Though I don't use shocks myself on anything but my MTB, I have 2 friends who both have a hybrid with shocks and prefer that over a bike without 'em, so I suppose it's pretty personal. They sometimes go of road though, nothing too bumpy but nothing like a smooth road either.
If you haven't got the bike yet: the known manufacturers like Trek, Cube, Giant, Cannondale,.. all have affordable hybrids (ranging from $500-700 for the bare bike) that are very good for light touring and who won't fall apart the first 5000 miles (if you take care of them). Tell the person helping you of your wishes and budget and he'll help you find a good frame and the right accessories. If you've more to spend, you can buy more expensive bikes, but for long/heavy touring, I wouldn't use a hybrid and for light touring you don't need to spend more for a good ride.
As for the saddle I can only say: amen. Heck, I've been biking for ages and I'm still not sure which one I like best.