Hi fatdogbeads, welcome to CruiseReviews! Have we confused you even more?
Princess is our favorite, we have sailed on Princess, Celebrity, HAL, RCI, Costa, Carnival, and NCL. HAL, Princess, Celebrity, and Royal all have most of what you are searching for. Royal will have more children than HAL, Princess or Celebrity. The newer Princess ships are large, but never felt crowded. The Sanctuary is a marvelous place to get away from the crowds and they do offer half day passes. They do not have rock climbing walls, ice skating shows, or a lot of Vegas style shows, but they do have some wonderful entertainment and the Piazza area is magnificent. Princess's service to me is among the best, so is HAL, but for my taste, the food on Princess is better than HAL or Celebrity.
Royal's new ships, the Allure and Oasis are truly magnificent. They have loft suites on them that are just amazing (not that I could afford them, just saw some videos). They will have more children on them, but I've never heard that anyone has felt overwhelmed by them on board. In fact, every report I've read is that you would never know there were 5600 fellow passengers on board. The only negative thing I have heard is that there are lines, at some times.
It sounds to me like you really need to sit down with a good travel agent, one that is certified in cruises (CLIA). They can narrow it down for you and can offer you sound advice.
We can all tell you our likes and dislikes, but these are very subjective. What I like, you may not. I'm in my late 50s and my hubby's in his early 60s. I've been cruising since my 20s. I try other lines and come back to Princess because it just feels like home, to me.
I can honestly say, though, that our cruise on the Epic last year was one of the best one's we've been on. The ship was absolutely beautiful, on the inside, a little odd looking from the outside. The food was great, too. The entertainment was over the top.
Please let us know what you decide