Norwegian Cruise Lines bounced back after a difficult February, when earnings numbers missed analyst expectations, and Russia's invasion of Ukraine sparked fear that international travel may decrease.
Yet in March, one of Norwegian's cruise lines released strong bookings, the CDC further relaxed cautious recommendations for cruises as the omicron variant receded, and two analysts upgraded the stock.
On March 7, Norwegian announced that its 2024 Around the World in 180 Days voyage on its Oceania Cruise line sold out within 30 minutes of ticket availability. It was a single-day bookings record for Norwegian, surpassing a previous record set last September. The strong bookings were another data point that despite high inflation and concerns over the economy, demand for cruising still appears very, very strong.
Days later, Norwegian introduced nine new food and beverage concepts in for its new Prima class vessels. Pop star Katy Perry was also named "Godmother" of the Norwegian Prima ship and was on hand to celebrate the ship's christening in Iceland.
Also helping sentiment in March: The Centers for Disease Control finally officially lifted its travel health notice for cruise ships toward the end of the month, as the omicron variant gradually receded.
Perhaps these new company announcements and the loosening of COVID restrictions led to increased enthusiasm for the stock. In the middle of the month, analysts at Morgan Stanley (MS 0.81%) upgraded the stock to "neutral" from "underweight." Analyst Tim Allen said in his note, "We believe that NCLH is better positioned in the current recovery than RCL/CCL due to its higher end customer skew, smaller fleet, greater oil hedging, and greater premium market risk (particularly Alaska)."
The positive sentiment for Norwegian also extended to analyst Daniel Politzer at Wells Fargo (WFC 0.92%), who initiated the company at "Buy," with a $27 price target. He's also a fan of Norwegian's smaller but newer fleet, which could command higher pricing power in an inflationary environment.
While investors had expected cruise lines to come back with a vengeance last year, the delta and omicron variants delayed their return. Now that oil prices are spiking, interested investors need to be choosier about which companies have the ability to raise prices.
Of the three major publicly traded cruise lines, that looks to be Norwegian. At least two analysts agree it's their favorite within the sector.