What happened

Shares of cruise operator Carnival Corporation (NYSE:CCL) (NYSE:CUK) stock rose a respectable 4.9% in 2:30 p.m. EST trading today. Partly, this seems a continuation of a trend over the past few days, as investors respond positively to the company's plans to support digital gambling ("Ocean Sportsbook") aboard its Princess cruise line.

But of course, before that can happen, Carnival needs to start cruising again.

Cruise ship at sea

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

The good news today is that a Carnival peer seems to think that that happy day is getting closer. As CruiseIndustryNews.com reports today, Royal Caribbean (NYSE:RCL) CEO Richard Fain is encouraged by the recent "sharp decline in COVID-19 cases in the United States."

Asked specifically when he thinks cruising can resume, Fain noted in a video commentary yesterday that "my answer is consistently, 'I don't know,' but more recently, my answer has been, 'I don't know...but.'" The implication apparently is that while it's still not clear when it will be safe for cruise ships to begin operating again (and it probably won't happen for another few months at the earliest), Fain does believe that conditions are becoming more favorable for a resumption of cruising.

Now what

Granted, that still seems a pretty thin reed to build a "buy" thesis on, but at this point, nearly a year into the Coronacrisis, cruise investors seem willing to grasp any straw they can find. In addition to Carnival Corporation, shares of Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line (NYSE:NCLH) are both also modestly higher today.

Still, as I've said before, I believe Carnival Corporation is the cruise company with the strongest balance sheet of the Big Three currently, with enough cash to ride out the recession into at least early 2023 if need be. Unless you think the pandemic's still going to be keeping cruise ships in port two years from now, I suspect Carnival will still be afloat at the end.

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.