In case my last post didn't give you enough info on how to approach a GA on board, I'll go through my experiences and my overall observations with the general admission events on the cruise.
My Experience with GA Events
So I lucked out right off the bat and had front row for the sail away party. I maybe only put in 30-40 minutes of waiting and it paid off tremendously. It was great to be up front and be super close to the boys, but along with that came all the negatives of a GA event. Was it worth it? Absolutely. But because I was up close for that event, I didn't worry too much about it for the remainder of the trip. My general mindset was that I knew I couldn't be front row for everything, so don't stress myself out over it.
For the theme nights, it varied every day. For 2 of the nights, they had a concert right before the deck party. So I knew if I did go up early to wait, it would be a while before the boys showed up to either of those deck parties. I also went in with the mindset that it was more important for me to be up close for prom night because I figured it might increase my odds of getting picked for prom queen. However that proved to be moot. I would later realize PJ night was the key night to be up close. But these are things no one really knows until you get there, so as much planning as I did, it didn't really matter. I personally didn't show up very early to any of the deck parties just because of the nature of the events and the schedule. There's not really a "performance" where its key to be up front. Its more about just being there. Hopefully that makes sense.
The Beach Party was an event that most closely resembled your normal GA event because there was 1 main stage and a lot of waiting. By the time my bus dropped me off, there was already a massive crowd in front of the stage. Thus it made sense for me not to stand around for hours in the back of a crowd. I may have changed my mind if there were only 1 or 2 rows of people in front of me when i got there. However it worked out well because I was able to relax on the beach and get some lunch. I also had a fantastic view in the back anyway, so it didnt make much of a difference. The boys also moved around a lot and crowds shifted with them. It worked out in the end and I had a front row at one brief point and was able to snag a picture with Brian. No complaints here at all with this event and I didn't have to stand and wait at all.
Karaoke was the last general admission event. I did get there semi-early that day because there was more of a "performance" to watch. Maybe 45 minutes early or so? My memory is a little fuzzy, but that sounds about right. However because the boys were elevated on a higher stage, it proved not to make a difference whether or not I was up front.
One other thing that is pseudo-GA is dining. Both in the lido buffet and in the main restaurant. I found the experience to be the worst on 2010 cruise during dinner because all of the boys ate with us and it was a mad dash to be at those tables closest to them. Girls would start lining up over an hour early to get a prime spot. But as with any BSB event, there was cutting in line, pushing, shoving, and trickery to get in. What else is new? Since there wasn't any set schedule or dining room for the boys to eat in 2011, it was a lot more relaxing and not nearly as much waiting. I think people only waited outside because they wanted to eat dinner.
Now that you've heard my experiences, I'll back up and speak to my general observations. I personally felt that as the cruise progressed, it got harder and harder to get good spots without putting in some serious time. I felt that as everyone got more acquainted with the cruise and how things were run, you'd see girls camped in front of the stage earlier and earlier. At least that was what I noticed. This was another deterrent for me to get to events too early. I knew I'd be able to see what was going on no matter where I was, even if I didn't get there super early. And for me, I didn't want to spend my whole trip waiting and not enjoying my vacation.
I also didn't think it always made sense to "camp out" for a good spot on the Imagination because of how the deck was set up. There were 2 stages, and the boys utilized both. So I knew if I was in the front for 1 part of the event, I'd be in the back for the rest. Which brings me to my next point. If you're patient, you will have your moment. I seriously can't stress this enough. For most events the boys moved around a lot. Even though you might not be up front in the beginning, doesn't mean you won't be next to them at one point.
I can think of countless instances where this proved to be true for either myself or friends. At the pre-club event I went upstairs just not to be packed in like a sardine. I didn't have to wait long before Nick went upstairs and was 2 feet away from me. *Swoons at the thought* This sort of thing happened a lot. Another example is Brian roamed around the deck at the sail away and even went to the upper deck. I also felt the boys moved around a lot at the beach party. Everyone is able to have a good spot at one point.
Another factor in deciding whether or not to wait around for a GA event is to prepare for the unexpected. There were instances were the staff might tell you the boys will be mainly on 1 stage but in actuality, they were mainly on a different stage. This resulted in some upset fans. Or look at the last night, the event was last minute changed to the main atrium. Had you been waiting up at the pool deck, it wouldn't have mattered.
Last point. I also notice that when you shy back a bit and are away from the massive crowd, it can pay off as well. If you think about it, the boys don't generally stop, take pictures, and talk to people who are in the mosh pit. But I do see them stop if you're maybe on the upper deck or just away from the main crowd in general. That's how I was able to grab my solo picture with Howie and Kev this past trip.
So in conclusion. You'll get to see plenty of BSB no matter where you are. Just be patient.