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Carnival lowers earnings forecast after more cruise mishaps

The cruise company swings to a profit in the first quarter, but problems have hit three of its ships in the last week. Carnival says advance bookings are down.

March 15, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times

HOUSTON — Another Carnival cruise ship has faltered, the third in a week for the troubled fleet that drew national attention last month when the Carnival Triumph broke down in the Gulf of Mexico, stranding more than 4,200 passengers who had to be towed back to shore.

Carnival Corp., the nation's largest cruise company, announced Friday that the Carnival Legend was unable to sail at optimal speed off the coast of Honduras, bringing an early end to the seven-day Caribbean cruise for 2,500 passengers and 930 crew members who set sail from Florida last Sunday.

"Carnival Legend is experiencing a technical issue with one of the ship's Azipod units that is affecting the vessel's sailing speed. The ship's safety systems and hotel services are all functioning normally," Carnival officials said in a statement. The Azipod units are used to propel and steer the ship.

Carnival officials canceled the Legend's scheduled visit to Grand Cayman on Friday so the ship could immediately return to port in Tampa Bay, Fla., according to the statement.

About 1,500 miles away in St. Maarten on Friday, passengers on the Carnival Dream were being flown home after their cruise from Port Canaveral, Fla., stalled at port with a generator problem Wednesday. Conditions seemed a far cry from those on the Triumph last month: St. Maarten airport officials tweeted photos of the welcome committee greeting passengers at the airport, while others said they were taking it easy and enjoying the island.

Carnival officials said the Dream never lost power but admitted there were problems with elevators and toilets Wednesday after some passengers complained, posting comments online.

Late Thursday, Carnival flew Grammy-winning singer Jon Secada to the Dream to perform for stranded passengers.

The Carnival Elation also ran into problems last weekend with its Azipod units and had to be escorted back to port by a tugboat as it began its voyage from New Orleans last Saturday, Carnival officials said.

The latest problems are a reminder of the drama that played out last month, when the Carnival Triumph was crippled by an engine fire in the Gulf of Mexico during a four-day cruise. The problem stranded 3,141 passengers and 1,086 crew members for five days, during which many complained about power outages, broken toilets and food shortages.

The Miami company's problems appear to be weighing on its bottom line. In its earnings release Friday, it cut its forecast for the year and said advance bookings for 2013 were behind the same point a year earlier.

Carnival now expects earnings won't exceed $2.10 a share. It previously forecast as much as $2.40.

First-quarter net income totaled $37 million, or 5 cents a share, Carnival said. The company posted a loss of $139 million, or 18 cents, a year earlier after the Costa Concordia ran aground off Italy in January 2012, killing 32 people.

Carnival shares fell 78 cents, or 2.2%, to $34.95 on Friday.

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

Times staff writer Ricardo Lopez contributed to this report.

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