"Then we've read some cruise chat discussions and it sounds like we'll have to wait in long lines and not necessarily be able to eat whenever we want -- and even pay for water outside of meal times!
Can anyone give us the scoop and perhaps allay our fears of having to spend more money on food and water while we're trapped on the ship?"
You've got yourself going in the right direction--you are seeking out advice from people who have done this all many times. I don't know who in the world told you what you said in your original post, but they are mostly wrong. This is bad because you have no good idea of what a wonderful vacation and family celebration you have coming up.
Please continue to seek out information on your upcoming adventure!
If I could, I would be "trapped" on a ship 52 weeks out of the year.