by- Elizabeth Schaaf
What in the world is a Fish Extender?
The first time I cruised, I went head first into all the Mommy blogs trying to plan all the ins and outs. Once I figured out that this was a very popular onboard guest led gift exchange, I knew I had to do this for my kids!
My first step was to find a Facebook group for my specific cruise. These are just unofficial groups that fellow cruisers have started, and it’s a great way to build community before your trip. It’s also the primary way of how Fish Extender gift exchange groups organize.
Organizers go about it different ways. On our cruise, we had so many people wanting to participate that there were multiple groups. Our group had both children and adults, and there were a total of 10 staterooms involved. It did amount to quite a number of people! There were a few group rules, and one of ours was no food items, but there were no minimum dollar amounts on the gifts.
Now that I was in a group, it was on to figuring out what to bring. Since I had kids and adults, men and women, boys and girls, I needed to think about a variety of gifts. I was given a Disney interest list, so I knew favorite characters and movies. Ultimately, I found most of what I needed on Etsy and at Walmart, Target, and the Dollar Store. I also kept in mind that we were heading to the Caribbean, so sometimes, I included some beach themed items. I chose to bring things like Disney themed playing cards for the teens and Disney coloring books and crayons for the younger kids. I also got a bit too ambitious at one point. I enjoy sewing, and I started making Disney pillowcases as a unique gift. Even though they didn’t take very long to complete, I underestimated how long it would take! Important takeaway – make sure you have plenty of time to gather your items, and don’t get overzealous. This is supposed to be fun, not stressful.
The other part of the equation was finding the actual Fish Extender. There’s so many different kinds, and they don’t have to be elaborate. You can find many online tutorials on how to make your own if you so choose. I went the Etsy route and had one made for our family. Many of those who make them will do personalization. With the one I chose, I was able to pick a character for the pockets and add the kids’ names. Don’t feel pressured to list names on your Fish Extender if you would rather keep that private. I personally just used my children’s initials on the pockets.
Once on board, we hung our Fish Extender up. If you are on the port side (left side of ship if facing forward), you will have a small fish. On the starboard side (right side if facing forward), you will have a seahorse. As you can see in the picture, we were starboard. And then you wait! With most groups, you don’t have a set day to deliver gifts. You do it at your convenience, but know that it definitely takes time. We chose to deliver to groups of rooms over a few different days. We had to roam over the entire ship to get all of our deliveries made, and we made lots of return trips to our room to grab the next sets of items.
If you miss out on a Fish Extender group but still want to do gifting, you can always go for pixie dusting! This just means giving or receiving a little surprise gift outside of the organized exchanges. Some guests bring extra gifts and drop in random Fish Extender pockets, and other times, you may find a little surprise in your own.
We were able to display some of our gifts on our door. Since magnets are so popular on Disney cruises, some of those in our groups made magnets. The E and A Mickey and Minnies are magnets made from fuse type beads, and we still keep these on our home refrigerator. The small whiteboard was another gift, as was the green ribbon. These sweet gifts were all handmade, and they were all something that were relatively easy to do. Fantastic gifts don’t have to be expensive, and they don’t have to be fancy! Other gifts we received were Disney hair ties, sunscreen and cooling towel kits, after sun cooling gel, and pirate-themed wearables to add to our Pirate Night costumes.
Reach out to Straight Away Travel to assist with booking your next Disney Cruise and we are happy to help make sure you get in a fish extender group!