I'm very new to Linux; I've been using Lucid for about 5 months and really like it. What is the best way to update to Maverick without losing all my settings? Will just running the update manager actually do a full kernel update?
Please read this information regarding upgrade. In a nutshell, you won't loose your personal stuff.
You can always upgrade from one version to the next, on the fly and without loosing anything. If you've installed software from "outside of Ubuntu", such as PPAs, compiled from source or some other installer, then you might have to reinstall after the upgrade.
Personal data is never touched. Personal settings are not changed if you've changed them yourself, unless of course it is necessary for the system to work, but in that case, you'll be notified in advance. It is very rare, though, and it's very unlikely to happen when upgrading from 11.10 to 12.04 since the big transition is behind us.
In addition to being able to upgrade from one version to the next, you can also upgrade from LTS to the next LTS, such as from 10.04 to 12.04 and from 12.04 to 14.04, eventually.