First, welcome to cruise-chat! Now, since this is your first cruise, I strongly suggest you find a cruise specialist travel agent that can discuss all your options and provide the needed support to assure a pleasant first experience. They can help you decide between inside/outside/balcony/deck/dining requests etc. based on your individual preferences and needs.
With that said, with the surge of interest in cruising - booking early is your best bet, particularly since you are looking at traveling during Spring Break - that space is already filling. Add to that the fact that you are wishing to book a triple and that space fills up even more quickly over Spring Break. If you book with a qualified and conscientious travel agent, they will be able to monitor the pricing for you. If the price of your cruise goes down after making your initial deposit - they can secure that pricing for you (or provide additional amenities to compensate for the price difference).
A guide book is definitely helpful - but does not take the place of a real person to talk to.
I do think that it is best to book right away. If there is a big drop in prices, usually the cruise lines will give you the price difference (assuming you have not made your final payment). Final payment is usually due 90 days out from departure.
I do not think you need a cruise guide book, there is plenty of information available on line. Check all the various cruise review websites and you should be able to get more than all the info you need.
As far as the price of your cruise, I would check not only RCI (Royal Caribbean) but your TA (travel agent) as well as the various travel websites. For example, I found a fare of $1287 for the superior oceanview for 2 adults & 1 kid, March 06 on expedia after reading your post.
Where you want to be on the ship depends on you. The best views and most activity are on the upper decks. If you want to make sure you have silence in your cabin, make sure you are not directly above or below the disco or next to the elevator. As you are bringing the kiddo w/ you, you may want to be next to the elevator (not as far to walk). If you are prone to motion sickness, the lower aft decks have the least movement. Also, don't stress the placement of your cabin too much. Anywhere on a cruise ship is a GOOD place to be.
I think it is fun to look for the rooms myself(we always need two together for my family) and then call into my travel agent and get her take on things after I choose the specific room I (think) I want.
I would look at all three lines that have alot of children before you make a final decision(Disney, Carnival and Royal Carribean)We have never cruised Disney but there are cruises that they offer that include the Disney trip to the cruise. We have cruised RC and Carnival and my kids LOVED the Carnival Kids Kamp!(we did not take our younger kids though)
If I was taking my younger kids(who like previously stated) would HAVE to walk alot I would choose a room the closest to what you want to do the most with your son. (pool, kids kamps, eating etc.)
ENJOY! You will have a great time with your son!
Carnival Freedom June 2009
Crown Princess March 2009
Carnival Glory January 2008
Naviagator of the Seas Mar 07
Sovereign of Seas Oct 06
Carnival Glory March 2005
Nordic Empress 1996
Thanks for all the help everyone, we went with Carnival -- a 4 night cruise on Fantasy!
We looked at Disney and Royal Carribean. The price comparison between Disney and the other 2 lines was really significant. And while we aren't big gamblers, the option of a casino is nice. So we ruled out DCL since we'll be going to WDW for a few days after our cruise anyway. We wanted to go with Royal but then we got a fantastic military rate with Carnival. So 8 months to go before our first cruise!