These are dark days for the cruising industry, and Norwegian Cruise Line (NYSE:NCLH) will check in with brutal financial results shortly after Monday's market close. The bar is already low here. Royal Caribbean (NYSE:RCL) recently posted negative revenue -- yes, you read that right, reported revenue below zero -- and a huge $1.2 billion adjusted loss for the same three-month period.

Between Monday afternoon's third-quarter results and its subsequent earnings call on Tuesday morning, investors will get a good read on the state of the country's third-largest cruise line operator. Norwegian Cruise Line has a lot to prove this week, and with the stock entering this challenging period already trading 71% below where it was when the year began, let's not assume that this will be a bad stretch of days for its shareholders. A lot of the negativity is already priced into the stock. Norwegian Cruise Line just needs to convince the market that things will get better sooner rather than later. 

Interior of a luxury stateroom on the NCL Jewel cruise ship.

Image source: Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

Anchors aweigh 

Expectations are understandably grim for Norwegian Cruise Line's report. Analysts see revenue plummeting more than 99% to $10.6 million for the quarter, and given all of the cruise cancellations that have been taking place, it wouldn't be a surprise if it follows in Royal Caribbean's wake with negative revenue. Wall Street pros are targeting a loss of $2.24 a share, but even that ugly forecast may prove to be optimistic. Norwegian Cruise Line has posted a much larger quarterly deficit than analysts predicted in each of this year's first two reports.

The look back isn't going to matter. There isn't likely to be guidance for the current quarter, but that's not going to matter much, either. Norwegian Cruise Line became the first of the three cruising giants to cancel its sailings through the end of 2020 last week. Royal Caribbean and industry bellwether Carnival (NYSE:CCL) (NYSE:CUK) followed suit a day later.

The stock's direction after Tuesday's earnings call will depend on the trends that will matter come 2021. How is Norwegian Cruise Line's cash burn going? Three months ago the company's goal was a cash burn rate of $160 million. Is that moving higher or lower? 

Investors will also want to see how the refund rate is going. Unfortunately for Norwegian Cruise Line, 60% of its passengers on nixed cruises are asking for their money back. The rest of the displaced customers are opting for enhanced credit on future bookings. Norwegian Cruise Line isn't holding up as well as its rivals on that front, as Carnival's latest report shows a 55% refund rate, and Royal Caribbean has seen roughly half of its passengers requesting the return of their money.

We will also want to get a handle on bookings. Two weeks ago we had Royal Caribbean warn that that the near-term outlook is disappointing, but that its cumulative booked position for the second half of 2021 was within its historical range. Are passengers anxious to get on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship again? We'll find out soon. Between the pandemic and recession, it's not as if discretionary income is a luxury with consumers these days.  

Finally, the market will want to see how Norwegian Cruise Line's liquidity is holding up. Will it follow Carnival into disposing some of its less efficient ships? How deep into 2021 can it hold up without another round of dilutive financing? Investors can forget the actual top- and bottom-line numbers this time. There are a lot of more important questions searching for answers this week.

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.