Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd posted a surprise fourth-quarter profit, helped by recent additions to its now 38-ship fleet.

The world's second-largest cruise operator also projected 2010 earnings between $2.00 and $2.20 a share, surpassing the average estimate of $1.48, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Its shares rose on both the Oslo and New York exchanges.

Although the weak economy continues to hurt ticket prices, Royal Caribbean has been able to hold down discounting and even introduce some measured price increases, said Chief Financial Officer Brian Rice during a conference call.

Higher prices, in part, have been driven by Royal Caribbean's newer vessels, which include the world's largest cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas. Since September, booking volumes were up 30 percent compared with the previous year, the company said.

Chief Executive Richard Fian said in a conference call with analysts that ticket revenues on new ships were commanding a premium and on-board spending was also higher.

They've had some great booking at the Oasis, adding to stronger-than-expected revenues, said Bernstein Research analyst Janet Brashear. And they've got their costs in line.

Royal Caribbean shares rose nearly 2 percent to $25.91 on the New York Stock Exchange, alongside a decline in the broader stock market. Shares listed in Oslo rose more than 4 percent.


Royal Caribbean said earnings rose to $3.4 million, or 2 cents per share, from $1.5 million, or 1 cent per share, a year earlier.

Analysts had expected the company to report a loss of 6 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue remained steady at $1.5 billion, while gross cruise costs fell nearly 3 percent.

The Miami-based company said it had experienced an encouraging start to January through March period, a busy time for cruise bookings. Royal Caribbean forecast earnings of 25 cents to 30 cents per share for the first quarter.

The company projects net yields in the first quarter will rise about 2 percent and between 3 percent and 6 percent in 2010.

Net yield is a measure of profitability that shows how much revenue a cruise pulls in based on its length and the number of travelers.

Royal Caribbean shares closed up 4.23 percent to end the day's trade on the Oslo exchange at 152.70 crowns; they were up 1.6 percent at $25.84 in midday trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Richard Solem and Terje Solsvik in Oslo and Deepa Seetharaman in Fort Lauderdale; additional reporting by Joergen Frich in Oslo; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)