I appreciate the discussion about the gotchas, but I'm one of those people who over-researches everything. Yes, I'll probably go to a cruise specialist when I want to book, but meanwhile I want to have enough knowledge to recognize the options and possibilities.
Highest of my priorities is to avoid crowds, especially children.
Next highest is to eat well. Someone posted in another thread about going to New England to get fresh lobster and not getting it even once. That would really annoy the bejeezus out of me.
Next is I don't want to go where EVERYONE else goes. I want to go to different, out-of-the-way places.
Next highest is not to be rushed around. I want to be able to experience what I see, not hurry to the next destination.
Finally, although I'm sure my choices above move me into the higher classes, I still need to do this on a reasonable budget.
So based on what minimal information I've been able to glean, it looks like Holland America, Azamara, Oceania, Windstar, and niche lines are the most likely to meet my requirements. But it's still hard to tell. If I ever go on a cruise and don't get lobster (or something better) at least twice, I won't be going on that line again. Likewise if I ever go on a cruise and get a headache from the noise, I won't be returning to that line either.
When I talk to a cruise specialist, if they don't at least mention the four lines noted above, then one of us doesn't know what we are talking about. That's why gathering information is important, so you can make a more informed decision about what you are offered.