If you follow this column, then you already know that Royal Caribbean (RCL 0.74%) scores higher than Carnival (CCL 0.88%) and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH -0.52%) for traveler ratings and company culture. Up to this point, it appears clear that Royal Caribbean is the best cruise line of the three. However, we're going to investigate further. This time, we're going to delve into social media exposure pertaining to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

If a company has a stronger social media presence than its peers, then it's easier for that company to deliver important information about promotions and company news. A strong social media presence also allows a company to increase interaction with its customers. Responding to an individual personally tends to resonate well with consumers, simply because it makes them feel important. 

With the above information established, it's time to see which of the three companies above has the strongest (and weakest) social media exposure and efficiency. First stats, then analysis.


Facebook Likes

Instagram Followers

Instagram Posts

Twitter Followers


Royal Caribbean












Norwegian Cruise Line






Locking in young consumers
Royal Caribbean has the strongest Instagram presence by a wide margin, which is very important. Instagram has 150 million active users per day, and 67% of the world's top brands use the popular social media site. Most importantly, Instagram attracts a lot of young consumers. For instance, 28% of Instagram users are between the ages of 18 and 29, and 17% of teens think it's the most important social media site. This is up from 12% in 2012. If Royal Caribbean can establish its brands with young consumers, then it's going to have a head start for the future.

Royal Caribbean has a strong Twitter following, but not as strong as Carnival.

Highly effective on social media 
Carnival can't compete with Royal Caribbean on Instagram, but it has the strongest Facebook and Twitter followings. It also has established a larger Twitter following than Royal Caribbean with fewer tweets (though it's not a significant difference.) This indicates that Carnival's tweets are more effective, and is a positive going forward. It should also be noted that Royal Caribbean established a stronger Instagram following with much fewer posts.

Carnival recently used Facebook to announce that Carnival Live performances will be available at guests' favorite destinations, and that some of these performances will feature the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Styx, Chicago, or Jewel. That's an impressive list. Carnival's ability to relay this information to over 100,000 people in seconds is a great asset.

Lagging its peers
Establishing a clear leader on social media between Royal Caribbean and Carnival would be a difficult task. However, it's relatively easy to establish that Norwegian Cruise Line lags its peers yet again. You can make the argument that Norwegian Cruise Line has fewer ships than its peers, which is a fair and justifiable argument. On the other hand, Norwegian Cruise Line still lags in social media effectiveness.

If you look at the numbers above, you will see that it took Norwegian Cruise Line 525 Instagram posts to generate 9,531 followers. Royal Caribbean required less than half the amount of posts to generate more than twice as many followers. On Twitter, Norwegian Cruise Line has tweeted more times than Royal Caribbean and Carnival, yet it has much fewer followers. Once again, a lack of effectiveness. 

The Foolish takeaway
Royal Caribbean and Carnival are stronger and more effective on social media than Norwegian Cruise Line. This gives Royal Caribbean and Carnival more marketing and promotional opportunities than Norwegian Cruise Line. This is in addition to Royal Caribbean and Carnival scoring higher than Norwegian Cruise Line for traveler ratings and company culture (rated by employees), with Royal Caribbean being the most impressive overall. 

This is yet more proof that Royal Caribbean is best of breed, and that Norwegian Cruise Line's current success might not be sustainable over the long haul. Please do your own research prior to making any investment decisions.