My sister and brother in-law will be getting off the ship tomorrow as you're getting on. I have been on this cruise 4 times myself and will going for a 5th time this Oct. I have always been on board before the actual 1:30pm time that Carnival tells you. Last September I was on by 11:30am. Please note if for some reason the ship gets back to NY late or immigration takes longer than usual, you may not be able to board that early. I would think that it is safe to say you'll be able to board before 1:30. As for your dinner seating, if for some reason you need to change your assigned time, the Carnival Capers will have a time and place listed that you can go see about changing. Have a great time.