYSE:CUK) investors. The stock has risen 24% through Monday's close, but an important date is coming later this month that could send this ship sailing in the wrong direction. Carnival has yet to announce when it will report its second-quarter financials, but it has historically delivered its results in the second half of June.

Carnival's cruise ships may not be sailing, but the Centers for Disease Control's No Sail Order doesn't get in the way of the financial statements that need to be filed every quarter. The world's largest cruise line operator should be releasing fresh financials next week, and it's not going to be pretty.

Carnival's Costa Fortuna as it sets sail.

Image source: Carnival Corporation.

Sailing away

Analysts see a sharp deficit on a 77% plunge in revenue. Investors are braced for a crummy look back. The entire industry shut down two weeks into Carnival's fiscal quarter. 

Carnival's stock won't move based on how the fiscal second quarter itself played out. We all know it's going to be a stinker. The stock also won't move on guidance, because even Carnival doesn't know when it will be greeting paying passengers again. It currently expects to start sailing with a handful of ships out of select ports in Florida and Texas in August, but that's far from a sure thing. The CDC isn't in a hurry to lift its No Sail Order, and COVID-19 cases are surging in many U.S. states, so it's not as if exotic ports of call will be all that welcoming despite the need for tourism money. 

With investors assuming the worst for the second quarter and Carnival unable to provide a financial look ahead, what will move the stock later this month? The drivers behind Carnival's upcoming quarterly release and subsequent earnings call will be refund requests, booking trends, and near-term cost cuts.

Refund requests are a big deal these days. Carnival and its smaller rivals have offered passengers on canceled sailings financial incentives to let the cruise lines keep their money in exchange for enhanced credit on future sailings. The perks have been enough to sway roughly half of the industry's customers, and it will be interesting to see how that stands when Carnival reports. 

The pace of refund requests was a liquidity concern early on, but now that all three players have raised billions since the mid-March shutdown, this metric is more about gauging consumer confidence in the industry than it is about any single player's ability to survive. Carnival has raised a combined $6.4 billion in debt and equity financing, so it's going to be good for the money behind any refund requests through at least the next few months.

Cruise line operators also typically report where advance bookings are relative to where they were a year ago -- and if they're paying more or less than they were. This metric is now a bit cloudy, with all the people on canceled sailings using their future cruise credit on 2021 bookings, but it's another way for investors to get a good read on how consumers feel about taking a cruise in the future. There will be a trust issue when the industry returns to sailings on a mass scale.

There will probably be more color on the cost-cutting measures and liquidity at Carnival as it tries to navigate the disruption. There are a lot of bills to pay even when the cruise ships aren't sailing. It doesn't help that a lot of crew members on many vessels still need to be sent back home. The Miami Herald reports that there are still 40,000 crew members on ships across all cruise lines that have yet to be repatriated, something that could eat into early August sail dates, since crews will need to be coaxed into returning to the industry. 

If Carnival stock were back in the single digits the way it was when it bottomed out in early April, a rough quarterly report wouldn't be so bad. The pessimism was thick at the time, making it a safe stock as its liquidity snapshot improved. However, with shares having nearly tripled since the April 2 low of $7.80, Carnival will have to live up to some high expectations if it wants to hold on to these gains. Your move, Carnival. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.