Ahoy! We recently returned from a glorious 4-night Bahamian cruise on the beautiful & majestic Disney Dream. This was actually our first Disney Cruise (first cruise for Hubby) and we had an absolute magical time! When I was researching all that the Disney Cruise Line had to offer, I learned of something funny sounding called a Fish Extender Exchange and just knew I had to partake in such an activity.
A Fish Extender exchange is an organized group in which people on the same cruise leave each other little gifts outside their stateroom throughout their trip. Each stateroom participating in the exchange will put a “mailbox” of sorts on their Fish-Extender hook outside their room. Each stateroom has a fish-shaped hook (seahorse in our case) outside where the crew will leave your “mail” during your voyage.
This hook is where people will hang their “mailbox” which can be something as simple as a reusable tote bag to embroidered pieces of art customized for the family. This was our first cruise, so I decided to go all out with the embroidered piece of art which I ordered from a highly recommended seller on Etsy: Gradysmommy. Definitely check out her store here.
Of course, I forgot to take a picture of the Fish Extender hanging outside our room!
Throughout the cruise, those in your Fish Extender group will stop by, leaving you little trinkets and treasures. Think of it sort of like a secret Santa exchange on the high seas. There are usually many of these groups being organized for one cruise and you can usually find a group to join by visiting unofficial Disney sites such as www.disboards.com and searching for your cruise meet thread on the message boards. Sometimes people will also create Facebook groups for your cruise and Fish Extender groups can be organized through there as well. This was how we joined ours and it was so much fun not only to receive gifts nearly every time we returned to our stateroom, but to make/deliver the gifts as well!
We had about a total of 14 staterooms or so in our group and there were no set rules on whether you had to give one gift per person or stateroom. It was left up to discretion of the giver. I have heard some groups have more strict rules regarding this, but I feel when you start putting too many rules in place, that is when things like this can start to lose their fun!
I decided to give individual gifts for the children and one stateroom gift for the parents/couples. Once we had a set group, the Fish Extender organizer posted the final list for everyone where we could see which staterooms we would be delivering to and the names/ages of everyone in those rooms. We also included favorite characters and colors in our group in case anyone wanted to make something more personalized, which some people did!
Since I was doing individual gifts for the kids, I decided to organize them into age groups and then made gifts according to each group. Here is how I broke it down:
The ages 0-2 crowd received a bag of goodies including bath toys and a Disney board book. I figured it could make bedtime and bath-time a little more enjoyable!
Kids between the ages of 3-9 received Party like a Pirate or Party like a Pirate Princess kits. Most Disney Cruise Line itineraries include a Pirate theme night and these kits were meant to help the kids get their Pirate Party on. Included in these kits were: bandannas, eye patch, glow sticks,tattoos, personalized pirate journal, pens or crayons, stickers, foam sword (boys) and princess tiaras (girls).
The final group, ages 10-18, received root beer float kits which I creatively dubbed as “Enjoy a Float on the Boat”. On Disney Cruise Line, there are self-serve ice cream machines so I provided the container with straw, bottle of root beer and two wooden spoons–all that was left was to add vanilla ice cream.
For the stateroom/parents/couple gift, I gave each stateroom a clear plastic ornament and labeled it with “Castaway Cay” (Disney’s private island), the ship’s name and the date of our cruise. Inside the ornament, I placed a rolled up sheet of paper (think message in a bottle) with the the following note:
(that cut off word on the second line reads “bay”).
It was definitely fun to see a family on the tram at Castaway Cay with the ornament in hand ready to fill it up!
Taking part in the Fish Extender exchange was an awesome experience and we received so many fun gifts in return, many of which we will bring back with us on future cruises. Again, I failed and didn’t take any picture of all our loot! Some of the things we received in return were customized frames, magnets for our stateroom door, decorated clothespins to hold our pool towels in place, ice cream sundae kits, drink koozies, personalized water bottles, liquor, wine, amazing hand-drawn pictures of our favorite characters, highlighters to mark our Personal Navigator (Disney Cruise Line speak for schedule of the day’s events), magnetic white boards for our stateroom door, stationery, Disney tote bags, toiletry bag/travel bottles and tons more! It was just fun to come back to our stateroom to find little goodies every day of our cruise.
A Few Suggestions for First Timers – I’ve been there!
- When planning your gifts, keep in mind that you have to pack everything and somehow get it on the ship! We drove to the port so had a little more flexibility, but I imagine if you are flying, you really need to be mindful of size! I actually had my husband carry on all the Fish Extenders in a bag because I didn’t want them to get ruined in our suitcases.
- List out your staterooms in order by floor so that you can minimize walking back and forth because it is a BIG ship. Also having a floor plan of the ship when you are delivering is helpful too! We delivered our gifts on our At-Sea day and it took about 40 minutes to make it to all 14 cabins. Definitely plan enough to time to make your deliveries–plus it is fun way to see the other parts of the ships, we often caught a glimpse as we were walking by of the other stateroom types as they were being cleaned.
- Don’t be surprised if people onboard ask you where they can go on the ship to sign up! Someone in our Facebook group actually posted that that happened. Overall, Join a group, plan your gifts (Pinterest if you are stuck and need ideas) but most of all, HAVE FUN!!