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HAL Tundra Wilderness Tour


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We will be going on the Denali Tundra Wilderness Tour as part of our Alaska land package.  I have two questions.

 

1) I was just looking at the itinerary and it says we will be assigned a start time between 1pm and 4pm and the tour lasts 7 to 8 hours.  I know it stays light late in Alaska in August but 4 PM      seems late to start such a long tour.  Has anyone started a tour that late?

 

2) Will we have to board the shuttle from the hotel to the Visitor Center at a certain time?  We would like to leave the hotel a little early and look around the Visitor Center before starting the tour? I realize the tour will be at a scheduled time, but I don't recall reading anything about the hotel shuttle.

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1. We took the tour two years ago, and our original start time was 8.30 (delayed until 10 because of snow on the gravel road). IIRC, we returned about 4.30. Also, the was the end of May, the first week the lodge was open. Because it was early in the season, we only went 62 miles into the park: after the beginning of June, you'll go another 10 miles or so. 

2. We boarded the bus at the entrance to McKinley lodge, no real walking required.

Enjoy your trip! 

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We also took the tour 2 years ago. Ours was the first week in June and our assigned time was after 2:00PM. Since we would be getting back later they held the Canyon Steak House open. Not sure if any other eating spots were open. It was after 10:00 when we were seated. We also boarded at the entrance to McKinley Lodge and drove straight to the park. We did not stop at the visitors center. We did not do it but I understand it is walkable either the afternoon before or the morning of your tour.

 

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We did this last year. You will be assigned a pickup time for the shuttle. There are places to o eat late at nite. We walked to the Princess Lodge where there is a great pizza place. Don't worry about how late the tundra tour goes. Went to bed at midnight and it was still light out. Hope you see the wildlife that we saw last year. It was awesome!

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Sounds like I can relax.  I have to keep remembering HAL does this every day, so the details are worked out. I hadn't even thought about eating.  We never eat that late, so will just have snacks and a big breakfast the next day.

 

On the positive side if it's a hot day animals won't be roaming as much mid day.  As it cools down maybe they will be on the move a little more.

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We just did this in May, and I just wanted to mention that there will be the option to pick up the 'boxed lunch'.  Our bus left at 2PM, and we did get the boxed lunch, but in retrospect, it was too much food, the items weren't great and it was wildly overpriced (IMO).  We had eaten lunch prior to the bus tour, so we weren't very hungry anyhow.  If you think you'll want something on the bus during the tour, you may want to just buy your own snacks to have on hand.

 

We did see a lot of wildlife on our tour, but it is a VERY LONG bus ride/tour.  We will definitely do Denali differently next time we return to Alaska...all these bus/train rides were not for us (to each their own)!  Live in learn!  Hope you enjoy your trip.

Edited by CutieKakes
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Yes, I am wondering about the long bus rides too. We just booked our cruise a couple months ago so we did not have a lot of time to plan.

 

The bus ride from Seward to Denali sounds like an ordeal.  We return to Anchorage on the train.  I'm hoping that's better than the bus ride up. 

 

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26 minutes ago, przyk said:

 

 

The bus ride from Seward to Denali sounds like an ordeal.  We return to Anchorage on the train.  I'm hoping that's better than the bus ride up. 

 

I have always said I would never take a HAL Direct to Denali cruisetour for that very reason.  We did one last year in late August and it wasn’t bad at all!  We stopped for lunch (included) at Smugglers Bay Lodge which was beautiful.  We made our own sandwiches at the very fresh sandwich buffet and ate at a table outside on the deck.  We had 2 nights at Denali National Park and returned to Anchorage by train.    I’ve done a lot of HAL cruisetours and enjoyed them all.  It helps if you get good weather!

 

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1 hour ago, przyk said:

Yes, I am wondering about the long bus rides too. We just booked our cruise a couple months ago so we did not have a lot of time to plan.

 

The bus ride from Seward to Denali sounds like an ordeal.  We return to Anchorage on the train.  I'm hoping that's better than the bus ride up. 

 

Bus ride from Seward to Denali takes 9 hours with stops about every 90 minutes for restroom breaks.  The first stop restrooms are Baaaaaaddddd and long waiting lines.  Bring your own handiwipes as there is no place to wash your hands. 

 

Last bus stop is at a Veterans memorial.  Note that there are more restrooms up the hill so no need to form lines at those at the curbside. 

 

Train ride with assigned seats back to Anchorage takes nine hours,  Nice restrooms and good food on the train.  Lots of good photo ops if you go outside to the platform between the cars.

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Crews News, thanks for replying. I really appreciated your detailed account of the bus trip and other information in the post about your recent trip.  I already have the information printed and planned to bring it so I can remember all the details,  especially bathroom info.

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5 hours ago, przyk said:

Crews News, thanks for replying. I really appreciated your detailed account of the bus trip and other information in the post about your recent trip.  I already have the information printed and planned to bring it so I can remember all the details,  especially bathroom info.

A Sandwich Lunch was served in Wasilla.  There are buffets on both the ground floor and in the basement.  There is no waiting line in the basement as most passengers head for ground floor buffet.

 

image.png.e33c27ecdc11f2f7b0546bf3ed69e939.png

 

I just completed a similar three-day Denali cruisetour last month.

