Jim Cramer: The Come Sail Away Trade

No time to cruise the Caribbean? Cramer said that's no reason not to enjoy what the cruise lines have to offer.

"The cruise lines have been absolutely on fire lately," said Cramer. The keen interest in the IPO of Norwegian Cruise Lines speaks to him.

The stock IPO'd at $19 and spiked up 30% in its first day of trading on January 17th. Since that time shares of Norwegian Cruise Lines have rallied somewhat steadily. "It tells me that the market is incredibly bullish on the cruise stocks and that this industry is now very much in style on Wall Street fashion show."

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Cramer thinks a variety of factors have likely captured the imagination of pro investors.

- The economy appears to be entering an environment of improving consumer confidence, both domestically and around the world. That should translate into greater demand for luxuries like travel and leisure.

- Cruises are a cost-effective way to vacation—the average cost of a cruise, excluding onboard and onshore expenses, comes to $179 a day.

- There are high barriers to entry. It costs between $500 million to a billion to build a new cruise ship, which makes this a very expensive business to break into.

- Fewer ships are being built which translates into less new capacity, less supply, and as a result, stronger pricing

Carnival Cruise ship
Getty Images
Carnival Cruise ship

With these and other tailwinds blowing, Cramer believes the entire sector will come into favor on Wall Street. "You should really want to own a cruise line," he said.

Although Norwegian may have made headlines and generated momentum, Cramer does not think it's your best bet at current levels.

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"The company has a very high debt load and a lockup period expires in about 160 days from now. I believe NCLH could ultimately get pounded in a major way."

"In fact, if you own this newly-minted IPO I would ring the register up here. The company reports next week, so I would sell half my position now and half after the earnings because I don't think they'll blow their first quarter out of the gate," he said.

Instead, Cramer recommends putting money to work in rival Carnival Cruise.

"Carnival the top dog, controlling 48% of the market and it has an attractive balance sheet with less debt than rivals," said Cramer.

"As a result Carnival has the ability to generate a huge amount of cash, cash that the company is very generous about returning to shareholders. Carnival also pays a good dividend, one that yields nearly 2.6%."

Also Cramer said 38% percent of the cruise line's business comes from Europe. Although that may have been a liability last year – this year, he thinks the Street will view it as opportunity to gain as the European economy eventually rebounds.

It's worth noting that Carnival sells for 13 times next year's earnings estimates while rivals sell for less. However, Cramer said he thinks Carnival deserves the premium. "Historically it's traded at more like 16 times earnings," he said. "Investors will pay a little more for best of breed."

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