I took a cruisetour last August. There were only a handful of people that used the meal plan. Our TA advised against it and I think she was right. The biggest drawback,,we stayed at Westmark Hotels the entire time, which are owned by HAL. That is where all your meals have to be, except of course the train and Denali. The few that did pay for it were dissappointed because at times they wanted to go with us (we formed a group of about 10 that hung out together) but couldn't (like in Dawson City for lunches and dinners) because they had to eat at the Westmarks. Also, if you follow your itenerary, some of you meals are included without the mealplan (like when you cruise the Yukon River). The worst though was in Whitehorse. The restuarant there was pretty bad and the only customers there were mealplan people. Made them really appreciate the food on the ship. But,,,the cruistour was a blast,,you'll have fun.
Well, I would have to admit that at 52, I was one of the younger cruisetour members. We were basically divided in to 2 groups of 50 that traveled together (like 100 of us together in the train, but 50 per busload) and what blew me away was how much go power these folks had. Some days have really long hours (Denali day was up at 4:30 am and arriving in Fairbanks at 9:30 pm) and these folks were tough. We joined the ship after it had already been at sea 3 nights (there were 200 of us that jumped on the ship that holds, I think 1400) and there were familys and younger 20-30 somethings on the ship. You find the younger ones and the familys hanging out it the pool areas during the day. Admitedly , though, that because this is HAL, at night in the dining rooms you do notice the average age does go up remarkably once again putting me at the younger age of the spectrum,,but the good news (if you're younger) that after dinner and shows and the night gets later,,the crowds thin out quickly and the ship is all yours!!!