just back from RCCL cruise on Independence of Seas, great ship and itinerary. Also enjoy DCL (pricey), CCL and have sailed on NCL (not a fan of the food quality).
Do the research on cruisecritic then search your dates on one of the online agencies and price out 'dummy cruises' for ships that interest you.
Usually need 10 cabins for your own group cruise but it's easy enough to find a group one via the online discount agencies. I've used TAs in the past but typically always found the best rate on my own. I was shocked to find a really great rate about 5 months prior to sailing thru crucon. They have $100 cancellation fees which are a bear, but we were given large OBC (on board credit), specialty dining voucher and pre-paid gratuities for our booking...which i was told was a group rate.
re May sailings, many of the ships change itineraries then, departing the caribbean for europe/alaska, etc.
Sailing out of San Juan allows for southern itinerary = beautiful islands.
Tampa's bridge prevents the newer, larger ships from sailing there, very limited offerings vs Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, even Port Canaveral has more choices.
it's getting harder to smuggle booze onboard ships since it's such a profit margin security is stepping it up. Look into buying rumrunners, which have good success rate.
another option is all inclusive (many with top shelf liquor) resorts in riveria maya. For my upcoming in May they started at $600 pp including airfare. We wanted Adult Only and bit more lux and had reward airfare but the value for the air inclusive pkgs in really good for May which is bridge season there. Apple or cheap caribbean have good prices, among others
Try TravelZoo too. They usually have great deals from there.
Also you may want to look into doing a Repositioning Cruise. It is where the cruise is changing locations because of a season change. May and March usually have a couple. And they are usually very affordable for cruises.
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