Skip to main content

Disney Cruise Line vacations are unlike any other. First of all, they’re different than a Disney Parks vacation. Secondly, they may even be more fun than a Disney Parks vacation (that’s a debate for another time). Finally, they have some special features that other cruise line vacations do not have.

If you’ve been searching the internet for basic tips for DCL, you may have come across the term “Fish Extender” and wondered, “What is a Fish Extender?” On our first cruise, we participated in a Fish Extender exchange and loved it! My hope is to explain the concept and purpose behind it and convince you to join in the fun!

What is a Fish Extender?

Outside of every stateroom on a Disney Cruise ship is a metal “hook” in the shape of a fish or seahorse. These are typically used to hold correspondence, tickets, and/or laundry bags for guests entering and exiting their stateroom. Over the years, guests began to organize small “gift exchanges” among themselves throughout the ship.

Fish Extender exchanges are not sponsored or required by Disney Cruise Line, but they are allowed to occur so long as the “bags” or “pockets” hanging outside the staterooms don’t interfere with other guests’ movements through the hallways. Basically, the gift exchange is a fun way to add a little extra to your cruise and allows you to meet and mingle with fellow guests.

How do I Sign up for a Fish Extender Exchange?

When these first began, DIS Boards were “the place” to connect and find other guests on each sailing. As technology has shifted and changed, many folks are now gravitating toward Facebook groups. How do you find your sailing?

Search for your ship and dates on Facebook or the DIS Boards, request to join the group, and wait! Once you’ve been approved, the admin for the group (or someone they have appointed) will likely begin grouping everyone together in smaller groups. Anywhere from 5-10 cabins have been the size of the groups I’ve participated in.

How Do I Make a Fish Extender?

While the gift exchange is often referred to as a “Fish Extender,” the term actually belongs to the “pockets” or “bags” hung on the metal hook outside the cabin door. Some super crafty folks make these themselves, but I ended up splurging and buying mine from an Etsy vendor.

With shipping, ours ended up being around $45. I’m sure you can get them for more or less than that price. I was pleased with the quality of our “pockets” as well as the personalization and embroidery.  If you’re more into DIY, there are several great tutorials out there to help you create your own.

What Should I Give in the Fish Extender Exchange?

First, let me begin by saying that this is a very personal question. Much like gift giving for birthdays and holidays, each person may have their own thoughts about what is “best.” We received several handmade items, which were great, but we also received store-bought items that we loved just as much. These are a few examples of what we loved receiving:

  • Glow Sticks
  • Pirate gear (coins, eye patches, bandanas)
  • “Play Pack” coloring books (think Target Dollar Spot for this one)
  • Door Magnets
  • Playing cards
  • Personalized items (bags, lanyards, cups, etc.)

If you’re not interested in creating a DIY gift, there are plenty of non-crafty options out there. We also received a few small containers of ice cream toppings for the free ice cream stations on board (the stations are just ice cream, no toppings). We ended up not using all of the toppings, so we probably won’t give that gift in our next exchange, but it’s a great idea for a quick and easy gift!