Why I Won’t Participate in Fish Extender Exchange on My Next Disney Cruise

Fish extenders are pretty big deals on Disney cruises. Even if you’ve never participated in one, you’ve most likely seen the Fish Extender holders adorning the stateroom doors throughout the ships. The term fish extender comes directly from the description of hanging the holder on the decorative fish (or seahorse, depending on which side of the ship a cabin is on) outside a guest’s stateroom door. In a nutshell, Fish Extender exchanges are organized group gift exchanges arranged ahead of time through a Facebook or DISboards cruise page. The gifts are placed in the Fish Extender holder outside the participant’s stateroom.

Fish Extenders get their name from the fish (or seahorse) outside a Disney stateroom. Photo: Lisa Rufle

Fish Extender gifts can run the gamut from being store-bought or homemade, dollar store trinkets or pricier Disney merchandise. There is no real rule as far as what is given, other than to “give what you would like to receive.” There are Fish Extender groups for families, children only, adults-only, cabin only (one gift for everyone in the cabin to share) or some combination of the above. Generally, when a cruiser decides to participate in their sailing’s exchange, there is a form on the cruise group page that lets them specify specifics like favorite Disney character, age, any allergies they have, or any special events they may be celebrating while on board.

Fish Extender Holder outside Disney stateroom door.
Fish Extender Holder outside Disney stateroom door. Photo: Lisa Rufle

We have participated in Fish Extender exchanges in the past and let me start off by saying it was fun, we enjoyed the surprises that awaited us when we returned to our stateroom throughout the day, and we very much enjoyed putting together little bags of goodies for others in our group. However, for me personally, it added another layer of pre-planning to our vacation that I felt took away from the relaxing element of a Disney Cruise.

Fish Extender Gifts Create More Luggage to Carry. One of the biggest deciding factors for me when deciding whether or not to participate in my sailing’s Fish Extender is where I am sailing from. If I need to fly to my departure port, I am unlikely to participate. Logistically speaking, it’s more difficult for me to transport all my gifts when flying. I have to worry about things breaking, and I have to ensure I can fit everything in my luggage without tipping the scales. However, if I am sailing from my home port, we are not flying so I can carry on as much as I want and I don’t have to worry about checking my gifts. Also, keep in mind that you will be receiving gifts in exchange so you need to make sure you have ample room to bring your goodies home. As I mentioned earlier, many people like to get crafty and create beautiful cruise keepsakes that will damage easily upon transport, so it’s important to consider how you will carry your gifts to and from your cruise.

Fish Extender gifts have to be transported on and off board so keep that in mind when deciding if a Fish Extender exchange is right for you. Photo: Lisa Rufle

Fish Extender Gifts Need to Be Pre-Planned. I like to think of my Disney cruise as a Disney vacation without any of the stressful planning aspects. So if I’m participating in a Fish Extender exchange, I am purposefully adding another to-do item to my pre-cruise planning. I have to purchase or make gifts tailored at least in some way to every person’s liking in my group. This is both a time-consuming and financial effort. While tweaks can be made to make it less demanding (buying gifts instead of making them, giving a cabin gift instead of individual gifts), it still requires me to do more than just pack and go and sometimes I really just want to do as little as possible before my cruise.

An alternative to Fish Extender gifts is Pixie dust gifts. Smaller gifts that can be given out to random staterooms on a Disney cruise, just because! Photo: Lisa Rufle

Consider Pixie Dust Gifts instead of Fish Extender Gifts. If the idea of Fish Extenders seems like a lot but you still want to participate in some Disney gifting fun while onboard, consider Pixie Dust gifts. Pixie Dusting is essentially random acts of gift gifting: anonymously (or not…up to the gifter) placing small gifts in fellow cruisers’ Fish Extender holder. These items are generally smaller in price and scope from those given as Fish Extender gifts. Anything Disney-related can be pixie dusted and is a fun alternative to Fish Extender gifts.

To Fish Extend or not. What do you guys like to do on your Disney Cruise? Would you participate in a Fish Extender exchange on your next DCL vacation?


Editor’s Note: Disney Cruise Line has posted on their website that Fish Extenders are not currently allowed but we’re hoping that’s only temporary. As always, keep an eye out here for any updates!