You’re planning your very first Disney Cruise, and you keep seeing this crazy phrase pop up around the internets: Fish Extender. Or maybe you’ve sailed the magical seas with Disney and wondered what those pouches were adorning your neighbors’ stateroom numbers were. Either way, we’re here to help! Fish extenders can add tons of fun to your voyage whether you’ll be boarding the Magic, Wonder, Dream or Fantasy, and here is a rundown of everything you need to know to make yours extra magical!
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What is a Fish Extender?
First things first, right? What the heck is a fish extender, or for the initiated, an “FE?” Right outside each stateroom door is a fish just above the stateroom number. The actual purpose of this fish is to hold your cruise “mail.” This is where you’ll find those fantastic spa coups, a birthday card from the crew, reminders, etc. However, early on in the Disney Cruise days, a magically fun (I imagine) group of cruisers decided to extend the purpose (and extend physically) of these sweet little guys. Thus, the fish extender was born.
So, you know where the crazy name comes from, but what do you actually do if you join a fish extender group? I equate FE to a Christmas stocking. It’s hung up, and throughout the cruise, those in your group will drop trinkets and treasures in your pockets, and you will reciprocate. Each group will have its own rules that cruisers should abide by if they plan to join the FE. Not everyone does, so keep that in mind when creating gifts and look at it from the “better to give than to receive” angle. We’ve found that by the time we’re on the ship, we really just enjoy the surprises and don’t tend to keep track of who has given what or who may have not given anything.
Fish Extender Tips:
- You don’t have to get super fancy! Don’t feel pressured to spend $80 on a custom embroidered, handmade column of pockets that you might only use once. We’ve delivered to reusable bags, duct tape pockets and stapled plastic pencil bags sprinkled with Mickey stickers. All did the job equally well.
- You have approximately 10-12 inches of width to work with and just about five feet of height. The halls are narrow, so I’d err on the side of slightly thinner than the wall space so other guests don’t accidentally bump your FE.
- I always make the hanging part of my FE extra long so I can wrap it around the fish several times. Other guests suggest zip ties. Yes, you’re on a Disney ship, but not everyone aboard is magical, so consider a way to secure your FE, and check pockets often to avoid theft.
How Do I Find My Group?
Each cruise will typically have a group on Facebook, and within that group will be the FE sign-up. Check here to see if your cruise has one. If it doesn’t, feel free to step up and create it. Let the admin of the main FE group know, and they will add your group to the list. This group also offers scads of inspiration and guest suggestions and experiences.
What Do I Give?
Aside from any rules in your FE group, that is entirely up to you, Some guests are super crafty and give handmade gifts. Others purchase items from Etsy, the Disney Store, Dollar Tree or Target. Some gifts are cruise-related, some are Disney themed, others might represent the giver’s hometown/state/country. Some are useful; some are not. All are fun to receive!
Another things to bear in mind when thinking of gifts is space. If it’s something the receiver chooses to keep and/or isn’t consumable, it’s something s/he will have to pack. Small items, items that pack flat or sturdy items (e.g., unbreakable) are great options. Speaking of consumables, you will get a lot of attitude when asking about this in the groups, so I’ll lay out the consensus here to save you from the backlash. Items that are manufacturer packed are the most well-received when it comes to food. Large packages that get opened and broken into smaller containers, for example the ice cream sundae kits, are typically tossed. Allergies are a concern, as well, especially for those who may react without even consuming the item. Other than that, it’s pretty much open season on what you choose to give. If it can get past DCL screening, you can give it.
- Holiday clearance! If you’re going on a holiday cruise next year, stock up when the holiday items hit 90% (Hello, Target!!) and store with your vacation goodies or in a small tote in the garage. Some holiday items aren’t necessarily tied to a holiday and work all year ’round. The hand soap I gave was actually Halloween themed. A little Goo Gone took care of the ghostly label, and they were perfect for any time of year.
- Keep an eye on the Target (yeah, I know…I’m addicted) Dollar Spot Bullseye’s Playground (where stuff that used to be $1 is now $3 or $5…not bitter). Lots of items there are perfect for personalization, which is big in the FE world. In fact, summer often brings nautical themed items to the bins that are just darling for a cruise. And you don’t have to embroider to personalize! Grab some dark transfer paper (we like Avery) or heat transfer vinyl and get started.
- Bonus Tip: Each of the kids got a small drawer to store their treasures. This not only kept the room neat, but they could easily find things that were useful while on vacation instead of rifling through their bags.
How Do I Deliver My Gifts?
I know it sounds a little silly, but I devote an entire carry-on roll-aboard to my FE gifts. I typically give one gift per person, then an overall cabin gift. That can get a little bulky, so it all goes in its own suitcase. All of gifts ride in the suitcase back home, as well as a few extra souvenirs we might pick up aboard or in port. So, now you’ve gotten your gifts on board the ship. What’s the best way to disseminate them?
I put all gifts per cabin in a large ziptop bag and label that bag with the stateroom number. This makes is super easy to keep items together, but it’s also handy if someone doesn’t have an FE large enough for your gifts or if, sadly, someone’s FE has gone missing. This happened to a member of our group in December 2016, so rather than scatter goodies around her door, we were able to leave them neatly in the bag.
Some guests take an hour and deliver everything at once, but we’ve found it easiest to drop gifts by deck. Headed to the pool deck? Grab any bags going to decks nine and above and deliver on the way. Headed to the Oceaneer’s Lab? Grab your middle decks. Going to explore port, grab the lower decks and drop them on your way out.
And That’s It!
Now you’re ready for your first fish extender! Please feel free to leave any questions in the comments, and we’ll be quick to answer, or if we don’t know the answer, we’ll be quick to find it. Ahoy!