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Meal package on HAL land part of Alaska cruise


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We're trying to decide whether to purchase the HAL land portion meal plan package on our 13 day land and sea cruise this summer.  Does anyone have recommendations as to whether it's a good idea to buy it or would it be better to visit other local restaurants?  We can purchase breakfasts only or the entire meal plan (5 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 5 dinners).  Any help would be appreciated.

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Figure food in Alaska is going to be about 50% higher in cost as in the Lower 48. Add in that, at least for breakfast & lunch, you will be a captive audience wherever you are at.

 

Dinners will be at the end of a very long day, so you may be too tired to go looking for someplace other than the hotel. You may even have an evening activity after the meal, cutting into any time to go looking for another place. You may also be in some pretty remote locations at times, and there won't be any other choices of where to eat. I had that happen a couple of times.

I assume you can pay cash, however, if you are not on the meal plan.

If you expect to eat a 'dining out' size meal, the food plan may be worth it. If you want to have smaller meals, or split a meal, then probably not.

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It's been a long time since we did our cruise tour with HAL.  We found the meal plan to be expensive too, but as 1025cruise says, the food costs in Alaska are quite a bit higher than what you might be used to at home.  We did not purchase the meal plan.  Whether you should or not depends more on how you deal with long touring days and the size of meals you'd typically like to eat.  In the mornings, you will need to be ready by a certain time, like 8 am.  If a Starbucks type breakfast is okay for you, then don't buy the plan.  If you want a full buffet breakfast, buy the plan.

 

For dinners, will you be okay to try to find a suitable restaurant after sitting on a bus all day?  It's amazing how exhausting touring can be.  The dinners on the meal plan will likely be at the hotel restaurants.  HAL owns the Westmark hotels where you will likely be staying.  I can't speak about Denali since there have been many changes since we were there.  I do recall trying to find a restaurant in Dawson City after being bused from Whitehorse; it was a very long day.  While the walk did us some good, it was all we could do to find the restaurant, eat and then get back to the hotel.  However, we did enjoy eating away from the hotels; we got to try more local flavour.  From what I understood at the time, the meal plan meals included a fair bit of food, like appetizer, main and dessert.  

 

Some people on our tour were very pleased they had the meal plan; it certainly was easy for them.  But if you're okay with granola bars, instant oatmeal, and the like, you can easily DIY your breakfast/snacks.  

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If you like a full breakfast the meal plan would be handy to have.  Not knowing your itinerary it’s hard to advise but with the meal plan you will be eating at HAL hotels and maybe Princess in Denali.  Both are very good.  You can still eat at the hotels but have other options at Denali if you don’t buy the lunch and dinner plan.  You will want to eat in the dining car on  the train (lunch or breakfast).  In Seward the Windsong Lodge is not within walking distance to other places to eat.  In Anchorage there are lots of choices other than the hotel and that’s where you will probably want a choice.  Breakfast buffets provide a nice variety and can feed a lot of people.  Not knowing the costs of the plan it sounds like HAL has made a good decision offering breakfast options only.  That’s when you want a simple option.  

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I used the Meal Plan for my 2017 3-Days in Denali cuisetour and found it way overpriced for my needs.  The Meal Plan Tundra Wilderness Tour box lunch was a bust.  A free snack box, filled with crakers, meat sticks, nuts, dried fruit, cookies, etc, was provided to all passengers.  Prices for food on the train are quite reasonable without the Meal Plan.

 

To make the meal plan worthwhile, you will have to eat the most expensive entrees on every menu and the most expensive desserts.  It is quite possible to save 50% just eating the mid-priced items on the available menus.

 

 

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Food prices in Alaska were sky high and the portions are huge.  You could always share a meal at supper time.  Waitresses were constantly asking mum and I if anything was wrong with our meal and we told them we just can't eat that much food.

