Carnival Corp. (CCL), the world's largest cruise operator, said Thursday second-quarter earnings grew 23 percent from a year ago on higher cruise capacity and travel demand.

Net income rose to $409 million, or 49 cents per share in the fiscal quarter ended May 31, from $332 million, or 40 cents per share a year earlier. The average profit forecast of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial was 45 cents a share.

Carnival controls about half the global cruise market, with 78 ships across 12 brands. Another 12 ships are scheduled to be delivered by 2009. The Miami-based company said previously announced canceled voyages reduced earnings by about 3 cents per share in the last quarter.

Revenue climbed to $2.52 billion from $2.26 billion a year ago. The company said most of the increase was because of higher ticket prices, which compensated for fuel costs that were 35 percent higher. Sales also rose on a 5.3 percent increase in occupancy, and the U.S. dollar's decline against the euro and British pound.

Carnival Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Micky Arison credited the growth to the "recognition by consumers of the extraordinary value of our cruise products."

Looking ahead, the company said 2005 earnings should rise by about 21 percent to $2.70 per share — above prior guidance of $2.67 per share, but below current analysts' consensus estimate of $2.72 per share. Expectations for higher net revenue will be partly offset by increased fuel costs and a lower contribution to earnings from currency translation, the company noted.

For the third quarter, Carnival said it expects profit to range between $1.33 and $1.35 per share. Analysts are forecasting higher earnings, of $1.40 per share.

For the first half, Carnival reported earnings of $753 million on revenue of $4.92 billion, compared with $535 million on sales of $4.24 billion in the year-earlier period.