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Cruise stocks fall after CDC says stay away

<i>Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>
AFP via Getty Images
Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

By Paul R. La Monica, CNN Business

Cruise company stocks had been holding up remarkably well in December despite concerns about Covid outbreaks on ships and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. But that’s no longer the case.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that even vaccinated people should no longer take a cruise vacation. Shares of Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian were each down about 1% to 2% Friday.

Carnival’s stock is now down about 7% this year while Royal Caribbean has plunged nearly 19% in 2021. Royal Caribbean shares are up 3%, but that lags the S&P 500’s gain of more than 27%.

Other travel and leisure stocks are thriving. Hotel owner Marriott is up 25% this year while rival Hilton has soared 40% in 2021 and hit a new record high Friday.

The struggles for the three major cruise line operators follow a disastrous 2020, which forced all three companies to cancel numerous voyages during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Royal Caribbean’s stock plunged nearly 45% last year while Carnival and Norwegian each had their stock prices cut by more than half in 2020.

All three companies lost money last year and are expected to do so again in 2021. Analysts are forecasting another small loss for Norwegian in 2022 and they have slashed next year’s profit targets for Royal Caribbean in the past few months.

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