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I have current info from last summer.  If you are doing the Yukon, the Canadian dollar is down, making meals often cheaper than eating in the US.  Alaska has recently received Costcos, so the food is not as inflated as it used to be.  We made it 7 days on $350.

 

#1.  We brought our own breakfast bars and oatmeal packets.

#2.  We tried to keep our lunch on the cheaper side, fast food, diners, or delis.

#3.  Eating well for dinner, we saved money by choosing local protein such as Salmon, Crab, and Reindeer.  

 

Our goal was to keep it between $500 - $700, more realistic, we just managed to come in way under budget, and that's with spending $60 on Japanese at the end of our trip!

 

Edited by Stateroom_Sailor
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Thanks so much to all who responded.  This helps a lot!  The price for the meal package (5 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 5 dinners) is $838 for two people which includes gratuities.  We still have time to think about it but it helps to hear from others.

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Hi. My husband and I did the Alaska/Yukon cruisetour in August 2018. We did not purchase the dining plan because our HAL CC told us that we would receive vouchers for meals in the hotels we were staying in. This really didn’t appeal to us. In all of our stops; Scagway, Whitehorse, and Dawson City we were able to find good restaurants close to each hotel. Meals may be costly but portions are large. Many times my husband and I would split entrees.

IMO you might be better served choosing where you want to eat and how much.

Have a terrific time. We really loved it!

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  • 1 year later...
On 3/3/2019 at 10:38 AM, Crew News said:

 

 

To make the meal plan worthwhile, you will have to eat the most expensive entrees on every menu and the most expensive desserts.  It is quite possible to save 50% just eating the mid-priced items on the available menus.

 

 

 

On 3/5/2019 at 7:54 AM, CRu1853!! said:

 

 

IMO you might be better served choosing where you want to eat and how much.

Have a terrific time. We really loved it!

 

We did not use the meal plan, either. My husband prefers smaller portions, such as soup and salad or an appetizer. I usually like a full meal but don't usually eat dessert, so the full meals on the plan are too much. We also enjoyed eating outside the hotel some of the time: we had a great dinner and a great breakfast at 2 places across from our Anchorage hotel. We did eat at the Denali hotel, but there a lot of outside choices there. We were just lazy at the end of the day....😁

 

PS Oops, I just saw this is a 1+ year old post...

Edited by PSR
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We learned to love Subway, which we don't at home, but is available in most AK ports. Mix that up with some nice local seafood, and it should be way cheaper. We did (on Princess) one of their tours that included the food package and it was just way too much food and some of it, just so so. We've also done two HAL cruise tours on which we did it our way and that worked out way better for us because we are not big eaters.

 

To each his own, but I'd pass on the food package and pack some snacks, bars, etc plus hitting the local chains/eateries. You are not in AK for the food, but for the experience!!!! IMHO..............and yes, food, even the chains will be considerably higher than you'll find on the "mainland".

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22 minutes ago, PSR said:

 

 

We did not use the meal plan, either. My husband prefers smaller portions, such as soup and salad or an appetizer. I usually like a full meal but don't usually eat dessert, so the full meals on the plan are too much. We also enjoyed eating outside the hotel some of the time: we had a great dinner and a great breakfast at 2 places across from our Anchorage hotel. We did eat at the Denali hotel, but there a lot of outside choices there. We were just lazy at the end of the day....😁

 

PS Oops, I just saw this is a 1+ year old post...

But still relevant for planning for Alaska. 

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We did a land first cruise in Summer 2019.  We (3) opted to not take the meal plan.  We were at Denali for 3 nights and chose 3 excursions that each included dinner as part of the excursion. One was the golf at 'night', one was the dinner musical thingy and the other was a wagon ride that had a dinner.  We enjoyed each of the excursions and the meals that were served.  The first night in Anchorage we ate at the Hotel Dining room and it was great.  We did have a lunch on the train out to Denali.  (Probably cost $40 for the 3 of us).  We had breakfasts at the lodge, not too expensive.

