2024 Guide To The Disney Cruise Fish Extender Exchange

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What the heck is a Disney Cruise fish extender? If you’re planning to go on a Disney Cruise Line, you might have heard of the term “Fish Extender Exchange” or “FE Exchange”. It’s a fun and exciting tradition that involves gift-giving among fellow cruisers.

But don’t worry, you won’t need to bring an actual fish on board!

Nor is it essential to join in, but it is a lot of fun. So we’ve put together the ultimate guide to help you understand what the Fish Extender Exchange is all about and how you can participate in it.

What is a Fish Extender?

disney cruise fish extender on fish hook.

A Disney Cruise fish extender is essentially a hanging organiser that typically contains pockets or pouches where gifts are placed for other cruisers to find and open. These extenders are usually themed, personalised with each family’s name,

Fish extenders (FEs) are attached to the metal fish-shaped hooks found outside stateroom doors.

What is a Fish Extender Exchange?

These FEs serve as a mailbox of sorts where other cruisers can leave surprise gifts for your family and vice versa.

Think of it as a Secret Santa exchange but with a Disney twist!

FE groups are formed before the cruise, and members exchange small gifts with each other during the trip. The gifts are usually small and inexpensive, but they are heartfelt and thoughtful, making the experience even more special.

Why Is It Called A Fish Extender?

disney cruise fish hook outside cabin door.

The term “Fish Extender” comes from the metal fish-shaped fixtures outside each Disney cruise stateroom door on Disney Cruise Line ships.

These small metal fish fixtures are used to hang the gift bags or pocket organisers that are used for holding gifts during the door-to-door gift exchanges.

How To Join A Disney Cruise Fish Extender Group

Joining a Disney Cruise Fish Extender group is a great way to make new friends and have a little extra fun while on board. Here’s how you can join a group:

Join An Existing Fish Extender Group

You can usually find established FE groups on Facebook or other Disney Cruise forums and websites. These groups are typically created by experienced cruisers who have participated in in the fish extender program previously.

If you search Facebook, you should be able to find a Facebook group for each cruise sailing date and ship name.

For example, Disney Wonder 8th December 2023 and within this large group, there is typically a person who will sort cruisers into smaller groups.

For our most recent Disney cruise, we each filled out a Google Form within the Facebook group with our details, names, ages, stateroom number and interests. This was then sorted into a group of 10 cabins with fellow passengers.

The list was then created and sent to each participant in a Facebook group chat for reference when planning gifts.

The size of the groups and how it is organised and distributed may differ, however, the concept remains similar.

Create Your Own Disney Cruise Fish Extender Group

If you can’t find an existing FE group for your sailing date, don’t worry! You can also create your own group.

To start your own Disney Cruise Fish Extender group, you can follow these steps:

  1. Create a Facebook Group or find an existing group to use for communication and planning.
  2. Create a Google Form or similar for participants to fill out with their details, interests, favourite characters and stateroom information.
  3. Create smaller groups of 5 to 10 cabins and distribute group details to participants.
  4. Use a group chat or messaging platform for communication between group members.
  5. Plan and organise gifts and gift exchange details within the group.

Alternatively, if you have friends or family members on the same cruise as you, you can organise your own small cruise gift exchange instead. We joined an organised one and had a friend one on our last cruise, which meant a lot of gifts, but it was a lot of fun!

Remember, the key to a successful fish extender group is communication and planning.

Make sure to check in closer to sailing to ensure all cabins are still cruising or participating, to ensure no one ends up missing out or spending money they don’t need to spend.

Where To Get A Fish Extender Hanger?

amazon pocket organisers.

If you don’t already have something you can use as a Fish Extender hanger, you can easily make one yourself or purchase one online.

If you’re skilled with a sewing machine, many families like to sew their own fish extender holders. There are many tutorials available online that can guide you through the process.

I can sew, but not that well, so I opted for an easier DIY fish extender hanger – using an Amazon pocket organiser and decorating it with heat transfer vinyl using my Cricut machine.

