As you can imagine, everything aboard a Disney cruise is magical. From the activities, the entertainment, and Disney themed EVERYTHING! Our family got to experience so much on our first cruise. But the only thing we kept asking ourselves was, “what are all these cute banners hanging at people’s staterooms?” At first we thought groups traveling together did it to communicate with each other. So we finally asked someone who told us the pockets are used by people who join a Fish Extender group.
What is a Fish Extender
First a little Disney cruise background so the name Fish Extender will make more sense. On all the Disney ships, each stateroom has an ornamental fish on the wall outside the door that was originally meant for holding reminders for on-boat appointments (e.g. massage, dinner reservations, etc) and cruise paperwork. Overtime, people started using the fish to hang decorations and pockets. From this, some brilliant Disney lover thought “Hey, what if I create a group for people going on the same cruise to exchange gifts for fun”.
See, even Disney guests are awesome!
How to Join a Fish Extender Group
One place where you can join Fish Extender groups is on DISboards.com, which is the original site where the Fish Extenders program started. This website is a traditional message board site that anyone can join. You start by creating an account, going to “Forums”, then “Disney Cruise Meets”. Then search for your cruise by putting in the name of the Disney ship, date you leave, number of nights, and the destination name (e.g. baja, western Caribbean, etc.).
Another way to search is to look for your ship’s sailings for a particular year. For example, I found our cruise for the Disney Wonder to Alaska on a thread titled “Find your 2019 Wonder Cruise Meet LINK here”. In general, this site takes a lot of searching to find information about fish extender groups to join. Although, I definitely recommend following boards here because there is a lot of great information about Disney cruising that is worth reading.
The other place, and better option in my opinion, is to look for a group on Facebook. Similarly, you would search for a group for your ship name, date, and cruise destination. Since anyone can create a Facebook group, you may find several for your cruise or you may not find any. I recommend joining a few different ones to get a feel for the level of participation and how well-organized it is.
Whichever you pick, both will have their own way of deciding and organizing how to create fish extender groups. The private Facebook group I was in created a Google doc where you plugged in your information under the group you wanted to participate with. Mine had small groups for 7 families and a few larger groups for 15 families. We choose a group that had kids similar ages to ours.
Although most groups will ask for your last name and stateroom # for proof of cruising, I recommend that you NEVER give out any other personal information beyond that (ie. your address, phone #, place of employment, etc). We listed everyone in our staterooms name, age, gender, favorite character, dining time, and if celebrating an event — like a birthday or anniversary. Doing so allows for more appropriate & personalized gift giving.
What You Need to Do Fish Extenders
A Fish Extender
Of course, the main item you need to have are pockets to hang from the fish outside your stateroom. I was able to find lots of cute Fish Extender options from searching on Etsy. Most are all made from fabric that has your names embroidered or ironed on. The Fish Extender pockets ranged in price from $40 to $80 and took an average of two months to receive.
If you are pressed for time or want to save money, you can do what I did and make your own Fish Extender pockets. Also, I was a little worried about a store being shutdown for trademark violations and not getting my order..so there’s that.
Then there are the gifts for each family. When deciding what to give, I recommend playing close attention to the children’s ages so you can give items they will be excited to get. Personalized gifts are always well-received, such as functional items with the cruisers name on it (e.g. waterbottle, sunglasses). Fun items that keep kids entertained, like small toys or activity books, can be an inexpensive additional to a grab bag. For adults, I recommend items like snacks, toiletries, or useful mementos like a Disney key chain or can coozie. To get more ideas for what to buy or even making your own, I suggest searching Pinterest for Fish Extender gifts.
I hope I was able to provide some answers to your questions about Fish Extender gift giving, so you can decide if your family wants to participate in this fun Disney Cruise tradition. Feel free to comment with any other questions you may have?