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Carnival signals cruise newbuild orders in the cards with a probable 2027 delivery

Star Princess's keel block was lowered into place at Monfalcone's buliding dock in December 2023. It is the last newbuild currently scheduled for Carnival Corp. & plc
Carnival Corp. & plc confirmed newbuild talks are ongoing, with an order likely in the next six months, and the first delivery 'probably' in 2027.

This statement to Seatrade Cruise News followed rumors in Italy of a pending deal for four cruise ships of more than 200,000gt at Fincantieri.

Carnival did not specify a shipyard or give other details.

5b order?

Il Secolo XiX reported Carnival and Fincantieri are ironing out details to finalize a contract valued at around 5b. Other news outlets said the first ship would be for Carnival Cruise Line, whose Carnival Jubilee has just completed Carnival Corp.'s Excel-class orderbook with the Meyer Group.

A Carnival Corp. spokesperson told Seatrade Cruise News: 'While we don’t comment on speculation, [CEO] Josh Weinstein has said publicly that we are talking with shipyards and he would be surprised if we haven't ordered a ship in the next six months. We expect to order newbuilds for delivery — probably beginning in 2027 — at a rate of one to two per year.'

Fincantieri had no comment.

The estimated capacity addition of one to two ships a year for several years after 2026 is unchanged from Weinstein's remarks in December 2022.

Carnival took delivery of multiple ships during the pandemic but hasn't ordered newbuilds in several years.

Just three newbuilds on the books

After the upcoming hand over of Sun Princess this month, followed by Cunard Line's Queen Anne in April, Carnival's orderbook is set to conclude with Star Princess in 2025. All three ships are from Fincantieri.

No Carnival Corp. deliveries are scheduled in 2026.

$30.5b debt load

The cruise giant emerged from the pandemic with more than $35b in debt, a figure it had whittled to $30.5b in fourth quarter 2023 when the company reported record revenues, bookings and customer deposits.

The availability of attractive export credit financing is likely to be key.

Historically, that has been part of any ship order, 'but generally, the lines didn't like to pull on these financings because of the securitization and the impact on other covenant ratios,' an industry source said. 'However, since the pandemic, export credit financing seems to be the debt structure of choice to at least bridge to a normalization of funding ships from cash operations.'

Monfalcone capacity

According to Il Secolo XiX, Monfalcone is Fincantieri's only yard with the capacity to build a vessel in excess of 200,000gt. Currently nearing completion at Monfalcone, the 175,000gt Sun Princess is the largest ship built in Italy.

And the 183,000gt Excel-class ships from Meyer have been the Carnival group's largest, spread across the AIDA, Carnival, Costa and P&O Cruises brands.

During a March 2022 interview for Seatrade Cruise Review, Carnival Chairman Micky Arison extolled the Excel-class platform and its versatility but indicated future designs for AIDA, specifically, would likely be a bit smaller.