Happy Sailing! When it comes to choosing a cruise, it can be a bit confusing with so many choices in cruise lines and types of cruises. The term "cruise" is usually applied to ocean cruises while there is also a river cruise alternative for those who may have already been on several "big ship" cruises.
There are many factors to consider in choosing and your travel professional (hopefully a Certified Cruise Counselor - CCC, or Master Cruise Counselor - MCC) can hear the amenities and experience you desire.
Traveling with children, you want to choose the length of cruise and onboard amenities that allow for them to be entertained and still give them a place to safely be while you have adult time in the evening if desired. If you are only adults traveling, there are other cruises offered that are not children-focused. Also, there are other cruises that are multi-generational with something for all-adventure and relaxation options included.
Your travel professional hopefully is listening to your points and directing you to the right cruise line and cruise ship. Do you like to dress up, or like resort casual? Do you like dining choices and are "foodies"? Do you want to visit as many ports as possible? Do you wish for a themed cruise such as biking, hiking, historical, wine? Make sure all the extras are given to you such as transfers to and from the ship, gratuities, shore excursions, beverages, specialty coffees, soft drinks, alternative dining at an upcharge, and most importantly insurance. These can add a lot to the cruise costs and result in a hefty onboard account as you disembark. Do you have to have a credit card for these purchases and add-ons, or can you do a cash deposit as an alternative?
Traveling with a group is best handled by a professional agent who has experience in this area as there are amenities that may be offered from which to choose. A small deposit on the cabin such as $50 per person does not secure that cabin should the cruise line need cabins later down the line. It is best to pay the full cabin deposit and get your names on the desired cabins early to protect your group of cabins. This is my suggestion as a protection for those participating.
Traveling slowly with a river cruise is a slow, 7 mile per hour experience to see middle America or the Northwest close up and personal. Did you know beverages are included and ala carte dining has no increased charge and there are shore excursions included (premium excursions would be an additional cost)? The dining and service is more personal, the variety of food plentiful and you can avoid being told what to do and when which can happen on the large cruise ships. Themed cruises are offered and varied.
Barge cruising on purpose-built vessels is another great option. There are options for the more shallow rivers such as the Loire in France, or Po in Italy which add to the variety offered.
The bottom line: use a travel professional who hold the credentials to do business in your state (if required).