Posted January 19th, 2013, 07:15 PM
Dan- you have a massive choice of ships....from Southampton alone there's most of the big lines, and others from Dover and Harwich- even smaller, older ones from other ports.
RCI's Independence, and P&O's Ventura and Azura are favourite family ships, but so long as you stay away from school holidays, the children shouldn't overwhelm you. Agreed, some P&O ships won't be for you- 3 are adult only, and seem to attract the older crowd, so be aware of those.
Independence does try to appeal to the UK/Irish market by introducing such things as kettles in cabins, and not adding tips to bar sales; the prices for things on board do appear to be expensive, but you have to look at the price you're paying for the cruise first.
Barcelona is an easy flight away- I'd plan my own flight, though, as cruise lines go for the cheap option, which might incude a change in Amsterdam
....there's one ship there, NCL Epic, which would suit you; also some RCI and others.
Have a look at Thomson- old ships which attract all ages, with great entertainment and service- and tips are included. One good point is that they fly their own aeroplanes to various destinations for you to catch the ship- from umpteen local airports....they keep a ship in Sharm, Egypt, all winter, and when we went, they had 17 different airport choices in UK/Ireland. They also have a ship in Newcastle, then Harwich, for Norway. They're good starter cruises, and lots of people are drawn to cruising through them.
Also check last minute cruises- we've managed to get some of those a month or 2 before sailing, for under the price you're thinking of. A week from S'ton to N. Spain/France is a good start, with only 1 sea day.....although we enjoy sea days on an active ship.
Seeing as how you enjoy Turkey so much, there's a Thomson cruise which goes up the Turkish coast and also takes in some Greek islands.
I think any of these options will suit you for a first time!
20 cruises; 11 ships; 8 lines; 94 ports