NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Shares of cruise line operators continue to be hot amidst hype from the expected impact of huge new ships setting sail this year, as well as major cost savings thanks to the plunge in fuel prices.
Over the last three months, shares of Royal Caribbean (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Report , Carnival Corporation (CCL) - Get Carnival Corporation Report and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) - Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report have gained 12%, 22% and 30%, respectively. Investors have made a wager that the operators of what are essentially giant floating islands will reap financial rewards from premium suites and a la carte restaurant experiences onboard extravagant new ships. "These new food and beverage offerings, and partnerships with known brands, chefs, brewers and winemakers raise the dining standards in cruising and should draw more people to seagoing vacations -- that demand ought to translate into higher pricing, or so the cruise lines hope," said Anne Kalosh, U.S. Editor of Seatrade Cruise Review and Seatrade Insider.
TheStreet takes a voyage to see how some cruise lines are poised to make even more money this year than they did in 2014.
Two new cruise ships will set sail this year, bringing with them fancier rooms and amenities for travel agents to sell to vacationers. Norwegian Cruise Line will unveil its largest ship yet on Oct. 23 called the Escape. The 164,000 ton ship will hold 4,200 passengers, boast four waterslides, a boardwalk lined with restaurants, production shows, and a two-deck spa featuring something called a snow room. Similar to prior Norwegian ships, the Escape will offer its luxury suite coined "The Haven", that gives access to those willing to fork over thousands of dollars to a private pool, restaurant and butler service. The Escape will also have a host of other firsts for Norwegian, including a bocce ball court and the first-ever floating Margaritaville bar.
Not to be outdone, the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas hits waters on April 22. The ship is the sister of the much-hyped Quantum of the Seas that was unveiled last October. It will be the second ship to feature robot bartenders that are operated by touch screen devices. At 167,900 tons and a capacity of 4,180 passengers, Anthem of the Seas won't be as big as the company's two Oasis class ships, but still plenty large.
In the case of the Quantum of the Seas, new fuel efficiency technology, such as an air liberation system that produces drag-reducing bubbles, will help further in keeping the fuel bill under wraps. According to the company, the system is expected to trim fuel consumption by a net 7% to 8%.
Carnival Cruise Line reduced its fuel consumption by 5% or $0.14 a share in 2014, bringing its cumulative reduction at 25% since 2007. Fuel prices in the quarter for the company were down 13% vs. the prior year, which saved Carnival $0.09 a share.
For 2015, Carnival is forecasting a benefit from cheaper fuel prices of about $0.61 a share.
Norwegian's fuel costs in the third quarter of 2014 declined 7.8% to $641 per metric ton, net of hedges, compared to $695 in the previous year's third quarter. In similar fashion to Royal Caribbean and Carnival, Norwegian is also investing in new technologies to reduce fuel consumption.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.