I wanted to reply to some of the questions of your original post.
We just returned from an 8-day cruise on the Carnival Breeze in cabin 11209 (balcony Cloud 9 Spa stateroom). We thoroughly enjoyed the spa cabin and definitely would consider this category on future cruises.
* Were they worth the extra cost? I was wondering how much people find themselves glued to Cloud 9 while aboard?
For us, it was worth the extra cost to have immediate access to Serenity Deck and Cloud 9 Spa via a less-commonly used "back" stairs/elevator that only services decks 11-12(Spa)-14(Spa)-15(Serenity) and right around the corner from our cabin. It is a slow elevator (hydraulic) but kinda cool to have this special treatment. Also the Thermal Suite and Thal Pool was very nice to have included (access cost for other passengers is $45/day or $279/wk) and that direct access brings you right into the spa/gym/Serenity Deck.
We were not "glued" to the spa, but that was an option if we wanted to use it. Besides the Thermal Suite and Thal Pool, everything will cost you. Of course, there were no shortages of "deals" either - embarkation special, port-day special, you-blinked-twice special (just kidding), etc.
* How much Elemis product would you get on an 8-day cruise? Should I still bring my own shampoo/conditioner/body gel?
Besides the classes and priority reservations, we also enjoyed the Elemis sampler products provided (bath gel-shampoo-conditioner-lotion). All sample sizes but our steward gave us new samples multiple times during the cruise when we requested. I LOVED the bath gel - it had a spearmint scent which was wonderfully refreshing. Of course, I understand individual tastes and allergies need to be considered. We are now looking online to see about purchasing the shower gel for home. Wish we would have pocketed a few of the shower gel samples to assure we were buying the exact same thing that was used on the ship.
* Was the sea sickness an issue?
Everyone has their own ways of dealing with sea sickness. Different approaches work for different people. Some use the patch behind the ear, others the wrist bands, others use a pill or natural supplement. On a ship of that size the movement is minimal but it still affects some people. Come prepared, but you may discover that you are perfectly fine.
* What's the noise-level like? Which cabins are best to avoid the noise?
Our cabin (11209) was comfortable from a quiet standpoint, I think. Sure, you have noise, but it's not constant. The gym is in the front of the ship, our cabin was beneath the fitness classroom and we were not distracted by any extra noises other than the waves crashing against the bow of the ship. We always stick a washcloth in the balcony door so we can hear the waves while we sleep. Better than any artificial "noise machine" you will find on land!
Just be sure to close the door completely before room service comes with your morning coffee - for pressure reasons, the cabin door will slam closed if the balcony door is left open.
* Spend the extra few dollars a day for the Spa deck or go for Panorama?
Our choice - we'd spend the extra bucks for a spa cabin ("S" category) again.
* I have heard that the Serenity deck is windy, as are forward cabins.
The Serenity Deck can get windy, but there are several partitions/walls that help break up the strong winds. But they are also nicer, padded deck chairs, cabanas, sofas, beds, and two double hammocks! There is also a whirlpool on each side of the ship in that area. Some complained of the noise from the kids climbing to get on the watersides, but we did not find it unbearable. We had a couple overcast cool afternoons/evenings but in those times it was cool in any open-deck area, not just the Serenity. You are at sea - you will experience wind. lol Plan ahead with clothing to match.
* Do you take your room towel with you to the pools and hot tubs, or are there special towels in these areas?
Great question for first-timer. Basic deck towels are blue throughout the ship. Spa cabins and Serenity Deck towels are yellow. These are different than the bath towels. You are given two towels in your cabin to use however you wish. Take them with you on-deck, on-shore, to the beach, as a pillow, whatever... or leave them in the cabin. If you use the towel, your steward will replace it. When you leave the cruise there should be two towels in the cabin. For each towel not there at the end of cruise, you will be charged I think it is like $25 per towel.
You do not need these towels in the Spa areas - white towels are provided there and left there. (SUGGESTION: When using the Thermal Suite, grab 2 towels to lay under you for the full length of the chairs - they can get hot - and grab a 3rd towel rolled up to place under your neck.)
On-Deck - you can go to the towel station and use their towels. You give them your cabin # and card - they mark you down in a book (and sometimes sign) for however many towels you take, then you need to return the towels to the same location where they mark the towels returned (so you are not charged for them).
* The "Welcome Ritual" - When do you need to show up, and where?
The Spa tours go on throughout the embarkation day up until the mandatory muster safety drill. Once you board the ship, just relax, have a drink, enjoy your vacation! When you are able to get into your cabin, drop off all of your stuff and take a look at the info provided in your cabin. Grab your S&S cards and head up to the Spa - any desk, any level. Tell them you want a tour. They will take you in small groups from room to room, telling you about all the treatments and services available to you. People in Spa cabin rooms will be given white wristbands and a special sticker placed on their S&S card and told of their benefits. During the tour they will explain discounts, specials, raffles, etc.
* The Relaxation Room - What kinds of hot teas are available here/elsewhere on the ship?
We didn't even know about the Relaxation Room until the last sea day. lol It is a room on the front of ship, great view, just outside the Thermal Suite and Whirlpool. Carpeted room with sofas, ice water, teas, coffee, just a place to be quiet and.... ...um.... ...relax! They have a wide selection of teas available in this area as well as all food service areas of the ship. I'm sure you can find a discussion giving you details of all the teas available.
* How crowded is the Thalassotherapy Pool and Tepidarium? When are the best times to go?
As with all spa/gym areas - most crowded days are Days at Sea. Least crowded are port days. Times of day can vary, but they are open until 11PM, which is nice. Enjoy the Thermal Suite and Thal Pool just before bed. They never seemed to be overly crowded. Always was a chair or space available to use.
* And, finally, do you get any kinds of discounts on treatments if you book a Spa cabin?
No special discounts for spa cabin people. Just priority booking. Also, if you enter the spa raffle on embarkation (do so during the tour), even if you don't show for the drawing, they will send you a discount offer.
I do hope you enjoy your trip as much as we enjoyed our recent cruise on the Carnival Breeze. As you can see, we've been cruising on many Carnival ships over the last eleven years and we kept saying over and over those first few days how "different" this ship was from all other Carnival ships. Decor is much more refreshing and soothing. Less neon and modern art and more comfortable, soothing color scheme throughout the ship - especially in the spa cabins. Shows were great, the layout of the Lido Marketplace and The Patio areas were a great change. Minor note - this is the first ship where the crew is in new uniforms. Even this small change seemed to make a difference in the overall "feel". From what I've seen for the plans for the Sunshine, it looks like this is the new look of Carnival ships. Almost identical places, themes, color schemes for that ship. Personally, I like it. Some don't.
So many things to mention, but a couple "must do's":
During lunch - walk up to the Cucina del Capitano. This is a pay restaurant during dinner but during lunch they do a build-your-own-pasta-dish. It is wonderful. And it was not busy at all when we tried it. I think some people think you have to pay even at lunch - but you do not.
Have a burger from Guy's Burger Joint - they are just REALLY good!
Enjoy one of the movie nights at the Dive-In Theater (2 movies every night). Get some popcorn from the bar to enjoy while your at it.
Best wishes to you on your wedding. I hope you enjoy a wonderful honeymoon on the Breeze.