If DIY isn’t your thing, you can purchase one from various online stores if you don’t want to make your own Fish Extender. Etsy is a great place to find unique and handmade Fish Extenders.

You can also find basic options on Amazon and other online retailers.

Other people opt to just hang a bag from their fish hook to hold their FE gifts, rather than using fish extender pockets. Choose what works for you!

Things To Consider When Choosing Fish Extender Gifts

When it comes to choosing fish extender gifts, there are a few things to consider to ensure that your gifts are well-received and appreciated by your fellow cruisers. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Packing and Transporting Gifts

our fish extender gifts.

One of the most important things to consider when choosing fish extender gifts is how easy they are to pack and transport.

Consider gifts that are compact and lightweight, and that won’t take up too much space in your luggage, since some passengers are flying to their departure destination.

If you do have fragile gifts, wrap them carefully. One of my gifts was an adorable Daisy Duck Christmas ornament, however, it wasn’t wrapped and it fell out as I removed other items from my pocket and the head broke off. So sad!

Purchased Or DIY Fish Extender Gifts?

Another consideration is whether to purchase or make your fish extender gifts.

While purchased gifts can be convenient, DIY gifts can be more personal and often more affordable too if you are creative. DIY fish extender gifts also mean you can make them personalised, such as including the sail date or name of the gift recipient.

Consider your budget and time constraints when making this decision.

While most people do aim to choose to gift Disney-themed gifts, it’s not essential. Think outside the box and consider travel items, treats and useful things as part of your little gifts.

Including a Souvenir from Home

If you’re cruising with fellow cruisers from different parts of the world, consider including a souvenir from your hometown or country.

This is a great way to share a little piece of your culture and make your gift even more meaningful. And it can be something as simple as a keychain, a local coin, bottle openers or a postcard.

Theming Gifts Around Cruise Events

Theming your fish extender gifts around cruise events such as Pirate Night or Marvel Unite can be a great way to add some fun and creativity to your gifts.

Consider cute ideas such as gift bags filled with pirate-themed goodies or beach accessories for Castaway Cay.

Fish Extender Etiquette and Tips

If you are participating in a Fish Extender gift exchange on a Disney cruise, it’s important to follow some basic etiquette and tips to make the experience enjoyable for everyone. Here are some things to keep in mind:

How Much Should You Spend On A Disney Cruise Fish Extender Gift?

It’s important to remember that the Fish Extender exchange is meant to be a fun and low-key activity, so there’s no need to break the bank on gifts.

Not everyone will have the budget for extravagant gifts and the little gifts are to add a little extra magic to your fellow cruisers’ experience.

Some suggested budget ideas include:

  • Under $10 per person if doing individual gifts
  • $15-$20 for a cabin gift or family gift

Remember, it’s not about the cost of the gift but rather the thought put into it that matters. It’s an additional cost to consider before signing up, to make sure it is in your budget to participate.

Individual Gifts Or Family Gifts?

When deciding what type of gifts to give, you can choose to give individual gifts for each person or family gifts.

Individual gifts are great for little kids who get the most excitement out of finding little gifts in their pockets, however, it can make the gifting more expensive, depending on what you choose to give.

Family gifts or couple gifts are a good option if you want to give something that the whole cabin can enjoy together.

Fish Extender Gift Ideas

some of our disney cruise fish extender gifts.
Some of the incredible FE gifts we recieved

There are so many great ideas for Fish Extender gifts! You can find a huge list of Disney cruise fish extender gift ideas here. Here are some of our favourites:

  • Beach or cruise accessories
  • Personalised luggage tags
  • Mini board games
  • Snacks or candy
  • Small toys or trinkets
  • Handmade items like bracelets, keychains or bookmarks
  • Drink bottles
  • Bandanas
  • Colouring books

Some of our favourite gifts we have received are a handmade set of resin dominos, a wooden personalised tic tac toe game, a Disney-themed wet bag for wet swimmers and an Olaf ‘Do you want to build a sundae?’ kit to use on board with the all-you-can-eat ice cream bar.

cricut tic tac toe game bags for diy fish extender gifts.

