Welcome to cruisereviews.com, Jay. Couple of questions for you. Are you considering Royal Caribbean only (as your post is in the Royal Caribbean section)? Also, what is it about cruising that appeals to you?
You asked for a head start in planning as the number of ships is overwhelming. I always recommend that a first-time cruiser book with a travel agent who is certified by CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association), as these TAs have the knowledge and experience to help you out. They know the questions to ask to help narrow down the choices and to help find the best fit for you and your family. You can find a TA by going to their Cruise Expert Finder, located HERE.
You'll find it on the right side of the screen.
I agree that Royal Caribbean has something for everyone. No matter what line you choose, be prepared for some sticker shock during vacation week, though.