Edited by PigsCanFly
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Just a quick note on train lunches.  It is my experience that the first passengers to eat lunch are those seated in the back of the train car.  When tables become open, the next rows moving forward are invited to dine.  This translates into those passengers in the first few rows not having lunch until after 3:00 PM if the the earlier diners linger at their lunches.  It never hurts to have a few energy bars just in case. 

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1 hour ago, Crew News said:

Just a quick note on train lunches.  It is my experience that the first passengers to eat lunch are those seated in the back of the train car.  When tables become open, the next rows moving forward are invited to dine.  This translates into those passengers in the first few rows not having lunch until after 3:00 PM if the the earlier diners linger at their lunches.  It never hurts to have a few energy bars just in case. 

 

Just had a little laugh when I read this tonight. I remembered this tip from one of your posts a few years ago. We finally went on a HAL Denali tour in 2019 and as I got on the train I said to myself, "now, where did Crew News say the food service begins, front or back?". I found out when our seats were in the front and we had to wait awhile for our breakfast. The one plus is that we were not rushed to finish our meals. I actually liked sitting in the lower level and watching the forest scenery next to the train pass by at a closer distance than when seated  on the second level. 

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1 hour ago, knittinggirl said:

What about ordering room service?  We're considering putting a card out the night before for breakfast.  Do they offer that?

I cannot speak for all of the land portion hotels but I found no room service available at the ones where I stayed. There is a centrally-located restaurant in Denali with shuttle bus service from the various lodge complexes or a short walk for all meals.  At the McKinley Resort main lodge in Denali, there is a high-end restaurant with much more expensive meals.

 

Here is a link to the McKinley Resort layout in Denali:

 

http://www.rogerjett-photography.com/place/alaska-2/denali/mckinley-resort

 

 

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Don't get the meal plan - way overpriced.  There are a lot of choices in restaurants in all of the stops on the Alaska  / Yukon land tours.  There are also lots of breakfast places - Tim Hortons, little coffee / pastry shops, etc.  We took prepackaged oatmeal for breakfast and power bars.  Every hotel room had a coffee maker.  On some days, lunch was included in the tour.  

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9 hours ago, PSR said:

 

Just had a little laugh when I read this tonight. I remembered this tip from one of your posts a few years ago. We finally went on a HAL Denali tour in 2019 and as I got on the train I said to myself, "now, where did Crew News say the food service begins, front or back?". I found out when our seats were in the front and we had to wait awhile for our breakfast. The one plus is that we were not rushed to finish our meals. I actually liked sitting in the lower level and watching the forest scenery next to the train pass by at a closer distance than when seated  on the second level. 

At least the service starting at the back of the car is consistent.  I found the dining car a bit cramped with the table only a few inches from my chest and shoulder contact with the person sitting beside me.

 

As a photographer, I spent most of my time on the outside platform between the cars to avoid the rainbow-streaked pictures through the thick train windows I discovered on my first Denali train ride.  There is room on the platform for about 15 passengers and you can move quickly from side to side to take photos.

 

My most valuable train tip is "make sure the bathroom door is locked by testing it lest you be surprised by one of your fellow passengers".

Edited by Crew News
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6 hours ago, knittinggirl said:

What about ordering room service?  We're considering putting a card out the night before for breakfast.  Do they offer that?

Mornings can be very hectic in the hotels with many tour groups leaving for the next leg of their journey.  You will have an option of a full breakfast or continental buffet at the hotel.  The continental will most likely include fruit,  oatmeal along with toast and pastry.  Buffets are the perfect way to feed a lot of people who need to eat and meet their group.  The buffets in the hotels are very good.  If you have 2-3 days in a location you may have time to sit down to order your meal depending on your activities.

 

Room service is wonderful on the ship.  I don’t think it exists in the hotels on land.  You can always purchase a pastry the night before to have for a fast early morning breakfast.  There may be a coffee maker in the room.

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