A rising tide may lift all ships, but famous investor Warren Buffett once said, "Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked." The global pandemic event definitely saw the tide go out, and fortunes for both the world's largest cruise company, Carnival Corporation (CCL 0.06%), and fast-growing pet-supply company Chewy, Inc. (CHWY -0.12%) changed dramatically. 

While one saw a huge dip due to viral spread and safety precautions, the other witnessed its shares soar to new heights. Now, with a global return to normalcy underway, these two seem ready to tackle the challenges ahead and come out as winners in the consumer spending space. Even better, the instability of the past and current bear markets have brought share prices down to where only $500 could land investors 10 to 50 shares of each before the next rally.

1. Carnival returns to full service

Prior to the start of the global pandemic, Carnival cruises were all the rage as vacationers set sail, and company earnings reports continued to predict success and new initiatives to modernize the fleet. Share prices soared to nearly $70 before plummeting as low as $12 during the height of the shutdowns to stop the spread. The company declared its return to regular operations "essentially complete," with most of its lines back in full operation and the majority of pandemic restrictions lifted by its September earnings report.

Cyber Monday bookings approached and even exceeded the same period in 2019 by 50%, before the pandemic event, a time when share prices held over $45. This provides a sign that change likely lies on the horizon, as the September earnings report was also the first period since 2019 that the cruise line reported a return to profitability. With increases in banking interest rates and global headwinds against the markets this year, a slip to under $10 a share seems like a huge dip for a company used to commanding much greater prices for its shares.

2. Chewy banks on inclusive pet care and happiness

The global pandemic had a different effect on Chewy, as pet owners followed stay-at-home orders and hunkered down with loved ones and furry friends. Following an initial marketwide dip, shares soared as high as $118 before returning to earth below $25 as speculation subsided and brick-and-mortar competitors reopened their doors. The world was now much more aware of Chewy, however. The company continues to deliver greater profits year over year, with an increase in gross profits of over $89 million as of its August earnings report.

Moves by Chewy during the last few years have seen further profit and revenue increases. Its partnership with Lemonade, a leader in pet insurance stocks, makes the company a one-stop shop that can combine both insurance and a nation-leading pet pharmacy department to meet even more of the needs of its consumers. Net income also moved from the previous year's $16 million loss to a $22 million gain, indicating an overall return to profitability despite supply chain woes and adverse market conditions. Currently around $45 a share, the price of Chewy stock seems like a steal. 

Hurdles to success

Carnival's younger fleet and energy-efficiency initiatives give it an ongoing competitive advantage, but many different considerations exist with cruise line stocks. Competitors, including Royal Caribbean, offer exceptional amenities that are only currently in the roll-out process for Carnival. Both cruise lines have revamped pricing schedules and largely replaced and rebooked vouchers issued due to cancellations during the pandemic, eliminating one major drain on resources for Carnival.

Chewy must still contend with both brick-and-mortar pet stores and online retail giants such as Amazon. Partnerships with companies such as Lemonade offer one solution to this hurdle, as do contracts for goods and delivery services that can help ease the strain of a global supply chain still reeling from the effects of the pandemic.

A return to normalcy and beyond for both companies

Investors may well feel at odds on how to judge the recovery from both the highs and lows of the early pandemic years with companies that experienced major gains or disruption to their profitability and income. As Carnival cruises and Chewy pet suppliers come to grips with a new global supply chain, higher interest rates from banks, and headwinds in the market, they begin to show their strength against both prevailing and receding tides. Their current low share prices seem absurdly low compared to what investors have seen in the past, offering a rare opportunity to buy low in hopes of an eventual, if not inevitable, future rally.