Carnival Cruise Lines reports 4Q profit

Carnival Cruise Lines posted a small but surprising fourth-quarter profit as it began to win back passengers after a year when its ships were often seen in the news behind tow boats.

Carnival has had two rough years, with the Costa Concordia running aground near Italy in 2012, and mechanical problems and fires this year.

The bad publicity is still hurting the company. Net income for the fourth quarter fell 29 percent to $66 million, or 8 cents per share, compared with a year earlier when it earned $93 million, or 12 cents per share.

Its adjusted profit was 4 cents per share. That was still better than the break-even result expected by analysts surveyed by FactSet.

The quarter's results were helped by "accelerated progress in Carnival Cruise Lines' brand recovery," president and CEO Arnold Donald said in a written statement. He took over after Micky Arison, who had been CEO since 1979, was replaced.

In February, a fire on the Carnival Triumph knocked out power and stranded passengers for five days in the Gulf of Mexico. Two other vessels later lost power and had to be towed as well. Dozens of future sailings were canceled as the company repaired those ships. In April, it said it would spend $300 million to add backup generators, upgrade fire safety and improve engine rooms on all of its ships.

Carnival has been using discounts to get passengers back. It has also reached out to travel agents, launched a new ad campaign, and issued a hassle-free vacation guarantee.

Some of its efforts worked, as the number of passengers rose 3 percent from a year earlier. But the amount of revenue per berth, per day declined about 1 percent.

Since September, booking volumes for the first three quarters of next year "are running well ahead of last year's levels," though at lower prices, the company said.

Revenue for the September-November quarter rose 2 percent to $3.66 billion, also better than analysts expected.

Carnival's stock rose 94 cents, or 2.53 percent, to $38.05.

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