We got tagged in our cruise Facebook page from someone who loved our DIY tic tac toe bags too and a few others commented below how perfect they were for keeping kids entertained during character line ups and during the rotational dining.

When Should You Deliver Your Gifts?

child getting gifts out of a disney cruise fish extender pocket.

It’s a good idea to wait to deliver your Fish Extender gifts until at least the second day.

Not everyone will have their actual fish extender holder out on the first night, so this gives them time to prepare. It also gives you time to familiarise yourself with the cruise ships layout.

It’s also not a good idea to leave it until the last minute.

Most people will pack their Disney Cruise fish extenders away on the last evening to prepare their luggage for disembarkment, so aim to deliver before lunch on the final full day on board.

Otherwise, it’s fun to spread them out throughout your cruise sailing dates so your fellow participants don’t get all their gifts on the same day.

I sorted mine by ship level before we sailed to make the delivery of gifts much easier!

Disney Cruise Pixie Dust

If you’re planning a Disney Cruise Line vacation, you may have heard about the Fish Extender exchange. But have you heard about Disney Cruise Pixie Dust?

This is another way to add some extra magic to your cruise experience and it’s a much smaller investment to participate in.

What Is The Difference Between Pixie Dust And A Fish Extender Exchange?

tic tac toe pixie dust gift.

While the Fish Extender exchange is a gift exchange between passengers on a Disney Cruise, Pixie Dust is a surprise gift or gesture that is not pre-organised.

Pixie Dusting can come in many forms, such as a little gift or treat that you pop into fish extender holders, pixie dust bags or hang from cabin doors.

Your pixie dust gifts are usually inexpensive little gifts like glow sticks, lollipops, keychains, pencils or beaded bracelets, for example. You can also use any spares you have left over from your actual fish extender gifts too.

Pixie dust is also what it is referred to when Disney cruise crew members do something special to enhance your Disney cruise experience – a special dessert at dinner, a note from your favourite character, or even a special bedding makeover in your stateroom.

Disney Cruise Ornament Exchange Or Magnet Exchange

If you are cruising closer to Christmas, you may want to consider participating in the Disney cruise ornament exchange. There is usually a Disney cruise magnet exchange for each cruise too.

Similar to the Fish Extender exchange, these exchanges involve guests exchanging ornaments or magnets with fellow cruisers. This is a more budget-friendly option if you’d rather keep your spending down.

Not only is it a fun way to connect with other passengers, but it also makes for great souvenirs and memories from your trip.

Can I Participate In Everything?

Absolutely! Participating in both the Fish Extender exchange and Pixie Dust can add even more fun and excitement to your Disney Cruise Line vacation. Just remember to bring some extra gifts for pixie dusting.

Many families will add a tag or note to say ‘You’ve been pixie dusted by cabin xxxx’ so recipients know who gifted them, but this is not essential.

It’s also not expected for them to give you back in return. It’s purely a random act of kindness!

Final Thoughts: Disney Cruise Line Fish Extenders

Participating in a Disney cruise ship gift exchange is certainly not essential, but it does add some extra Disney magic to your sailing experience.

We hope this guide has answered all your questions about fish extenders and if not, be sure to add your questions below and we we do our best to answer them!

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Join A Fish Extender Group?

To join a Fish Extender group, you can usually find a group on social media platforms such as Facebook or through online forums. Once you have found a group, you can request to join and the group’s administrator will typically add you to the group.

What’s the Maximum Number of Participants in a Fish Extender Group?

The maximum number of participants in a Fish Extender group varies depending on the group, but it is typically between 10-20 families.

Is There a Minimum Spend for a Fish Extender Gift?

There is no set minimum spend for a Fish Extender gift. However, it is recommended that you spend between $5-$10 per gift.

Does Everyone On A Disney Cruise Join A Fish Extender Group?

No, not everyone on a Disney cruise joins a Fish Extender group. It is entirely optional and up to each individual family to decide if they would like to participate. It is also passenger-organised and not organised by Disney cruise ships.

what is the disney cruise fish extender gift exchange.