If you are sailing with Disney Cruise Line, one thing you need to consider is whether you want to participate in the Fish Extender group. What’s that? I’m so glad you asked!
All About Fish Extenders
Fish Extender groups are an organized gift exchanged between cabins. It is 100% voluntary, and you sign up several months ahead of your cruise. Outside each Disney cruise stateroom door is a small metallic fish, seahorse or starfish. Originally, it was designed for stateroom attendants to be able to leave messages for the guests outside their room. However, these ornaments were taken over as the perfect “hook” for hanging a Fish Extender, the basket per se, used for an organized gift exchange during your cruise.
How Do I Sign Up?
First of all, each Disney cruise sailing has a Facebook page where guests can get to know each other or ask questions before their cruise. Usually a travel agent or someone that has cruised several times with Disney is in charge. Search for your cruise date on Facebook and request to to join the page. Once you are accepted, if you would like to be part of the Fish Extender group, you simply fill out a questionnaire on your group Facebook page with various information about each person in your stateroom.
Here is the questionnaire from one of our sailings to give you an idea of what information you provide:
Who Is In My Group?
Although it depends on each sailing, most groups close each group when they hit 10-15 cabins. After that, a new group is started. The Fish Extender groups on our sailings have closed with 12 cabins. As new “groups” are formed, they are usually given cute Disney names so everyone knows what group they are part of. Occasionally, FE groups are set up solely for adults. You may want to do an adults only group in addition to the regular group. Other groups may be for ornament exchanges, candy exchanges, etc. You can sign up for as many FE groups as you want to during your sailing, as long as you make sure to exchange with everyone. Once your group is full, you will receive a spreadsheet or information for each stateroom that you will be exchanging gifts with.
Here is our information to give you an idea of the finished result (click to enlarge):
How Do I Make a Fish Extender?
Fish Extenders have pockets for each person in your cabin where everyone in your FE group can leave you goodies and gifts. The physical Fish Extender can be made from fabric, plastic or vinyl, and Etsy and Pinterest have tons of ideas! If you are into making your own, you just need to know that the fish extender shouldn’t be so wide that it sticks out into the hallway, or bumps your door. It is generally recommended that you loosely zip tie your Fish Extender to the fish so it won’t grow legs and walk away. We have used the Delta 4 pocket nursery organizer from Walmart for our trips. I hot glued pirate fabric to the organizer and tied a thick ribbon to the top and called it a day. Super easy and very affordable, and the large pockets were perfectly sized for gifts.
If you aren’t crafty, check out Etsy for tons of vendors that sell Fish Extenders.
What Do I Give Out?
Once your group closes, that is where the fun begins. Finally, you can now decide what kind of gifts you want to give to your new friends! We have in the past given out a cabin gift for the adults, and then individual gifts for kids and teens. First of all, decide on your budget and force yourself to stick with it. The cost can really add up, even with little purchases. Of course, only you can decide what you are comfortable with.
Unfortunately, some people give just to the kids in a cabin, although this is very frowned upon. Make sure you give to everyone! Some people go all out and give individual gifts to every person in a stateroom; it’s up to you to decide.
We’ve given out ice cream sundae kits for kids (super easy to do), as well as Disney coasters for adults. On our most recent Disney cruise, I did several cabin gifts for adults, including “Up” inspired keychains, Mickey picture frames, Disney music CDs, and Baymax first aid kits.Girls received Little Mermaid inspired hair brushes, hair ties and necklaces, and boys received pirate loot and Marvel earbuds.
If you consider yourself crafty, Pinterest has tons of ideas that you can use for inspiration. If crafting isn’t your thing, check Etsy for items you can purchase. Above all else, keep in mind this is about having fun – not seeing who can spend the most!
Keep In Mind
If you would like to be part of a Fish Extender group on your Disney cruise, here are a few things to know:
- Gifts can be anything: from your part of the world, event related, Disney related – anything goes!
- You don’t have to spend a ton of money. Be creative and crafty!
- Allow for space in your luggage to carry the gifts on board, as well as carry your gifts back home!
- Be aware of food allergies.
- Personalized and handmade gifts are very popular!
- Disney doesn’t allow you to bring homemade treats on board. Food and snacks must be commercially packaged.
- Plan your deliveries – Disney cruise ships are enormous. Map your route carefully!
Finally, participating in the Fish Extender exchange sprinkles a little extra magic on your Disney Dream cruise. It allows you to “meet” people from all over the world. For us it didn’t matter what we received or how much people spent on us. We had so much fun making our gifts and delivering them around the ship. The boys loved to check to see if we had any new goodies anytime we went back to our room. No doubt it really made for a super fun experience for them.
In case you missed them, here are a few links to other posts about DIY projects we have done in the past that would make perfect gifts:
Find more great Disney Cruise Line tips and advice below!
Podcast Episode 74: What to do once you’ve booked your Disney Cruise
What are your thoughts? Have you participated in a Fish Extender? Would you want to? Let’s chat in the comments!