Can Kate Middleton Give Carnival a Royal Boost?
Carnival's stock is struggling to keep afloat following a spate of mishaps with its cruise ships, but the company is hoping for a royal lifesaver to boost its reputation — and its business.
The cruise line's Princess division has asked British royal Kate Middleton to be the "godmother" to its newest ship, the Royal Princess. Middleton, who is not being compensated for the use of her name and fame, will attend the ship's naming ceremony in Southampton, England, in June to christen the 141,000-ton ship.
It's not unheard of for a member of the royal family to name a cruise ship. In October 2010, Queen Elizabeth II named the Queen Elizabeth, a ship for Carnival's Cunard line.
However, it remains to be seen whether Middleton's involvement will put wind in Carnival's sails.
(Read More: How Much More Can Carnival Take?)
"While the Duchess of Cambridge could garner some goodwill from the U.K. cruising base, we wouldn't expect bookings to materialize because of her involvement with becoming the ship's godmother," said Jamie Katz, an analyst with Morningstar. "We think Kate is well-liked by most consumers though, and could bring some positive headlines to press regarding Carnival after a plethora of headline news that has portrayed the company in a negative light."
Indeed, Carnival's stock has been a royal pain for investors lately, dropping more than 7 percent year-to-date while the S&P 500 index has climbed around 11 percent over the same time period. Shares have been hurt by a string of incidents with its cruise ships after the Costa Concordia accident and most recently the Carnival Triumph which was crippled in the Gulf of Mexico for days after an engine-room fire. In its latest earnings report, Carnival lowered its revenue and profit forecast for the year, largely because of costs associated with the Triumph incident and sailing cancellations.
Getting Middleton to name the ship is "quite the royal catch," said Laura Ries, a brand consultant at Ries & Ries. Apart from being a royal, Middleton's pregnancy has attracted a lot of media attention, Ries said. However, "most people will forget who named the ship," Ries added.
(Read More: Retailers Jump on Kate's Baby Fashion Bandwagon)
Whether it helps the bottom line is debatable but one thing's for sure: The choice of a famous godmother can help a cruise line land some headlines.
Norwegian Cruise Lines selected the Radio City Rockettes, owned by Madison Square Garden Company for its newest ship, The Breakaway, which is set to launch in May. Royal Caribbean International selected actress Kristin Chenoweth for its latest ship, Quantum of the Seas, that will launch next year.
And no doubt, Carnival is hoping the Royal Princess itself will help attract new customers. The new ship can hold 3,600 passengers and boasts some state-of-the-art features such as "The SeaWalk," a glass walkway that extends nearly 30 feet beyond the ship's edge and more than 100 feet over the ocean waters. After her maiden voyage, the Royal Princess will sail Grand Mediterranean cruises throughout the summer and then reposition to the Eastern Caribbean in fall.