What happened

Tuesday morning was looking like a rough day for cruise industry investors. Carnival Corporation (CCL -0.42%) (CUK -0.55%) had just announced a new $1 billion capital raise -- on top of $3.5 billion raised just two weeks ago -- highlighting the industry's need for cash and raising new worries that the recession might not end soon.

But then, a miracle happened.

In response to bullish news that Carnival rival Royal Caribbean (RCL 1.23%) has "seen a 30% increase in new bookings since the beginning of the year when compared to November and December" (according to its CFO, Jason Liberty), Deutsche Bank suddenly said it saw "many" reasons to be optimistic, and raised its price target on Royal Caribbean stock to $79 a share. Then J.P. Morgan agreed, raising its price target to $100. And all of a sudden, the cruise stocks turned around. Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH 0.66%), too, ended Tuesday on a high note.    

And they're riding higher again today. As of 10:20 a.m. EST Wednesday, Carnival stock is up 3.3%, Royal Caribbean 5.7%, and Norwegian 6.6%. Partially, I suspect this is a continued reaction to the positive commentary out of Wall Street yesterday. But it may also be in anticipation of more good news from the next cruise stock to report earnings: Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

3 ships racing across a blue sea

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

On Monday, Royal Caribbean said it thinks the U.S. Centers for Disease Control could be only a few days away from releasing technical regulations that permit cruise lines to begin "trial" voyages with volunteer passengers, testing the waters to see if it's safe to resume cruising regularly again. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings will be next to report earnings, Thursday morning, and that company should have an opportunity to provide even more detail on the status of the CDC's regulations.

Now what

Norwegian will also, of course, report its earnings. Investors aren't expecting much good on that front: $2.17 per share in losses and a 99.8% decline in sales year over year. But more important than that, Norwegian should also update investors on its financial health and its ability to survive until cruising resumes in earnest.  

Specifically, investors will want to see the status of Norwegian's cash reserves and cash burn rate -- which could potentially provide more good news such as Carnival gave us last month. To recap, at last report:    

  • Carnival had tamped down its cash burn rate from $530 million a month to an even $500 million.
  • Royal Caribbean is still steady at about $270 million a month.
  • And now we just need to find out if Norwegian is still burning $175 million a month -- or better, or worse.

Whether today's cruise stock rally continues into Thursday may well depend on how much good news Norwegian can give us tomorrow.