 

Lots of buses are staged to arrive a certain time.  If your bus is early, you may get a side trip to the Iditarod Headquarters and a chance to see some sled dogs:

 

http://www.rogerjett-photography.com/place/alaska-2/wasilla-iditarod

 

Here is a brochure that is buried on the HAL website that can answer a lot of your other questions:

 

https://www.hollandamerica.com/content/dam/hal/marketing-assets/manage-my-cruise-already-booked/faqs/Tour_Tips.pdf

 

FWIW the Tundra Wilderness Tour does have restroom stops every 90 minutes.  With constant searching for wildlife, there is little time for a box lunch.  Every passenger will get a snack box with crackers, beef stick, granola bars, cookies, etc. as well as water so just bring a few extra granola bars until you get back.

 

image.png.096f15813fe643d85ed994ff322f7eab.png

 

Feel free to ask lots of questions and share the answers with others on your roll call.

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20 hours ago, Crew News said:

Bus ride from Seward to Denali takes 9 hours with stops about every 90 minutes for restroom breaks. 

 On page 6 of the "Tour Tips" you linked in post #11, it says that the "highway motor coaches" have restrooms. Is this not correct? Thanks.

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46 minutes ago, PSR said:

 On page 6 of the "Tour Tips" you linked in post #11, it says that the "highway motor coaches" have restrooms. Is this not correct? Thanks.

 

Yes.  In the back of the bus.  Some passengers came back to the bus after seeing the occupants of four buses lined up at the restrooms and used the buses airplace-like facilities.

Edited by Crew News
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6 hours ago, Crew News said:

 

Yes.  In the back of the bus.  Some passengers came back to the bus after seeing the occupants of four buses lined up at the restrooms and used the buses airplace-like facilities.

 

Thank you. Sometimes one can't wait for the next stop. We were once on a long transfer by bus after a cruise to a hotel?/airport?  and passengers were begging the driver to stop for a restroom break and he would not do it until we got to a designated shop/restrooom. We passed parks that had visible restroom facilities. I thought there might be a revolt!

Edited by PSR
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On 7/25/2019 at 10:17 PM, przyk said:

Yes, I am wondering about the long bus rides too. We just booked our cruise a couple months ago so we did not have a lot of time to plan.

 

The bus ride from Seward to Denali sounds like an ordeal.  We return to Anchorage on the train.  I'm hoping that's better than the bus ride up. 

 

 

The bus ride from Seward to Denali is long...and yes, they make a lot of bathroom stops.  We stopped for lunch and that was an hour stop.  The train ride from Denali to Anchorage is also extremely long but at least the food is better, the scenery is lovely.  Although...again...LOL it's looooooong.

 

We stayed at the Westmark Hotel in Anchorage and it was pretty bad, the whole place just felt grimy and gross...there were empty beer bottles on our balcony and it looked like someone had been murdered on the couch in our room.  LOL  We had a good laugh about it.


We arrived in Anchorage in the early evening and we had dinner at Simon & Seafort’s Saloon & Grill, which was excellent.  A little tip - we stopped in, and the hostess told us it was an hour wait for a table.  We stepped outside to figure out if we wanted to wait or go elsewhere, and my husband was looking online and noticed that you could book online for a table at Simon & Seafort's, and there were tables available immediately.  So he put in an online reservation, and we walked back into the restaurant and were seated immediately.


We had a whole day in Anchorage the following day, so we rented bikes and rode the bike trail.  And then we also ended up renting a car as well and drove out to a wildlife refuge. 

 

This is not to say we did not enjoy our trip - but in hindsight, we should have looked into the Denali HA Land extension much more closely.  We were thinking we had 3 days in Denali, when in reality, we had 1 (and much of it was on a bus tour).  No regrets though - we got a great deal on the whole trip and had a fantastic time overall.  Next time...we will do our thing for any pre or post cruise land touring, it will be cheaper and no more buses or trains.  🙂

Edited by CutieKakes
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Thanks for the additional info Cutie.  I'm hoping that knowing more about what we are in for will help.  I've also read things that have lowered my expectations about the Westmark Anchorage, but I think any bed will feel good after the long excursions.  I also have Simon & Seafort on my restaurant list, but we may just opt to go to a nearby brew pub depending on how tired we are.  I have three brew pubs on my list Glacier, Humpy's and 49th State.

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1 hour ago, wyobean said:

Yes, we got those for breakfast, too. We did not have the food package (we were glad). Sometimes there was a pretty good line at Subway, tho.

 

I bet there was a line at Subway and I bet the prices are a little higher than I am used to, lol.

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2 hours ago, przyk said:

Thanks for the additional info Cutie.  I'm hoping that knowing more about what we are in for will help.  I've also read things that have lowered my expectations about the Westmark Anchorage, but I think any bed will feel good after the long excursions.  I also have Simon & Seafort on my restaurant list, but we may just opt to go to a nearby brew pub depending on how tired we are.  I have three brew pubs on my list Glacier, Humpy's and 49th State.

 

Another vote for Anchorage Humpy's and the fish & chips.  Large pieces of perfectly-cooked cod and a large pile of fries..  Humpy's was recommended by our bus driver and was filled with locals.

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59 minutes ago, przyk said:

 

I bet there was a line at Subway and I bet the prices are a little higher than I am used to, lol.

Yes, it was but, still way cheaper than most other places!

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4 hours ago, przyk said:

Thanks for the additional info Cutie.  I'm hoping that knowing more about what we are in for will help.  I've also read things that have lowered my expectations about the Westmark Anchorage, but I think any bed will feel good after the long excursions.  I also have Simon & Seafort on my restaurant list, but we may just opt to go to a nearby brew pub depending on how tired we are.  I have three brew pubs on my list Glacier, Humpy's and 49th State.

 

We went to the 49th State Brewery for lunch the following day after our bike ride...the beers were good (according to my husband LOL).  The food was fine, nothing to write home about, but it was busy and had a nice fun vibe inside.

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