We got our docs about 2-3 weeks before the cruise. We got the upgrade because I sent an email to Bob Dickinson (carnival president) when our cabin dropped $500 and Carnival wouldnt give us a credit or anything. Our TA gave us his email and suggested we write him. So I did - in my email I said that I knew Carnival didnt have to do anything but I didnt think it was fair that I was being penalized for booking early instead of being rewarded. And that I had convinced my husband to try Carnival and didnt want to have to tell him that while Royal Carribean gave us a refund when the price dropped that Carnival wouldnt do anything. I also said that if we got an upgrade we wanted 9A or higher because we didnt like 8H or 8I. I was very nice. The next day I got an email from TA saying we had received the 11 upgrade. And when our docs arrived we noticed that we had also received a $100 credit.
One tip for you - all the cabins have safes in them. They tell you to use a credit card to lock and unlock the safes. This isnt necessary - all you need is any card with a magnetic strip on the back. We used our grocery store discount card, others used their insurance cards.
Also, a lot of people suggest taking clothespins - if you're not in a suite they come in handy on the shower curtain (you clip them on the bottom and it keeps the curtain from sticking to you). We used them for holding our bathing suits and towels to the balcony chairs (so they could dry and not blow away). We also took several sizes of ziplock bags. They came in handy for holding wet bathing suits and suntan lotion that leaked.
If you plan to do excursions, I would try and decide before you board and then when you board book them as soon as possible on the t.v. in your cabin. And if you plan to eat in Davids go by there soon after boarding to make reservations - it filled up fast. Choose Thursday night, the regular dining room has the worst menu that night. If you plan to get a massage go on the tour they offer the first day - you'll get a $30 discount coupon a few days later.
If you are particular about who you dine with and what kind of table go by the dining room soon after boarding. They can tell you where you are sitting and how many people you are sitting with. If you dont like the arrangements you can asked to be moved.
Thats about all I can think of. Feel free to email me with further questions.
Leigh in N.C.