What happened

Cruise industry bellwether Carnival (CCL 0.61%) beat on earnings this morning (sorta-kinda), sparking a revival in a stock that had lost 19% of its value since the start of December -- and lifting Carnival shares a respectable 5.3% through 12:30 p.m. ET Wednesday.

Analysts had worried that Carnival would report an $0.87 per-share loss on total sales of $3.9 billion for Q4 2022. As it turned out, Carnival missed on that revenue prediction, delivering sales of only $3.8 billion -- but Carnival did a bit better on earnings, losing "only" $0.85 per share.  

So what

That's the good news. The bad news is that $0.85 earnings number (and presumably the $0.87 estimate as well) were both pro forma numbers. When calculated according to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), Carnival's Q4 loss was nearly 50% bigger -- $1.27 per share. On the plus side, that was less than the $2.31 per share, based on GAAP, that Carnival lost a year ago.

For the full fiscal year 2022, Carnival's loss was $5.16 per share, down from $8.46 per share lost in fiscal 2021.

The other good news was that Carnival's revenues grew sharply, both in Q4 and for the year as a whole, nearly tripling year over year for the quarter and more than quintupling (to $12.2 billion) for the year.

Now what

Still, when you get right down to it, Carnival lost money again in Q4. So when does Carnival expect to turn profitable again?

Sadly, management didn't say exactly -- but we do know that it won't happen in Q1 2023. Although management says that occupancy (the percentage of rooms with guests booked into them, divided by total rooms afloat) will be 90% or better in Q1, it noted that this number is 14 points worse than the occupancy it enjoyed in Q1 2019 (the last year Carnival earned a profit). Conversely, fuel costs will be higher for Carnival in Q1 2023 as compared to Q1 2019, which is going to make it more difficult for the company to turn a profit.

Accordingly, "the company expects an adjusted net loss of $750 million to $850 million for the first quarter of 2023." And Carnival didn't say when it expects this situation to improve.

Investors are cheering Carnival's results anyway, but from my perspective, it doesn't look like there's a lot to be excited about in this report just yet.