As to Anytime Dining - you go to the restaurant that handles that and ask to be seated as a party of 2 (or whatever number you are) or to join others. You might have a short wait depending on how busy they are. If you like the table and time and wait staff, you can request it for the balance of your cruise. Believe you can also call and make reservations. The other way to go is Traditional Dining where you are assigned either early or late seating and to a particular table which you have the entire trip.
As to a cabin in the bow, I can't really say as I've never had one. My personal preference is midships.
I cruise the Emerald Princess, Eastern Caribbean on April 16, 2012
I can tell you that many people like "anytime" dining and many people don't. We prefer traditional seating where you get to know your tablemates.
We've had staterooms very far forward from time to time, but the only balconies have been amidship. Advantages to being way up front: it's quieter up there very little vibration, not so much traffic or noise in the halls.
Disadvantages: further to walk to dinner (not necessarily bad) and more motion on either end of the ship in rough seas than amidship.
Other than that, there is obviously a huge advantage to a balcony over a non-balcony stateroom.
Landlocked in Denver, but cruisin every chance we get.
Polynesia, Carib. '86
Cr. Odyssey, Scandinavia, '91, 30 Day S Pac. 2002
Crystal Harm, Aust., N.Z., '94
Royal Odyssey, AK,'96
Old Cr. Pr. Canal, '97
RCCL, Carib, 1998
Volendam, Car, 2000
Ryndam, 35 day S. Am., Antarctica, '03
Is. Pr., Canal, 2004
Statendam, 34 day China, Japan, AK '06
Cr.Pr., Carib. 08
Eurodam, Atlantic, Med. '10