Every week, I take a look at a few companies that lapped their profit targets. Leaving Wall Street's pros with quizzical looks on their faces can be a good thing. It usually means the companies have more in the tank than analysts figured, and capital appreciation often follows.

Let's take a look at a few companies that humbled the prognosticators this past week.

We'll start with Carnival (NYSE:CCL). The leading cruise ship operator posted quarterly earnings of $0.35 a share on Friday for its fiscal first quarter. That coasted past the $0.31 per share that Carnival earned a year earlier and the $0.34-per-share mark where the pros had dropped their anchors.

The cruising industry may be in for some rough seas if the economy starts to falter, though the trends continue to favor the industry for the time being as companies like Carnival, NCL, and Royal Caribbean (NYSE:RCL) continue to add ships and new ports of call to their fleets.

eCollege (NASDAQ:ECLG) also came through with a passing grade. The enabler of Web-based learning earned $0.11 a share in its latest quarter. Wall Street would have been willing to toss its tassel-topped graduation cap into the air if eCollege had earned just $0.07 per share. Average revenue per client soared 23% higher during the period, a pretty encouraging indicator that the company's distance-learning tools are gaining in popularity.

Finally, we have Buca (NASDAQ:BUCA). The restaurateur with the homey Italian eateries serving up gargantuan family portions earned $0.04 per share in its final quarter of 2006. That came as a surprise to analysts, who were slapping napkins on their laps as they braced for a loss. Market-broadening moves like curbside takeout, a wider variety of portion sizes, and opening up more restaurants for lunch may have helped. Cashing out of the Vinny T's chain and a favorable settlement helped, too, but it's refreshing to see Buca in the black for the first time in three years.

So, keep watching the companies that lap expectations. Over time, it will be a rewarding experience for investors as the market rewards the overachievers. That's the kind of surprise we look for in the Rule Breakers newsletter service. Want in? Check out a 30-day trial subscription.

Either way, come back next Monday to learn about more stocks that blew the market away.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of toppers. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.