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Here's how much Royal Caribbean makes on each passenger

01 Aug 2022
Matt Hochberg

Have you ever wondered how much Royal Caribbean makes on average per cruise ship passenger?

Before the global health crisis, the cruise industry was a very profitable business, with revenues approaching record numbers. That took a major hit in 2020 and 2021, but Royal Caribbean posted numbers in its quarterly report that indicate it's on the verge of becoming profitable again.

With that in mind, it's sometimes fun to take a peek behind the curtain of the business and see the numbers breakdown.

If you care to look in the Form 10-Q that Royal Caribbean Group filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, there's some interesting takeaways from how your cruise fare is spent and how much of it comes back as profit.

Revenue per passenger

Couple in Solarium

In Royal Caribbean Group's filing for the second quarter of 2022, we get a breakdown of revenue and costs that contribute and takeaway from the company's bottom line.

Just like any business, they aim to have more revenue than expenses. 

Keep in mind these numbers encompass all the Royal Caribbean Group brands, including Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and SilverSea.

Cocktails at the Vue Bar

In the second quarter, Royal Caribbean Group carried 1,340,622 passengers. In case you're wondering, that amounts to 8,443,745 days of cruises.

The company breaks down its revenue across two types: "Passenger ticket revenues" and "Onboard and other revenues".

Passenger ticket revenues refers to the money you spend on your cruise fare.

Getting a drink at the casita

Onboard revenues is the money you spend on cruise add-ons, such as drink packages, shore excursions, wifi, the casino and anything else not included with your cruise fare.

In the second quarter, Royal Caribbean Group revenue broke down as follows:

  • Revenue    $1,418,203,000.00 (64%)
  • Onboard spending    $766,039,000.00 (35%)

Total revenue for the quarter was $2,184,242,000.00 and total revenue per passenger came out to $1,629.28.

Ovation of the Seas in Hubbard glacier

That's just the money coming in, so what about the costs of running a cruise ship?

The cruise operating expenses are the costs for running the ships themselves. There are additional overhead costs that the company has shoreside, which we are not considering for this article because we want to look at just the ship operating revenues.

Commissions refers to travel agent commissions paid for booking the cruise, as well as air and other transportation expenses, port costs that vary with passenger head counts and related credit card fees.

Crew members together

Payroll is the salary of all the shipboard crew members. 

Other operating expenses consist primarily of operating costs such as repairs and maintenance, port costs that do not vary with passenger head counts, vessel related insurance, entertainment and gains and/or losses related to the sale of ships, if any.  

I think the rest of the categories are self-explanatory.

Allure of the Seas

Here's Royal Caribbean Group's expenses for the quarter:

  • Commissions, transportation and other: $329,859,000.00 (19%)
  • Payroll: $327,141,000.00 (19%)
  • Food: $155,226,000.00 (9%)
  • Fuel: $275,179,000.00 (16%)
  • Onboard costs$155,570,000.00 (9%)
  • Other operating costs: $447,887,000.00 (26%)

Total onboard expenses for the quarter came out to $1,690,862,000.00. 

If you divide expenses by passengers, you come out with $1,261.25 expense per passenger.  Thus, when you subtract expenses per passenger from revenue per passenger, Royal Caribbean Group made $368.02 per passenger this past quarter.

How cruise ships make money

Odyssey pool deck couple

If we've learned anything from the economics of the past two years, it's Royal Caribbean is profitable when there's as many cruise ship passengers onboard.

Part of the reason Royal Caribbean Group is starting to see profitable days ahead is their ships are mostly sailing full again.

The company shared that over the quarter, its ships were sailing at about 82% full, with June just about 90%.

Here's a breakdown of how full the ships were based on the region of the world they sailed.

  • North America: About 100%
    • Caribbean: 103%, with some ships reaching 107%
    • Northeast and West Coast (including Alaska): 90%
  • Europe: 75% in June

A percentage in excess of 100% indicates that three or more passengers occupied some cabins.

Wonder of the Seas pool deck

As a high fixed-cost business, a cruise ship relies on getting as many passengers as possible onboard.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty said on the post-earnings conference call with analysts to turn a profit, the company needs to maintain occupancy levels above 90%. In the third quarter, occupancy is slated to fall in the mid-90s range.

Pre-pandemic, Royal Caribbean had a profit margin of around 20%, and the amount of money guests were spending on add-ons was the driving factor.

According to Royal Caribbean Group executives, every dollar a guest spends before the voyage, translates into about $0.70 more on the dollar when they sail and double the overall spending compared to other guests.

Helping their cause, Mr. Liberty said guests are spending at least 30% more "across all categories" than they did in pre-pandemic 2019.

"The spending trends have been consistent across our customer base, even as we were approaching full load factors," Liberty said.

Chops top view

In terms of costs, operating expenses have gone up for the company. 

Mr. Liberty said that while food and fuel are the main categories that are susceptible to inflation, "there are some initial positive signs" with respect to inflation trends for food.

"Our most recent month-over-month FNB (food & beverage) inflation indicator has increased at the slowest pace thus far in 2022," Liberty said. "This, combined with direct conversations with our key suppliers, indicate inflation levels are peaking, so we should start seeing some relief in the coming months."

Regarding fuel, Liberty said the company continued to "optimize" consumption and has partially hedged its costs to below market prices.

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost experts on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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